It’s easy to see why SEO and content marketing have become so inextricably linked over time. It’s because they belong together. Like macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and bread and butter, SEO and content marketing may have the ability to function on their own, but when combined, something magical happens.
Although it’s not necessarily news that SEO and content marketing go together like fish and chips, many don’t know these two have gone through a long transition to get to the point where they are today. And, we’re not kidding when we say this relationship would give even the juiciest Days of our Lives plot twist a run for its money. To honor one of the greatest romances of our time here is the love story of how these two overcame all obstacles to become the most compelling couple the marketing realm has ever seen.
The Early Years
In the very early days of the Internet, people first found websites from link based directories, like the AOL homepage. The web then moved to human curated search engines, such as Yahoo, and then finally to algorithmic search engines, like Google. Although different, the search engines were designed to help users actually find and access websites. At this time, SEO was young, bright-eyed, and ambitious — a visionary if you will. SEO knew it could be just what the Internet and search engines needed to achieve the goal of increasing website exposure and increasing accessibility for users on the Internet.
Living on the Edge
During these primitive years when SEO was still a bachelor, it was everywhere–and not in a good way. These were the days when search engine’s algorithms were using rudimentary factors for ranking pages; SEO quickly found a way around these rules.
SEO was mostly engaged in churning and burning through websites to make a profit and play the system. And, like a typical post-adolescent bachelor, SEO spent its time engaging in keyword stuffing, questionable back linking, repetitive use of phrases, and other spammy techniques. SEO soon developed a reputation as a bad-boy player type. Although these tactics worked at the time, SEO couldn’t help but long for more. It spent most of its time spinning its wheels, building and buying links only to have to disavow them shortly after.
While SEO was still in its spammy years, was when it first noticed content marketing around the Internet. SEO liked content marketing’s ability to engage Internet users, and content marketing was impressed with SEO’s ability to increase the reach of websites. There were sparks from both sides, but content marketing just couldn’t get around SEO’s nasty reputation on the web. Content marketing decided the two would be better as friends. Over the next couple of years, SEO remained in the dreaded friend zone.
The Friend Zone
While SEO and content marketing navigated the complicated waters of the friend zone, SEO’s mother, Google, was busy with a crusade of its own. Google had caught wind of SEO’s questionable tactics and began working on algorithm updates to combat them. After all, Google had always strived to offer the most relevant and useful results to users but found it a nearly impossible feat with so many of these unethical tactics in place.
Google knew it needed to do something to remedy the problem. And like any good, slightly over-bearing mothers, Google began nagging SEO about finding a nice girl and settling down. After this incessant nagging became too much to handle, SEO finally ripped the Band-Aid clear off and asked content marketing for a date. It seemed like Google (we’re looking at you, Matt Cutts) had convinced itself the only solution to these SEO woes was to use content as a solution.
SEO took Google’s advice, asked content marketing for a date, and the two started dating. During this honeymoon phase of their budding relationship, they slowly began integrating positive aspects of themselves into one another. Content marketing began using intelligently placed keywords, and quickly started earning authoritative backlinks on its own. SEO was able to increase exposure through correct implementation of its tactics.
Google rewarded the two by ushering in an array of features meant to enhance the efforts of the couple while still honoring its ultimate goal of providing users with timely, useful, and relevant results. Google’s Universal Search, Google Suggest, Google Trends, Google Analytics, and real-time updates made the relationship between SEO and content marketing even more crucial. Many of these features placed emphasis on engaging, user-focused content complete with targeted optimization.
The Internet Wins
It seemed everyone was pleased with the results of this match made in heaven, so the happy couple went on its way creating optimized content with the user in mind. The real winner in this relationship, however, was the Internet. This was the beginning of a more personalized and useful web that became more engaging by the day. Although it seemed like the landscape was shifting more and more towards the uber-useful portrait Google had always envisioned, not even this was enough for Google. And that’s when two algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin, came in like some sort of natural disaster to shake things up, and really solidify the relationship between SEO and content marketing.
The Arrival of Panda & Penguin
Panda set its sights on thin, low-quality, duplicate, and machine-generated content. Penguin targeted the use of spun article directories to build links, link buying, and other unnatural link building practices. Although SEO and content marketing had already been dating, and enhancing each other’s efforts in a way Google deemed acceptable (for a while at least), many of these endeavors were in vain after these two updates.
After watching years of their collaborative efforts go down the drain when the updates went live, both SEO and content marketing were shaken to the core. They knew the only choice they had was to grow even closer to avoid getting washed away completely. The updates were the Rosetta Stone that pushed SEO and Content Marketing to take things to the next level and get hitched.
A Period of Enlightenment
After these updates, the couple realized that although they could live apart, they were better versions of themselves when they were together. They finally saw that content marketing, when in the correct form, was the perfect complement to everything SEO had been trying to accomplish its entire life. It was also shortly after the release of Panda and Penguin that the couple met their now very close friend, social media marketing, through Google. Only after the release of Panda and Penguin, the marriage, and the introduction to social did things really start to come together.
Content marketing created well-thought-out, high-quality, keyword rich, expert material that the people of the Internet actually wanted to read. People began finding added value in the high-quality material created by content marketing and started to share it across their social pages. As the material garnered more social proof, the intrinsic SEO value increased as well. Google rewarded the material for being high-quality, authoritative backlinks increased, and it continued to climb higher on search engine results.
The Perfect Marriage
It’s important to remember that the marriage between content marketing and SEO is so successful because they are both better as a result of the other. When done correctly, the two blend so seamlessly it’s hard to understand why they didn’t get together sooner. When SEO demands the use of intellectual keywords, content marketing created the actual material where these keywords will live. When SEO requires inbound links, content marketing creates the material that people want to link to. When SEO performs technical optimizations, content marketing is rewarded by added accessibility and exposure. The two were made for each other.
In the early days of both SEO and content marketing, neither had the right partner to add the value to their efforts that were necessary for success. As they began collaborating more, the Internet was rewarded with a more personalized and relevant experience geared toward offering users what they needed. After the two updates, and after they both realized they needed each other to be the best versions of themselves, all the pieces fell into place.
Without this realization, and the years of back-and-forth between SEO, content marketing, and Google, we would still be left with an Internet full of materials that don’t actually meet the needs of the users. In today’s landscape, marketers can create high-quality content that is rewarded with social media engagement and shares, increased exposure, and added SEO value; and the Internet is happy because they can find exactly what they need to make the purchasing decisions that drive the entire industry. As effective marketers, we must embrace the two together if we want to see stellar results.