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If you have a growing and thriving business, chances are that you are already attempting to tame the massive organism that is SEO. But if you are new to it, you may still be hearing a lot of “focus on developing quality content” from industry professionals.
Well, they are not wrong.
SEO and Content strategy play very crucial roles in establishing a digital presence for any brand. In fact, most companies find it difficult to even test the waters without an SEO agency on board.
Some brands that do take matters into their own hands, heavily rely on producing content without paying heed to SEO friendliness. Sure, if you are producing and sharing rare pearls of wisdom, this gimmick might actually produce results.
But if your goal is to conquer the organic search results, and sustainably grow your website traffic, SEO is no longer optional.
If you are still not convinced, you are not the first one — and you won’t be the last. This debate has been going on for an absurdly long time. So let us try to understand this holistically, shall we?
Let’s dive right in.
Content vs. SEO
Industry professionals would already know that while SEO and content usually go hand in hand, one would hardly categorise them together. Search Engine Optimisation or SEO refers to the steps and strategies that a company takes to boost its organic search engine rankings and visibility.
Content strategy, on the other hand, is the process of leveraging high-quality content to attract visitors to your website and engage them. Sure, both strategies can help put your company on the digital radar, but they are widely different from each other. Interestingly, both strategies need each other to be utilised to their full potential.
When asked what drives their approach — SEO or content, most experts agree that both are equally important for websites to perform well. Having said that, do not ignore the human aspect of content writing and marketing processes. Samuel Schmitt, the founder of Thruuu, an awesome SERP analyzer, takes a human-first approach to content creation.
“By asking a few questions about your audience, you can figure out their goals and “search intent”. Then we move to the next point: The content. Now I have a better understanding of how I need to structure my article, what topics I need to cover, and the format or angle of my article. Finally, the SEO part is coming, and I deep dive into the SERP to better understand what search engines offer to their users for a specific topic.”, he adds.
It does make sense to perceive SEO and content strategy as necessary steps in your digital marketing efforts. That way you equip your website with powerful content and then complement it with SEO efforts that can promote it effectively. Not to forget, content has a crucial role to play in SEO strategies and vice versa.
Erica Little, SEO Content Writer at Supple Digital says, “As an agency that specialises in SEO, we do take into consideration the SEO side of things. However, our strategy is more content-driven. The reason for this is simple — if we create content that people actually want to read, they will rank faster.”
The bottom line? You can not pick a side between SEO and Content.
Ranking Content Without SEO
At this point, it is fair to ask — how useful is content without SEO?
Well, the primary purpose of content creation is to educate and bring potential customers to your website. And while SEO is the strategy that can provide necessary visibility and engagement to your content, it is in no way mandatory.
Wondering why? Here are a few proven ways using which you can make your content rank irrespective of implementing an effective SEO strategy.
Establish a USP
A unique selling point or USP is a characteristic using which brands advertise and differentiate from other competitors. One of the most common mistakes that brands make is creating content aimlessly and not backing it up with a good product or service.
“It is from an SEO as well as a business perspective far better to operate a poorly optimized website for a superb product than attempting to optimize a website well for a product that lacks a unique selling proposition. The latter is a critical, must-have element in order to succeed both in business and SEO.”, says Kaspar Szymanski, SEO Consultant and Co-Founder of SearchBrothers SEO Consulting.
No brand can make a dent with its content marketing strategy in the absence of a strong product or service. What’s more, if you do not have enough budget for a robust SEO strategy, it is in your best interests to focus on strengthening your product and content quality.
Address Search Intent
When you know and understand what your target audience wants to be educated or read about, you have the opportunity to strengthen your content significantly. Of course, you would need to go the extra mile to ensure that your content is well-researched and of high quality, which can follow E-A-T recommendations by Google.
More importantly, develop a fair understanding of your users’ search intent, and create content accordingly.
