Does Content Marketing Replace the Need for SEO?

seo and content

In recent years, and after continuing updates to Google’s algorithm, there has been an increasing focus on content creation and marketing – and some business owners are raising the question if content can or should replace an SEO strategy.

In fact, with many of the old SEO “tricks” no longer working, many businesses realize the only way to get ranked is to focus less on gaming search engines and more on creating high quality content for the right keywords.

However, while the distinction between content marketing and SEO is becoming increasingly blurred, the truth is that the two never really could exist without one another – at least not in a sustainable way.

Business owners and marketers should never look at the question of content marketing OR SEO, but rather how does content marketing work for and with an SEO strategy?

Content Marketing Versus SEO

Let’s make the assumption for a moment that the goal for content marketing and SEO are the same – that is driving targeted traffic to websites via natural search and social media. (For now, this excludes other goals you may have with content marketing – such as building brand identity, thought leadership etc.).

Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences and overlaps between SEO and content marketing:

Content Marketing = Content Strategy + Keyphrase Research + Content + SEO + Social Media + Link building

SEO = Keyphrase Research + Content + On Page SEO + Social Media + Link building + User Experience (UX) + Technical

Key Differences and Overlaps

search engine marketing

Content marketing incorporates content strategy. SEO, at least in the traditional sense, did not. Some SEOs of the past did do this, but the majority did not.

Content marketing, like all other forms of marketing, is only effective if there is a solid strategy that underpins it. In The Top 3 Reasons Your Content Marketing Plan Will Fail, I wrote about how not understanding who your target audience is, what their needs/wants are, or what kind of content do we need to serve them will ensure you content marketing will fall flat.

SEO incorporates link building, which content marketing may or may not do directly. While effective content can be a GREAT way to get unsolicited links back to your site, it is not necessarily a traditional link building practice. Links remain one the most important factors in SEO and when putting together a strategy to drive traffic to a website, link building must be taken into account. Good quality links remain extremely important in driving traffic to a website via natural search.

technical seo

SEO also incorporates some more technical elements, unlike content marketing, such as User Experience (UX) and other technical factors. Some of the basics includes:

  • URLs
  • Headers
  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions

SEO can also encompass technical elements of a page a user can’t see without looking at the source code:

UX factors such as web design, advertising placements, bounce rates etc. also have an impact on a site’s ability to rank in natural search. It’s likely that these will become more important as search engines seek to land users on quality websites.

It’s important to keep in mind that there’s little point having lots of good content and a good content marketing strategy if you do not understand and fix technical errors that show up in Google Webmaster Tools. Duplicate content, 301 redirects (not doing them properly), 401 errors, site download speed etc., will all have an impact on your website’s ability to rank well in search engines.

Conclusion

So, what does this all mean? Should you fire your SEO consultant and hire a content marketer?

The answer is NO.

While there remains big overlap between content marketing and SEO, the former will and can not replace the latter. Both are required to drive quality, targeted traffic to a website via organic search and social media. Content marketing incorporates SEO into its practice; however, they are not the same thing.

SEO has unique elements such as link building, UX and technical factors that are not used in content marketing, (and which most content marketers have a hard time understanding), but are key ranking factors in natural search.

That being said, content marketing will continue to be a very important one of the best ways to build an audience, establish your brand and thought leadership, and bring high quality search traffic to your site for key phrases related to your business.

Military Hospitals, Domino’s Pizza, and Why Mobile Isn’t Everything

My grandmother recently had surgery and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Because my grandfather was a retired Army veteran, after he passed away, my grandmother retained all her military dependent benefits. She’s always been able to shop at the PX and commissary, and she receives any medical care she needs nearly free of charge. So her hospital stay was at San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC—pronounced SamSee), which is the main hospital component of Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC—pronounced BamSee) here in San Antonio.

BAMC’s origins date back to 1879 when it was nothing more than a small medical dispensary. It’s grown exponentially over the years, and has been renovated several times, until a brand new building was constructed and opened in 2011. Today, SAMMC is a 2.1 million-square-foot, state-of-the-art medical facility that has become a centralized training and treatment center for all military branches. It’s also a very busy hospital due to the large number of military retirees who live in San Antonio, in large part to have access to high-quality medical care.

