A blog by Kissmetrics' Neil Patel triggered a thought on content marketing vis-a-vis SEO. Abey and PH weigh in with their views.
Stage 1: SEO dominant period during which SEO agencies used to stuff keywords randomly
Stage 2: Content Marketing rises in prominence and says good content should anyway have the relevant keywords and therefore SEO is a sub set of content marketing. This period also saw Google's algorithm changes like Panda / Penguin / Hummingbird.
Stage 3: Explosion of content and re-emergence of SEO. Now the thinking is what is the use of creating good content if it will not be found? This is the stage in which we are currently where SEO and Content Marketing are both important.
The honest truth is that, marketers and agencies are not in control. Discovery of content which is ultimately the end objective of many both SEO and Content Marketing is really in the hands of the search engine companies like Google / Bing etc. They will keep tweaking the algorithm to suit their interest (commercial or otherwise) and the marketers / agencies will always be playing the catch up game.
What Abey says nails the problem well.
The trouble with content marketing is that most marketers think that writing a great article will some how stand on its own and is an inline replacement for SEO. Writing a fantastic article does not guarantee its discovery. What determines discovery is an effective SEO and enough conversations on various social media platforms.
Let's take the example of this page from Eric Raymond (a well-known hacker). The screenshot below shows Raymond's personal blog page. Look at the article title "Why Python" which was written in 2000. The description to the article quotes Guido van Rossum, creator of Python programming language saying, "this article that appeared in Linux Journal was the single most effective piece of Python evangelism ever." For quite some time it was the most popular article on Linux Journal.
If you search through Google for "Why Python", the article is fifth under python.org's success stories. Obviously the back-link juice is strong enough for the article.
If you search for "Why python lj" (lj is the popular abbrev for Linux Journal) then you will find "Why Python" listed on top. The back-link juice for the article on LJ is better than that of Python.org page.
If you search for "why python esr" (esr is Raymond's popular initials), you will get this screen without the article in first five results.
Same article, same author yet the author page with "Why Python" entry does not show up easily in contrast to other places. If I am a curious programmer just searching for Why Python, I may simply miss the article altogether because (refer back) the page that I see does not explicitly show "Why Python" article link.
What is happening here is that the famed Google Pagerank is churning in the background and is ranking each page based on the number of referrals to it among some 200 factors it takes into account, apparently. So it seems that the LJ article has been most widely referred to by many on the web and hence it shows up.
So content marketing without SEO is like a great car engine without the chassis.