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“Delivering an exceptional experience and building a true web brand are now essential to long-term SEO success,” Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz, an authority in search ranking. 

We couldn’t agree more. After decades of being in the leader position of digital marketing strategies, SEO is losing ground to an up-and-coming player in the game—content marketing. More specifically, user-friendly content marketing. So what’s all the hype about? And where does SEO fit in today’s marketing environment?

SEO vs. Content Marketing

We’re not making bold statements here. We’re not saying SEO is dead, because it certainly impacts us all every day (more on that later). But what we are saying is that the time when marketers and businesses could solely rely on SEO tactics for exposure and growth are over. 

What has moved in on SEO’s territory? What is flooding the search engine space with relevant articles? And how is SEO a part of it all? 

Content marketing, inbound marketing, thought leadership.

These are the new(ish) marketing strategies that are making waves today, operating under similar goals and practices. Each is an approach to marketing defined by the thoughtful creation of content and ideas to be shared with potential prospects and followers on the web, on social media, via email, landing pages, etc., to establish credibility and leadership.

Each of these marketing ideas are aligned through a common mission: Rather than bombard potential prospects with information, Mission Numero Uno is to deliver valuable information to them. 

It all starts with content marketing. “Content is king”. You’ve likely heard these now famous words from Bill Gates in the essay of the same title. It’s amazing that this essay, written in 1996, is so relevant for marketers today. This essay shows the lasting impact that valuable, remarkable content can have thanks to the Internet.

What is valuable, remarkable content? Valuable content comes in the form of eBooks, blogs, white papers, social media posts, eGuides, infographics, podcasts, etc. The list is many, so there’s plenty of room to be creative, wow your prospects, and stand out from your competition.  

These three marketing strategies are also interconnected through the practices they use that allow them to work together to achieve their common mission. To be a thought leader—an expert and authority in an industry, on a topic, etc.—you must generate remarkable, valuable content and ideas for your potential prospects and followers and distribute that content through inbound marketing efforts. Bill Gates was certainly a thought leader in that regard.

To break it down for us visual learners out there…

The Trifecta: Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, and Thought Leadership

Content marketing –> inbound marketing –> thought leadership

contentinboundmarketingthoughtleadership 

We could go on forever about how the incredibly important relationship between these three marketing strategies works, but we will keep it brief and provide you with a relatable example of these three in action.

You create an eBook, “The Most Important Healthcare Technology Trends For 2015 and Beyond”. You distribute the eBook to your potential prospects based on what you know about their buyer personas. For example, you know most of your prospects are on LinkedIn and Twitter, and follow certain associations and groups. So you share your wonderfully written, remarkable eBook with them there. You also place that eBook on your website, behind a landing page and form, so potential prospects will share their information in exchange for your eBook. The key here is that your eBook is so valuable and rewarding to your audience (prospects), that you are considered an expert in the field. Over time, this builds credibility and authority for your business.

The Relationship Between SEO and Content Marketing Today

We haven’t forgotten about the importance of SEO, don’t worry. 

Back to the original, preposterous assertion that SEO is being usurped by other forms of digital marketing. SEO is not irrelevant; not nearly. Think about it. How many times a day do you Google something? Google is a verb now for that very reason! Where our parents and grandparents would search friends and family for advice, we are fortunate to have search engines at our fingertips to answer almost any question or need we may have.

That said, the emphasis on SEO strategies used for content marketing assets needs to be made. Creating quality content that is optimized for your potential prospects has replaced the use of old SEO tactics like keyword stuffing. Quality content is what brings the right prospects to your website.

So, how is SEO used today? Or rather, how should SEO be used today?

Here are some guidelines that are a must when creating SEO-friendly content for the web: 

  • Keep your prospects in mind! Your prospects are the people you want to find this content. Make it easy for them to find. (see below)
  • Focus on long-tail keywords. 

    Example:

    Short-tail keyword – medical billing

    Long-tail keyword – medical billing best practices for hospitals

    While the long-tail keyword you use may have low monthly search volume, it is relevant to your buyer personas and part of a sustainable online growth presence. (see below…again)

  • Sustainable SEO. Sustainable SEO is the long-term goal, and it is achieved by creating evergreen content—topics that will stand the test of time. Evergreen content is content that will be as relevant today as it is in 6 months, a year, so on. That’s not to say create all of your content in this way; just the majority. (onward and downward)
  • Create a variety of content assets. We won’t get into the technicalities of SEO here, because that’s an entirely different topic altogether, but ranking for anything in search engines is complicated. Google won’t even begin to consider your content for months. As a principle of inbound marketing, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Content creation traction takes time. To help speed up the process, though, follow the best practice that quality content is more important than anything else…

According to SearchMetrics, who performed a very comprehensive study of SEO findings that you can find summarized here, using relevant terms in website content is the most important SEO ranking factor

So in a nutshell, SEO is still important, but only if you play by the rules and optimize content for your audience, not the search engine. In that regard, it should be called Search User Optimized. Search User Optimized content will bring you more web traffic from the right prospects and will increase your chances of converting them into customers. 

There’s so much more to uncover when it comes to SEO and optimizing your content to be found on the web. Read more about SEO myths and best practices below!

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