content marketing vs seo - which do you prefer?

Content Marketing vs SEO – which is best?

Quite often I share my ideas about content marketing vs SEO – and not everyone agrees with me — but that’s ok, I don’t have to please everyone, just the people who land on my site (and therefore the search engines become happy too).

I’ve been using SEO (search engine optimisation / optimization) for about 6 or 7 years now, and helped a lot of small business clients be found on the internet.  Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I also helped my clients create Panda-Penguin-Poodle-proof sites by recommending they write pages and posts, articles, slideshows, videos and all types of content based on questions and answers relating to their business.

Here we are a few years later after a perceived catastrophic change to SEO as we knew it, and yet my sites (which had been round for years) didn’t really suffer that much, nor did those of my clients who followed my suggestions.

After the first Panda algorithm burst the SEO bubble, I made a conscious decision to not freak out (like everyone else seemed to be), so I read a bit about it from the self-appointed gurus in the aftermath, and decided to leave well enough alone. Instead of screaming, crying, stamping my foot and then trying to FIX whatever had happened, I decided to simply get on with it. I kept writing content in the form of questions and answers, kept adding it to my websites (and publishing elsewhere) and advised my clients to continue to do the same.

Online in forums and groups everywhere was mayhem – huge organisations lost their businesses overnight, mom-and-pop businesses went down the toilet, never to be seen again, and a vast percentage of those making money online as internet marketers were left like stunned mullets, wondering what on earth had happened.

So – I just kept on adding questions and answers, and kept advising clients to do the same and to NOT FOCUS ON SEO OR PLEASING THE NEW ALGORITHM-CHANGING SEARCH ENGINE MACHINE.

As it turns out, I was one of the lucky ones who had started to understand that it’s CONTENT, and not just SEO which :

  • brings people to your site (they’re typing those same questions into search engines)
  • satisfies the hunger of the visitors
  • and ends up satisfying the new regime in search engine world where the importance is placed on the happiness of the visitors and viewers, not just keyword-stuffing or over-optimising.

Funny how things work out — I watched so many people I know go through dreadful angst and stress, scrambling to make sense of it all, whereas it might have been a much better idea just to start writing excellent content to please your web visitors.

Some time back I started to do some research, and came across the concept of “content marketing” and I started following some guys online who seemed to think the way I did about content, in different ways from each other. I love the writing styles of both Marcus from The Sales Lion and Dan from WP Curve – and their blog posts and stories align with the way I think about content.

Just last week I attended a four day internet-related Conference and met a ton of great folks, some of whom stayed in touch. One lady who wrote to me (and from what I understand is relatively new to websites and the internet world) asked a question about SEO which I’d like to share with you (I’ve shortened it to make it easy to understand):

“Hi Teena, I am stuck with key words and am wondering if you have any articles that I can read. Can’t get my head  around Google adwords – it has all changed. How many searches do I need to see to use the keyword?”

This is the kind of dilemma new websites owners are experiencing on a daily basis – they are reading, hearing, watching info about SEO and keywords, some of which is no longer valid. They are attending webinars and seminars and are convinced that they need to know the exact number of searches which are being done for their keywords and keyword phrases, their brains are on “overwhelm” and they start tearing their hair out. Even worse, they pay someone to put them on “page 1 of Google” and guess what? The next algorithm change kicks in and they’re back down on page 350 in the search engine results pages (SERPS).

So — I bet you’re wondering what I wrote back — and you may not agree, but that’s absolutely ok – we are all entitled to our opinions. So here’s my response:

Thanks so much for your question, I’ll do my best to clarify how I think about SEO.  I’ve had many clients who struggle with websites and SEO over the years – in fact most of my clients have at one time or another.

I now recommend that business owners stop focussing on SEO for a while (the results of which they have absolutely no control over on any given day), and instead focus on the things over which they DO have control.

On this page I provide a whole shebang of links which might help you get started on your adventure to learn more about owning a website:

I’d start with this one:

and then check out this one – it’s the one I usually start my clients with – although you may know all of this already;

If you read the article above, and focus on Item 4 (writing down all the questions and answers you can think of about your business, products and services), it will be much easier for you to get started.

After you’ve absorbed all that information, check out:

Hope this all makes sense!


Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying DON’T use SEO, because it’s still very important (even though some of it isn’t recognised by some of the search engines any more) – what I am saying is that folks new to owning a website will have a much easier time of it if they start with questions and answers and create epic content, and then start to learn more about what’s working in SEO after they’ve got a series of great content pieces online.

I’m not trying to convert anyone to a different way of thinking if they’re not ready for it, but I do want to open up the possibility of writing content which will come easily for many new website owners instead of them staring blankly at their screens unable to write a word — in my experience, it’s much easier to write questions and answers about the business, product or service, rather than trying to work out which is the best “keyword phrase” and how many monthly clicks it may or may not get today.

If you’ve got another minute or so, I’d just like to share something I noticed today in my web statistics – someone had typed in a query into – a long-tail keyword if you like, as it  7 words long:

  • Business to do list monthly and weekly

The SERPS (results) placed my website in position number 1, out of a total of 89 million pages across the internet.  The point I’m trying to make here is that the post is based on a question, it answered someone’s question around the world, and the person signed up for something on my site (use your stats to find this type of info).

I certainly didn’t think it would be in Position 1, I didn’t try to put it there with any dodgy tactics, but it appeared anyway and brought a new potential client to my site – woohoo 🙂 So imagine if you have 10 or 50 or 100 question and answers pages on your site, and just keep writing more, and a stream of traffic just keeps landing on your pages and posts – is that cool? Sure it is 🙂  Did I have to do SEO research? No, I wrote a page based on a question I’d been asked in a meeting.

content marketing vs seo - which do you prefer?

Notice, too, that I have several images on that post, and two of them appear in the image results above Result number 1 – extra bonus! And both are linked to my web page.

Disclaimer — just because I can see this result as I write this post, it does not mean that you will see the same result, or that it will still be there in 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days. Hey, it’s a search engine results page, nothing’s written in concrete – right?

Your Say on content marketing vs SEO

And now I’d love to hear your thoughts  – how do you go about creating web pages and posts? Do you prefer one of these, or both? What’s been working well for you? Thanks in advance for sharing your comments below.


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Teena Hughes

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