I’ve seen some version of this question in blog posts and on social channels quite a bit lately. So, what’s the answer? I submit the answer is a solid “No! But…”

One of the best articles I’ve seen lately has a great definition of SEO:

“What is SEO? Some of the things we actually do:

  • Keyword strategy
  • Page level (template and contextual)
  • Site level (things like internal link ratios)
  • Server level (redirects, .htaccess, etc.)
  • Monitoring (Google Webmaster Tools, reporting, etc.)
  • Forensic work (cleaning up others’ garbage)”

- From “It’s Time to Change the SEO Mindset by David Harry (aka the Gypsy) on Search Engine Watch.

The simple truth is that content marketing, no matter how much attention it gets, is not going to replace SEO. However, the two are by no means mutually exclusive.

As a discipline, content marketing requires certain knowledge of SEO best practices in order to be successful.

Creating content for the user is important, and you want to make sure this content is useful. You want to become a valuable resource for your clients. But if they can’t find it and don’t see it, what good is your content?

This is where SEO comes into play. Mainly, the first point in David’s list above: keyword strategy.

Keyword Research

Try this…

  1. Scour your email inbox and write down words your clients use to describe your services.
  2. Jot down some other keywords you think your target audience would use to find you in Google based on your interactions with them on the phone or in person.

Now run some simple tests:

  1. Type each of these keyword phrases into the search bar in Google, and take note of what the auto complete is telling you. As you type, what is Google suggesting for your search?
    Google-Instant
  2. While searching these terms, pay attention to who or what ranks in the top 10. Are they competition, or are they directories? Are they completely unrelated to what you do?
  3. Now go through each of these sites and, as objectively as possible, rate your experience on each site. Note what happens after the click is made on one of the top-ranked sites. Where you do land? What do you see? Where does the site guide you? Would this be useful to your clients?

Task Number One (Autocomplete)

The list above will tell you what Google associates with the terms you enter. This is based on the sites they’ve crawled and ranked (with their super top secret magic Google robots). Noting the terms they suggest will tell you what searches are popular that are relevant to the keyword you are researching.

Task Number Two (Term Strength)

This will show you the types of sites you would be up against for each term. If you see a bunch of directories (Angie’s List) or encyclopedias (Wikipedia) and little else, your keyword might be too broad. You will want to refine this term or target more of a long tail phrase (web design Washington, DC, for example).

Task Number Three (Competition)

This will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. Noting what they do well will help you know where your difficulties lay. Noting what they do poorly or not at all will show you where you have an opportunity to beat them in searches.

It’s important to perform these searches both signed in and out of Google. The results will be different in both circumstances, and it is useful to note the results for both — mainly to see how they differ.

Content Marketing and Keywords

The words and phrases you use in your content marketing efforts are important — not only to your target audience but also to the search engines. Targeting a certain buyer persona and the search engine bots together is the goal of any successful content marketing campaign.

If you can connect with your audience using the language they understand and present yourself as a resource, they are more likely to pursue further action. This should be your goal.

If that language is also in line with how those people seek you out on search engines, then your content marketing posts will likely rank more favorably. Speak their language, and it will pay off.

This Applies to All Content

Content marketing is not just written content. It can include any or all of the following:

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • E-Books
  • White Papers
  • Case Studies

With all of these, there will be some written text associated with the post. For example, a video will have a title and possibly a short and long description. This is the information Google uses to index your content. Make sure you are using your keywords in these text areas.

But be careful: Make sure the text you associate with any of these content types make sense.

For example:

  • Does it relate to and adequately describe the content it accompanies?
  • Is it written in a way that a human can understand what it means?
  • Does it sell the user on the value of the content?

Don’t Forget About Social Media

As you create more and more content, you will certainly want to post these to your social channels. But it doesn’t end there. Stay involved in the conversation.

You can actually learn quite a bit from the responses your content collects. Pay attention to the language people use when responding, sharing and even disagreeing with the points you make.

In these responses are valuable bits of keyword data. The language they use to discuss the topic in your content is rich with real, actionable keywords. Pay attention to how they restate what you’ve said. Are they saying it with the same words you’ve used or something completely different?

So, back to the question about SEO and content marketing. I think it’s clear that the two work together to achieve online marketing success.

To be successful with content marketing or online marketing in general, you need to know some basics of SEO. And SEO practitioners certainly should pay attention to content marketing and other marketing trends like social media marketing and mobile marketing.

How are you integrating content marketing and SEO into your overall marketing plan? Let me know in the comments section below.

This article originally appeared on The Agency Post, an online publication featuring advertising and marketing thought leaders who share practical insights and knowledge relating to the industry.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.