SEO in 2018: a content marketing universe?

“SEO is dead”. It’s an overused saying (and clickbait title on LinkedIn) to fire up a discussion. SEO has been dead for a while now, according to Forbes since 2013, Entrepreneur since 2016 and mostly every other tech blog that needed clicks since 2010. It’s a discussion that mostly leads to the conclusion that SEO isn’t dead, but the focus is on quality content now – instead of ‘tricks’. Now, if you would’ve asked an SEO-specialist 5 years ago, their focus would probably be on quality content too. So what’s changed?

Traditional SEO or Blackhat SEO?

No, this next paragraph will not deep-dive into the death of traditional SEO either, because it’s not. What’s changed is that tricks don’t work anymore. Cheating doesn’t work anymore. And with cheating, I mean oldschool cheating. Techniques that are not used anymore by any respectable SEO-specialist: keyword stuffing, cloaking, invisible text, Russian link-farms and I can probably go on for a while. It’s pretty simple, as Google states in their Quality Guidelines:

Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?

Did these tricks really work in the past? Yes, there have been lots of website in the past that took some really good organic positions by using tricks. And even nowadays, blackhat-techniques still tend to have effect. There are people making a lot of money using PBN’s for so called ‘money sites’: mostly review websites for Amazon products. But using PBN’s is an expert job, and not nearly as simple as the old school blackhat techniques. Plus, how safe is your investment when you rely on Blackhat? It’s not.

Yes. Old School Blackhat SEO-techniques are dead. Luckily. Traditional SEO is not – if traditional is still what traditional was 5 years ago: the three pillars. Technical SEO, content and authority (links):

These are examples of what should be considered ‘traditional’ SEO; a lot more factors come into play when it comes to having an allround SEO-strategy. Marketeers will see clear thing in this picture: content and authority have a major overlap with what we now call ‘content marketing’.

Content marketing as trend

Looking at the Google trend data for ‘content marketing’ over the past five years, we can conclude it’s been somewhat of a hype:

The Content Marketing institute defines content marketing as following:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Content marketing therefore has a huge overlap with SEO: it’s creating and distributing relevant content. Looking at the three pillars, content marketing has always been part of SEO:

This trend has caused confusion. For example, the Guardian wrote that “.. It looks like Google has tired of its old friend SEO and is instead cosying-up to the new kid on the block, content marketing.”

Is content marketing the SEO-killer we’ve all heard of?

No. There’s a HUGE overlap. The main problem is; they don’t work well together because they are considered two different things within many organizations. Let’s point out where content marketing and SEO overlap:

  • Content is king in SEO. Content marketing is literally content.
  • SEO is still authority driven (links), content marketing creates and exploits opportunity for links.
  • SEO needs positive user signals, content marketing relies heavily on UX.
  • SEO needs to be kept fresh and consistent. Content marketing doesn’t work when it’s not consistent.

Clash of two worlds? No. There’s no content marketing without SEO, as there is no SEO without content marketing. Content marketing came up in a period of time where Google started to rely more heavily on content.

How to deal with SEO and content marketing?

Is there a difference when it comes to content marketing and SEO?

Yes, SEO is more technical and content marketing relies more heavily on storytelling. Also, data driven content marketing is coming up due to marketing automation and Hubspot. The two worlds have caused a slight rise in spotting more and more technical SEO-vacancies in my overview on LinkedIN, as compared to allround SEO-specialists.

The risk lies in alignment (even though we hate the word): Content marketeers and SEO’s need to sit together. Campaigns should have SEO input and SEO should be aware of campaigns. Mixing these worlds is the best way to success, for every party involved.

Disagree? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk 😉

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