Content marketing vs search engine optimisation (SEO) – what’s the difference?

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I do a few hundred coaching calls a year, and often times people will say “We’re doing content marketing but we aren’t getting any customers” or “we’ve tried content marketing, but it doesn’t work” or “our website isn’t generating any traffic, leads or sales”.

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that probably means you aren’t really doing content marketing.

So what’s the gap? The gap is understanding that SEO is the ‘marketing’ part of ‘content marketing’ – they are one and the same thing.

So if you want to improve your results with your content, SEO is where you should be focussing your attention.

Full Transcription


Welcome to the Content Marketing Academy podcast. Really great to be here today. I hope you’re well. The big question on this episode is what is the difference between content marketing and search engine optimization?

It’s a question that comes up a lot.

I do a few hundred coaching calls every year, probably more than that now, and often times people will say things like, “We’re doing content marketing, but we aren’t getting any customers.” Or “We’ve tried content marketing, but it doesn’t work.” Or “Our website isn’t generating any traffic, leads, or sales.”, questions like that. They’re basically frustrated with what they’re doing or what they’ve tried to do, and they’re not getting any results.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this probably means that you aren’t actually doing content marketing. You aren’t really doing content marketing, you’re creating content, but you’re missing out on that crucial marketing part.

Marketing is and always will be about findability and accessibility. It’s about creating communications so people can find you when they’re looking for you. That’s what marketing’s all about. It’s about putting messaging and communications out into the world to motivate people to take action. To read, engage, share, click, buy, fill in a form, visit your store, take some sort of action, sales, buy something.

Content marketing takes that a step further too.

I think content marketing is really all about creating content that people can find when they’re looking for it when they’ve never heard of you before. It’s non-interruption marketing. You’re creating content that will be found by them when they’re looking for it so that you’re not pushing your message on to them, they’re gonna find it when they’re ready.

I really like that about content marketing. I think that creates a completely different relationship between you and your prospective customer and the people in your audience.

Obviously, it’s massively about sales, that’s for another conversation, but content marketing really, if we really want to be honest about it, it has to lead towards business growth, which means getting customers, which means making sales.

I think importantly though, marketing isn’t about your products and services. We have to assume obviously that you do have a good product or a good service that goes along with this.  That kind of goes without saying. But marketing is that activity that you do that reminds people that you exist. You could have the best product. You could have the best service in the world. But without marketing, no one is going to find you and it’s gonna be very difficult for you and very frustrating for you to get and keep customers.

For those of you that are creating content, but you feel that it isn’t working – you are probably missing out on that marketing part.  The symptoms of that problem look like:

  • We get very little traffic to our website.
  • When we publish, we get a surge of traffic, but then we get nothing after that.
  • We’ve had our website for years now and there’s been no growth and traffic over that time.
  • We get close to zero enquiries and sales via our website.
  • Most people that visit our website leave and don’t visit any other pages on our website.

An example of this is from when I did a website audit for a business in the UK and you could see from their analytics and the traffic to the website is spiked every two weeks, and that was when they sent an email out to their audience with their latest content. They were sending out an email with their latest blog article every two weeks, and they get this surge of visitors to their website.

This was the only significant traffic that they were getting to their website. There’s almost no organic traffic over time. In other words, no one was searching Google and finding their content and clicking through to the website.

After diagnosing this problem, they realised that simply relying on email to send out their blog just wasn’t enough. They needed to get more traffic over time, to get that content working harder for them, they had to think about how someone would search and find their content in something like Google online, in a search engine. In other words, long story short on this is that the marketing part of content marketing is to optimise your content for being found in a search online. Right in front of the reader, but making sure that your content can be found in search.

To answer the big question that we started of with, what is the difference between content marketing and search engine optimization, or SEO for short, well they’re one in the same thing.

SEO is part of the marketing job that you do that allows people to find your content when they are looking for it, and SEO has become this integral part of marketing now for all content creators, for all marketers, for business people today, need to understand the basics of SEO and understand why it’s important. It’s no longer just a separate discipline that only applies to the geeks and nerds, and only for them to worry about. We all have to kind of see SEO as this integrated part of our marketing now.

So, just as much as you had to learn how to use social media over the years and email marketing over the years, SEO now becomes part of that skillset for all content creators to learn. In other words, if you are creating and publishing content without thinking about the basics SEO practises, we’ve talked about this before: keywords, titles, URL’s, the type of content, and considering how a prospective customer will find your content in search, then click through to your website and stay, then you’re missing the marketing part of content marketing.

If you’re not thinking about SEO, you’re actually not doing content marketing. You’re creating content, but your not doing the marketing part. It’s really clear to me that until search engines don’t exist anymore, SEO is going to matter a lot to all of us and as the business people and the marketers that are continually improving and learning about the best practises for SEO, that they’ll get the most ROI for their content, or from their content.

So the question for you is, how are you gonna plug that gap? How will you improve your content marketing skills and hone your SEO best practises?

It doesn’t make any sense really to spend all of that time, whether it’s you or a marketing person in your business, spending all of that time and effort and that resource creating the content and then not doing that extra little bit of work that is required to make it findable and accessible by your prospective customers over time.

I know that you wanna give your content the best possible chance of being found by the right people. So from this point forward, let’s agree to make SEO a priority for us.

For you and for your content and for your business.

Before I finish up, I’m not saying that every single piece of content that you’re gonna create and publish is gonna be an SEO hit, but for the majority of your content, it will have to be applied. SEO practises will have to be applied to your content, especially if you care about it and you wanna get the most from it, you’re gonna have to give everything an SEO perspective. You’re gonna have to look at it from a search perspective if you want it to do well out there in the digital world.

I teach content marketing to business people and marketers, entrepreneurs every week. Every week we have classes and training and at least 50% of the teaching is SEO. They don’t know that at first. They don’t realise that the majority of the training we’re about to do in content marketing is SEO related, but when they get into it, it starts to all make sense. That if they’re not going to do the SEO part of this, then they’re not really content marketers.

You might not want to hear this information, but that said, this is the facts. Content marketing is SEO. SEO is content marketing. They are one in the same thing, like peas and carrots like peanut butter and jelly, and if you want to be a great content marketer, going forward, you will have to think about, not only creating content for your readers, but how content is also found in search by your prospective customers and audience.

If you need help with these problems and you wanna ask a question, you wanna pick my brain about anything, just email me or you can tweet me at chrismar101, I’d love to hear your questions, your thoughts, your ideas. I hope you’ve had an amazing day and don’t forget to be awesome.