So why am I telling you all of this on a digital marketing blog? I have a good reason. Bear with me a moment.

During my grandmother’s recent stay, my husband and I went to visit her one evening. On our way out of the hospital, we saw this in one corner of the lobby:

Military Hospitals, Domino's Pizza, and Why Mobile Isn't Everything

Domino’s apparently received permission to place this ordering station inside BAMC. I snapped this photo of it because I’d never seen an ordering station like it, and I thought it was a fantastic idea. I posted the photo on Facebook with an update saying so. The immediate and predominant response?

Big deal. The mobile app on my smartphone does that!

This is absolutely true. In fact, if you look closely at the photo, you’ll see the station advertises the mobile app, and even provides a QR code with which to download said app. But let’s examine a few other things about this ordering station.

It’s in a Hospital—And That’s Good

Bad hospital food jokes aside, have you ever had to wait in a hospital while a loved one was in surgery? (We spent nine hours at the hospital the day of my grandmother’s surgery.) Or waiting to be seen in the ER? Or waiting in the ER to be admitted to a regular room? If you have kids or a chronically ill loved one, you may have spent hours and hours of your life in hospitals. I know I have. And after a while, you get hungry. And if you’re anything like me, when you get hungry, you also get grumpy. As if just being at the hospital weren’t enough to put you in a bad mood.

It’s hard enough waiting, worrying about someone you love. It’s especially hard to do it on an empty stomach. Hospital cafeterias don’t stay open until all hours. So now, anyone spending their night waiting in BAMC can at least order pizza and not be completely miserable while they wait.

It’s Centralized

As I mentioned, SAMMC encompasses 2.1 million square feet. Having been in this building a few times now, I can tell you—it’s labyrinthine. If not for the multiple signs and maps on the walls, and the occasional interactive touch-screen directory, a person could get lost in this place. For days. So putting this ordering station in a lobby rather than in some random hallway was smart thinking.

Not only that, but if you look closely again, you’ll see the sign on the front that says, “Orders placed here will be delivered to this kiosk.” I’m assuming geo-location data is sent along with your order, telling Domino’s exactly where to go.

If you order pizza from this kiosk, you’re not going to have to try to explain to anyone how to find you, and that’s great because I have to tell you, even with all the maps and signs, we still had to ask for directions a few times. Not only that, the building has multiple entrances on all sides. Did I mention this place is huge?

By the same token, the pizza delivery person isn’t going to have to go searching through the hospital to try to find which waiting room you’re in. They’re not going to have to spend more time than would be necessary were they delivering a pizza to your home. It’s right by the door—they can get in, deliver, get paid, and get out, on to their next delivery. It’s efficient.

It Doesn’t Rely on Mobile

Ah, here we are! The main point of my post and the reason you’re reading about all this on the Authority Labs blog. It’s taken a little while to get here, but everything you’ve read up to now is necessary to understand why this ordering kiosk is a brilliant marketing move on the part of Domino’s.

Lately, you’ve been hearing that if you’re not considering mobile in your business and marketing, you’re doing it wrong. And you are. Mobile responsive sites, mobile apps, mobile-accessible information—it’s more important than ever, and will only become more so in the future.

But—and this may shock you—not everyone has a smartphone. In fact, while 90% of American adults have a cell phone, just 58% of American adults have a smartphone. Let me repeat that:

Only 58% of American adults have a smartphone.

Now, out of that 58%:

  • How many are military?
  • How many are military retirees?
  • How many live in San Antonio?
  • How many are military retirees who live in San Antonio?
  • How many are military retirees who live in San Antonio and go to BAMC?

Do you see where I’m going with this?

The reason that pizza ordering kiosk is brilliant is because Domino’s knows the audience they’re appealing to there.

Additional Considerations

Let’s think this through a bit further. Say you end up at the hospital because a family member was injured, and had to be taken in by ambulance.

  • Did you remember to grab your mobile phone before you ran out of the house or office?
  • Was your battery fully charged, or has it run out over the numerous hours you’ve been waiting at the hospital, calling loved ones to keep them informed?
  • Did you remember to bring a charger?
  • Do you have an unlimited data plan, or are you already at your limit for the month, and even downloading or even using one simple app will cost you another $15 in overage fees?

