“Content marketing vs. SEO – the best choice”

“SEO and content marketing – which is best for your business?”

“Should you invest in SEO or content marketing?”

I’m sure you’ve seen tons of headlines like this. And I have and I decided I’ve had enough!

I’ve also heard this question from a lot of my agency’s clients during the onboarding process. “Yeah, content marketing sounds good, but I’ve read that SEO is better.”

Yes, that happens in 2017. Shoot me now!

Such questions and headlines have clearly shown me there is a serious shortage of education on the matter. More people need to understand that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. At all! Quite the opposite actually. I would go as far as saying that they are interdependent and crucial to a coherent digital strategy.

Much like peanut butter and jelly are for a really good sandwich.

Let’s see why.

Defining the terms

According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Search Engine Land tells us that SEO (search engine oOptimization) “is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.”

There is something that the two clearly have in common: “attract (…) a clearly defined audience” and “getting traffic” or attracting traffic.

Does this mean that they do the same thing and that you have to choose between them? Absolutely not.

A battle that’s artificially fueled

The type of headline cited above is only designed to “help” you allocate your resources where the publisher of the article needs you to.

For instance, let’s say your budget is $4,000 per month and you have the same dilemma: should you invest it in SEO or content marketing. When you Google your question you’ll get quite a few results. Each article you read declares a winner.

Some will tell you that you can get nowhere without SEO in this competitive world. Others will argue that all the recent Google algorithm updates killed SEO and you have to move your budget to content marketing.

Guess what? In most of the cases, the first ones are selling SEO services, while the latter are content marketers. There is an incredible scarcity of unbiased articles that advocate the need for the two to coexist.

The case for BOTH SEO and content marketing

Imagine this scenario: you put all of your $4,000 in SEO and you get lots of traffic. More than you’ve ever dreamed of. But no conversions.

You may have gained some brand recognition (and certainly some ego-massage from the vanity metrics displayed by Google Analytics), but what about cash? You know, the thing that keeps businesses going.

Enter content marketing.

The techniques used by content marketers are designed not just to keep users on your website and reduce your bounce rate, but also to turn them into paying customers. Perfectly optimized content is of no value if those who see it don’t make a purchase or an inquiry, as well.

In today’s world, the Internet-savvy shopper or client isn’t easy to convert. You need to provide him with relevant, valuable and informational content before you can convince him to even consider your brand. A poorly written, keyword-stuffed article doesn’t do that. It just annoys potential customers and scares them away from your website (and business).

Aside from valuable, informational content, good copywriters spend hours crafting the perfect call-to-action to complement your optimized copy so that your organic visits turn into actual cash. What good is a page that ranks No. 1 in all searches if it sells nothing?

The argument works both ways, actually.

What good is a perfect, stunning call-to-action if no one discovers the content it accompanies? This is why you need to pair up content marketing and SEO, not choose between them. If someone tells you to make that choice, run and never look back.

How SEO and content marketing can work together

Whenever I hire SEO copywriters for my agency, I make sure they have at least basic knowledge of content marketing. In fact, I’ve found that inbound and content marketing experience is much more valuable than SEO knowledge.

That’s because you can easily teach someone to optimize his or her content. You can tell them which tools to use to find relevant keywords, what density they should use and how to choose the right LSI keywords. But teaching them the importance of a proper CTA and a compelling headline from scratch is harder. Not impossible, but harder.

Experience has also taught me that there is such a things as the golden ratio between SEO and content marketing.

Let me explain that.

Of course you want all your texts optimized. Organic traffic is a gold mine for any type of business – no one can dispute that. But you don’t want to sacrifice your content marketing strategy for it.

You want to find the right balance.

In other words, don’t just write articles for the sake of boosting your page rankings. Write because you have something to say. Write because your buyer persona wants or needs that information. Make sure that everything you write has tons of research behind and that it’s in the right tone of voice for your audience.

Your potential customers love that. And, according to the latest Google algorithm updates, so do search engines. So, if you don’t believe me that content marketing and SEO should go together, take Google’s word for it. It has made it quite clear that websites that write for human readers will always rank higher than those that try to impress Google too hard.