SEO v Content Marketing – Why All the Confusion?

August 10, 2015

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’re probably familiar with the concept of breakfast clubs. These are where groups of people, usually local to the area, will get together at some ungodly hour of the morning and discuss business, swap leads and eat a hearty breakfast.

In the 2000s, these were all the rage, and I used to go to them a lot, my only gripe being that I had to get up at 6 am to get to my nearest one.

Another feature of these meetings was when someone would stand up and tell you all about their particular skill-set and give you a bit of a helping hand. For example, a bookkeeper might take to the floor to explain (in ten minutes, no more) how to handle tax submissions.

I stopped going to these meetings when I had children, but I’ve recently just had the chance to go back, and I happened to arrive as someone was talking about the difference between content marketing and SEO. My heart sank.

He started with this opening sentence:

“Let me tell you now, SEO is dead, Google hates it, it’s all about scamming and if you try it, Google is likely to ban your site. You now need to be engaging in content marketing”.

Oh dear.

The Current Marketplace

Do a search for “Birmingham SEO” and you’ll find lots of companies who are offering their services to help in your search engine optimisation. People are spending money on adverts to promote themselves in the SEO arena. Is this guy telling me now that they’re all pedalling black-hat services?

Not only is he saying they’re all scammers, he said “you now need to be engaging…” as if the rules change every few years. That technique used to work, but Google got wise, so you now do this.

Good, grief.

Will Google ban you for doing SEO? If so, why do they have an entire e-book dedicated to it on their website? (You can download it here by the way).

If you search their new “Search Console” documents, you find text such as:

Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners…

There’s also a warning that some may damage your site and reputation, which of course is true, but that’s not the fault of “SEO” as a technique, it’s merely an issue with particular agencies.

What is SEO?

We advertise ourselves as a content marketing and SEO company. We do this because we see the terms as interchangeable. The simple fact is, we are dealing with people who don’t understand what SEO means. They know that it’s a technique to rank their sites well in Google, but they don’t get the details or what goes on. To many, it’s still a bit of a dark art. Well, it’s not.

The fact is before we had the term “content marketing” to use, as an SEO agency we, and probably many others, were doing content marketing anyway. SEO was just used as a term to encompass all the work we did.

For example, we’d analyse a website, give advice on how to optimise it to make it easier to index, use, faster etc. and then we’d start creating blogs, distributing content and promoting the site. We just called this SEO, so did everyone else.

These days, if you wanted to be picky about it, you could argue that the first bit is SEO and the last bit is the content marketing. Say what you like, it doesn’t change the fact that what we’re doing is essentially the same thing.

Why the Fear?

But now there’s fear. Because, in part, to Google’s changes over the years with Panda, Penguin and all those other updates that the layman will never understand, it’s put a fear into people. They fear someone doing something to their site that will end up in them not being found at all. In fact, they fear the dreaded email from Google telling them they have a penalty.

And now, in front of a bunch of people who are going to be telling a lot of other people, someone is announcing that SEO is bad practice. They’re calling it “Black Hat”, which even if you don’t really understand what that means, sounds pretty bad. They’re saying that content marketing is the new great hope and if you want your rankings to improve, you need to be doing that instead.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this, either. In fact, within the small business community, it’s a fairly common stance.

SEO is Alive and Well

SEO as a technique is fine. It’s not a practice that’s frowned upon by Google; it’s something to be encouraged because it can help your site perform well.

For example, an SEO consultant can tell you why your site is extremely slow. If your site is slow, there’s a chance it could lose visibility in search results, so it’s good to be told. The same person might explain why you need to optimise your images, maybe change your title tags etc. He’s not breaking your site; he’s helping.

He’s optimising your site.

For the search engines.

You see? Search engine optimisation.

He’s probably also explaining how you can create relevant content and distribute it to your potential customers. If you hire him, he’ll do that for you. In essence, he’ll be doing your content marketing.

It’s that simple. Let’s stop arguing the toss over semantics and just get on with our jobs.

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