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Why SEO Is Actually All About Content Marketing

There’s a bit of confusion over SEO and content marketing. The confusion comes over how SEO and content marketing fit together. Do they fit together? Are they at odds with each other? If so, is it possible to force them together?

In a previous post, I explained why SEO and content marketing are like PB&J. They go together. They just fit. They work well together.

Now, I want to share exactly why that is — why SEO is actually all about content marketing, and vice versa.

Before I share the why of this article, let me be clear about the what — the problem I’m addressing.

The Problem: SEO and content marketing are not integrated.

The crux of the problem is that SEO and content marketing are separated, as if they were two very different things. The truth is, however, that they go together, overlap, cohere, blend.

Some people think that content marketing eliminates the need for SEO.

Look at these headlines:


This makes no sense to me.

How can “content marketing overtake SEO completely” when the only way to successful content marketing is to have SEO? How can you tear the two apart like that?

Thankfully, there are voices of reason in the cacophony of confusion (e.g., the article above). Careful marketers have observed the disconnect, and are trying to point out that SEO and content marketing go together.

Yet the mistake persists. One of the popular articles that makes this mistake comes from an article in The Guardian, which states: “It looks like Google has tired of its old friend SEO and is instead cosying-up to the new kid on the block, content marketing” [sic].

It’s a cute analogy, but it’s simply not accurate. It’s not as if SEO and content marketing are two different people. To borrow the same metaphor, SEO and content marketing are actually two personalities of the same person.

The problem, then, lies in the disconnect between SEO and content marketing.

It’s time to bring the two back together. This is the only way you’ll be successful in both your SEO and your content marketing.

The Truth: SEO and content marketing overlap. A lot.

When trying to understand the integration of SEO and content marketing, think of it this way.

First, here’s the incorrect view of SEO and content marketing. This is wrong:


Now, here’s the right way to view them:


They overlap.

There are differences between SEO and content marketing.

Yes, SEO and content marketing are distinguished from one another in several critical areas. And while they have points of differentiation, you still can’t separate the two entirely.

Rather than chase down every point of difference between the two, I want to point out this elemental contrast:

  • SEO is narrower, and more technical.
  • Content marketing is broader and more holistic.

This is the way in which the two converge:

  • The way to apply SEO in a broader way is to channel its specific technical endeavors into content marketing.
  • Conversely, the only way to ensure the success of content marketing is to apply SEO techniques in its implementation.

How SEO and Content Marketing Come Together

Another way to look at it is like this — SEO makes demands. Content marketing fulfills those demands.

Think of it as a conversation between two people.


SEO states the requirements. Content marketing fulfills them.

Now, let me show you how exactly SEO and content complement each other.

In each of the points below, I state exactly what SEO requires, and how content marketing meets that requirement. Keep in mind that conversation between SEO and Content Marketing (above) as you review each of the following points.

SEO demands content. Content marketing is content.

There is no such thing as SEO without content. You need words, articles, substance, keywords, verbiage.

I wince whenever I have to say it, because it’s so cliche, but it’s true: Content is king.

We don’t argue about that anymore. It’s a truism of the SEO industry. Content content content.

And what is content marketing all about? It’s about content. The practical application of SEO (content) is the very substance of content marketing.

When SEO shouts, “We need more content!” content marketing responds, “Gotcha taken care of!”

SEO demands keywords. Content marketing means using keywords.

Here’s another feature of SEO: Keywords.

No one would argue that a fundamental component of SEO is keywords — researching them, utilizing them, and tracking your ranking of them in the SERPs.

How does one apply the use of keywords? How is all the research funneled into its practical application?

It’s called content marketing. The only way you can use your keywords is to be employing them strategically throughout your content. Content marketing consists of top-notch content, written for humans, and using the keywords that you’re targeting.

Obviously, Panda will nail you if you insist on stuffing your pages with keywords and over optimizing. But when SEO and content marketing do what they’re supposed to do — work in sweet harmony together — you’ll be fine.

SEO demands linkbacks. Content marketing introduces linkbacks.

SEOs dream about linkbacks — a huge, fat, DA 98 linking to your site. Or, an incredibly powerful .edu tossing a link to your blog article.

This SEO dream can only come true if you’re unleashing stellar content through content marketing.

You can build links by contracting with a link building agencies. Some are reputable, some not so much.

But the best way to build links is by publishing killer content, and letting the masses link back to it. This is the real way to continual SEO success.