“Content that satisfies the searcher’s intent is good and answers the query of a user with the right information and it maintains uniqueness w.r.t to pages and content that is already indexed on Google. Such forms of content that rank without SEO are: FAQ & Listicle Types they don’t need much On-page SEO if the quality and qty. of words are appropriate to satisfy the search Intent.”, quips Devendra Saini, Global SEO Head of MPL.
He also adds that conversely, even content pieces that are low on quality can rank well if published on high-authority websites.
Creating High-Quality Topic Clusters
If you know anything about topic clusters, you are already aware of the power that having such a strong internal linking structure holds.
Building strong topic clusters portrays that your website has the required knowledge and a wide range of content pieces covering specific topics related to your niche. With the help of these topic clusters, you can highlight the expertise that your company has, and have a robust internal linking structure that makes it easier for Google to index your content.
“If you are a website that focuses on building good topical coverage on certain topics & create optimised topical clusters with decent Internal linking between support and pillar pages, then also you have a high chance of getting your content ranked with no effort on links.”, adds Devendra Saini.
That said, if you want your content to rank and perform really well on SERPs, you should consider creating and implementing an SEO strategy. Do not hesitate to opt for SEO services to offer that extra boost to your strategy.
Integrating SEO with Content
So far, we have talked extensively about content without SEO. Now let us take a detailed look at how SEO can be seamlessly integrated with content to produce results. After all, no one can ignore the role content strategy has in SEO.
Keep in mind that the following strategies are just a few proven ways in which you can leverage SEO. To stay abreast of how you can make your content rank, and to stay on top of your SEO efforts, educate yourself with the help of SEO podcasts and blogs by industry experts.
Producing SEO-informed Content
Marketers can take varied approaches when it comes to the marriage of content and SEO. No harm in that — you must do what works for you.
“Content strategists provide audience insights to SEOs, including buyer personas and journey maps. SEOs uncover the language potential customers use as they search for answers during key moments of the buying journey. SEOs can also provide insights into the formats, comprehensiveness, and intent behind each search, as well as how many different pieces of content should be produced to completely cover many overlapping subtopics.”, he adds.
Think of SEO as a highly robust technical layer that is required for creative content to thrive and reach the right audience. With that in mind, enabling the constant strategic collaboration of these two approaches can be just the thing that takes your content to the next level.
Exploring Content Opportunities
One of the major challenges in creating a content strategy that is able to consistently deliver is looking for effective content opportunities. The first few content pieces should not be a problem. But once you have exhausted the primary topics related to your niche, how do you look for additional content opportunities that can contribute to your strategy?
Samir Patel, Senior SEO Director at 85SIXTY, talks about the role of SEO in leveraging existing or planned content. He talks about how it is not just limited to optimisation, it can offer new and innovative content ideas on the basis of planned content.
He adds, “With this information, SEO teams can research keywords around that content and compare with competitors to identify additional content opportunities. This can evolve into suggesting supplemental content by creating new pages or adding to existing content further improving SEO visibility, and authenticity, and starting to build trust for users and algorithms. Who doesn’t want to EAT that up?”
Indeed, with SEO tools available today, you can easily use your existing content to generate ideas for new content opportunities. In fact, it can also help in gauging the right content types to get behind for different types of user intent. Needless to say, having a large database of content ideas is only going to prove helpful for your content strategy.
Aligning SEO with Business Goals
If you are a marketer that keeps the core business goals out of your content strategy and SEO, you have already failed. After all, the purpose of marketing is to reach the right audience who is interested in what you are selling or offering, right?
Your business offering, the industry you operate in, as well as target audience play a pivotal role in shaping your SEO strategy.
“SEO is a means to an end – and the different types of SEO should be applied to benefit the business/site, focusing on the pages and terms that fulfil or contribute to the business goals. And that is typically done by satisfying user goals/needs. Ideally, a balance will be struck between the most sought terms, the most impact on the business and the least/weakest competition and the easiest/cheapest content to produce.” says Lyndon NA, an Internet Business Consultant.
