Why Content Marketing Is Not The New SEO

2013 was definitely the year of Content Marketing.
Well, it took off in 2013, but actually it is nothing new.
In terms of SEO.


There’s only one problem with content marketing.
Don’t get me wrong.
I totally agree, it helps your SEO,
but it is not the core …


You shouldn’t sell it as SEO!
Let me tell you why.

I’m a fan of Neil his work & site.
He did some cool stuff & his posts are always fun to read.
One of his posts is called “Why Content Marketing Is The New SEO“, and frankly, I think he forgot to tell you more about this topic.

Did you notice?
Neil & his, sometimes sneaky/clever, way of building traffic.
He was right on time ;) (again)
He made this post before the hype really took off.

I bet it got him lots of traffic & probably subscribers too.
This is a great way to claim a topic in the industry.
Not sure he claimed it, but he’s ranking number one here in Belgium so…
Job well done, Neil!

Rand Fishkin talked about it in one of the Whiteboard Friday episodes, a few episodes back. This one (Thank you Rand for getting back at me). I’m sorry I can’t find that episode to provide you guys with a link.

Imagine if you could do this for your niche.
Would be great, no?

SEO is still about getting the technical basics right first!

First things first. SEO is still SEO like it was back in the days.
Hardcore technical optimisation. Still is today.
Call it technical SEO.

It still matters.

You should always cover the basics,
unless the effort is more expensive than the return.
I come from a pure SEO background,
and, actually, you need the stop worrying by the details.
Get the basics in order. The Pareto Principle.

Know when to stop

With this, I want to highlight a certain treshold for that 80/20 principal. For small to mediocre traffic sites you should stop at the 80%.

For big sites, a S/FMCG or big e-commerce website  for instance, that extra 20% can be interesting because of the scale you’re working on. If I can improve my SEO by only 1%, at this level, that’s a big impact. Incremental gains!

If getting your basics for SEO right take too much time, your infrastructure is probably not the best one you’ve build so far

Small and mediocre sites should focus on building their brand first before they start doing the incremental SEO stuff.
The big boys got their branding already covered. They’re playing at a whole other level & have bigger budgets.

Remember that. They can afford to go after that last 20%. You can’t. You should focus on other stuff. That’s were content marketing can be a solution.

The way I see it,
there are two types of content marketing,
and it is not replacing SEO!

  1. Content marketing for SEO
  2. Content marketing for branding

You might have some subdivisions,
but in the end, it comes down to these two.

Content marketing for SEO

Actually it is fairly simple.
Content marketing for SEO is the SEO you did like you’re already used to do.

  1. Doing keyword research
  2. Finding & matching clusters of keywords
  3. Making Kick-ass content (doesn’t matter what type; text, images, videos, brochures, tools, …)
  4. Integrate it on your website
  5. Spread the word – reach out to customers (optional)

That last one, is actually not needed.
Well… it helps you to get the links, but… you don’t need it right away.

Yes, links do matter. And it also depends on the competition, but, you might be surprised how much traffic you can get by placing good content on your site, in the right place in your website structure without building any extra link. For +4 months old websites that is.

Why 4 months?
I’ve noticed, here in Belgium, that it only takes 4 months to grow a solid base of traffic.
I’ve launched a few dozen sites so far and the pattern is almost identical. It takes an average of 4 months to get a decent (as in qualitative) & solid amount of traffic here in Belgium.

Don’t get me wrong. You will put in some long hours to build that solid base, but you’ll get it. For sure!
After that, you can scale, in terms of building more traffic by launching those clusters you made out of your research.

Building traffic ol’skool – still works fine

An example to show you.
A few years back, I bought a new domain to fool around with some affiliate and Google Adsense.
I didn’t knew shit about that stuff back then, so I set up a WordPress site, bought me a theme, got a small funny logo designed by a friend, claimed a Twitter account & Facebook page and started writing.

I also need to mention, I only added three links to my domain. Three. Nothing more. Nothing less. I wanted to test how I could build traffic with only adding content. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Why those three links?
I needed a way to index my site. So I picked three sites I could easily add my own links.

  • A link from a niche directory
    (Domain Authority: 61 – Page Authority: 47)
  • A comment on a blog on a large platform
    (Domain Authority: 56 – Page Authority: 33)
  • A link from a US hosted website
    (Domain Authority: +90 – Page Authority: 1)

Within a few weeks, got some fairly amount of traffic.
I started by the end of  may 2011. Got my first traffic begin of july.
By september, 4 months later, the website had about 2.000 visits.
That makes an average of 500 visits per month.

By then, I had a good idea what content drove traffic and what didn’t. So I started to focus on specific topics with text, images and even some calculations.
Something my competitors didn’t.

By the beginning of january 2012,
I had over 6.000 visits on the website so far.
That’s an average of about 900 visits a month.

