OPINION: Is content marketing replacing SEO?

Craig Hodges
By Craig Hodges | 23 January 2013
Craig Hodges CEO at King Content

Influential website Mashable recently ran a piece on whether content marketing was taking over search engine marketing. It struck me as a good discussion to have in the Australian context because content marketing is a relatively new area here. I'm going to preface this piece by saying that I come from a content and publishing background, not SEO, and I also own a content marketing agency. With that all out in the open, I'd like to say that from my perspective I’m not sure that content marketing is replacing anything, because the two disciplines are subtly, but importantly, different.

What I can say is that the role of SEO or content optimisation is critical in the content marketing segment. Are we seeing budgets roll over to us? Yes. Why? I think it probably goes back to Google and its Penguin and Panda updates – changes to their famous algorithm. Google makes these changes a regular occurrence to ensure quality sites are at the top of their index. This creates a superior user experience, rather than a site that is rammed full of optimised terms but has little or no relevance to what the user searched for. If Google doesn’t do this, it’s not doing its job.

Google also wanted to take away the weighting on backlinks, and move it to social recommendations – shares, retweets and +1s, which also means that people – not bots – are now engaging with the content. All this contributes to the purpose of the search engine now linking users who are after quality content with those who produce it. What a novel idea!

These changes mean that a combination of great quality content as well as having it optimised for search ensures your page is high in Google rankings, and I think this is the key. The content must be high quality, and that why we’re seeing SEO budgets move to content marketing agencies. We do content first – great, engaging, interesting, exiting, enjoyable content that drives people to action. We make sure that it can be seen on the search engines, but more importantly, we ensure that it strikes a chord with the user. That’s the measure of great content.

Is this a problem for search agencies? Probably. Do they need to look at their business model? Certainly. But I’m not here to tell them their model is dead, kaput, finished. SEO agencies will continue to breathe, but the business will need to change. They can't just bring on copywriters to service the spreadsheets – they’ll need editors, content strategists and of course they need sub-editors. They need to develop these content strategies that drive engagement. They'll need to incorporate visual content as well – video, infographics, images, etc. So, maybe it’s a bigger shift than I first thought.

Put simply, content marketing and SEO are two separate beasts trying to deliver one outcome. But I think only one will win, and I know which side I’m betting on.

Craig Hodges
Chief executive
King Content

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