If you want this important component of SEO, you’ve got to have the indispensable element of content marketing.

The only way to get a linkback — that dangling SEO carrot — is to have content worth linking to.

SEO demands onsite technical optimization. Content marketing needs great UX.

I anticipate that some SEOs may still object to my point, at least in part.

Here’s why. SEO is about more than just blog articles, keywords, and linkbacks. SEO is about optimizing the robots.txt, enhancing metadata, utilizing proper tags, and constructing a strategic sitemap. Technical stuff like that.

Yes, it is. And, yes, this is also tangentially related to content marketing.

This technical optimization is put in place for the good of the user — whether the user is searching, selecting, or reading your content. It’s accurate to think of these enhancements from a user experience (UX) perspective. These technical SEO components are present in order to serve the user and promote your content.

Again, the link between SEO and content is inextricable. Why do you want a good sitemap? So people can more easily find and access your content. Why do you want an optimized robots.txt? So search engines can better crawl your site, and so readers can see the content. Why do you want the right tags in the right places? So your content can get stellar indexing, accurate search results, and more readers of your content.

It all comes back to content.

SEO demands consistent output. Content marketing requires consistent.

Google likes fresh content, and they have for a long time. If you know SEO, you know that fresh content gets rapidly indexed, and registers higher in the SERPs than older low-value content. When this fresh content appears on a site with historic authority, you can be sure that it’s going to have a SERP boost.

Good SEO, then, means consistent output of content. Consistent output means that you’re doing content marketing, and you’re doing it right. There isn’t any way around it.

Content marketing is an active verb, with ongoing action. You don’t just do it, and then stop. You do it, and keep doing it. And on and on.

Content marketing and SEO converge again.


I could continue to discuss applications ad nauseam, but I hope the point is clear: SEO is actually all about content marketing. And content marketing is all about SEO.

Here are two takeaways that I want to leave you with:

1. You’re not an SEO, unless you’re also a content marketer. You’re not a content marketer, unless you’re also an SEO.

I’m not trying to be harsh or unkind, especially if you call yourself an “SEO” or a “Content Marketer” exclusively. That’s fine, and you can keep doing that.

The point I want to make is that your content marketing needs SEO, and your SEO needs content marketing. These are no longer disparate departments with disconnected efforts. An SEO needs to know about content marketing, and vice versa.

I’d love to see these two occupations blend a bit more. I don’t think that the acronym SEOCM (Search Engine Optimization + Content Marketer) is going to take off, but that’s how you can think of yourself.

2. Your SEO campaign will fail unless you integrate content marketing. Your content marketing campaign will fail unless you integrate SEO.

In a recent post, I explained why your content marketing is doomed to fizzle and die without several key features. Each of those features had to do with SEO.

Clearly, content marketing is only going to be successful if it has SEO features. Look at it this way: Your content is going nowhere unless people search and find. In order to make it found, you need SEO.

Bring these two together. Alone, they are impotent. Together, they are dynamite.

How do your SEO and content marketing efforts complement each other?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

  1. Sherman Smith Feb 19, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Hey Neil,

    If you want longevity with your content then you definitely want to integrate SEO with it. From this stand point there is no way around it. Yes content is king but I have seen some seller content that weren’t getting high rankings among search engines and as well as from other metrics. I believe it’s imperative to include SEO in just about every post you create.

    I admit that I haven’t included SEO on every post I created, but for the ones that I have sometimes I would share a link back to the ones that weren’t SEO ready because of its relevancy.

    But yes you have a lot of great points here. You are definitely right that one can’t really live without the other, especially to get organic traffic!

    Thanks for the share Neil! Have a great weekend!

  2. You are right, Neil.

    Any SEO Campaign will fail without proper content marketing. But these contents must be the right kind of contents that people would most likely share online. Because without good number of shares, i really feel SEO or content marketing will not work.

    By right contents what i mean that the information that people are looking for. There are hundreds of contents online about a particular subject. But there are many topics that are yet to be raised, but people are looking for the information. Creating contents on these topics would be the right kind of contents. Great content is not always sufficient. What we need is the right content and then SEO.

    Why write about a topic about which there are already hundreds of great contents? Don’t you think we should write about topics that are not yet discussed actively, but people are interested in. Why don’t we create great contents on that and let people share it.

    In most of the cases, I think SEO won’t even be needed.

  3. Thanks Neil.

    I think you are being very kind to all those naysayers who go about spreading this nonsense about SEO and content marketing. But then, you’ve always been classy. The fact is that SEO and content marketing as so linked that one will not succeed without the other.

