"Content marketing dominates SEO… content marketers have killed SEOs… content marketing takes over the SEO jobs." If you come across these headlines recently, you should know that the surge actually started way back in between 2011 and 2012. However, the repercussions are still on.
I’m sure this article “why every online store owner must be concerned about content marketing” by PrestaShop (a leading online store builder) will justify the above statements and the explanations thereafter.
The story of these two purported rivals always makes me think that if we, the digital marketers, are in the right direction. Is the distinction between SEO and content marketing getting blurred with time? Are the job descriptions different for the duo? Or is the debate itself ridiculous?
Content marketing itself is an interesting and dynamic subject that demands a good amount of research work and lots of reading.
As a Search Engine Optimizer cum content writer, I had to face the same paradigm shift in the last 4 years or so.
I still remember my days of managing on-page and off-page SEO teams for e-commerce clients where our link building plans were totally driven by keywords and automated link submissions. Gone are the days when we used to focus more on the quantity of links rather than their types and sources. Content-based links by no means were a complementary menu in the dish of link deliverables as you find it today.
If you read the story of Kevin Gibbons, MD of Quaturo (now popularly known as Blueglass, a London based search and content marketing agency) you will know how they turned an SEO team into a content marketing agency. This is one of the many examples where an entire unit of SEO optimizers found content marketing a better, safer space.
Yes, further to the series of Google’s Penguin and Panda update followed by a revolutionary change in traditional link building practices, this transition was destined. And, to none of our surprises the need and popularity of content / inbound marketing took a huge leap than what the industry expected.
If you think that how the game of keywords based SEO strategies has changed to the content driven SEO plans altogether, let me tell you that ‘content marketing is evolutionary, not revolutionary.’ The demand for rewarding content has always been there in the industry as it is today. If you consider reading some of the popular magazine headlines in those years of offline marketing, i.e. the 1950s, you will know how content marketing used to be a popular subject of discussions then.
What Made the Paradigm Shift to Content Marketing?
It is just when Google made us think seriously about the quality of SEO practices being in question that made the difference. In fact, Google had been continuously telling people about refraining from common SEO malpractices such as keyword stuffing, one-way and reciprocal link building, microblogging, social bookmarking and avoiding other cheaper link development methods.
There were a series of algorithm updates followed by warning/penalty notices via Google Webmaster Central that shook the world finally. Webmasters, who remained busy in approaching website owners to remove links pointing to their clients’ sites could actually feel the heat. Temporary websites and microblogs that were purposely created to serve automated and quick link deliveries were de-indexed by Google altogether.
It was pretty clear to the SEO teams that:
- The entire link building plans and practices needed a complete revisit and a re-do.
- On-page optimization techniques conforming to Google’s ranking principles became mandatory for every website.
- Links sourced from only quality blogs and User Generated Contents (UGC) were respected well by Google bots.
- All the microblogs created newly with a purpose to host loads of links had to be abandoned.
The bottom line is that SEO experts who used to deal with number crunches and explore automated link generation techniques had to refocus entirely on building user-friendly content for a complete make-over.
I personally know at least a dozen of small and medium scale SEO firms who had to shut down their shows in 2013-2014 after just a year of operation. There were many who had to re-establish the entire team structure and adopt new marketing strategies to survive the battle. Some are still finding ways to reposition themselves.
We will take a closer look at all these aspects later.
What Are the Noticeable Changes SEO Experts Faced and Learned in Due Times?
- Google continues to devalue the practice of link farming and link baiting. There are no shortcuts to tame Google rankings and make them work for SEO benefits.
- Paid links, directory submissions, and other cheaper link aggregation methods are prone to severe Google penalties. That means any unnatural backlink that is not content based or of less value to a user will never take you through the SERP ladder.
- Search Engine Optimization does not necessarily means building links, but creating useful contents around a relevant topic that serves users’ purpose. You can’t earn a vote from a reader or eventually from search engines until you satisfy them with quality information.
- Further to Panda updates, many websites who had been heavily using Google+ and doing content-based marketing experienced significant growth in traffic from search engines. Here is a presentation on how much SEO juice you get from Google you may find interesting.
How Did the Restoration Take Place?
The transition phase for most of the SEO companies was not smooth at all. They had to analyze an impact on teams working on current projects as well as convince customers about the alternative plans going forward. The SEO leads proposed several turnarounds as how to reuse the existing sources and skill sets and put them to better use. They arranged several team meetings to decide on what worked best in some of their clients’ campaigns and then followed the routes to success.
Here is how some of the early survivors made successful moves by applying existing SEO skill sets to the right areas - of course in the line of content marketing.
- Identifying certain SEO activities other than link building that their team enjoys doing repeatedly
- Choosing a list of skill sets and strengths that they already have, or need to have to manage existing projects as well as win a new client
- Transforming the job role from an SEO audit to content edit, i.e. the job of taking a detailed look at how content of a website performs
- Doing competitor and market analysis to understand what type of contents invites natural links
- Using research tools like UberSuggest, Content Strategy Generator Tool, and Google Trends to build a comprehensive content plan
- Changing job roles of link builders having reasonable social media experience and good networking skills to blogger outreach specialists
- Transforming client acquisition and service managers to community managers who are supposed to track content delivery against editorial calendar
- Converting existing copywriters into expert bloggers and graphic designers and establishing Google+ authorship values for their personal profiles
- Revitalizing the content creation strategy by producing content-mix i.e. a combination of blogs, articles, videos, eBooks, whitepapers, infographics and any anything that your audiences love reading
Was This Change Beneficial to SEO Experts?
Yes, it was. Today’s SEOs-turned content marketers have better things to do than they had earlier. The new job itself demands quality, skills and continuous enhancements that help them grow by experience, knowledge and salary meter. For employers, there can’t be a better profile than an SEO professional turning into a content writer or a content marketer. It is like you have it all in one person. Whether it is the job security, salary package or the respect – content marketers can count them all for the rest of their lives in this profession.
The thick line difference between SEOs and content marketers cease to exist anymore. In fact, content marketing is the subset of an SEO plan, not a competitor in a true sense. Both work hand in hand in every aspect of an online marketing project.
An ethical SEO is not possible or even complete without optimizing content online. The logic is simple. You create, publish and share useful contents across multiple platforms and Google sure will reward you for the sincere effort.
Let’s think holistically. You can’t treat SEO, content marketing and social media marketing as separate functions to achieve an online popularity. Brands doing great today (instead of Panda and Penguin effect) had been practicing content marketing since long and that’s why they are being paid off. You as an online marketer need to have the mindset that makes online marketing work . That’s what clients expect from today’s content marketers.
If you play a part in this emerging role of content marketing, please share your story with us. I believe such interactions over a piece of content will help us do the job better. And of course, that is what content marketing is in true sense.