Digital Content Marketing and SEO in 2013: How Does It Fit Together?
Content marketing is a term that’s broadly used by modern marketers — perhaps a bit too broadly — and “content” itself is a word that changes based on context. On top of that, digital marketing is a fluid enterprise where the rules are constantly shifting.
So how can business leaders of today pin down the meaning of digital content marketing in 2013, and formulate a plan for mastering it? And does the current focus on content marketing change the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) in digital marketing?
What Is Digital Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the creation of media — website content, articles, videos, blogs, press releases, infographics, ebooks, you get the idea — and the strategic sharing of that media across platforms — your website, and increasingly, social networking sites like YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Why the focus on social? Thanks to dramatic shifts in technology over the past decade, people engage with content differently than they did just a few years ago. Today, Facebook boasts more than 1.11 billion monthly active users, and YouTube “reaches more U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 34 than any cable network,” writes Jessica Fee at Mashable.
Even if those numbers are inflated, the result is clear: People are connecting with social media in huge numbers. The good news: That’s a lot of traffic circulating through websites that are actively seeking original content to share. The bad news: Getting anyone’s attention among all this activity isn’t easy. And when you do get their attention, it isn’t always in the way you’d prefer. “The Internet has given customers ever-increasing powers to research, compare, and review brands, enabling both good and bad customer experiences to be broadcast to the world,” writes Ekaterina Walter at FastCompany.com.
Controlling the Conversation
This increasingly social, conversational interaction makes it difficult for companies to control messaging about their own brands, and even more difficult for anything that resembles traditional advertising or PR to hit a chord with increasingly wary consumers who love Facebook’s universality but hate its perceived privacy violations.
Content marketing in 2013, then, requires original, creative content that gets attention in the right ways — being clever will get you “liked” but being obnoxious or overly promotional will get you blocked. This kind of content is a two-way conversation, not a one-way advertisement. For smart marketers, though, this shift represents not an onerous new burden but a remarkable opportunity.
With content marketing, a video uploaded to YouTube can be marketed instantaneously and supported across all available channels — your website; your social media feeds; the dialogues your sales professionals have with prospects. You don’t need to buy ad space on a network; social media is your direct connection to an enormous audience, and content marketing is your key to unlocking that door.
The presence of negative feedback has been amplified, but as Twitter has shown us, every negative comment is a chance to respond patiently, politely, and progressively — and not only find out instantly what people think of your company, but smoothly turn the conversation back to your preferred talking points.
Content Marketing and SEO
How does this new approach to content marketing square with existing search marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) efforts? In other words, where do you spend your budget — on content marketing (circulation among the Internet’s most heavily trafficked sites), or on search marketing (bringing visitors to your own website)?
The answer is both. Despite some opinions to the contrary, this brave new world of content marketing and its focus on external “channels” should not impede your efforts to optimize your site to bring in more traffic. In fact, it should supplement it. Here are three ways how that can work:
1. SEO is an element of content marketing. Website content is part of your content marketing plan, and arguably your content portfolio’s centerpiece. The videos or social media messages you create should echo your website’s message, and that message should be determined using SEO best practices, to make sure the right people are finding your website in the first place.
2. SEO planning leads to content marketing strategy. When you create an SEO strategy, you’re essentially boiling down your marketing message to a handful of keyword phrases that best match what your ideal customers will be searching for. That, in turn, provides a focus for creating supplemental content like videos, social media messaging, and blog posts. Ideally, your site will have a regularly updated blog that utilizes keywords central to your business plan, thereby creating solid content that also directly boosts SEO.
3. Content marketing is a rich source of backlinks. Much has changed in SEO over the past decade, but two fundamental pillars remain: The importance of original content and quality backlinks. Since it’s no longer best practices to hire a firm to buy those backlinks for you (in fact, this is very much a no-no in Google’s current rulebook), the links from social media you generate in your content marketing efforts will help your site move up the search engine rankings. A great way to do this is to promote your blog or blurb your press releases on social media.
“The struggle many face with online marketing is a misguided impulse to put various tactics into separate boxes instead of seeing each as an aspect of one overarching strategic process,” as Marketing Land’s Brian Clark adroitly sums up this need for integrating content and search marketing. “The result is often a disjointed, ineffective mess that leads companies large and small to question the return on investment of online marketing in general.”
So, think of search marketing and content marketing as two components of the same strategy, and make sure the goals of each are aligned with the other. If you’re hiring an agency or individual professional to tackle this for you, make sure they understand the importance of this concept — all messages should sync up, and content marketing should be designed to reinforce your brand and send traffic to your website.
Finally, don’t forget that social media is a conversation, not a sales pitch. SEO should focus on your business needs, and content marketing should focus largely on customer engagement and outreach. You can find your final strategy at the place where these two goals meet.
What Do You Think?
Are your content marketing efforts optimized for today’s increasingly social-centric online experience? Are you worried about the over-marketing of social media, or do you agree that it’s the best place to reach customers? Best practices will vary depending on your business line, so share your thoughts and let us know your experience or concerns about content marketing and SEO.