SEO versus Content Marketing

By | February 19, 2014

SEO vs Content MarketingContent Marketing has become quite the rage lately as ranking by organic SEO in Google becomes increasingly difficult. It would seem that content marketing is "the answer" for how to get found online now.

And there's nothing wrong with content marketing, I'm completely in favour of it, but some of the old-school marketers are getting their backs up saying, "hey - content marketing isn't anything new".

But in many ways it is "new".

The internet has grown up, Google has become much more sophisticated. If memory serves Google started up in 1998 and as I record this it's now 2014.

That means Google is now 16 years old, and is no longer a "toddler" who doesn't quite understand the English language.

We've seen rapid updates in their algorithm over the years. Google's making changes so fast and so entirely that you're constantly chasing a moving target...making SEO an impossible game to win.

While some tactics work for a short time, it's clear that you can't build a lasting successful business by always chasing Google.

But at one time you could, and it was pretty easy for anyone really paying attention.

Google was making infrequent updates and heavily favoured high-PR keyword targeted backlinks.

This is what SEOs did. They focused on building links, building link pyramids and link wheels - all these kinds of different tactics, one-way links, private blog network links and high PR anchor text links were gold.

The holy grail was getting the right keyword anchor text from the right domain.

But since the Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates have rolled out, Google has let the air out of that balloon...

Tricks that used to be effective no longer are. Yes, backlinks still work and probably will always continue to work, but content is now more than ever "King".

You have to build something that's worthwhile if you want it to rank and stay visible for relevant search terms for any amount of time.

Plus, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you rank number one for the perfect keyword if your website is garbage and doesn't even read properly. You're not going to make conversions and you're not going to make money, so at best you'd have a vanity URL/ranking that earns you next to nothing...

So the reason why I'm talking about Content Marketing vs. SEO is because some people are saying that content marketing isn't new and that "good" SEOs have been doing this the entire time.

And they may be right, but you have to admit that there was a very large segment of the SEO market that were not. Call them "grey hat" or "black hat" or whatever, but they were doing the absolute bare minimum when it came to content creation.

  • They'd create content that was rife with spelling mistakes.
  • They would spin it a dozen times.
  • They'd translate it into a different language and then back to English to attempt to make it look "unique" to Google - all kinds of different tricks.

These people weren't content creators, they were using tricks to exploit Google's algorithm to get sites to rank that didn't deserve to.

At the end of the day most of them probably didn't even care what happened to the site once it ranked. All they cared about was getting paid X amount for getting the site on page one of Google.

After that - whatever the customer sells or doesn't sell, whether they build a mailing list or not - who cares as far as the SEO was concerned. They were paid solely based on ranking, not increased sales or customer acquisition.

So when it comes to Content Marketing, I agree that it's not something new; ethical SEOs should have been practicing it the whole time by creating good content and marketing it and building links as a secondary benefit.

Creating content that's helpful and solves problems is more important when you actually care about building a business that's sustainable for the long term.

So in some ways, content marketing is "new" again because investing in high quality content is no longer the harder approach that was rife with diminishing returns -  it used to be easier to build some links and rank to get paid, but now anymore.

Regardless of whether you choose a Content Marketing approach or an "attempting to game search rankings via manufacturing backlinks using SEO approach" - there's an investment of time involved; if I'm going to spend my time building my something that lasts, not something that could disappear overnight with the next update from Google.

If I'm going to build a house to live in, it's not going to be on top of a fault line.

I'm willing to bet that most business owners would side with me on this one as well. Who would rather trick and cheat their way to rankings that they don't deserve and mainly on Google to keep their business afloat - while wondering when the other shoe drops and they lose it all.

Good SEO incorporates marketing and vice versa. "Bad" SEO is just out to exploit a weakness...

At the end of the day if you choose to use private blog networks and all these kinds of linking schemes and that's the way you want to run things - more power to you.

If it works and you enjoy doing it - that's great. But for me, I've never enjoyed building links.

I've always looked at on-page SEO and optimized my content in ways to help the right people find it. I have been guilty of 'over optimizing' my content in the past when everyone was doing it that way.

It used to be a fool's mission to attempt to build an audience online, because it was so much easier to go out, get some links and rank.

But now, Google has reversed that.

If you want to have any lasting success beyond ranking, if you want people to actually:

  • Look at your site and read  it
  • Read multiple pages
  • Sign up for your email list
  • Possibly even buy something

..then you're going to need more than just rankings.

Rankings will hopefully get new visitors to your site, but then what will they see when they get there? What's your mission statement? What do you stand for? What are you offering?

That's why I believe that SEO and Content Marketing aren't synonymous, they definitely were not in the past but should be going forward.

Anyone who wants to build lasting reputation and rankings online need to do more content marketing, solve problems, share it with the customers and keep up their integrity.

James Schramko recently talked about how Content Marketing is trending upwards and shared a graphic like this one from Google Trends:

Google Trends graph depicting the rise in content marketing searches

It looks like a pretty clear indicator that Content Marketing is surging in popularity right? But that's only part of the story...watch what happens when we factor in the term "SEO" and compare the two:
Google Trends graph comparing content marketing vs. seo searches

(That red line is SEO by the way)

Content Marketing may be the future, but it doesn't look like it's here just yet. How long will it take for those who prospered by strictly SEO tactics to give up on them entirely?

So which side of the fence do you stand on? The Content Marketing/"White Hat" approach? Or the "go for broke SEO" approach? Or are you willing to walk the line right in between the two an offer good content that is boosted with (hopefully undetectable) private blog network backlinks?

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