By having a comprehensive idea of what your users want and are looking for, you can offer content that proves profitable for your business.
Leveraging Thin Content using SEO
A lot has been written and discussed on thin content, and whether or not there is any value to be gained for brands that have such content on their website.
Before we delve into what experts have to say about ranking thin content using SEO, let us quickly understand what is referred to as thin content. On-page content that offers little to no value to your potential customers is known as thin content.
Basically, thin content is hardly qualitative and does not account for users’ search intent. The primary challenge with such content is that it does not offer much in terms of long-term benefits. Moreover, search engines like Google will undoubtedly take action on websites that heavily rely on thin content by removing these pages from search results.
Regardless, brands are likely to see some immediate positive impact in terms of getting their thin content pages ranked with the help of a few tactics. Barry Schwartz, a Search Expert, believes that thin content can rank irrespective of SEO. He says, “Thin content can rank, but I don’t think it has to do with SEO tactics.”
But remember, even if your thin content ranks currently, this will not be the case in the long run.
“It’s easy to rank initially but sustainability would be a big question. A search engine like Google will soon figure out that content is not useful to its search audience and that page will be removed from the search results.”, says Praveen Sharma, SEO Consultant & Strategist at BlueStacks.
Having said that, some experts believe that thin content can rank on the SERPs if it is low on the number of words but offers value. Conversely, if a content piece is detailed but fails to offer substantial value to readers, it may not even be indexed.
So, can content that is low on words but highly value-additional rank?
“..if we are referring to “thin content” as simply a lack of words on a page I believe the answer is yes. Sites like Quora generate millions of organic visits each month based on thin Q/A content. Will thin content compete for extremely competitive head terms? No. Can thin content that is succinct but still provides value rank for long-tail keywords. Absolutely.”, says Nick LeRoy, SEO Consultant.
So, the verdict is that while there are high chances that your thin content can rank if it is valuable to readers, it is not sustainable. So, if you want steady and long-term outputs from your content, give thin content a wide berth.
Importance of Having a Multi-Faceted Strategy
Gone are the days when companies could easily chart out customer journeys and predict how to convert them into paying customers. Sure, having a strong SEO and Content strategy helps, But today, with the advent of social media and other digital mediums, potential customers deviate from the journey and come in contact with various touchpoints.
Due to this evolution, it is necessary for growing brands to adopt a multifaceted strategy that can maximise the benefits they are getting out of their content strategies. Experimenting with different content types and platforms can help you target customers from multiple sources.
Matt Tutt, Sr. SEO Strategist at Winston Digital Marketing says, “Are you creating content geared at people who are looking to solve a particular problem but who might not know a product or service like yours exists? Are you covering content for people who are more experienced in your sector and likely know what they’re looking for? There are so many ways you can approach content on your website to cover as much ground as possible.”
Moreover, the changing face of user preference means that the traditional one-dimensional approach just does not cut it anymore. You may think having a multi-faceted approach is something that you can eventually do, but the best thing to do is get into it, right from the beginning.
He further adds, “Do that first, then repackage that content for Google on your own site as a bonus. That means you are driving engagement and sales from the content in its original state on the original platform… and SEO becomes a massive bonus on content that is already profitable, not the primary goal.”
This is an interesting way to ensure that you ace the game by leveraging your content quality and prowess on various platforms. With a 360-degree approach to your content and SEO, you can rest assured about your website’s consistent performance on the SERPs.
Content Marketing and SEO are different approaches to establishing a strong online presence, but they undoubtedly go hand in hand. As a brand, you have to evolve and find smart ways to integrate content and SEO to your advantage. While there are ways to make your content rank without SEO, leveraging the latter can definitely give it a boost. Lastly, it is important for modern and growing brands today to take a multifaceted approach to their content and SEO strategy.
If you are confused about where to start, get in touch with us to discuss all things SEO and content for your website.