Contemporary online marketing contains three hugely important and interlocking aspects. For those who didn’t go to business school in the last five years and don’t read marketing theory before bedtime, the finer points of technical jargon can get a bit fuzzy. No worries. It’s a step-by-step process to understand the the differences between SEO, content marketing and social media. First, start with strong SEO, then show people great content, and finally promote and re-promote with customers on social. Once you read this post and see it’s easy as 1-2-3, you’ll be flying to online success.

SEO: The Foundation

If you’re going to get anyone to interact with you online, they need to be able to see you. That’s the fundamental function of SEO. SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization and it is the process of constructing website content so that it achieves the highest search engine result ranking. Commercial search engines drive the majority of web traffic. This is because most users employ them as their primary online navigation tool. Search engines- Google, Bing, Yahoo alike – rank website content based on the “related keywords” in the search.

On average, 71.33% of searches result in a page one organic click. Page two and three get only 5.59% of the clicks. On the first page alone, the first 5 results account for 67.60% of all the clicks and the results from 6 to 10 account for only 3.73% — Moz

It behooves you to be on that first page. A staggering 2.73 million blog posts are written every day. You’re setting yourself up for failure without the means to be highly visible. In other words, you’re most relevant when your site appears on Google’s red “O”.

The search query, that text that goes into the search engine box, is crucially important. So take time and invest in keyword research – understanding how customers search will pay in the long run. This will require some reverse-engineering and customer profile work, but will make the rest of your SEO efforts worth your time.

This first-seen-first-served hierarchy of page results is established considering two (chief) factors: relevance and popularity. How does the ranking system work? Not to freak you out, but this indexing process in built on what are called crawlers. Crawlers or spiders are little automated robots – think of The Matrix – that scour and move across links created like a web between all the documents ever posted on the Internet.

Relevance is influenced by hundreds of factors. The foremost assumption of search engines is: the more popular a site, document, or page, the more valuable that information must be. Complex algorithms are used to manage, sort and prioritize all these factors for billions of search page results. Using links between pages as a street to move on, search engines analyze the popularity of a site by cross-referencing the popularity of sites linking to it.

The higher the domain authority of a site linking (referring your site on theirs) to yours, the higher your SEO will be as well. Linking patterns between sites are a metric of site quality and popularity as well. This referential network ensures that trustworthy sites that are generating quality content and viewership will rank highest.

Engines also use FreshRank to value and index the freshness, and subsequent relevance, of searches. The exact nature of the proprietary algorithm search engines use is unknown. However, years of marketer analysis and reverse-engineering confirm they are weighted. Here are some basic known factors of freshness that impact SEO:

  • Inception date: freshness decays over time
  • Quantity and quality of individual web page changes
  • Rate of document changes (New York Times homepage or…your local rec-center)
  • New page creation: the more, the better
  • Changing important content is better (body text, headlines over all)
  • The rate of new links created (relevance)
  • Link with fresh sites (to get fresh links yourself)
  • User behaviour on web page (duration, click-through, bounce rate)

Taking into account use of keywords, links between your site and other sites, as well as content recency, SEO assesses popularity and relevance of posts to bring us the internet search we know today. 

Content: The Good Stuff

Without any content, there’s nothing for SEO to produce from; therefore, no one will find your webpage. SEO and content marketing are joined at the hip. This relationship is almost paradoxical, somewhat “catch-22”: without content marketing material, SEO is a moot point. Without SEO, content marketing sits unveiled and useless. It’s like there’s a horse pulling the cart that carries your company to success; a sort of mutualism that catapults your site to the top.

Content marketing can be summarized as: valuable, relevant material focused upon a clearly defined audience. The purpose of such material: change and inform customer behaviour towards a desired action. By positioning the brand as a source of educational, entertaining and useful information, content marketing establishes an emotional connection with the audience. This is where the importance of the word “trust” come into play.

Messaging should communicate brand values to viewers and engage them directly.

Stories, articles, infographics are the most prevalent and successful modes of content marketing, though a wide variety of mediums can be effective. Ultimately, a genuine and consistent flow of valuable content is what earns companies essential customer loyalty, drives brand awareness and conversion success with content campaigns.

Content marketing, when done well, increases organic rankings with SEO easily. SEO is the foremost lead-generating source in content marketing. Why? Because there’s lots of space to write keywords and every content post should be an opportunity to increase viewer shares and acquire backlinks.

With stellar content, the Internet and its wide readership will naturally boost SEO. Search engines, as if they were facilitating some grand conversation, reward the exchange of ideas. You just focus on delivering great material to your viewers and the rest will fall into place. Content marketing agencies that have the highest return on investment (ROI) with content marketing emphasize blogging, content amplification and organic search.

Be Social: Share

Content marketing excels in the realm of social media as well. By sharing content marketing materials on social platforms as well as your website, you increase your visibility and user interface quality with a wide range of viewers. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are fantastic sources for content-hungry-hungry hippos.

Driving people to your site from social media and garnering linkbacks is quite valuable. It’s called social media because it’s easy for people to share and link. 72% of (online) Americans use social networks. That said, 85% of North Americans are online, as of 2013. I’d wager my salary that number has gone up.

Search engines value socially-shared links differently than other content types but they certainly don’t go unappreciated. Google started incorporating a large number of social signals into its search results in 2012. For example: someone with a lot of followers will see their content more highly promoted in search results. Publishers who link to these influential personalities will also see an SEO bump. Link building is a valuable practice for any company.

Social is a huge visibility booster because the user interfaces are friendly; and people spend huge quantities of time with their phones in their faces. It’s primarily about raising brand awareness and getting some activity and discussion around your brand. Social is a quick-interface arena that allows you to reach directly through people’s phones and into their lives. Why wait for them to plop down in front of a monitor? If they can read your content on-the-go, more power to you and them. Remember: your job with content marketing is to make people’s lives easier and more enjoyable as fast as you can.

Make sure to ping followers with links to content posts and tantalize them with interesting tidbits. This helps maintain engagement and brand image. Stay on point by getting a good social media campaign. Social media is gasoline. Content is a bonfire. They go together.

You can also use social for customer retention and satisfaction; a means to relate to and engage customers with questions and concerns they might have. Once you’ve convinced people to hear you and read your content, maybe even buy something from you; make sure to be available and hear them back.

Keep in mind: when producing for social media, your materials will be tuned to the user interface and scope of social media. With most content marketing, the format is your website. Content marketing and SEO cover the wider spectrum of the Internet. Know your audience, and know the platform. Know what they want from each. Buffer, a great social management network and blog, has some great tips to help you maximize your interplay of social and content.

Like anything in life, balance and efficacy is key. By understanding the finer points of SEO, content marketing, and social media; they become very powerful tools in your online business tool belt. Most important is to respect the dynamics and details of each. Together, these three mainstays of online marketing are worth more than the sum of their parts.

PS — Always come back to the question, how am I being of service to my customers and future customers? It’ll keep you on message and earn you lots of loyalty. See some of our work before you give our service a try