Engagement, Not Keywords: The Merging of SEO and Content Marketing

SEO used to be pure science. Earning high search rankings meant striking the right keyword density, maximizing backlinks and making sure each element of your website was as optimized as possible. Recently, though, the nature of SEO has shifted. Content relevance is in, and keyword density is out. What does this paradigm shift mean for business owners? That’s what we’ll review in this post.

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SEO used to be pure science. Earning high search rankings meant striking the right keyword density, maximizing backlinks and making sure each element of your website was as optimized as possible. Google’s algorithms, which have set the course of SEO for years, were tuned to recognize websites that provided good user experiences.

Recently, though, the nature of SEO has shifted. It hasn’t completely changed — the goal of SEO is still to convince a computer algorithm that your site is worthy of a top ranking — but human elements are more prominent in the equation. For example, content relevance is in, and keyword density is out. Backlink quality is also in; sheer backlink volume is out. The list goes on.

What does this paradigm shift mean for business owners? That’s what we’ll review in this post.

The Role of Machine Learning

Before delving deeper into the what, let’s first focus on the how.

During the last decade, Google’s data analytics gurus were the driving forces behind the company’s SEO-defining search algorithm. However, that started to change. By 2012, machine learning was contributing to quality scores in Google AdWords, and now machine learning plays an integral role in shaping the company’s search engine algorithm updates.

What is machine learning? Simply put, it’s artificial intelligence — programs making predictions or determinations based on a wide range of signals or parameters.

Google’s human analytics experts still have the final say over how their algorithm is changed. However, their adjustments are now based on tests and predictions from untold volumes of data processed via machine learning. Google also uses a machine learning system called RankBrain to interpret what people are looking for.

Thanks to machine learning, Google can look deeper into the signals that make websites worthwhile. And as a result, superficial factors such as keyword density and link volume are giving way to meatier, more organic flags.

Content Marketing: Giving People What They Need

Producing SEO-friendly content is as easy today as it was 10 years ago. In some ways, it’s actually easier. A unique, straightforward article is more valuable than a similar article that’s awkwardly stuffed with several keyword variations.

But good content in 2017 isn’t about single blog posts or articles – rather, it’s about content marketing. In this arm of marketing, content is created and distributed with the goals of building your audience, promoting your brand or satisfying customers at all levels of the research and buying processes. Under the old rules of SEO, marketers tuned their content to directly correspond with users’ search queries.

Content marketing is all about connecting with people’s wants and needs — that’s a substantial difference.