The Difference Between SEO Content and Content Marketing

Kim Velten November 30th, 2016
seo content vs content marketing

In the SEO world, there’s a growing stalemate. It’s well known to white hats that content is a crucial aspect of any solid SEO program, but what’s being debated is how content should be approached.

For many years, it was quantity over quality. Produce as many blogs as possible in a given month; create dynamic content pages throughout your website that can be updated on a monthly basis; include inbound and outbound links; format every piece that goes through with subheads, bulleted lists, and tastefully placed keywords.

And this approach mostly worked, until last winter.

That’s when the Google Panda update happened and things got hairy. See, for Google, Panda was their answer to defining “quality” content. It came down to User Experience (UX), and the argument began.

SEO Content vs. Content Marketing

Some believe that quantity can still meet the demands of quality, but here’s the fallacy in that argument: the quantity approach doesn’t answer to UX. It answers mainly to search engines. And Google wants you to also consider UX. Which is where the other side comes in: arguing for quality over quantity.

Let’s start by breaking down the difference between quantity vs. quality, or as some call it, SEO Content vs. Content Marketing.

SEO Content

SEO Content takes a pretty formulaic approach. Its intent is to get as high in search engine rankings as possible, so the odds of a person clicking on their link increases exponentially.

Here’s how it works, roughly:

  • Create topics based on popular keyword search
  • Write at least 300 words to meet mythical algorithmic demands
  • Provide this content in the form of blogs and static and dynamic (web) pages
  • Maybe throw in a video and an infographic (because people like those and because it raises the average time on page)
  • Produce as much as the budget allows

While SEO Content is often written primarily for search engines and not always for the reader, it is an essential part of a company’s overall marketing strategy. Best of all, it’s relatively inexpensive to see results – comparatively speaking.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as, “…marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Simply put, content marketing is content with a strategic, marketing purpose. Its purpose is to increase brand awareness, inform on new products, educate on product- or company-relevant topics, entertain with product- or company-relevant themes, and conversate with current and potential customers.

It can support PPC landing pages and enhance display messaging on new platforms. It can even supplement a direct-mail program by creating a special digital place to continue the story.

Here’s how content marketing works:

  • It starts with goals. What does the company want out of their overall marketing efforts?
  • Then it gets into strategy. What will the content need to do in order to support those marketing goals? Will it need to educate or entertain?
  • Next is tactics. What type of content will best support the strategy? Vlogs, interviews, visual how-to’s, etc.?
  • Where should we distribute this content so that the right target market has an opportunity to engage?

This all sounds great, but the truth is, a solid content marketing strategy takes a lot of time and a fairly large distribution budget – which can equate to a lot of money.

Content and Content Marketing Together

The solution to whether or not you do quality or quantity is simple: Don’t take a side. It’s actually about how much you should do of each.

Because like it or not, search algorithms still have a huge impact on whether content gets in front of people. Google is one of the biggest distribution sources for any form of content, and ignoring that is akin to shooting yourself in the foot.

And to the other side, content marketing is a force that can’t be ignored. Thinking outside the “SEO” box and looking at digital content as a holistic marketing strategy rather than just a means to an organic end is vital to increasing leads.

So let’s all hold hands, sing kumbaya, and get to creating the best combination of both worlds.

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