How Does Content Marketing Change Search Rankings?

To change your search rankings and get found, you’ll need to understand how content marketing affects search.

It’s not something I talk often about in my articles.

Usually, I spend time on the individual strategies of either SEO or content marketing, among the other things I talk about.

However, this is the first time I’ve made it a point to talk about how the two are intertwined.

But it’s a point that needs making.

Small businesses are constantly concerned with their search ranking, and they’re continually trying to understand what to do to get found.

Marketers are often in the same boat, attempting to understand what the next move in search will be.

And, because SEO is so complex and is frequently evolving, it’s hard to figure out if guest blogging or social media are the next big things or are the next to go.

The constant in the search optimization equation, however, has always been content marketing.

Because it’s been such a search constant, it’s impossible to separate the two.

They are, however, different beasts, and often one gets shelved to work on the other.

There are similarities between them, but the differences are important.

Today, I want to share the ways you can build both to benefit your brand.

Define The Line Between Content Marketing And SEO

Part of the problem with separating the two is that the line between them is blurry for most.

Really, most people don’t understand either concept very well.

But we can fix that quickly.

Here’s a simple way to understand the difference.

SEO is anything you do to build your search traffic organically.

Any time you’re making content and distributing it to attract traffic, you’re talking about content marketing.

Be warned, the two concepts are a little more in-depth than that.

However, these definitions are all you need to know what each concept encompasses.

These are both different ways of doing things, but they’ve got quite a bit in common.

The most important overlap is content.

You can’t do either without it.

Search engine optimization is impossible without content to optimize.

Content marketing has the requirement right there in the name.

The latter has always been longer, more in-depth content that totally informs the audience about the topic.

In the past, however, SEO used to require a completely different type of content.

Before content marketing and SEO became a mainstay of marketing, a 500-word “throw-away” article was more than enough to rank with even if it didn’t have much information.

Just to put a fine point on it, we’re at about 440 words right now, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of this topic.

Could you still rank with an article that’s only 500 words? Sure.

It would have to be a heck of a lot better in quality than the content you needed before.

Now, as search algorithms make a shift in what they use to rank, marketing content and SEO content are becoming more alike.

Providing valuable and high-quality content is the top priority.

So What Makes SEO And Content Marketing Fit Together?

Content marketing and SEO work together.

Their marriage is natural as a method of attracting traffic.

Imagine if you could draw in website visitors from social media, search rankings, and content marketing, but also adding PR, video, email marketing, and paid search (or PPC).

That would be excellent, right?

But how much better would it be if you could use a single piece of content to do it just by optimizing it for different channels?

You’d easily get 2-to-3-times more traffic, wouldn’t you?

And you can do that just by taking advantage of a few content marketing strategies and getting it onto social media.

Search Ranking Optimization And Content Marketing Are Also Different

Optimizing your content for search rankings and optimizing it for content marketing is different.

Only the most idealistic marketers think it’s identical.

There are parts of optimizing for search rankings that make total sense within content marketing.

On-page and off-page SEO both lie well within on-page and off-page content.

But the technical aspects of search ranking optimization are outside the realm of content marketing.

They’ve got little to do with each other.

Most of what’s involved in technical SEO changes your search rankings while offering nothing to your content marketing.

Knowing that there is a difference between SEO and content marketing will help you avoid failure.

Content Marketing Compliments Your Search Rankings And Vice Versa

Like I already said, content marketing and SEO can be intertwined.

They can work well to benefit each other.

The ways they do that aren’t always obvious, especially to small business owners who are just learning about each.

Some ways to improve your search rankings might include:

  • Getting your page to load faster
  • Making your content easy to read on mobile devices
  • Finding and fixing those dead links and bad redirects
  • Assuring your content has clear headings

You might be surprised to find out they all will improve your content marketing as well.

Think about it.

  • People hate to wait for content
  • Most content is consumed from a mobile device
  • Links and redirects that work make sure they get to the right place on your site and keep moving through your site
  • Headings and other formatting make your content easy to consume

When you consider that all of this makes for better user experience, you can see how it affects your content marketing.