    Think of it this way; imagine creating and posting content without adding all those basic SEO elements like title, description? How does Google index it? How will anyone find it?

    What about doing SEO without content? So you spend your days doing all those technical stuff? All day long? How far will that get you? Google is warning that links alone is not going to get anyone far so you need content.

    Like you Neil, when I hear people who know absolutely nothing about SEO say things like SEO is dead or content marketing is overtaking SEO, I shake my head at their level of ignorance. They are either doing SEO wrong, or they have no idea what content marketing is about.

    Good article. Always enjoy reading your articles, here, at Crazy Egg and Quick Sprout.

  4. Hey Neil,

    A few thoughts:

    1. Content marketing, SEO, social media marketing (and more) are all becoming less silo’d. Web marketing as we know it is becoming more holistic because our online behavior continues to adapt and improve. You can’t just rank 1st for “cheap TV” anymore and expect to make money – there are numerous touch points/attribution stages that take place throughout that consumer’s online journey that need to be accounted for as well.

    2. I have to be honest, when I saw the title and read the post I was excited. I’ve been trying to tell others in the SEO community that kick ass content is the MOST important part of SEO. It’s not for ‘link magnet’ content – it’s because of the TYPE of traffic that search engines provide. Search engine traffic isn’t just about point of sale traffic anymore – it’s most valuable at the top of the funnel.

    Your businesses are perfect examples of this – I was hoping you’d provide more insight into that.

    Kissmetrics, CrazyEgg and Quicksprout ( is pushing that way now as well) are literally fueled by content marketing + SEO. You’ve built platforms that provide industry leading content from industry leading experts (ahem, shameless plug, I’ve written for this website before). This brings in millions of targeted, top of the funnel traffic, that are MORE than willing to subscribe, follow of social media and try out your products.

  5. Even though I usually comment over on Quicksprout, but I thought I’d pop over here today… and it’s a good thing I did! Loved this article. We’re in the process of integrating our SEO and content marketing ideas. It’s not that we didn’t use it before–it’s just that it wasn’t as structured as it should have been.

    It’s going to be a challenge to nail it down perfectly, but it’s good to see all the other SEO/content marketing experts agree!

  6. Good article on the close relationship between SEO and Content Marketing. Surely keywords are important and your content needs keyword too. But clearly the old days of links and the old days of SEO are over.

    I’m @fearlesscomp on Twitter if you wish to follow me.

  7. This was a really great read and connection between content and SEO.
    I’ve often blogged about the importance of content and social media marketing. With twitter’s recent integration with Google for have tweets in search results, it could mean that social media may have a definitive impact on SEO in the future. This could happen, but time will tell of course!

  8. So does that mean SEO is no longer dying?

    Great post Neil.

    I remember back in the day on Warrior Forum the huge battles that went back and forth between the content marketers and SEOs.

    Turns out both sides were right.

    Go figure.

  9. I’ve always seen it like: if I had a B&M store, content marketing would be all the product I have on the shelves and SEO is the front door.

    SEO helps to find you, content marketing is what they do once they’re there. What is the point of having shiny things to sell if no-one can find you? What is the point of peole finding you and then you have nothing to offer?

  10. Emiljana Melo Feb 25, 2015 at 7:55 am

    I totally agree with your statement. The role of social media is very important in Marketing. In fact it is very obvious that Marketing will be monitored by Social

  11. Allison Foster Feb 25, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I knew that SEO really works but thanks I have just learned more on it ;)


  12. Thanks Neil.
    I totally agree with your statement. Content marketing plays a major role in seo for organic traffic.

  13. Excellent post Neil.

    I really agree with your statement. Content marketing plays a major role in seo for getting organic pagerank

  14. I enjoyed reading the article even though this was my first time reading about SEO and Content Marketing. I didn’t have any interest about their relationship nor their value until now. To be honest, I thought I was just pretending to understand what was written but surprisingly, I understood it well enough for me to have a comment. Thanks to the hyperlinks that the author provided in his piece.
    Moving forward, I agree with the writer’s main idea and his supporting ideas. After doing some background study about the two subjects involved, I think that each entity play a major role in each other’s success. If one is treated less, the other will fail and vice versa. I see SEO as the map to the hidden treasure which is the Content Marketing. Separating the two would be a bad idea.
    Its a great read. And it made me remember a quote after reading this article, “Two heads are better than one”.

