This question is one that has been asked of me frequently since setting this site up, and the answer is of course not a straight forward one. This is due to the fact that they are not separate. Search engine traffic is often a goal (and result) of great content marketing. But it’s rarely a standalone strategy.
On the flip side, sometimes SEO is part of your content marketing strategy. Other times, it is not. This depends on your target market, their needs, and where they live. It all begins by understanding your audience and crafting a strategy around their needs and behaviours. I would always recommend thinking about both aspects.
Let’s look at each in basic terms.
You create content in order to attract your desired audience and then turn them into customers.
In this case, you are not necessarily saying that you need to rely on search engines to find your audience. There are other channels available. You could use paid promotion through social media, email marketing, and other ways of using your content to attract the audience.
The defining factor is who you are trying to reach and how they find/consume content relayed your market/industry.
You use content and optimization to improve your ranking in search engines.
SEO is largely built on the creation of content. Having relevant content targeted at specific keywords + building links through content are both often used as tactics for improving a site’s overall SEO.
But, it’s not 100% necessary in every case. Imagine that Google never existed—you could still use content marketing through other channels (social, email, etc) to reach and attract your target audience.
Content marketing + SEO:
In reality, most successful companies use content marketing as a driver for SEO.
You use content as both a way to attract links to your website and increase your domain authority (which improves your rankings across the board):
And, in addition, you can use content marketing as a way to increase you website’s overall footprint in search—targeting a larger number of keywords and a broader number of search queries.
This kind of content—stuff that’s mapped to specific keywords and built specifically for a search strategy—is often called “evergreen content,” That’s because it’s not newsworthy or topical per se, but it has year-round appeal from a search perspective
In the case of your company, I don’t know exactly what strategy you should pursue. But, I can tell you that content and SEO generally work together.
Use SEO as a way to drive traffic to your content.
Then, figure out how to capture that traffic (lead generation, content upgrades, email subscribers, etc) and turn them into leads.
This is the basis for any solid digital marketing strategy—using both content and SEO to reach your desired audience, bring them to your website, and then turn them into leads/prospects/customers.