The relationship between SEO and content marketing can always feel a bit complicated – specifically in how the two fit together. Do they get along? Are they at odds with each other? If so, is it possible to ever make them work together?
If you’re trying to grow your qualified search traffic, you can’t do it with only one; you have to combine your SEO efforts with engaging content.
But what’s the most effective way to do this?
One way to look at the relationship is from the perspective of SEO making requests of content marketing (although their synergy isn’t as aggressive as that sounds).
Let’s look at three essential ingredients SEO requires – keywords, backlinks, and a technical site audit – and how SEO and content work together to help you achieve your digital marketing goals.
1. Keywords Can Help You Generate Content Ideas
There is no such thing as SEO without keywords, and the most astute content marketers understand that the best content helps your rank for the terms that are most related to what your consumers are already searching for – which is why every effective content strategy starts with keyword research.
A comprehensive keyword research session starts with some simple brainstorming. Think about the main goals of your site and jot down some keywords. From there, expand this list with the help of keyword tools.
Below are two ways you can identify keywords beyond those you currently rank for:
- Google autocomplete and related searches: There’s no better way to step inside the mind of what your consumers are searching for than through Google. Let’s say you wanted to start dedicated to cheeseburgers. “The best cheeseburger” is a query that your target audience is already likely using, but when you enter it into Google, you’ll discover a list of potential long-tail keywords (see below). From there, scroll down and check the related searches for an additional list of relevant keywords (see below).
- Paid tools like SEMrush: Another option is to look at potential keywords through the lens of how competitive the term is via SEMrush. On the platform’s main dashboard, they have a section that offers related keywords, which is another great resource to identify terms that your site might not already rank for (see below).
Once you’ve got a set list of keywords, think about how you can use them effectively beyond just technical means. Beyond meta descriptions and title tags, here are a few other ways you can use your keyword research:
- Blog posts: Use your list of keywords to help you come up with new blog topics. Referring back to the cheeseburger example, you can produce a blog post where you sample multiple burgers from fast food chains.
- Static and dynamic assets: Keywords can be a jumping off point to more creative projects. In the case of “best cheeseburger toppings,” you could create an interactive asset that lets users build their own burgers.
- Social media: Keyword research can also help you identify new opportunities for social promotion – specifically through new hashtag ideas.
2. A Diverse Backlink Portfolio Is the Direct Result of Engaging Content
Google uses links to measure relevance, authority, and trust of websites. So producing lots of linkable content will help boost your rankings.
So what’s the secret to linkable content? An analysis of more than 300 content marketing campaigns by Moz and Fractl (disclosure: my employer) revealed there are four key ingredients to highly shareable content:
- Highly emotional
- Broad appeal
- A pop culture element
Consider this project from Bulimia.com that reimagines superheroes with more realistic body types. With the help of Photoshop, designers replaced bulging biceps with less-toned physiques to offer a new way to discuss body image issues.
The result? Nearly 1,300 press mentions and more than 100,000 social shares.
This campaign worked because it checked off every box of shareable content. And when it was paired with the right promotions strategy, it generated a diverse set of high-quality links and mentions – including dofollows, co-citations, nofollows, and text attributions – a “healthy” mix that signals to Google your links are natural and not bought.
3. A Site Audit Can Reveal Where Your Content Falls Flat
A comprehensive site audit allows you to take a closer look at the more technical aspects of your site (e.g., are sitemaps and redirects setup properly, are the URLs and title descriptions unique for each page and properly formatted, is your internal linking useful?)
But what this audit can also do is reveal which pages are falling flat – which is where engaging content comes back into play.
Pages that are generating a ton of traffic might be outdated, have little to no content or be too cluttered, but there are some easy ways to remedy the situation:
- For pages with little to no content (or similar content), merge them together using a 301 redirect.
- If you content is out-of-date, setup a reminder that allows you to constantly check on the page and update it when appropriate.
- Consider producing more evergreen content so you don’t have to revisit pages frequently.
- For pages that have too much content, determine whether you can improve internal linking by removing sections that are explained in more detail on other pages.
There are tons of great strategies out there to get your content in front of the right audience, but understanding how SEO and content complement one another will make your strategy more effective.
Optimizing the technical aspects is what allows search engines to crawl your site, but valuable content is what makes your site get that top spot.
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