For some reason, as SEOs we think it is our job to do everything.
Content marketing has quickly grown in popularity within the digital marketing industry and of course we SEOs have deemed this our responsibility.
However, it’s not an SEO’s job to create content.
I want to explain why we SEOs should stop trying to take on content creation so we can get back to focusing on making websites perform better in search.
Content Creation Is Hard
Creating content is freakin’ hard.
Successful content doesn’t happen by accident – a lot of hard work, creativity, and planning goes into effective content marketing. As SEOs we commonly underestimate the amount of effort involved in creating popular content.
Creating compelling and engaging content requires a full team of skilled individuals. The content creation process has many facets and a proper content team will consist of employees from multiple backgrounds. Some of these people include:
Assuming SEOs can fulfill the roles of all these people by themselves is a huge mistake. Finding a single person that excels in all the various areas required to create successful content on a consistent basis is highly unlikely.
Outstanding content is typically the product of a coordinated team effort. Moreover, the skills necessary for content creation aren’t naturally found within an SEO. Some SEOs may have those skills, but they traditionally aren’t there.
Even if you were somehow able to handle all these various aspects alone, it would still take a great deal of time. Content creation takes time – time that SEOs typically do not have. If we were to focus all our time on content creation it wouldn’t leave much time to do actual optimization work.
Regularly crafting successful content takes a dedicated team of skilled people from a variety of backgrounds. Attempting to replicate this with a single person or group of people with a single skillset and lack of necessary training is foolish.
As SEOs we should simply leave the content creation to those who are better equipped to execute it effectively. That doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t be involved.
We Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Collaborate
Another thing we need to learn as SEOs is that it’s alright to collaborate with others.
Let’s be honest, SEO as an industry hasn’t always been portrayed in the most flattering light to the general public, and it seems every year we see a new article on a major publication declaring SEO is dead.
So it’s no surprise that SEOs tend to be a bit defensive about our industry and work. However, this does not mean we cannot work effectively with people in other marketing disciplines. If we want to become legitimate marketers, SEOs need to learn to collaborate with other departments.
Successful online marketing is comprehensive and incorporates aspects from multiple digital strategies (SEO, content marketing, PPC, PR, etc.). SEOs can maximize their efficiency by combining efforts with other online marketers – specifically those in content marketing.
Now let’s be clear, SEO and content marketing are two completely different practices.
Although SEO and content marketing are indeed separate strategies, they are also complementary. Specifically, content marketing can really supercharge link-building - leveraging great content is the easiest way to build real and worthwhile links. Especially considering content specialists aren’t always the best at promoting content – this is where SEOs can help.
But commonly SEOs make the mistake of assuming too much responsibility. We know that content can boost link-building efficiency so we decide it should be our job to create that content and make life easier for ourselves. Unfortunately by doing this we tend to spread ourselves too thin, which leads to shoddy content and is also detrimental to our SEO work. We’ve all seen really bad content made by SEOs trying to build links – many SEOs simply don’t have the skills needed to create great content.
If we would simply collaborate more with those in other marketing disciplines it would not only make our job easier, but more effective. Content creation should be left to those who are qualified to do it. Just like SEO, content creation requires precise skills and training, and SEOs lack that proficiency.
However, this does not necessarily mean SEOs should be completely removed from the content creation process – the key is collaboration. As SEOs we have unique insights into how content might perform, and it is important that we remain involved in the process to offer this perspective. SEOs can be particularly helpful during the content ideation process by:
Offering content suggestions based on past performance (links) of existing content
Analyzing the competition’s content to see what has worked in the past
Evaluating niches to identify potential content gaps that could be filled
Brian Dean wrote about a similar process which he refers to as the "skyscraper technique" here.
SEOs possess the analytical minds and skills to contribute to content ideation. The actual content creation should still be left up to the experts, but SEOs can certainly provide assistance to the content ideation process in an advisory role.
Effective online marketing requires a holistic approach, and consequently open collaboration between numerous digital marketing specialists.
SEOs Don’t Need to Create Content
Finally, SEOs don’t need to create content.
When we let the content creation specialists handle the creation of content, it allows us to focus on what we do best – SEO.
Once excellent content has been created we can concentrate on optimizing that content for search. This is much more in our wheelhouse as SEOs excel at optimizing and promoting content.
For example, take a great piece of content like this from Jeep.com:
It’s a map of trails recommended by Jeep. This is an incredible piece of content that should have a large number of inbound links and linking domains right? Wrong, according to Open Site Explorer this content has just seven linking domains:
This is a perfect example of where superb content has already been created, but not heavily promoted. This is precisely where an experienced SEO could step in and leverage this content for the links it deserves.
Furthermore, while exceptional content can maximize SEO effort in terms of link-building, content is not wholly necessary for building links. It can be a bit more difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible to build links without content.
SEOs should focus on optimizing for search, and the activities and techniques that achieve SEO goals. Although crafting high-grade content can be beneficial for SEO in many respects, the true potential of that content will never be realized without an SEO helping guide the process and promoting afterward.
SEO has its own merit and value, and it is not dependent on content. The growth and development of content marketing has led many SEOs to assume they must create content as well. However, this is not true – not only is content creation something SEOs are ill-equipped to handle, but it’s simply not their responsibility.
Identifying quality content and devising ways to leverage that content for worthwhile links has always been part of an SEO’s duties, but this does not require actual content creation. As SEOs we must learn to collaborate with other departments, like content creators, to achieve overarching marketing goals.
Traditionally, the skills necessary for content creation are not inherent in SEOs. Advising during content ideation and promoting first-class content once it’s produced are much more in our wheelhouse. SEOs should be an integral part of any online marketing initiative and by working with other departments effectively we can further demonstrate our value.
Plainly stated the job of an SEO is to optimize for search, and that can involve content. But it’s not an SEO’s job to create content and we shouldn’t place this burden on our shoulders alone.