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Content Marketing VS. SEO: They Aren’t The Same Thing

August 4, 2016 1 Comment RSS Feed

Content MarketingAt some point in the distant future, publishing on the web might look like this: a writer publishes an amazing piece of content on a popular topic; without them doing anything else, search engines recognize this content for the work of brilliance it is, and rocket it to the top of the SERPs immediately.

Unfortunately, until Google invents a true artificial intelligence with the ability to see into the future and content management systems become perfect, successful online publishing will require a great deal of optimization work.

Some of the most enthusiastic content marketers (naming no names) claim that content marketing and SEO are essentially the same thing on the modern web. If you publish great content, and perhaps send out a tweet with a link, the visitors and backlinks will come almost as if by magic.

That’s not true now, and it won’t be true in the foreseeable future. Content marketing and search optimization are complementary disciplines. Each supports the other, but they aren’t the same thing.

Writing and publishing great content is an essential component of modern inbound marketing. Long gone are the days when pumping out large volumes of keyword-stuffed thin content would help a site gain a prominent position in the SERPs. If you want to rank, you have to invest in the creation of high-quality content.

However, it doesn’t follow that publishing high-quality content is sufficient to generate traffic. It’s certainly necessary, but search engines need help to find and recognize content for what it is, and if you want anyone to link to your content, you’re have to invest in promotion. Links still matter, and if no one knows about your content, no one will link to it.

Modern SEO is essentially split into two disciplines: site and content promotion, and technical SEO that aims to make sure that content can be easily found and understood by search engines. Search engines get smarter every day, but they still need a lot of help.

Not so long ago, I was talking to a writer who was commiserating that no one visited her blog. Her content is thorough, accurate, entertaining, and relevant, but no one was reading it. When she searched for her own content on Google, nothing appeared. I had a suspicion I knew what was happening, so I gave her site a quick SEO audit. I didn’t have to look very far to find the problem. The web “professional” who built her site had put the following into the site’s robots.txt file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

That directive instructs Google not to crawl the site — in fact, it stops all “good” bots from crawling it. This is a small example of an instance in which SEO has nothing to do with the publishing of quality content. A modern-day Shakespeare might be publishing the most wonderful work, and if his robots.txt looked like that, no one will ever see it.

There are many similar ways a publisher can shoot themselves in the foot, and many ways that a search engine optimizer can make a real and significant difference to a site’s traffic. Because the web platform is not perfect, and because content management systems are not foolproof, there will always be a need for technical search engine optimization.

Posted in: Webmaster