Why SEO is sabotaging your content marketing

Why SEO is sabotaging your content marketing

John Rampton is the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Host, a hosting company specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. Connect with him @johnrampton.


Your SEO and content marketing strategies have the potential to work beautifully together. In fact, I’d argue you can no longer successfully pull one off without the other.

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But a problem arises when your SEO strategies actually start hurting your content marketing efforts. It’s not just about using outdated or ineffective SEO strategies either, although this is certainly one of the major culprits. It’s also about not allowing one strategy to work with and inform the other.

Fortunately, it is not difficult for the two to work in harmony if you know what to look for. Here are five ways your current SEO strategies may actually be sabotaging your content marketing efforts:

1. Your focus on targeting short-tail keywords is leading to thin content

A few years ago, building a piece of content around a particular keyword or phrase was the norm. Using this strategy, you could usually attain high rankings with relative ease. The problem, of course, was this type of ‘thin’ content was often low-quality and generally unappealing to actual human readers.

Since the release of Google’s Panda, we know this strategy is no longer effective for SEO (and may actually trigger an algorithmic or manual penalty). And yet, many businesses are still putting out crap.

Instead, focus on creating long-form content that covers every aspect of a topic. Focus less on individual keywords, and more on a whole host of search phrases related to your topic. What will your target market want to know about this topic? How can you add true value to this conversation? What related topics or supplementary information can you add to make this content even more valuable? These are far more important questions to be asking than, “Did I include my keyword x times on this page?”

2. Guest posting on low-quality sites is hurting your entire site

blogging secrets

There has been much controversy over the past year or two when it comes to guest posting. While guest posting can be an integral part of a successful content marketing strategy, we know that using it solely as a link-building strategy is no longer effective (and is actually frowned upon by Google).

And yet, many marketers are still farming out reams of content to whoever will take it, in the hopes that it will still pass on minute amounts of link juice. What they’re finding, however, is not that their rankings and authority are steadily increasing, but that their reputation and rankings are actually being harmed by this strategy.

In fact, Search Engine Land covered one situation in which an entire site appears to have been penalized because of one bad guest post.

My best advice is to be extra-cautious when deciding which sites to contribute to. Well-known sites like Forbes or Huffington Post are no-brainers, but what about smaller, niche sites? Some factors to help you determine the trustworthiness and authority of a site include:

  • Number of social media fans and followers (and engagement)
  • Number of email subscribers
  • Frequency and recency of blog posts
  • Caliber of guest posters they usually use
  • Number and quality of links pointing to the site

3. You’re syndicating your content without using rel=canonical

The volume of content that needs to be produced as part of a content marketing strategy can be mind-boggling. Syndicating content on your site can be a great way to minimize this problem, as it means having a steady stream of high-quality content available to you.

Syndicating your content on other high-quality sites can also be a great strategy for gaining traction, readers and potential customers. The problem comes, however, when you’re constantly getting your original content syndicated without taking the proper steps to ensure Google knows exactly who the creator is.

The best way is through rel=canonical. When syndicating your content on another site, first ask whether they use this element. This will help you avoid duplicate content issues and ensure your rankings are consolidated to your original URL.

4. You’re focusing on your mobile SEO strategy to the exclusion of your mobile content strategy

You’re probably getting a little tired of hearing about the importance of a mobile SEO strategy. We get it: Mobile SEO is super important.

We’ve gotten pretty good at making sure our sites are accessible via mobile, that our mobile-friendly pages link to other mobile-friendly pages, and that our buttons are the right size for our mobile visitors. In other words, we at least have a basic understanding of the technical elements of mobile SEO.

But where we’re still lacking is when it comes to a mobile content strategy.

  • Do you know how and where your website visitors, email subscribers and social media followers are accessing and consuming your content?
  • Are you paying special attention to your headlines and lead-ins in order to attract busy, on-the-go mobile users?
  • Are you aware of what content formats your mobile visitors prefer?

These are all critical questions to ask yourself that take you a step beyond a basic mobile SEO strategy.

5. You’re not letting your keyword research inform your content

keyboard typing

There’s much we can learn from our keyword research that can inform and improve our content. When doing keyword research (yes, this is still a useful and beneficial task in 2015), you should be using your research to inform yourself about all the various angles and topics you could cover on a particular theme.

Your keyword research should give you a deeper and more complete understanding of what your customers are looking for. Rather than writing content and then doing keyword research as an afterthought, let your research give a broader understanding of the needs and interests of your target market.

The bottom line: Content marketing and SEO work best when done together. Content marketing isn’t “the new SEO,” and SEO alone isn’t going to drive traffic to your site. They need to work in harmony in order to achieve high rankings and ultimately provide value to your audience.

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