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Lee Odden

What Should Lead Your Online Marketing Strategy: SEO or Content Marketing?

By Lee Odden     Content Marketing, Online Marketing, SEO

SEO content marketingThere are quite a few studies showing that companies publishing more blog posts and more content in general equates to generating more business than those that don’t.

I suppose if you’re starting from scratch, adding any kind of content has the potential to improve a company’s ability to attract people seeking to buy.  Since content creation is one of the biggest obstacles to companies realizing gains with content marketing, it’s no wonder that advice about how to produce articles, blog posts, infographics, white papers, and visual marketing has become so popular.

Which brings me to the point of this post. When looking for help with content marketing and content creation, there’s a difference between what one gets from a SEO agency and a content marketing agency. That difference is not so much about one being better than the other, but more about sizing up which is most appropriate for your situation.

In fact, it would be nonsensical to limit one’s options to just SEO and content marketing, so keep in mind this post is intentionally narrowly focused.

Many pure SEO agencies have added content marketing to their mix of services in the past year if not completely re-inventing themselves that way. This is the nature of SEO, adapting to the changing nature of the industry to provide current services for improved online marketing performance.

Starting as a Public Relations firm in 2001, TopRank has been in the content creation business (messaging strategy, press releases, case studies, newsletters, white papers, email marketing, etc) for a very long time. As we evolved into more of a digital marketing agency, those PR centric content efforts evolved into blogging, social media content, ebooks, infographics, video and other visual content. But we don’t create a diverse array of content types simply because we can. We create them when it’s the right thing to do for a certain audience to affect a particular outcome.

Therein lies the fundamental difference between today’s SEO focused content and what content marketers offer.

SEO is accountable to metrics like search visibility, organic search traffic and any measurable actions that lead to and result in conversions. The more content that can serve as a “hook in the water” of search results, the more the SEO can show an impact on the investment.

As I’ve been saying lately, SEO anticipates demand through an understanding of keyword popularity and content marketing creates demand driven by producing content based on the customer journey. Optimization is an effort to improve search visibility of existing content and digital assets as well as the creation of new content according to a target list of keywords.

Content Marketing is an approach that emphasizes the thoughtful creation of content for a particular audience designed to influence an action or outcome. Rather than keyword popularity driving content creation, an effort is made to understand the customer buying journey and to architect a content plan that provides the right kind of information and experiences along the buying cycle.

When a marketing strategy calls for demand creation, a content marketing strategy will provide for a holistic approach to content where ever the there’s an opportunity for customers to interact with it. That might mean online to offline as well as an intersection with other tactics like advertising, email marketing, rich media and certainly social media.

SEO is a critical partner to content marketing. Search represents a substantial opportunity for information discovery at a time when customers are actively looking for a solution. SEO plays an essential role for information discovery across the spectrum of customer lifecycle content. SEO assumes the buyer is firm in what they are looking for and that is not always the case.

Many companies are making a transition of sorts, from SEO and a focus on creating “more” content to a content marketing focused strategy that emphasizes targeted content mapped to stages of the buying cycle. Such a shift should consider a number of factors from the resources and culture of the marketing organization to a short vs. long term view towards online marketing.

Many SEO agencies have added content marketing to their mix and can provide resources for optimized content creation.  The most common form is to evangelize creation of more content. As SEOs mature in their use of content, audience targeting, content planning across channels and integration with other types of content that have nothing to do with explicit search behaviors will emerge. For now, that evolution is not as common as the evangelism of “more as better”.

When a company is in need of a strategic approach, a content marketing agency will be able to help define audience segments, map buying cycles and develop a content plan that provides for storytelling that is optimized for discovery, experience and outcomes – across the customer journey from awareness to purchase to advocacy.

When it comes to SEO and content, how do you lead your online marketing efforts? Do SEO and keywords drive your content creation or do you plan content according to stages of tbe customer buying cycle? Do you define content marketing as creating more content or have you created a content strategy?

Image source: Shutterstock


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