Search engine optimization and content marketing share an awful lot of territory.
It’s so extensive that people have written hundreds of articles about how content marketing is the new SEO. Or about how there is no SEO without content.
That’s all true, too. Which is why so many content marketers either already have SEO skills, or are scrambling to get some – fast.
But for me, SEO skills aren’t enough to do world-class content marketing.
Where you really get an edge is when you look at the newest SEO studies.
That’s where the bleeding edge of SEO blurs right into content marketing best practices. The similarities are so close, the two disciplines start to use the same words. And the same metrics.
To give you the insights you’ll need to do your own content marketing better, here are several of the latest search engine optimization studies – and the key takeaways each one has for content marketers.
- Content is the best SEO tactic.
Just in case you doubted how SEO and content marketing overlap, witness Ascend2’s latest survey on search engine optimization.
“Relevant content creation” came in as the most effective SEO tactic.
- Most of the traffic to websites is still coming from search.
Another stat for those of you who doubt the power of SEO (and think that social is enough to save you): 51% of all website traffic is still coming from organic search traffic. That’s according to BrightEdge’s study, “2017: Organic Search Is Still the Largest Channel.”
So search is still absolutely worthwhile – the traffic is still there. But as BrightEdge’s Senior VP of Marketing, Kevin Bobowski says, “Producing great content is irrelevant if consumers can’t find it.”
- Competition is fierce – but not in every industry.
If you’ve read much about content marketing, you’ve probably heard the term “content shock”. It was coined by Mark Schaefer to describe what is basically a tidal wave of competition for our audiences’ attention.
There’s simply more content “out there” than they have time to consume.
This is a core problem for content marketers because the whole reason content works is because of the audience’s attention. Content gets through their filters when advertising messages can’t. Diffuse that attention, and your results tank.
But while the competition is real… it’s not evenly distributed. In fact, if you’re in a “boring” industry, you might find the search engine competition to be pretty light.
So says Allen Gannett, CEO at TrackMaven:
”… while brands in the media and publishing, higher education, and sports and entertainment industries have the highest Domain Authorities on average, brands in the real estate, finance and insurance, and wellness industries suffer from poorly optimized websites.”
This weakness in the authority for some sectors is a huge opportunity for content marketers. Even if your brand is loosely related to these industries, you could gain a sizeable audience just by creating a well-optimized, authority content site.
- SEO isn’t being used as much as it could.
Search engine optimization: A key part of every digital marketing presence and modern business, right?
Less than a third of small businesses – only 28% – do any search engine optimization. And only 57% of bloggers report using SEO as a tactic to drive traffic to their content.
It’s a shame so many businesses and websites aren’t even trying to do SEO. But it means there’s more of an opportunity for you.
- User intent is everything.
What does someone really want when they Google “pizza”? Is it to order a pizza, make a pizza, understand pizza history?
That’s the puzzle of user intent.
Get user intent wrong, and even good, well-optimized pages will fall flat. Get it right and you’ll be forgiven for a boatload of other sins.
Know where user intent for SEO and user intent for content marketing merge?
In user personas. Aka “buyer personas” or “customer profiles”. These different types of customers have different needs and priorities. So they need different content.
That content needs to be dialed into the user intent behind the keywords they search for. The content needs to be optimized for those terms (and those users).
It can take some time to really grok user intents, but look to the engagement information in your SEO analytics reports. If your visitors are engaging with your content, you’ve probably got their user intent at least partially right.
The work after that is just to dial it in more. In fact, I could argue that content marketing is a whole big game of simply delivering on user intent. To a level your users might not even be able to describe.
Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting is one of the experts pointing to this blend of content quality and user intent as the new major SEO tactic (on par with link building).
He believes one of the primary goals of search engines’machine learning (and what marketers should be focused on going forward) are:
- Better understanding user intent
- Better evaluating content quality
To illustrate, this is how important he thinks it is:
- It’s time to think outside the text box.
The rise of image-based social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest should be getting content marketers’ attention. Namely, it should nudge us to think beyond just text-based content.
BrightEdge learned recently that images actually get a higher click-through rate in the search results than text pages do.
And even Rand Fishkin has been “blown away by the popularity of image search.”
Moving images work, too. Remember: YouTube is still the2nd largest search engine.
- A third of searches don’t result in any clicks.
Another valuable tidbit from Rand Fishkin:
“34% of searches get no clicks at all. If we look at all search queries (not just distinct ones), those numbers shift to a straight 60%/40% split. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that over time, we get closer and closer to Google solving half of search queries without a click.”
This is no outlier opinion. It’s well documented that click-through rates are falling – as much as 37% in two years.
So what’s happening? A slew of factors. But the rise of mobile use is definitely one of them.
There’s a significant different in the number of non-clicks between mobile and desktop devices:
So… how to deal with this?
Get your content into rich answers, for starters.
Also optimize your title tags and meta description tags. We should all be obsessing about those as much as if they were paid pay per click ad copy – because they basically are.
That’s not the only thing to think about here, though. To return to the influence of search intent, (which should be in your content’s DNA) – think hard about search intent when you’re writing those titles and meta description tags. They need to nail their messaging if you want to get those clicks.
Content marketing is no game for the lazy. Staying up to date with what’s starting to work, what doesn’t work anymore, and what’s still working, takes time.
Fortunately, there’s all these smart people out there doing research studies. They share them, too. It’s one of the best ways to stay ahead of the content marketing curve. Especially now that we’ve exhausted the idea that any content problem can be solved by just creating more content.
More content can help, sure. But if that’s all you’re chasing… get ready to be exhausted and broke. You need strategy and innovative thinking if you want to get results now. And you still need SEO’s free, high-converting traffic.
What do you think?
Have you seen any new information from the search world that’s changed how you do content marketing? Tell us about it in the comments.