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Content Marketing vs SEO: The Differences Explained

Content marketing and SEO get thrown around almost interchangeably by agencies and clients. While they both have an essential role in growing website traffic and brand awareness, there are fundamental differences between the two services.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the process of creating different types of “content” over a period of time to engage, inform, and educate a target audience on a particular topic or set of topics. Content marketing includes the following channels:

  • Articles
  • Emails
  • Social media channels including LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok
  • Videos and webinars
  • Infographics
  • Website landing pages
  • Downloadable assets
  • Podcasts
  • And much more

Most companies use content marketing with the end goal of growing their business and expanding their brand. For example, an eco-friendly clothing brand might engage in a content marketing campaign to bring awareness to sustainable fashion trends by enlisting the help of influencers to promote their brand on social media.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO is a set of digital marketing strategies designed to get more organic traffic from search engines—primarily Google. There are several components to an SEO strategy including:

  • Keyword research to find relevant words and phrases target customers are searching
  • Publishing high-quality content that is optimized for target keywords including landing pages, articles, product pages, product descriptions, and more.
  • Ensuring a good user experience and website structure that can be crawled and understood by search engines through technical SEO
  • Promoting content and acquiring backlinks through a link building campaign and off-page SEO

These services are the core of a good SEO strategy and will help increase a website’s search results ranking for relevant keywords and grow organic search traffic. However, as you can see, content is an integral and vital part of SEO. As such, all SEO work should align itself with the goals of a brand’s broader content marketing strategy. Vice versa, employing SEO strategy in the crafting of diverse types of content provides a vital channel for customer reach. The isolation of SEO from other content development stunts the long term growth of a brand and impacts conversion rates.

Which One Fits your needs?

As we’ve shown above, SEO and content marketing are closely related, with SEO being one part of a content marketing strategy. While we recommend companies invest continuously in content, digital marketing priorities will vary depending on a few factors:

  • If you need sales immediately, you should consider paid advertising to target bottom of funnel traffic. SEO and content marketing tend to have a longer ramp-up time, and while the ROI is strong, it often takes many months to see conversions and sales.
  • Content marketing like social media and video is a great choice for both new and established brands alike. It doesn’t require significant investment and is fast to get started. Brands can record videos and share information on social media platforms with just a phone.
  • SEO, on the other hand, is more technical by nature. Optimizing a webpage is more than just writing great content (although that’s a huge part). It involves an in-depth understanding of search intent, algorithms, schema markup, and outreach, so startups may be better off advertising and pursuing other forms of content marketing first then using SEO to scale and drive traffic once established.
  • If you have an eCommerce website with 500+ products, you likely need ongoing technical SEO and on-page SEO.
  • Virtually all SaaS companies should be doing SEO, with a focus on SEO content strategy and new content creation.
  • If you’re a smaller local business, you can invest in local SEO which focuses more on getting traffic from a specific geographical area. This may bring a more sustainable ROI than other forms of content marketing.
  • If you’ve hit a ceiling on other forms of marketing like social media or paid search, then organic traffic can be a huge untapped lead generation channel you should explore.

When and How Should I Get Started With Content Marketing or SEO?

Whether you want an entire content marketing strategy or are ready to start just an SEO campaign, there is no better time than now. The sooner you begin, the sooner you can see results. Many companies still believe their audience isn’t online or won’t digest “content,” but that simply isn’t true anymore. With the rise of social media and AI tools, content is being created and consumed at a higher rate than ever before.

To get started, simply identify your top marketing objectives. If you’re looking to primarily drive online traffic, then a digital agency that specializes in written content marketing and SEO will be a good fit to help you map out a strategy for online growth.

Sitemap.io is here to help with all your written content needs. We offer content marketing services including SEO strategy, article writing, email marketing, and lead magnets, as well as technical SEO.

Austin Cline

Austin Cline

Austin Cline is the founder and principal at Sitemap.io. He is actively involved in the SEO community and frequently writes about the intersection of great content marketing and search engine optimization. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn and sign up to get his posts to your email by joining our email newsletter.

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