How Effective Is SEO In The Age Of Content Marketing

Content marketing is primarily an SEO tactic, and the two have to work together for either to be truly effective online, writes Prasad Pillai

SEO-content marketing 2016

Editor’s Note: This is an exclusive guest post by Prasad Pillai, SEO Head, BC Web Wise. Views expressed in this post are the author’s personal views.

Marketers probably wonder why SEO is so powerful in a time when consumer experience dominates every aspect of digital marketing. Since most brands have the necessary keyword optimization and other tactics firmly in place, technical SEO is no longer enough to ensure top spots in search rankings. Many brands and digital agencies are actually emphasizing more on content marketing, leading to questions about the effectiveness and RoI of SEO.

However, content marketing is primarily an SEO tactic, and the two have to work together for either to be truly effective online. The fact behind the evolving relevance of SEO is that its implementation is the only way to ensure the success of content.

We know that for the past few years Google has been putting increasing emphasis on content and social activity in its ranking algorithms for websites. But just like short-term, technical optimizations to a website can be rendered ineffective by the latest Penguin or Panda updates, content marketing is also ineffective without SEO to define the goals of content and ensure its visibility.

For instance, while SEO demands quality linkbacks, great content is the only way to achieve them. Then once you have got visitors to the website, systematic interlinking of content is equally critical to maintain a low bounce rate. Further, Google penalizes the search ranks of websites that have poor UX or aren’t optimized for mobile. Creating a smartphone app is one way to tailor the website experience for your visitors, but not necessarily the best way to drive mobile traffic to your site in the long term. Nevertheless whether the content is served through the website or via an app, how well it is served is another key ranking factor for all major search engines.

Several surveys have found that marketers believe that in the current search ecosystem, investing in original content and great UX is very effective for SEO. In fact the benefits of producing visitor friendly content go far beyond driving website traffic. Many marketers have reported that content is also working very well in converting Search visitors.

These are just some indicators that search engine visibility and content goals are likely to fail unless they complement each other. With the boom in social media and smartphone penetration, the successful integration of SEO and content will be one of the most important strategies for marketers to excel in 2016.

The Way Forward

Firstly, marketers should appreciate that SEO has grown beyond the days of clever one-time maneuvers designed to hijack traffic. For instance, infusing content with all the right keywords worked well for SEO earlier. But it doesn’t anymore because Google also analyses the ratio of keywords to content. So over-optimization has actually become disadvantageous. What responsible brands are doing instead is keeping consumers engaged by focusing on timely and great content.

Further, SEO and content both demand consistency. And so does Google. But again, not all Indian brands are using either as a continuous marketing tactic. To fully understand how SEO and content marketing go hand in hand, marketers have to stop seeing them as mission-critical investments. Technical SEO, as well as content marketing will work best as long-term, holistic and continuous strategies.

Consistent output of content translates into good SEO because it gets rapidly indexed by Google. So maintaining an active social media presence is valuable for an SEO campaign because page level social signals have the single biggest impact on SEO. Social landing pages, blogs, tweets, Facebook likes, +1s have become critical to increasing organic website traffic through Google’s Panda updates. But while social updates and news pieces greatly help in improving search rankings, it also dies out after a period of time!

What works best is timely or evergreen content that people refer to again and again because they find it genuinely useful. So creating branded content that is tailored to the customers’ needs and gives them valuable insight, or tips and advice about a product or service on a periodic basis can prove to be a very effective SEO tactic. This also makes it likelier for the content to be picked up by relevant blogs and news sites. Such articles get more visits and help improve ranking. Most importantly, they continue to drive traffic over a longer period of time.

More and more digital first brands are getting into story telling mode, which is another reason for marketers to pay even more attention to SEO. After all, storytelling relies on content and the success of content is in its optimization. Herein lays the next big opportunity, because planned integration of SEO and content can be aimed at driving higher brand engagement and conversion.

It is equally critical for brands to measure the effectiveness of their content in driving SEO goals. Insight into what content is working best to drive search volumes should be fed back into innovating with the content strategy.

In conclusion, SEO remains a competitive tactic. But by integrating content and SEO, brands can really make their online presence more relevant for online audiences. And if your audience is happy, Google is happy. Ignore either of them, and the competition can and will paint the internet in its own colours!