But here’s the thing—none of these statistics or possible scenarios matter. That kiosk is brilliant for another reason.

True customer service is about offering options.

If Domino’s had discounted the idea out of hand, saying, “Big deal. Everyone with the app can order pizza with their smartphone!” they would have missed out on some business. Possibly a lot of business. How long do you think it took before that kiosk paid for itself through the orders placed on it? What do you think the potential ROI for Dominio’s was by installing it? I’d love to see that data.

But more than data, it’s also about brand perception. My first reaction when I saw that ordering station was, “What a great idea!” How many others feel that way? What has putting an ordering kiosk in a hospital done for Domino’s image in that community? This one simple gesture shows Domino’s cares about the military. They care about people who have to be in the hospital for any length of time.

And so far, I’ve only discussed this from the perspective of having a family member in that hospital. What about all the people who work there? How many military members, civilian employees, and volunteers do you think populate those 2.1 million square feet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week? How tired do you think they get of eating at the hospital cafeterias?

Mobile is important, yes. It’s going to become even more important. But it’s not everything. Not yet. Do you really think it’s a good idea to turn a blind eye to 42% of the population?

It isn’t just about accessibility, smart marketing, or 21st century sensibilities. Mobile is about knowing your audience, where to find them, and how to get their attention.

Optimize for mobile. Make your marketing work on mobile. Make your business, information, and products accessible via mobile.

But more importantly, know your audience.

5 Simple and Effective Free Link Building Tools

In the spirit of continuing my free tool series, I’ve turned my focus to link building. Link building is a huge part of getting any website to be visible to search engines these days. Of course, Annie Cushing’s Tools for Marketers Google Doc has a tab for link building tools which I used to pull together the tools for this post. This list includes five simple, free link building resources, that are easy to use and don’t require downloads of any kind. For a more extensive list of in-depth paid and free tools, I recommend checking out Annie’s Google Doc.

Link Building

Hey look, it’s Link … on a building!

 

Check My Links

This is a link checking Chrome plugin that tests all the links on a web page and either marks them green if they’re valid or red if they’re broken. The broken links have codes next to them according to the type of error message they have. Links that require a login to see the pages also show up as red.

A full list of the HTTP response codes and full URLs of broken links are published in the Console log (Found in: ‘Chrome > Tools > Javascript Console’ or Ctrl+Shift+J), under the Sources tab.

link checker

MailTester

This website checks email addresses to see if they’re valid by pinging the mail servers and the individual addresses for validation.

mail tester

Embed Code Generator

This is an online tool that generates and emails you a customized embed code for infographics or types of media that you would like to track by incorporating the media’s URL, source link, anchor text, and title.

embed code generator

Citation Labs Link Filter

This web service filters a set of links according to the keywords you require or exclude in your query.

link filter

Ontolo Tools

Ontolo is a website with free and paid link building tools. Here’s how you can navigate to their full list of link building tools from their homepage:

link building tools all tools link ALL the tools

 

These are my five favorite free Ontolo tools:

Generate Link Building Queries

Creates link queries that you can export as a CSV file based on the types of assets, opportunities and campaigns you have associated with your keywords.

generate queries

Prospect List Filter

Filters the links that you’ve already gone through from the sites that you haven’t worked with yet and generates a report you can export as a CSV file.

filter prospects

URL Viewer

Opens a list of URLs in separate tabs.

URL tabs

URL and Hostname Counter

Counts the number of URLs or individual hostnames entered into the tool and creates a report that you can export as a CSV file.

hostname counter

SEO Keyword Generator

Creates a list of keywords based on the root and stem phrases you provide.

keyword creator

Pro tip: You can sign up for a free account with Ontolo and get 25 free reports from their paid tools.

ontolo free account

 

What are your favorite link building tools? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

101 Wednesday: Conditional Formatting in Excel Recap

Formatting in Excel has always been a major point of focus in our 101 Wednesdays Google+ Hangouts. Our latest wasno different. It’s pretty much the Cushing way to focus on making data pretty. It just so happens that we, and you, can use  pretty colors and icons to quickly show how well data is doing in data reports. Below is a snapshot of what you’ll learn in about 20 minutes in the video below.

prettyconditionalformat
pretty

prreeetttyyyy

In the video below I went over how to add data bars, color scales and icon sets all based on the custom conditions of your data. If you have any questions please feel free to ask and if you want to learn more please feel free to comment with what you would like me to go over next!

