Why Content Strategy Beats SEO

May 7, 2014

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) grew from a buzzword to a staple of online business - and rightfully so. Search Engines are the largest source of traffic to almost every website and shape the digital footprint of an organization. However, more sophisticated search engine algorithms have neutralized the dark arts of SEO (keyword spamming and paying for a bunch of garbage links). Even core SEO practices, which consist of minor tweaks to phrasing and structure, are becoming less and less effective.

While no one (aside from the Search Engine’s themselves) knows the exact alterations being made to these algorithms, one thing’s clear – rankings are increasingly tied to the relevance of the information on the landing page. This shift means companies practicing Content Strategy are for more likely to occupy the top rungs of the search ladder than those using traditional SEO - here’s why.

Content Strategy Plays within Search Engine Rules

The reasons for the deterioration of traditional SEO are simple:

  1. The validity of a search engine is determined by the user’s trust in its results.
  2. Search engines make their profit by selling advertising.

If Google, Bing, and Yahoo allow companies to get to the top of their rankings through SEO, then the value of their advertising space and perceived trust is greatly decreased. After all, why would a company pay to be listed at the top of Google when they can just “beat the system”?

Unlike SEO, which achieves results by manipulating the rules, Content Strategy seeks to win the game. Search engines have told businesses that useful information will be rewarded, so that’s what content strategy delivers – material addressing customers' needs based on their specific queries. This approach means that, so long as the overall goal of search engines remains “to quickly provide good information”, your content will not be diminished by changes to algorithms.

Content Strategy Targets More Keywords and Phrases

Since SEO relies on structure and layout for success, you are forced to target specific instances of any keyword or phrase. Content Strategy builds longer, conversational copy around keywords, covering more variations of the phrase while still being readable. In addition, these variations (known as long-tails) have much less competition than the base keyword.

For example, if you’re a company that makes fiberglass doors, SEO would suggest that you try to rise in the rankings for “fiberglass door” by competing directly for the keyword. In contrast, you could use Content Strategy to create information on your website for “steel and fiberglass door comparison”, “fiberglass door life expectancy” and “fiberglass door installation”. Not only are these helpful topics for your target market, but they offer a chance to weave in the competitive advantage of your organization. Since all these phrases contain “fiberglass door” your ranking for this term will increase as well.

Content Strategy Gets Quality Links

The days of buying up directory and link database listings to vault your ranking are gone. While the number of links is still valued, the perceived quality of these links (and the traffic from them) is much more significant. Content strategy produces material that gets shared by these reputable sources - answers to common questions, pains within your industry, how-to-guides and regulatory webinars. Just think, when was the last time you saw a customer or news website share a really great product description or press release?

Content Strategy Creates Material with a Longer Lifespan

The quickest way to get to the top of Google is pay-per-click. While there’s no denying that it's effective, it’s also temporary. A bunch of people clicking on your ad may generate more awareness, but will not in itself increase your organic search ranking – the second you stop paying, you disappear. Similarly, SEO tactics are at the mercy of tweaks to a search engine’s algorithm.

While Content Strategy may not produce the same immediate results as PPC or the meteoric rise in ranking once associated with SEO, the material you create will last exponentially longer. Organic content needs to gain validity (shares, visits, engagement) before it’s ranked highly. This means that once a piece of content reaches the first page of a search engine, it’s going to stay there until something of more merit takes its place.