Lately, the reports of the death of SEO are linked to the rise of content marketing. The correlation seems absurb, especially in light of the importance of search for most brands. Content marketing does play a large role in the effectiveness of search, but SEO considerations also have an impact on the findability of content. For the future, these two previously separate functions appear to be inextricably tied together and one is essential for the survival of the other. During a recent Found Friday episode, Erin O’Brien COO, and Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO addressed some questions we’ve been getting about the current state of SEO and how successful brands are dealing with its changing role in the marketing space.
Marketing and SEO Mind Meld
The skill sets required for marketers have become more and more technical as marketing automation tools, analytics platforms, and publishing tools are integral to the marketing process. According to Ray, marketers need to have a least an understanding of the basics.
“You need to know how search engines work,” notes Ray. “That’s really important and it’s not that hard. The biggest challenge for people is the perception that it’s too technical and too difficult. I think most people would find it interesting, once they started to learn about it.”
Since there aren’t many companies out there without at least a website, marketers today cannot survive without some knowledge of how websites and technology work. Every marketing effort, even print ads, radio, and TV are affecting the analytics of an online website somewhere. Erin suggests a few skills that can help marketers tackle not only SEO but general web-marketing practices.
- Basic HTML
- Understand title tags and meta descriptions
- Ability to use Word Press or other content creation tool
- Website structure rules
“One of the things that’s easy to mess up, and that can have detrimental effects on your organization, is proper website structure,” advises Erin. “Although very few marketers actually build a website from scratch, it’s helpful to understand the basics of website design so the content they create doesn’t undermine the SEO value. I’d say an HTML 101 class will get you resonably far.”
The SEO departments of companies that are successfully joining content marketing and search are providing marketing with important SEO data such as:
- Keywords and topic rankings
- Competitor content intelligence
- Social media intelligence
- Relevant topic suggestions
- Industry trend notifications
These SEO departments watch trends over time and report on a regular basis. The timely information informs marketing strategy and helps determine which types of content to create and where to distribute it.
“Successful organizations watch how data changes over time. Their SEO departments are not just taking dips into the data once a year, twice a year, or once a quarter.” notes Erin. “They’re actually monitoring important changes on a regular basis, then they work hand in hand with their marketing departments to get results.”
SEO’s Gotten a Bad Rap
SEO is still sometimes associated with tricks and techniques to fool the search engines. Although these “black hat” techniques are still in existence, the rapidly changing search engine algorithms have made these practices too expensive and resource intensive to continue.
“Most of the companies out there are focusing on creating websites and experiences for their customers that should be valuable,” comments Ray. “SEO is taking it one step further and ensuring that your audience can actually find it.”
Driving traffic to relevant content is the goal of both the SEO and marketing departments. If content is relevant, everything else is superflous. Good, relevant content is going to be ranked higher by the search engines and will have an extended shelf life on a well structured website. SEO best practices optimize the content to stabilize it and make it less susceptible to search engine ranking drops.
“SEO stops working when the content sucks,” warns Erin. “Don’t make crap content. Even if that drives a million people to a page, if the page they go to is not a good page, they’re not going to convert anyway, so it’s a waste of time and effort.”
Search Factors Every Marketer Should Consider
The goal of content marketing is to first drive traffic to a website and from there create a customer experience that leads to a conversion. It seems simple enough, but a lot of little things can go wrong along the way. There are a few basics of SEO that anyone publishing content should be aware of, whether that content is a blog post or a landing page.
Whether you have an SEO department or not, every marketer should know the topics and keywords their audience is using to search for them. Make sure that the keywords you’re targetting have enough search volume to support your efforts.
Once you’ve decided on a topic, optimize your content for that topic. This may sound technical, but it really isn’t. It just means to make sure that the title of your post or page actually matches and includes the keywords you’re talking about. The top keywords should be used naturally throughout the body of your article. It’s fairly easy to make sure your content is considered valuable by the search engines.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you providing informative content?
- Are you creating clean HTML?
- Are you running it on a server that is performing well?
- Are you optimized for mobile?
“Mobile is becoming a huge deal with the upcoming release of the new mobile-friendly Google algorithm update later this month,” notes Ray. “Ensuring that your content is optimized for mobile is going to be a very big deal.”
Which Comes First – SEO or Content Creation?
Without some content to optimize, there is no SEO but without optimization, your content won’t perform the way you want it to. So, which to do first? Content creation or SEO optimization? The answer is really do both, but focus on content creation first and then go back and optimize the content further. Just don’t forget to go back and optimize for search value.
“The biggest problem that most companies have is actually spending the time getting that workflow around creating content.” states Ray. “Once the content has been published and they can see if it’s getting traction or not and they can see if their competitors are writing content that’s beating them, that’s when they’re motivated to optimize.”
Once you get the content machine working, it’s time to go back and get your content working for you – driving relevant traffic and creating conversions. If you’ve never really focused on the SEO value of your content, a site and content audit is a good place to get recommendations about where to refresh old content or to add in tags, change out headers, or include important keywords. Even if you’ve tried to keep up SEO optimization from the beginning, an annual audit is a good way to keep everything up to date with ongoing search engine algorithm changes.
“If you aren’t driving enough relevant traffic to your site consider optimizing what is already there,” suggests Erin. “Instead of creating more content, you might get more bang for your buck if you can use the audit recommendations to help your already existing good content get found better by search engines.”
SEO and Content Cross-Training
Now that SEO and content are so closely aligned, the skill sets for both groups require some cross-training into the other discipline. It’s kind of like the difference between a marathoner and a tri-athlete. They both have to cover the same distance, they just need different skill sets to do it. The SEO folks are more like the marathoner in that they aren’t expected to have the writing skills necessary to produce the content. The goal of the SEO department, or SEO person within an organization, is to identify demand and ensure that content is optimized. On the other hand, the marketer is expected to be the tri-athlete – with the ability to create content, understand the metrics it takes to measure it, and know the coding required to make it findable by search engines.
“To me, marketers could be made more invaluable by learning more of the technology behind the resources that they’re using and SEO folks could be made more indispensible by learning a little bit more of this content marketing aspect,” states Erin. “It’s not that SEO folks need to write all the landing pages or create all the website content, but they should be able to make suggestions and understand trends.”
If you’re a marketer and you’d like to learn some basic SEO, there are a lot of good resources out there. Here are a few:
- Moz tutorials
- Industry Publications – Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch
- Google Analytics Academy
- WordPress Tutorials
Have a look at the resources on the GinzaMetrics website for more slideshares, ebooks, and Found Friday episodes that address specific topics of interest. Our support page can help answer some commonly asked questions.
Still have questions? Give us a shout and we’ll get back to you right away.