Get That Into Your Head Already!
An interesting problem that we run into regularly is that a client hires us to do business communications, such as press releases, blog posts, web content etc. That's great, but what the client also does is hire an SEO firm to do whatever it is they need to do. It's a problem because there are now two competing entities to do the same thing. Search engine optimization and content creation are the same thing! You only need one to accomplish both!
Without Content, What Will People Find on the Search Engines?
Perhaps there are technical aspects that the SEO firm emphasizes, like server capability, load times, and 301 redirects. Google's latest algorithm change, Google Hummingbird, emphasizes mobile search and the use of voice to conduct searches. Although we can provide the content, we wouldn't have anything to do with creating the mobile site and making sure that site works correctly. In those cases, an SEO firm might be best.
However, as we found with our problem, the SEO firm hired is tasked to do original content as well. Even though more quality, original content is better than less, there's no good reason to have both if all you want is original content. After all, if you don't spend time creating content, then what's going to come up under the keywords for which you want to rank? Yes, factors like domain name, meta description, backlinks, and social media matter, but even optimizing those aspects won't help with your search engine rankings if your content is thin, irrelevant, or just horrible. Businesses engaging in content marketing and business blogging need to understand that getting found online is only half of the story. You also need to think about what people will find when they do find you online, and that's when you need to think about the content.
It's the latter half of getting found online that's so difficult to get into the heads of small business owners and marketers who want to rank high on the search engines. Part of the importance in understanding this is that content marketing will get you there if you do it right. Search engine optimization isn't about gaming the search engines, and focusing on SEO without thinking about the content can get you into trouble. There are many SEO practices that may have been good at one point, but will now get you into trouble. These include keyword stuffing, overloaded keyword density, and cloaked pages. One of the newest "black hat techniques" is to add fake positive reviews on sites like Google+ and Yelp. Reviews on both sites show up on search engine rankings, so there's an incentive to do what it takes to get the positive ones. However, paying someone to write reviews or to add positive reviews of your own does violate the ethics guidelines of both sites.
The Two Aren't Competing. They Work Together.
Because they work together, hiring both a content marketing company (or writers, bloggers, content creators) and an SEO firm/consultant is redundant and a waste of money. Although it's obvious we're going to say that the money should be put on the content creators, the decision is ultimately up to you. The main point is that they work together, and that content is SEO because it's content that's showing up in the search engine rankings and it's content that people will find when they type in search terms. It's possible to create content that's search-engine friendly but also engaging and entertaining, so figure out how to do that and everything will fall into place.