Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Mention digital marketing and, within minutes, buzzwords like search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing will be mentioned. Both are more than buzzwords. They are integral parts of successful digital marketing for most current brands.
Chances are, if you are running a business that uses digital marketing, you are already using both. SEO will drive traffic to your website, while you use content marketing in your blogs and on your social media channels. But here is the question: are both tactics working well together? If not, you may be missing out on a great opportunity to help your brand grow.
Related: 7 Reasons Why SEO Matters for Every Startup
Making sense of the buzz: SEO vs content marketing
Before considering how SEO and content marketing can be combined in your marketing strategy, it is worth clarifying the differences between both tactics. As digital marketing terms are becoming more widely used, they are also often used synonymously even though they describe different things.
What is content marketing?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.” The overall goal is to customer actions that benefit the brand, whether that is through subscribing to a service or purchasing a product.
Unlike traditional marketing, content marketing works indirectly with the consumer and is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services, compared to specific brands. Rather than talking to customers about a specific product or service, content marketing helps a customer solve problems by providing information that they may not have had previously.
Brands that excel at content marketing and Search Engine Optimization build long-lasting relationships with their audiences. Customers come to rely on the brand as a source of advice rather than simply a business pushing products and services.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimization is a crucial part of marketing for businesses that rely on website traffic. It organizes and optimizes content from search engines, like Google, and helps your website rank high in search results. The Digital Marketing Institute defines SEO as a process that helps brands generate website traffic from “free, organic, editorial, or natural search results in search engines.”
As a brand, you may be paying an SEO expert to improve your rankings, but there are no payments to the companies behind the search engines. This is what sets SEO apart from Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which refers to paid listings. While SEO takes time to deliver results, SEM can increase product visibility in the short term.
Many brands use both approaches as part of their digital marketing strategy. But let’s only focus on SEO. SEO has become a non-negotiable part of the digital marketing strategy of any brand relying on website traffic for its success. Without it, even the best-designed website may never be found by relevant audiences.
Based on these clarifications, it is easy to identify the connection between content marketing and search engine optimization.
Related: 7 Ways Small Businesses Can Use SEO to Boost Customer Service and Growth
Making content marketing and SEO work together
To reach the full potential to benefit your brand, content marketing and SEO need to work together. As a new brand, you should create content with search engine requirements in mind. As a brand with an existing library of content, it is worth reviewing your content to ensure it benefits your search engine.
Starting from scratch: how to develop SEO-friendly content
Just a few years ago, creating SEO-friendly content meant stuffing keywords into what would have been an otherwise well-written article. As a result, many websites became unreadable and unhelpful for their users. Search engine operators realized that and have started to change their algorithms. Today, search engines strive to deliver the most relevant content to users.
So, how can you tell Google that your content is relevant? The answer is simple: be clear with your content. Search engines probe through websites, and the easier it is to identify the focus of your content, the higher your content will be ranked on search engine results pages.
Staying focused is the key to developing successful content. That may sound simple, but it can be surprisingly hard to implement at times. For example, if you are offering separate online courses for languages and personal finance, avoid putting both types of courses on the same page. Instead, create a separate language course page and another personal finance page. You may even want to break down the language courses into individual languages.
The same goes for blog posts. It is possible to blog about the benefits of online courses in general. However, creating individual pieces of content for online language courses and personal finance courses will almost always drive more content to the relevant pages.
Creating content from scratch means starting with target keywords in mind and matching content to those keywords.
Optimize existing content
Creating brand new content might give you an advantage with SEO, but it is a time-consuming approach. Most established businesses and brands already have a content library and should update and optimize that content to benefit search engine rankings.
Once again, it helps to try and think like a search engine. Websites that are continuously updated rank higher than those with stagnant content. Updating existing content is an excellent way of meeting that requirement while saving time.
Optimizing existing content would not be complete without reviewing internal and external links. Internal linking tells search engines about the structure of your website and reveals content that belongs together. Orphaned content, pages not linked together, struggle to be found by search engines.
Related: Why SEO Is Much Easier Than You Think
Take advantage of synergies
SEO and content marketing should work together to attract the most users to your website and generate sales.
To create synergies, start developing content with SEO in mind. Delivering great content that benefits users can easily be SEO-friendly, especially if it is developed that way from the beginning. Treating SEO as an afterthought tagged on to the end of content development simply does not deliver the best results.
Creating content with your audience in mind and a clear understanding of your topic will make it easier to optimize content for rankings. Regardless of the time investment, traffic optimization is worthwhile for your business.