SEO and content marketing are two tightly interconnected strategies—the more high-quality content you push out, the higher you’ll rank in search engines, and the higher you rank in search engines, the more visibility you’ll get for your customer-converting content. When working together in harmony, these two strategies bring out the best in each other and lead to greater overall success.
Unfortunately, most marketers fail to leverage these strategies in harmony. Instead, they focus only on one strategy and think of the other only in terms of the first. When focusing too heavily on content marketing, you could miss out on some traffic by not optimizing your site structure or seeking the right external links, but ultimately it won’t hurt you too badly. However, focusing too heavily on SEO can downright ruin your attempts at building a solid content marketing strategy.
Focusing too heavily on SEO can make you fixated on rankings for various keywords. At any point, you probably know which keywords and keyword phrases you’re either ranking for or close to ranking for, and you’ll be naturally more inclined to include those keyword phrases in your content.
The major rule break that happens here is over-using keywords in the body of your content. If you try to stuff a phrase unnaturally into your article, it’s going to be noticeable—obnoxiously so—and your readers might just stop reading as soon as they encounter the infraction. What’s even worse is that Google doesn’t factor in keyword phrases the way it used to. Today, it uses a process of semantic search to analyze user intentions behind individual queries and find appropriate companies that provide answers. Focusing on keywords will only serve to sabotage the quality and effectiveness of your content.
The alternative to selecting keywords is selecting topics, either in the form of long-tail keywords or in the form of responses to abstract user queries. These targets are often based on data found through research tools like Google Trends or Google AdWords, and are incorporated into titles based on which phrases and queries have the least amount of competition.
Overall, this is a decent strategy. It gives you a chance to take advantage of incoming user queries for which there is minimal competition. However, employing this strategy too often or too heavily can compromise the direction of your campaign. It leaves you focusing only on esoteric topics, which individually can be useful but collectively might make you appear spammy. Instead, rely on qualitative data and the perspectives of your users and target audience to choose appropriate, interesting topics.
In the world of SEO, more is usually better. The more content you have, the more pages your site will have (which leads to increased authority), the more niche topics you’ll cover (which leads to greater traffic), and the more authoritative you’ll become in topics related to your brand (which leads to higher rankings). Unfortunately, success in content marketing comes down to quality much more than it does quantity.
Focusing too much on quantity compromises the integrity of your content strategy. Your posts will become predictable, formulaic, and in most cases, uninteresting. Instead of trying to churn out a specific number of articles over a specific number of days with a specific number of words, focus more on delivering high-quality results.
Content syndication is another area where prioritizing SEO over the organic value of your content can be destructive. In some ways, this comes down to another question of quality versus quantity. For SEO purposes, it would make sense to syndicate a link to your post as often as possible on as many platforms as possible, trying to get the maximum visibility and the greatest number of shares you can.
However, a wiser, more productive content strategy involves carefully considering which types of content you syndicate to which channels. You might end up with fewer posts and fewer total impressions, but the impressions you do receive will be stronger for it. Over time, you’ll find this approach is more beneficial in increasing your following, which will ultimately lead to greater organic search traffic—it just takes a little longer than focusing on SEO results outright.
This mistake comes into play when you attempt to measure or track the results of your campaign. When you focus on SEO, it becomes something of a numbers game—it’s simple to measure results in terms of how many people came to your site through search engine results and how high you rank for various keywords.
Measuring the organic results of your content is less concrete, but can give you far greater insight. Your rank and traffic figures won’t mean anything if you’re not attracting the right kinds of traffic. Qualitatively look at the types of customers you’ve been acquiring, how long they stay on your pages, which pages they gravitate toward, and how the react to various sections of your website. This will help you better understand your audience, which will help you produce better content and improve the functionality of your website. Remember, your users have to come first no matter what.
Remembering that content is an important part of SEO can help you improve your rank, but don’t get lost in chasing after search ranks. Try to balance the two strategies the best you can, allowing them to enhance one another and interact with each other, rather than letting one domineer the other. Only with this careful balance will you achieve the greatest possible results and avoid the common pitfalls that have compromised countless other campaigns.