Do you want to try this for yourself? Download the Excel sheet and follow along.

What Content Marketers Can Learn From Snipers

sniper

Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

I was born a gun nut. My dad, his dad and my mom’s dad were all great shots, and I grew up in a house full of long guns. Hunting and shooting were a part of life. As a kid, nothing lit a fire under me more than bass fishing, plinking or reading science-related books.

However, unlike my dad, who was an excellent shot, I needed lots of practice to make long-distance shots accurately. So, during the summers, I fired thousands of rounds to get better.

By my early teens I could hit plastic bottle tops at 80 yards with frequency.

Sucking At Something Is No Excuse For Not Trying

This train of thought occurred to me last week, as I talked to a few of my law enforcement friends, one of whom was a SWAT team member for a large municipality. When I lamented having never made a shot longer than 500 yards, he chimed in.

“It takes time,” he said. “You have to remember, the guys who’re really great at making those 800- to 1,000-yard shots are shooting a lot, like every day and for years and years. And they aren’t just shooting. They’re focused on little things, like windage, elevation, obstacles, etc. You can’t expect to get good at something that difficult by practicing here and there.”

Hmm…

Why can’t content marketers get this? We seemingly expect to start out great at everything, or we consider it a failure.

  • “I’m not good at blogging, so why should I even bother?”
  • “My first email campaign was a complete bust.”
  • “The new website has yet to show any significant ‘returns’ despite an enormous investment.”
  • “Why are we even doing social media, when we don’t have but a few hundred followers after three months?”
  • “If our SEO efforts are really a success, why aren’t we ranking better for our main keywords? It’s been six months.”

Sound familiar? If not, you’re one of the rare few who understands that success takes time.

Passion Doesn’t Correlate To Immediate Results

No matter how great we think we are, immediate success is the stuff of movies. As I’ve said and written before, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” No matter how much I loved guns, becoming a better shot was not instantaneous.

With content marketing, correlating frequency with quality can also be a problem. We write blogs daily and then grow frustrated that the posts lack traction. No one reads them. No one is sharing them. No one is commenting on them. All you see and here are crickets. When you step back, however, you see the real culprits:

  • No one is reading because you have not committed to outreach, community building.
  • The lack of sharing is owed in large part to your refusal to share others’ content.
  • There is no commenting in because you’re not active on social media, so next to know one even knows your content exists.

We must stop confusing action with efficacy.

Doing something is better than doing nothing, yes.

However, the key to honing your skill is to make “practice” efficient. Set a small goal, then do all the little things required to see that goal through to fruition. In this way, the practice is made as much of a priority as the goal itself.

I call this skill development. For example, if your goal is to grow the readership of your blog, you might do the following as part of “perfect practice”:

  • Set a target for the minimum number of blogs you’ll write per month, religiously sticking to that schedule.
  • Become active on social media daily, making it a priority to share others’ content and be a part of relevant conversations.
  • Create clear calls to action on all of your content.

This is just a start, but each of these steps is in line with your overall goal. If nothing else, taking these small steps helps drive home the fact that getting to where you want to be in business takes time. That’s a lesson we can all stand to learn, in business and in life. The talk with my friend certainly helped me regain perspective.

“You may never be a 1,000 yard shooter,” he said. “But here’s what we know: If you practice a lot, you will get better. And the better you get, the more distance you create between you and the competition.”

Please Join Us for 101 Wednesday: Conditional Formatting in Excel

If you would like to watch please RSVP here. On Wednesday May 28th at 3PM EST with Tori Cushing.

She will be showing viewers how to do conditional formatting in Excel. This tutorial that will be good for anyone that wants to learn some basics in Excel.

Watch our conditional formatting hangout to learn how to:

  • Add data bars
  • 101 weds ad 300x500 vers3Color scales and icon sets all based on the custom conditions of your data

We will also have a Q&A period after the tutorial is done.

Check out previous Hangouts and Tori’s previous posts on this topic:

We plan on having bi-weekly hangouts and our goal is to focus on tutorial-style hangouts. There will always be something to learn.