Content Marketing Has Always Been About SEO

All due respect to the writer of this post at MarTechToday, but if you’re just coming to the realization that content marketing and search engine optimization are the same thing you’re approximately 12-15 years behind the curve.

Back in the day when corporate blogging was the hot new marketing tactic, the pitch to clients was usually along the following lines:

  • The blog will allow you to take select messages directly to the audience, allowing you to offer commentary and expertise in a way you control and respond to inaccuracies and other problems.
  • The blog will significantly expand your search footprint because search engines *love* current content, so let’s be sure each post URL uses the MM/DD/YYYY structure.
  • The blog will allow you to use keywords important to the business (though not in an obnoxious way) so you’re found in relevant searches.
  • The blog will allow you to link to other sources and give other people somewhere to link to when they reference the valuable material you’ve published.

Three out of four of those points are directly SEO related. I speak from experience that a whole group of marketing professionals spent a good chunk of time obsessing over XML sitemaps, keyword lists, post slugs and more specifically because of how important they all were to search.

As social networks came on the scene around 2007 and especially as they went mainstream in 2009 or 2010, the focus of blogging – either for corporate or personal purposes – became more about the first “communicate directly” point while the other three were cast aside by many. That point was initially about the media, whose gatekeepers were hard to get past. Your press release might be ignored completely. A three hour CEO interview might be cut down to two quotes in a larger piece. With a blog, you could reach the end user audience without that filter.

Initially social networks offered that same promise, though now the filtered feeds in place on Facebook and elsewhere making breaking through almost as hard as it was through media relations. In that time, blogging was seen as either less hip or less essential. We forgot that 3/4 of the rationale for doing so was that it offered substantial search benefits social networks simply couldn’t match.

It’s good that it’s coming back. Recent studies have shown the share of traffic to media publishers from search engines is rebounding, taking that resurgence directly from social networks that are now more questionable propositions. Even corporate blogging seems to be coming back from a few years of declines. More people are realizing that while social media might give you a quick spike, long-term value is derived from owning your content and making it visible via search.

If, though, you think content marketing – which is just the most recent label affixed to a practice we used to call “new media marketing” or “social media marketing” – has ever not been about search engine optimization, it’s possible you’re new to the field. I and my colleagues have known this for over a decade.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.