And, with SEO headed the same direction now, it’s easy to see how they complement each other.

Using Content Marketing to Improve Your Search Rankings

Let’s get down to the bread and butter.

You want to know how you can use your content marketing to change your search rankings and vice versa.

Tackling both is going to take a little more learning, so hold on.

I’m going to walk you through it and share some ideas on how you might want to think about the process.

Do You Focus On Search Rankings Or Content Marketing First?

Search optimization and content marketing work well together.

However, that doesn’t mean they work the same.

There are a few key differences you’ll need to pay attention to.

For example, to adjust your content marketing for search rankings, you’ll need to include a few relevant keywords.

But should you search the keywords before you write the marketing content?

Or should you write the content, then optimize it for search rankings after?

Each method has its advantages, and the choice has to be based on your intent.

Because either will work, but they’ll achieve different results.

What Happens When You Start With Content Marketing

If you intend to start with content marketing, you’ll start by coming up with content ideas that your audience might be interested in reading.

Once you’re done, you’ll add in the keywords that make sense for the content.

After all, you’ll need something to make it show up in search rankings.

Sprinkle a few into your article, mainly in your headings.

Then you start getting your content in front of people.

When you start with content marketing, you get two benefits.

Flexibility is the first benefit.

Your content isn’t built around a specific keyword, so you’re not locked in.

Should you have trouble ranking for the keyword you chose, you can just change it to something longer.

The second benefit, which is more important, is that you get to bring value.

Something that ranks well doesn’t necessarily provide value to your audience.

In a content marketing first method, you generate content ideas by learning what your target audience’s problems are, then creating content.

But with the SEO first method, you focus on finding keywords that are likely to bring in a lot of traffic.

While your highly searched for (or high volume) keyword might bring traffic, it isn’t necessarily a helpful article for your audience.

An article that defines SEO would likely see a lot of traffic, but it wouldn’t be as useful as one that provides the reader with an actionable strategy, which isn’t as searched for.

Focusing only on keywords means you miss out on creating more useful content that converts higher.

That lowers your results.

What Happens When You Start With SEO

Don’t jump straight to content marketing as the best answer.

While it has its benefits, so does the SEO first strategy.

Picking your keywords first can make your content better.

The content marketing first method asks that you produce your content, then alter it by adding keywords.

When you write your content, you’re already looking to make it as great as possible.

By changing it to make the keywords fit, you’re taking away from the reasons you chose the words you did in the original piece.

It won’t necessarily be a big deal, but it might not be as good as the original.

Starting with the keyword in mind can change the way you deliver your message.

You’ll optimize the phrases you choose right off the bat and won’t have to alter them later.

Choosing your keyword first can also help you uncover how valuable it is to solve some of the most common problems.

And it isn’t always valuable.

However, sometimes it’s the low-value stuff that will bring in the highest value audience.

Getting feedback from your customers usually comes in the form of big problems that they need help with.

But smaller stuff is something they usually just Google.

Searching for keywords allows you to find all the high traffic results, regardless of how valuable they are.

As that content brings in traffic, you can direct those visitors to content that converts better.

Why Not Both?

These content creation methods have both benefits and pain points.

Using them together, though?

It gives you all the upsides without having to hurt from the downsides.

Find great keywords to build content for search rankings around.

Also, build content marketing based on the feedback from your target audience.

Problem solved.

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Don’t Put A Shelf-Life On Your Content

Both content marketing and search results content are used to get more traffic to your website.

Each of those formats has a different timeframe that they work in.

When producing your content using content marketing strategies, you’ll promote your content immediately.

Through email, social media, and other networking efforts, you’ll create a short-term spike in your website traffic.

However, that’s not going to last very long and typically dies out after a short period.

The traffic you get from search-results-oriented content, on the other hand, probably won’t earn traffic right away.

It takes time to get seen and backlinks need to accumulate before your content shows up on Google.

Only some articles experience that result, though.

Anything you produce that’s tied to a current event will see early search results, then drop off to nearly no traffic as its relevance disappears.

