The Symbiosis of Content Marketing and SEO

We often make the mistake of defining content marketing and SEO as two entirely different people; two people who don’t get along because the one is better than the other. As content marketers, we are consistently faced with the challenge of answering the questions of clients who want to know why we favour one over the other, and the answer is always the same – relevant content is not the type of content that is stuffed with keywords but rather the type of content that speaks to the human condition, that offers solutions and provides useful information.

However, SEO has evolved past keyword stuffing and Google’s algorithms still take into consideration a fair amount of technical SEO when ranking a site. The truth is that content marketing cannot exist without the fundamentals of SEO best practice. So why is it that we’ve sided with one and not the other?

The concept of content marketing is fairly new and the definition thereof is constantly evolving, giving marketers the opportunity to customise the definition to suit their ability, product offering and understanding of the concept. Yet the global understanding of SEO is steadfast and, due to years of trial and error, is sure to yield results when done properly. However, we remain resolute in our decision to champion the concept of content marketing as a sole entity, steering clear of any affiliation to search engine optimisation. My understanding of this choice – which, by the way, has been the foundation on which countless agencies are built – is that, as creatives, we are trying to change the way in which information is created, distributed and received. And, while there is no harm in being the change that you want to see, we can’t forget about the technical entities that play a role in an undeniably technical world.

More often than not, we see headlines that mention things like ‘content marketing overtakes SEO’, or ‘content marketing has killed SEO’. The fact that we believe that SEO has been usurped by content marketing, or that the latter eliminates that need for SEO, just goes to show how willing we are to do away with what we know and, instead, follow the trends. SEO and content marketing, in essence, boast a symbiotic relationship. We cannot simply banish SEO into non-existence and expect our content to skyrocket towards success, nor can we expect SEO to have any impact if the content on a particular web page is not written or created in a way that is favourable to the wants and needs of our audience. It is also unfair to expect our clients to understand the difference or the relationship between the two, make a choice or pick one concept over the other.

Something that we see (and struggle with) every day are clients who don’t understand the concept of content marketing – they are too afraid to take the leap and spend their digital budgets on a concept that is not finite. However, they ask multiple questions about SEO and the direction in which it can take their brand. Asking our clients to forget about what they know and stroll with us towards the unknown is not only daunting, but it also seems like a bad business decision. However, when we mention the idea of splitting a budget to include a portion of both SEO and content marketing, the anxiety subsides and the walls crumble. With only 30% of global organisations that make effective use of content marketing efforts, should it not come naturally to us that we cannot let go of that which makes our clients comfortable and results in a satisfactory ROI?

Understanding the symbiosis between content marketing and SEO will not only assist us in saving face in front of nervous clients, but it will also ensure that we don’t lose direction when it comes to doing what we’re meant to do - and that is turning our client’s budgets into feasible business. Regardless of whether or not your content is of an award-winning standard, you cannot forget about the fundamental basis on which it is sorted, made popular or shared. In the same breath, you cannot rely on SEO to generate the desired results if your content does not meet a certain standard of quality.

In an effort to increase the 30% of companies that invest in and make use of content marketing, it might be a good idea to consider how you can make the symbiosis between content marketing and SEO work for you. After all, combining the technical elements of SEO with the broader and more holistic elements of content marketing will ensure success, regardless of the way in which you look at it!