A year later, I got noted an average of 1.300 visits a month.
And it went on. It might not seem a lot, but it proved that building content on a website, can increase visits without adding any extra link what so ever.

What did i do?
I invested in writing evergreen content.
Nothing else. I answered peoples questions with content & calculations to help the figure out their solution.


This way of executing content marketing is excellent for an early stage in SEO. You should do this first. If your customer doesn’t get the impact of branding, start with this.

The purely SEO side of content marketing: building traffic by placing good content on the website.
Nothing else. Focus on that.

It will convince your client that you know what you’re doing,
and you’ll get much more done from him later on,
if you want to pick up content marketing, as it should be.

So. think about the term “Content marketing”.
It depends on its context.

What Content Marketing Really Is About

Honestly? I’ve been struggling to help clients see the difference.
It’s hard. Convincing clients to invest in content that I cannot predict the return from.

Inside yourself, deep deep inside yourself, you just _know_ it will work, but… how hard are you willing to work for it & invest in this content?

And then I stumbled upon Chris his video.
I highly recommend you to watch this video.
He describes content marketing perfectly!
You should sign up for his channel. Really.

Most clients: “Damn… I need to act real”?

Compagnies with a long-term vision will invest more than compagnies that are just in it for the money.

Personally, I don’t want to work with clients that have no vision, at all. They’re really hard to convince, everything needs to have an immediate return & they’re most likely not willing to walk the extra mile for their business.

Actually it is fairly simple to recognize the types of customers you don’t want:

  • Their first e-mail contains currency symbols or something that is related
  • They want to earn more money … wait for it… wait for it… it ends there – they don’t talk about solving a customers problem or finding that customers online (as an extra channel)

There are always one that slip through the net,
but that’s how it is. You’ll get better at it with time & practice.

Why You Shouldn’t Sell Content Marketing As SEO

Content Marketing is being sold most of the times for SEO purposes, under that umbrella. Is it the best way to stick it under the category SEO?

I don’t think so.

Sure.. sell it. Like SEO or for the purpose of SEO.
and you’ll be stuck forever.

Actually, SEO is not the correct term here.
SEO has always been about optimizing your site for search engines, hence the existence of SEO copywriting, sigh.

You’ll make landing pages,
You’ll get traffic,
but that’s it. For now.

Ask yourself this:
Do people love my brand (even) more now?
Probably yes, but not that much. If you’ve skipped Chris’ video, pls, just watch it.

He’s bang on.
People need to love you.
Actually, all of us (and yes your competitor too) can build traffic by adding value in the shape of

  • better product descriptions
  • how to guides
  • explanatory movies

That’s the easy part.
But in the end.. why do they pick you?
Why do they tell others?

Yes, the product & the service is a big part of it all,
But why _you_?
Why not that other dude with that company that sells that same product (even cheaper)?


Because they stink. And you are genuine!
Why go pro does shit
Why red bull does shit

There’s a very thin line between storytelling & content marketing – use it.

Focus on what works first

Maybe another good advice for content marketing.
It’s a different approach too. If you’re defining & clustering your keywords into landing pages and so on.. you’re building new traffic, for new clusters and maybe don’t have a clue yet whether that traffic will generate revenue.

Content marketing is different.
Here’s the twist: it can leverage your brand, but also a product and therefore revenue. Not by investing in new clusters of keywords & content, but by building content that works on top things that already work or exist.

Moving the needle online equals Building on top of things that already work!

Should I sell content marketing as the new SEO?


If you want to sell it, You should call it, at least, traffic generation or traffic building.

If you talk branding to a client, they probably will ask you how much this will contribute to generating traffic to their site. That’s hard to predict. Call it traffic generation. It’s more straightforward & understandable. Branding is still a fluffy word with lots of context.

“But. Dries. It’s hard for a small company”

I know. It’s the budget that’s holding you back, isn’t it? Or the resources? That’s why you need to build a story (content marketing) on top of something that already works.
If it fails, you still have your sales & at least you tried and got a good taste of what content marketing is, how you handled it and you’ve experienced what’s the effort that goes into it.

If it succeeds, it could double or triple your sales.

That’s building a brand. Not SEO.
Organic traffic is the extra cream you get on top of the Content Marketing.

If you want to know what is working for you, you might give Darwin Analytics a try.
They specialize in attributing outcomes to channels.

TL;DR – Define Content Marketing for your business

  • Define your types of Content Marketing for your business
  • Invest in the basics first: technical SEO & evergreen content topics
  • Test clusters – find out what works & what doesn’t
  • Think how you can leverage on what already works to bring a good story or content marketing strategy
  • Try to repeat the process

Take your time & don’t panic.
Keep working.

Get in touch

by simply sending me an e-mail at dries@driesbultynck.com
or fill in the form below.