You’ve got to focus on content that gets seen for years after you produce it.

AKA evergreen content.

In most cases, this is the best way to go.

Improve Traffic Flow Through Evergreen Content

If your content is going to be just as good next year as it is today, it’s probably evergreen content.

Think about it.

A piece about Facebook’s latest news feed algorithm change might keep people interested in it for a few months.

But a post outlining a complete social media strategy that’s easily duplicated across new networks will last for a long time.

Evergreen content gives you the short-term traffic increase of content marketing but doesn’t sacrifice the long-term traffic that search results-oriented content will get you.

Early traffic is even likely to reduce the time it takes for the search results to offer a benefit.

Speeding up traffic growth never hurts, does it?

How Do You Know It’s Evergreen?

Evergreen topics don’t have to be hard to see.

It just takes a little bit of sense.

As you plan your topic, consider how long it will be useful.

If your content is likely to be good a month, a year, and maybe even five years from now, it’s probably evergreen marketing content.

You can also check to see how old similar articles are.

Search for your title on Google.

Check the dates on the other articles that come up in the search rankings.

When you see dates that go back a few years, you’ve got a good topic on your hands.

How Green Is It?

Ok, the truth is that some content marketing topics are more evergreen than others.

Think about an article that lays out a great search ranking strategy.

It’s likely that content will stay relevant for a long time.

That is until Google changes the algorithm.

If search ranking factors change, this article will fall into obscurity.

There’s a solution, though.

Instead of letting this article fall into obscurity, update it.

That’s right.

Content that only needs updating based on small, new changes (meaning less than half the content needs changing) is considered evergreen too.

When it’s simple to keep it relevant, it’s still relevant.

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Measure The Results Completely

Do you know if your content efforts are even working?

Most people who handle content marketing or search rankings related content don’t.

Which is a big problem if you want to be successful.

You’ve got to know, and that means you’ve got to track metrics.

Metrics that tell you what’s happening as a result of your marketing content and search results content so you can tell what’s worth doing.

Success should be measurable, and you need to see those measurements getting better with time.

If you don’t, it’s time to reconsider what you’re doing.

There are metrics that reflect content marketing, metrics that reflect search results, and metrics that reflect both.

Choose the ones that work best for your business.

Let’s talk about a few, shall we?

Measure The Traffic

Whether you’re working on content marketing or trying to produce content that shows up in search results, traffic is your end goal.

More traffic usually equates more leads and more sales.

Yes, the quality of the traffic matters, but more will usually make you more money.

Every day and month can have traffic peaks and valleys.

So, measuring your traffic over long periods is more helpful.

Compare your traffic every month to the last 12 months as well as year-over-year for the same months.

Check your overall traffic numbers to get the basic picture.

Once you understand how that’s affected, start paying attention to your organic search traffic and referral traffic.

You can check your traffic “by source” in Google Analytics to get this information.

Typically, the organic search traffic comes from improving your search results while your referral traffic will come from content marketing.

SEO efforts like backlinks can create referral and direct traffic too, but these numbers are still a great indicator of success.

Find Out How Your Site Ranks For Certain Keywords

From a search results perspective, the way your site ranks for a keyword is important.

It’s maybe the most important SEO metric, in fact.

As your efforts to improve your site in the search results start working, your rank for those keywords will rise.

Keyword rank tracking is straightforward.

You’re simply seeing where your site appears in the search results for a given keyword.

There are tons of tools out there, both free and paid, and they’ll give you all the information you need.

Just make sure you can look at your rank over long periods so you can accurately see your change.

See If People Want Your Content

When you’re doing great content marketing, you’re bringing in quality traffic.

Obviously, determining if your traffic is quality will tell you if your content is working.

But how do you know if your content is quality?

You know based on how many of them become subscribers and customers.

Your subscriber rate can also give you a clue as to how compelling your content and call-to-action are.

It’s a pretty powerful content marketing metric.

The easiest way to track it is from the reports that your email provider should have available for you.

Look at your subscriber count over time, as well as how many new subscribers you’re getting each month over the previous and the previous year.

