So…we all know what content marketing is. And we all know what SEO is. And, if you’re like most organizations you probably have a team or at least a person or two responsible for addressing each, right? But have you ever stopped to think about how that might present a problem for your company?
When we started here at Oz, most of us had had the experience of working in agencies where content and SEO were totally separate, and maybe even at odds. We knew it didn’t work. It was no good for the working environment, and it didn’t lead to top-notch content. When we first began selling our Oz idea-generation software we knew that there needed to be a happy and healthy relationship between the SEO and content. In fact, we believed the two needed to be symbiotic—but we, like most of our clients, were doing SEO manually and at various stages of the content creation process.
Then it dawned on us. If we consistently integrated real SEO (no stuffing!) in the early stages of the content idea generation process we could regularly deliver better ideas for meaningful, relevant content. Articles that matter to customers and potential customers. The Oz platform itself could bridge the gap between content creation and SEO. Good thing our team was in the middle of developing already game-changing (toot-toot) idea generation software.
Over the course of the past year and with the help of some productive editorial meetings and customer interviews we started to realize a few things. First, that many content managers don’t really understand how SEO and content marketing need to be deeply related to one another. And second, that many writers don’t know how to integrate SEO into copy and, furthermore, they don’t know why that is necessary. And this divide got us thinking.
Why do so many companies have different departments for SEO and content marketing when the two are so crucial to each other’s existence? And when did they get to be so crucial to each other’s existence?
A Brief History of the SEO Universe
Until recently, marketers were putting a lot of emphasis on keyword stuffing. As Google search engines got smarter, we had to get smarter about which keywords to use and where to use them. Google’s algos were quick to sniff out paid links, spammy ads and repetitious words and phrases in order to put the kibosh on sites that were trying to manipulate them. The users had spoken and Google responded: the company’s main focus was to bring the most relevant, unique, and original content to the forefront of all Google searches and to hide the other junk well under the fold.
Still, SEO had its place. Webpage-crawling search engines still optimized results – they were just doing so in a more inconspicuous way. Results were based on things like ALT text, file names, geolocations, authorship, interlinking, and headlines. At this point, content marketers were still churning out copy and passing it along to “the other side” for the techies to work their SEO black magic.
Then Google really flipped the switch. In February 2011, the company released its first version of Panda, an iteration of their algorithm aimed at expunging low-quality content from the web. Some brands saw up to a 90% loss in web traffic when Panda was first released. Clearly this new algorithm was targeting flimsy SEO like vultures target carrion and, in the content marketing landscape, it was the shot heard round the world. The jig was up for the SEO guys and writers were all SMH, what are we going to do now?
Panda basically changed the CM game by making Google even more discerning about lack of content on sites, targeting machine generated content and also by helping small and medium-sized business rank higher, given that they had high-quality content on their sites. Things like keyword stuffing, pop-up ads, forced downloads and content farms with generic “How-to” articles were anathema to a site’s search cred. So where does this put the relationship between content marketing and SEO now?
In an interview with Oz Content, Larry Gurreri, SEO veteran and founder of award-winning digital marketing agency Sosemo, believes that content can succeed without SEO but that “SEO makes content work so much harder.” Your content can be the most awesome content to ever exist on the web but unless it’s backed by SEO it’s not getting the reach that it could. Sosemo has been able to elevate clients’ organic search traffic 4x by layering SEO on top of existing content marketing activities – which goes to show that the two make pretty good bedmates.
SEO and Content Marketing: Do they fit together?
SEO and Content Marketing are definitely different concepts and it’s still necessary to discern them from one another. SEO is narrow and more technical while content marketing is broad and holistic. But as marketing guru Neil Patel points out in this Kissmetrics blog, the only way for SEO to be successful in today’s landscape is to use it in a broad way that improves the function of content and the only way for content marketing to be successful is to bring in your best SEO techniques.
SEO couldn’t exist without content and content can’t be successful without SEO. SEO is based on keywords and content marketing is based on using those keywords in a strategic and effective way.
In much the same way, SEO feeds off of linkbacks. You can build links yourself or use agencies to do so (be wary of this) but the best way to do it is by publishing content that other people want to share. It’s true, everyone – the internet is becoming more sincere.
