Recently, there has been quite the buzz within the SEO industry over content marketing.
Many have jumped on the content marketing bandwagon and declared it the ‘future of SEO’. Many of these same people are also declaring that link building is the past and is no longer effective.
Content marketing is an important aspect of online marketing, and it certainly plays a valuable role within SEO, but to move away from link building into strictly content marketing is a mistake. If you focus solely on content marketing expecting to garner the same number of links and level of visibility in the SERPs, you will be disappointed.
Content marketing isn't the same as link building, and we don't have to choose between the two.
Content marketing is actually very difficult. Like any other marketing strategy, it possesses strengths and weaknesses. Link building can actually complement these strengths and help mitigate the weaknesses. Through link building you can improve the efficacy of your content marketing efforts.
Content Marketing is Hard
While I can understand the excitement surrounding it within the SEO industry, I worry that many of us are taking for granted how difficult content marketing actually is.
Creating quality content is hard.
Creating content requires a number of different resources. Primarily, it requires people – writers, graphic designers, video production experts, web developers, etc. It takes an entire team of extremely creative and talented people to create the kind of content necessary for successful content marketing.
Not only does it take people, but it also takes time.
Even if you have the right people and they are completely dedicated to creating content, they still need adequate time to create that content. Quality content doesn’t just materialize overnight and most businesses don’t have any available time, much less the amount of time actually required, to allocate towards content creation.
Finally, even if you have the proper resources required to create high-quality content, it still takes time and energy to plan effective marketing of that content.
Every piece of content you create must have a carefully crafted outreach plan to go with it to maximize content amplification. This includes finding and contacting influencers within your industry, placing content in locations around the web where your target audience will see it, and promoting your content through various social media channels.
Content marketing can be very effective, but we in the SEO realm often underestimate the true scale of what it takes to employ content marketing successfully.
Content Marketing Strengths and Weaknesses
Much like other SEO strategies, content marketing has both strengths and weaknesses.
Content marketing can be a very powerful tool for online marketers. These are some of the key strengths of content marketing:
- Major branding potential
- Increased customer engagement
- Establish brand authority and thought leadership
- Flexibility to target various personas in different sections of the marketing funnel
Major branding potential
Content marketing provides huge branding potential. By producing content around the web you can begin to build brand awareness and recognition. Content marketing can increase the visibility of your brand online. If you continue to produce quality content, eventually that content will start to rank in the search engines and searchers will begin to associate your brand with your industry.
Increased customer engagement
One of the main strengths of content marketing is that it provides value to your target audience. This allows you to engage with your audience in a way that is not possible through traditional marketing practices. By providing valuable content to your audience, you can begin to establish a level of trust with them. This is an enormously valuable aspect to content marketing as trust leads to a loyal customer base.
Establish brand authority and thought leadership
Along with building trust, you can also begin to build authority for your brand/company by continuously providing useful content. As you continue to produce content around the web, your audience will come across your content more and more. The more they see your content, the more they begin to view your brand as an authority and thought leader within your industry.
Flexibility to target various personas in different sections of the marketing funnel
Another strength of content marketing is the flexibility it offers in terms of who you can target. You can craft each individual piece of content to target specific marketing personas. Content marketing gives you the ability to target each of the different personas at the various sections of the marketing funnel.
As mentioned before, content marketing is not without its weaknesses. Many of these weaknesses have been mentioned in reference to why content marketing is so difficult. However, there are a couple other weaknesses worth mentioning.
One of the major weaknesses of content marketing is that you are giving away something valuable for free. Now I realize this is the point of content marketing, but if your outreach plan is ineffective and you don’t get the proper content amplification you could end up with nothing to show for your hard work.
Another weakness associated with content marketing is that it can be very hard to track ROI and gauge success.
Social signals can be indicators of popularity and that your content is being widely shared, but measuring any sort of ROI from this data can be difficult. Content marketing can undoubtedly generate leads for your business, but tracking to see which of those leads actually came from viewing your content is hard.
Link Building and Content Marketing Work Together
Often people invest their resources into only one channel - link building or content marketing. However, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they naturally complement one another.
Instead of focusing on one strategy or the other, we should embrace both and not separate the two. Matt Gratt does an excellent job of pointing out this “imaginary separation” in this post.
In his post, Gratt explains why content marketing and link building can (and should) actually work together. I wholeheartedly agree as content marketing and link building really have a symbiotic relationship.
Although content marketing and link building are both difficult and time consuming, I would argue that you should be implementing both practices into your SEO efforts. To reach the full potential of each strategy and achieve maximum results, you need to execute both. This is because link building makes content marketing stronger and vice-versa.
You need linkable assets to build links effectively. Content marketing can provide those linkable assets to make link building easier and more efficient, not to mention more natural.
On the other hand, content marketing requires visibility to be effective. Building links to your great content will increase visibility and extend the value of that content. Now some may argue that you should simply earn links from this content, but if nobody ever sees it there is no way for you to earn anything.
Furthermore, if you put all this time/money into creating such great content you should also spend some energy leveraging that content for links!
I believe that there is no reason for content marketing and link building to be at odds. Both strategies provide valuable results and can actually work more efficiently together. Rather than choosing between the two, I recommend that you incorporate both techniques into your online marketing approach to achieve the most success.