  15. Iam a newbie and had many read posts which referred content marketing and Seo as two different things. Here, for the first time i have read that both are actually one. Thanks for this post.

  16. SEO and contents are complementary to each other. One is not complete without another. It’s very true that SEO demands content and content need SEO because without SEO it can’t be reach to reader inbox. If content is not good then it is worth finding in reader’s inbox. So both need each other.

  17. I’m using SEO content and practical product description sufficient social media but could still come to the level I want, I do not know what more I have to do!

  18. Takeshi Young Apr 20, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    I think most people agree that SEO & Content Marketing are interrelated. However, this article paints too narrow a picture of SEO. There are many aspects of SEO that have nothing to do with content marketing, such as site architecture, semantic markup, Knowledge Graph integration, etc. While content can be a powerful way to attract links, there are also many methods of link building that don’t require content at all.

    So while the two ideas are related, not everything an SEO does has to do with content, and not everything a content marketer does is related to SEO.

  19. Very Important Article.. It gives clear idea to those peoples who don’t understand what is Content Marketing and how to do it. What is the benefit of content marketing and all.

    I really like to read this article.

    Thank you :-)


  20. Good information, as usual.
    The truth is that it’s not given the importance it has to content… until Google penalizes. We have always heard that “content is the king” and becoming more real.

  21. When was this written? It would be nice if you added a date so I know how old this information is.


  22. Nice article on content marketing! As we know that content marketing is very important in SEO.

  23. I’ve always said SEO is about helping Google (and other SEs) understand what your content is about, in tandem with a focus on quality content. Unfortunately too many SEOers, especially in the IM industry, see SEO as trying to manipulate poor content to the top. They’re continually battling with Google … instead of just working with them to get more readers to your content. The latter makes much more sense, and I know is your own approach.

  24. I don’t think you have to be a content marketer yourself to be a good SEO. At large organizations these are separate roles. What you do need to do, however, is work extremely close.

  25. The big challenge in SEO now is to find content marketers who are actually good enough to drive engagement.and build an audience big enough to make a difference. The only companies that can afford that level of content marketer are the ones with the deep pockets. Smaller business owners are forced to sink or swim by their own efforts or take risks employing SEO agencies who themselves often don’t have skilled content marketers able to produce the right level of content.

  26. Jacob Varghese Jan 18, 2016 at 9:15 am

    The overlaps between SEO and content are usually ignored when agencies specialize in just one aspect of marketing e.g.: technical, on-page SEO.

    Unsuspecting clients usually end up paying for incomplete SEO services. I actually think the most effective marketing is when you integrate not only content marketing and SEO but also see email, paid search, customer service etc as integral components of the marketing mix playing off each other.

  27. Hey, I am new into online marketing. As I am reading your articles I am learning amazing new stuff – what kind of niches would you guys recommend for 2016?

    Besides marketing OBVIOUSLY, haha!

  28. Norman Risner Jan 28, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    With thin low quality content, it doesn’t matter how much SEO you implement because you aren’t going to succeed. Content marketing is about providing blow out of the water content that visitors will follow and share. Embedding a video in your content surely sends a good quality signal to Google.

  29. “When SEO shouts, “We need more content!” content marketing responds, “Gotcha taken care of!”

    I thought Content shouts “We need more SEO to make us seen better around the web!”

  30. “SEO demands onsite technical optimization. Content marketing needs great UX.” I really like this line. It makes the complexity a little simpler and easier to understand.

    I don’t think my clients understand how much UX impacts their marketing.

  31. Good SEO all boils down to writing quality Evergreen content. The one thing many content marketers don’t know to this very day is the longer the pages they publish and the more meaningful relationships they build, the faster they improve their natural search engine rankings, the faster they improve their advertising revenue from promoting affiliate programs on blogs and websites, the more likes they get from people on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, and free advertising from people on social networks by way of sharing links to their published Evergreen pages on social networking profiles.

  32. As always, great article Neil,

    However, I feel though important, there is an over emphasis of creating content based on a keyword research done. I believe Google has gotten wise to this and how content is written with too much or too little keyword weightage can literally mean being ranked in prime real estate or the boondogs.

    Fact is, if rankings is the prime motivation for creating content, then the other factors for ranking should be taken fully into consideration, like sitemaps, schema markups and a whole bunch of other little conditions.

    I guess we are getting back to basics with free traffic again, since Facebook is no longer giving the kind of reach that it used to with a mere post. Then it is back to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM).


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