The Technical Stuff
Some people may argue that Panda has found a way to circumvent the technical optimization involved in SEO but if you consider how inextricably tethered it is to your content then it doesn’t even matter. This is the stuff that content marketers really shy away from – metadata enhancement, tags, categories, sitemaps, etc. But guys, it’s not that crazy and only takes a few minutes to learn about. And, the point is, this isn’t just SEO anymore – this stuff is becoming our actual content. It’s important to have a good sitemap so your users can find what you’re looking for. You want to have the best tags in place so users can easily search for and find the killer content they’re looking for on your site. Longtail keywords are also important – these are chains of words that are based on people’s search fields, like “Cheap sofas in Albany” or “Luxury hotels near Santa Fe,” etc. etc. See how this works?
Regular Content Production
Finally, and perhaps the best case for my claim that SEO and CM are totally in bed together, is the fact that Google won’t give you or your links or your tags or your keywords the time of day if you aren’t producing it CONSTANTLY. The longer you wait between updates and blog posts the further down the dreaded page scroll your site plunges. In order to maintain the best possible SEO, you need to keep up with content. In this sense, SEO actually =’s content. According to research by HubSpot, blog posts get the most views on Mondays, the most links on Thursdays and the most comments on the weekend.
Ahem…Valuable Takeaways Please?
Okay so let me step off my soapbox and offer a few tips to writers who are struggling with integrating SEO into their content, many of which I’m summarizing from this awesome CoSchedule post.
Don’t Blog for the Sake of Blogging
Unless they are directly related to your line of work, save your worldly pontifications or chicken soup recipes for your personal blog that only you, your best friend and your mom read on a regular basis. When you’re blogging for an audience, create your content based on what they want to read. If they’re interested in how to grow an audience on Instagram, use that as a longtail keyword. If they want to read about interior designing their new home in Portland, Oregon, go on and create blogs around that exact topic using those exact words.
Write Loooong Content
The average content length for a page that ranks highly on Google is at least 2,000 words. Moz conducted a study that found that longer content gets tons more backlinks than shorter stuff, which is an automatic win for SEO. Our in-house SEO expert, Nikhil Jhunjhnuwala, believes that SEO is going to change in the sense that time spent on each page and actual attention are becoming more important to search rankings. “Remember, Google helps people find what they’re looking for and if they don’t find it, people will stop using Google. Chartbeat is an analytics company that’s measuring attention to content – not just time spent on your page.”
Write Around Your Keywords
Instead of injecting your copy with SEO as an afterthought, it’s helpful to start integrating keywords into your process from the moment you start conceiving ideas. Using Oz means you can start your ideation process with keywords – that way you have them in place before you even start writing and build your posts around the material that matters most to your audience. Sosemo frontman Larry Gurreri recommends that businesses make a significant investment in upfront research in order to determine the most productive keywords to target prior to developing and optimizing content.
Use Free Tools Available to You
Get an Adwords account and use they Keyword Planner tool. It helps you automatically generate the keyword ideas that your readers are interested in and therefore understand what your readers are interested, thus making you a better writer. [Tweet “Google rewards content that matters to your audience”]
Make Keywords a Part of Your Editorial Calendar
When you plan content out in advance, you can be much more strategic and deliberate when it comes to your goals. Depending on how frequently you publish, add keyword goals to your editorial calendar weekly or daily or somewhere in between to make sure you are addressing your top keywords and crafting content around them. It’s always best to identify specific keywords before you start writing a new post. It’s a good habit to get into.
Optimize Your Content
Now, listen up, writers! This is the techie stuff that we hate but once you break it down it’s actually pretty simple and kind of fun. Make sure that your secret keyword appears in the following places and you’ll see your traffic start to rise like whoa.
- Headline – this is kind of a no-brainer
- Page URL – this is the link text that shows up in hyphenated form in your link. For instance if your blog is ozcontent.blog and your keyword is Tips for SEO you should make sure that your page title is something like ozcontent.blog/7-best-tips-for-SEO – get it? It’s easy to alter this text in WordPress.
- Page Title – this is the text that appears in your browser tab.
- In the post itself – also a no-brainer
Good marketers have different skill sets than good writers but they are both strengthened by combining forces. The sooner you stop your content marketers and SEO folks from spending more time together, the sooner you’ll find that your efforts will be greatly rewarded.
Want to try using Oz to integrate SEO into the earliest stages of your content creation process? Bet you do. Get a free trial of our idea generation software, now.