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SEO and Content Marketing: Similar but different

September 4, 2015

Firas Aldalou
One of CandidSky's SEO managers, Firas has a strong love for anything digital, and a great all round knowledge of search marketing.


Since the growth of content marketing, there’s been plenty of talk about SEO and how it’s been “replaced”. But has it?

It is true that having some strong expertise when it comes to content marketing is proving to be invaluable, but that doesn’t mean that it has rendered SEO obsolete. On the contrary – both disciplines should work together and only when they are in harmony can they be truly effective together.

Key Differences Between Content Marketing and SEO

SEO and content marketing overlap constantly, yet there are some differences:

  • Aspects of SEO are more technical. This includes basic elements such as correct URLs, title and ALT tags, sitemaps etc; right through to architecture and internal link structure: the stuff that underpins your content marketing strategy.
  • Content marketing is broader and isn’t necessarily confined to SEO goals. For example, a publisher should produce excellent content first and foremost as a way of attracting and retaining an audience.   

How Content and SEO Can Work Together

There is a common misconception that the main purpose of SEO is to create good content for search engines to crawl and index.

Even though there are countless articles online that go on about how “content is king”, there is definitely more to it than that. If the more technical on-site SEO groundwork isn’t laid out properly, your content efforts will be wasted.

For example, if your site has a penalty, or Google isn’t indexing pages properly, then you’re going to need some search engine optimisation expertise, great content or not. This is why the SEO experts and content teams need to work together.

SEO strategies change very often, partly because Google changes all the time, what worked a few years ago is now irrelevant. In the past it was all about keywords and where they were placed on and off your page. Of course, the technicalities of SEO such as keyword research, Alt tags, URL structure, meta description, link building, and header tags still matter. But, now it’s all about how much value your content is providing people. Google has made changes to make sure that the content ranking on its first page is more valuable and relevant to their users’ search intent.

Creating Original, Quality Content  

While creating a constant flow of thin content for Google’s crawlers to index may have worked a few years ago, it isn’t nearly as effective nowadays. Furthermore, weak content created simply for the purpose of making up the numbers will not work form a content marketing perspective, since it will become harder to engage with and retain your readers.

On the other hand, from an SEO perspective, creating original and engaging content will set you apart from your competitors, as well as give search engines some fresh content to index that can’t be found elsewhere. This also helps with achieving content marketing goals, since you are more likely to attract a higher caliber of visitor with well-written and targeted content.

A good way of making sure that what you’re writing is suitable is putting yourself in the place of your target audience, and whether you think they will genuinely find what they are reading useful. Does it provide good value and useful advice?

Evergreen Content and SEO

Evergreen content is SEO content that remains relevant and would constantly be of value to readers.

Creating evergreen content is considered a great strategy for a number of SEO performance benchmarks such as improved search exposure, increased keyword quantity and quality. Having that caliber of useful content would also increase the value of your website.

A fresh piece of news or a new article would often rank quite well within Google SERP’s while it’s fresh, but will then quickly fade away once there is more pertinent news to take it’s place.

On the other hand, a more useful and engaging article that contains valuable reader advice as well as a level of insight would attract a higher level of traffic and user engagement. Those are the standards to which Google assesses how relevant a piece of content is, and is thus more likely to do better over long periods of time.

Content Marketing Tips

Tip #1: Know Your Audience

Whenever you are creating content, you need to be thinking about who your potential audience is.

  • Who do you want to be reading your content?
  • Who would find it useful?
  • Who is it meant for?

By asking yourself those relevant questions it suddenly becomes clearer the approach you have to take. You would then be able to truly understand who your audience is, and be sure that the kind of content you are creating is suitable and effective.

Tip #2: Brainstorm Your Ideas

When it comes to content creation, it tends to have a different approach to an entirely SEO focused way of doing things. Starting with an obvious thing like keyword research when it comes to SEO projects comes second to knowing what the content is actually about. The type of content being produced and the kind of ideas that the pages need to focus on will guide the keyword research process, so that they work hand in hand.

Tip #3: Making Content Digestible

When looking at how search engines view content, think of them as a child learning how to read for the first time. When writing content that is search engine optimised, the content itself is important, but just as important is the layout.

Just like a child’s attention would be grabbed by imagery, so would a search engine’s attention. Adding images to your content will help it become easier to digest, as well as making sure to include descriptive alternate tags to help search engines understand them.

Breaking up your content into chunkier bullet points and lists will also make it easier to read and digest. Creating content that is easier to skim through makes it easier to share and promote, which in turn has a positive effect on SEO.

Top Tip – Make sure your keywords are present in your headers, and try to use various synonyms to help with increased exposure throughout your content.

Tip #4: Update and Re-promote Older Content

Sometimes fresh new ideas and concepts for content can be slim, so look at older content that performed really well when it was first published for some inspiration.

More often that none, older pieces of content just need a refresh in the form of a new headline, image or a layout restructure. Using older pieces of content to link back to newer, fresher pieces and vice versa can have a positive effect. Internal linking will help to disperse the flow of link juice.

Example of Content Marketing

A recent and quite a good example of how great content at the right time can achieve amazing results. For instance, take the recent Favrify infographic which looks at the effects of the Scottish drink Irn Bru on an Englishman. This idea was taken from a similar infographic to the effects of drinking Coke.

By utilising this idea and putting a different twist on it, this particular piece of content brought in over 100,000 visits to their website, as well as having the content shared over 7000 times on Facebook.

Favrify Irn Bru Infographic

Ahrefs links

Links and social shares generated through the infographic


When researched and done correctly, content marketing is an excellent way to build relationships with customers, as well as setting yourself apart from your competitors.

A well implemented content marketing strategy evokes trust and authority in your relevant market or sector, and positions your brand to be the go to resource for your specialty.

The crucial concept behind an effective content marketing plan is to tell stories that people find and will continue to find both useful and relevant.

Keep in mind though, SEO and content marketing are not the same, nor are they mutually exclusive – you need to combine both for the best looking results.

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