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There is currently a heated debate going on between business owners across the globe: SEO vs. content marketing – which will do more for your brand?
The truth is that this argument is completely null and void. Why? Because the only way in which to really maximise one’s digital marketing results is to incorporate aspects of both disciplines into one’s marketing strategy.
As Google has proven over the last couple of years, SEO and content marketing belong together, and should not exist as separate entities. They have an interdependent relationship and cannot provide businesses with much success when actioned in isolation of each other.
However, while it would seem that most companies have (finally) embraced the power of SEO, many are still resisting the changes that come with embracing that of content marketing, and are reluctant to alter their approach to digital marketing due to the fact that it has worked effectively for them for years. However, unless these companies take the plunge and start using content marketing to their advantage, and in conjunction with their already-existing SEO efforts, it is only a matter of time before they are snubbed by Google and continue to notice a drastic drop in their rankings. Below, we examine the evidence that proves the fact that Google is beginning to value quality content above all else and why your brand needs to be producing it.
The Hummingbird Update
Towards the end of 2013 when Google announced, and started rolling out, the infamous Hummingbird update, it became evident that focus was shifting from keyword-heavy content to content that would be interesting and valuable to read. The update sought to focus more on the actual meaning behind the words that people were typing into the search box.
This new approach to ‘conversational search’ meant that Google would be doing so much more than simply finding keyword matches for their users – Google would be finding the websites that exhibited the best possible content that would provide their users with the precise information / answers that they were looking for.
Knowing all of this led to a tremendous shift in the way in which website owners started writing their content which, in turn, led to the rapid birth of content marketing.
From 2013 onwards, it became evident (especially as Google continued to re-emphasise the importance of high quality content), that the only way in which to maintain one’s rankings (after solidifying one’s technical SEO, of course) was to focus on ensuring an improved user experience through the creation and distribution of high quality content that did more than simply promote a product or service, but that was valuable in some way (either from an information perspective, an engagement perspective, or a sentimental perspective) to the person visiting the website.
The Hummingbird update was truly just the tip of the iceberg. Ever since it was first announced, almost every other subsequent update has maintained a focus on this particular aspect of digital marketing. And the most recently announced update (which begins its roll-out this month), is of no exception. Which brings us to…
The New Mobile Update
In the last year or so, Google has released a handful of algorithm updates, many of which were focused solely on emphasising the importance of ensuring website mobile-friendliness and adaptability. Google rewarded the websites that were mobile-friendly with improved rankings and did the exact opposite to the websites that weren’t.
Last month, Google announced another upcoming mobile-focused update, with one saving grace that surprised many a digital marketer. While those website owners who have still yet to ensure that their websites cater for both desktop and mobile users will notice a big dip in rankings, if their website is known for its quality content, the decline in rankings is sure to be far less severe than that of a website that is not mobile-friendly and is lacking in quality content. Here is a snippet from the official Google Webmaster Central Blog:
…the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content.
If this does not prove to you that, even in the wake of what many have deemed to be the ‘Mobile Revolution’, high quality content is still considered to be more important than anything else (in the eyes of Google, at least), I don’t know what will. Unless, perhaps…
Google Featured Snippets
The Google featured snippet is one of the best pieces of evidence when it comes to demonstrating the value of content marketing when it comes to building and promoting a brand.
While many digital marketers will state that quality SEO is what will get you to that all-important number one spot, it is content marketing, in actual fact, that will do you one better than that… Intrigued? Here’s how.
Think about the way in which you use Google as an individual. The chances are good that, more often than not, you type a question or a ‘how to’ statement into the search box in the hopes of finding a simple, yet complete answer as quickly as possible. Hence the creation of the Google featured snippets. Here’s what a Google featured snippet looks like:
What is interesting about this particular snippet is the fact that the information that has been chosen to display does not belong to the website that occupies the number one ranked spot for the search query.
In fact, it belongs to the website that appears third in the search results. However, due to the fact that this website has been deemed to have the best content, by Google’s standards, it technically appears first, thus beating out the ‘leading’ website despite not necessarily having implemented the ‘best’ technical SEO.
Looking at all of this evidence, it would be very easy to say that content marketing is all that your brand really needs in order to make a name for itself in the digital realm. And, while it is indeed true that content marketing is the future, just imagine what kind of an impact your brand could make if you mastered the delicate art and science of both disciplines?
Ultimately, once you comprehend the unique relationship between SEO and content marketing, and how best to use it to your advantage, you unlock the secret to becoming truly unstoppable within the digital sphere – and beyond.
Feature image: jeffreyw via Flickr