Content Marketing Versus SEO: Epic Rap Battles of Geekery

Let’s be honest, your customers think about you as often as you think about your own vendors.

Not at all.

You are not the first thing on your customers’ minds when they wake up in the morning, you’re not the last thing they think about when they go to bed, and you didn’t pop up anywhere in between either.

Your customers have a job to do, and they’re focused on getting it done. And until that thing you sell breaks or runs out, they don’t give you a second thought.

Which means, all your work and worry about being a thought leader in your industry, and writing blog posts that they’ll love and read aloud during departmental meetings before they’re posted on the break room fridge has all been for naught.

“But, but. . . the guy who wrote that book said we should do that. He said people were craving my content!”

Okay, yeah, I said that. But did you think about me at all until just now?

Let’s try this again: how much did you think about your middle-of-the-road vendor? Not the person who sells you your raw materials — the coffee for the coffee shop, or the #10 envelopes for the direct mail company — but the person who does the stuff you don’t think about until the bill comes in the mail?

Do you really think about your floor mats at the front door of your coffee shop? Do you yearn to read a 300th blog post on best accounting practices for direct marketing companies?

So why should your customers care about you?

They don’t. And you should stop caring about them. Stop writing for them. Stop trying to impress them. They’re the pretty girl from 5th grade who said you were best friends, but you had to be secret best friends.

They aren’t the ones you should be writing for.

You need to focus on the searchers. The people who are cruising Google and Bing trying to find a solution to their problems. Those are the people who have been coming to your website.

Don’t believe me? Check your Google Analytics, and see what percentage of returning visitors you have to your website. If it’s more than 50%, I’ll buy you lunch.

Everyone else, the remaining 85 – 90% (come on, who are we kidding?) are new visitors. They came there because they found you on one of the search engines, or they saw your blog post on Twitter, or a friend forwarded it to them on LinkedIn or Facebook.

That’s who you need to impress. They’re not your customers, but if you play your cards right, they could be.

Returning Visitor stats

If these people came from search engine traffic, what the hell are they searching for?! I write jokes about boogers and the Oxford comma!

Content Marketing + SEO = Big Dreamy Marketing Love

There’s been a big Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots argument in the online marketing world about which is more important, content marketing or SEO.

(It’s content marketing, but I say that with an asterisk.)

The debate comes down to this:

SEO pros: If it wasn’t for us, no one would know how to find you.
Content marketers: Oh yeah? If it wasn’t for us, you wouldn’t have anything decent to optimize. Not that that’s stopped you before.
SEO pros: Jerk!
Content marketers: Fartface!

Clearly — because I hate seeing the grown-ups fight — one is going to always beget the other, like a snake eating its tail. You can’t have SEO without content, but no one is going to find your content without SEO.

(Here’s the asterisk)* If I had to choose, I would always choose content, because you at least have a chance of people stumbling upon it. My No Bullshit Social Media co-author Jason Falls did not optimize any of his content until last spring, and still managed to garner as many as 30,000 site visitors per month, by writing good stuff. Compare that to a Midwest SEO pro we know who could barely crack 10,000. He also frequently has 50%+ returning visitors, and yes, I already bought him lunch.

So What Does That Mean For My Content Marketing?

It means write for search, but write well. It means produce your absolute best work, and then make sure people can find it.

The problem with an SEO-only strategy is that while it brings in visitors, none of them stick around and buy anything, because the content is crap.

That means, flex those writing muscles, and be a content superstar. Write the best content you can. Mold history, shape the world, change lives with your very words. As your analytics showed you, you’ve got one shot at impressing your visitors. Just because they showed up doesn’t guarantee they’ll be back. So give them your A material, and hope it’s enough to get them into your sales funnel, so you can turn them into regular paying customers, or get them to join the small percentage of people who read all of your content (and are not your mother).

So they can forget all about you too, until that thing you sell breaks or runs out.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.


    1. Love, love this post! Of course, you’re sort of rubbing our faces in our own egos, but that’s refreshing.