That’s will tell you how well things are working.

Look At Your Audience Engagement

Engagement metrics are a great expansion to your subscriber rate.

While the concept of engagement isn’t a metric, there are metrics that tell you how engaged your audience is.

Things like the average time your viewer spends per page, how often they return, how many pages they view per visit, and whether they’re commenting can all tell you how much they’re into your content.

This is a content marketing staple.

Like everything we’ve covered so far, track these metrics over time.

Record and check them often, then get a good average for each timeframe you look at.

After a few months, you’ll be able to see how you’re doing.

Remember that you can’t compare each piece of content because the topic will have an influence, but those averages will always reflect real results.

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The Quality Of Your Links Doesn’t Change

If you’ve invested the time into a piece of content for your content marketing, you want to drive large audiences to it.

You take advantage of direct traffic, like the kind you’d get from your subscribers, but you also want to get links on other websites.

The links you want the most are the ones that send the most traffic.

Not surprisingly, search rankings get better using the exact same kind of links because they prove authority.

Start looking for great links like these.

Links From A Guest-Post

Guest posts are common and effective ways to drive traffic back to your site for your content marketing strategy.

It’s common for these sites to allow you a link or two in your author bio.

If you’re posting on sites with a lot of traffic, also known as authoritative sites, it’s going to do more than just send you direct traffic.

Your search rankings will inherently improve.

The capability of adding a few links to other content on your site isn’t unheard of either.

Especially if it’s relevant to the guest post you’re producing.

Some Links Add A Little Context

If you’ve got an excellent piece of marketing content, there’s a good chance other content writers will to reference it.

They’ll use it to give their content some context.

Those links are magic for your search rankings.

Links like this are natural, part of a sentence, and are often highly trafficked.

Look around this article.

You probably see the ones I’ve used.

Backlinks like this grow as your content ages.

Even faster when it’s great content.

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Don’t Forget The Internal Links

You’ve probably seen one or two pieces of advice telling you to add internal links to your content.

Even if you’ve listened, you still might not know why.

Understanding the effects of these links on your content marketing and search results is critical.

That understanding can change how you use them.

Benefits come in two forms.

Internal Links Build Your Site’s SEO

Internal links will help your search rank.

Although the effects are directly related to your site’s authority, they’ll even boost a young site.

External links leading to a page build its authority, which can be shared with new content.

In passing authority from one page to another, you can boost the rank of new content quickly.

So, as you create new content, add a few internal links from authoritative content to make it happen.

You’ll also be adding relevance to your content.

Search engines use the internal links, anchor text, and surrounding content to understand what your page is about.

That means your links help Google rank you for any searches.

It doesn’t take much to add internal links to your site.

Choose a variety of anchor text and add links to your content appropriately.

Get Your Visitors To More Of Your Content

We talked about engagement earlier.

There are two of them that are extra important.

They’re the largest measures of how good your content is.

The better your content, the more they’ll increase over time.

What metrics, you ask?

How frequently your audience returns and how many pages they view per visit.

Metrics like these don’t experience spikes and valleys.

Quality visitors will be interested in your content and want to read more.

Using internal links correctly can expand 1%-5% of your traffic to other pages on your site.

Oh, that’s per link.

So, adding several to a post will assure that the quality visitors will find more to read.

Those visitors will spend even more time if the links are useful.

Clearly, they won’t be able to consume all your content in one visit.

If they keep finding more as a result of good internal links, they’ll come back for more later.

Also, you’ve got to consider how much of your content your average visitor doesn’t see.

You want your visitors to see as much as possible as soon as possible that’s relevant to their needs.

Internal links are the best way to do that.

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Content Marketing And Search Results Go Together

Separately, content marketing and search results content are powerful marketing strategies.

They bring traffic, create conversions, and drive sales for your company.

And they’re not mutually exclusive.

Together, these powerful strategies can build each other.

Take the time to understand everything we went over today.

You’ll be ready to handle everything your future marketing needs.

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How Does Content Marketing Change Search Rankings?

by Michael McNew Read in 15 min