At WooRank, we like to define SEO as “the strategies, tactics and techniques used to rank highly in search engine results for the keywords used by your target audience in order to increase your reach and conversions.” However, marketers and website owners have to decide which tactics and techniques to focus on. Especially those with smaller teams, or doing it all themselves.
Often, this decision comes down to choosing technical SEO vs. content.
But which one is more important? Where should you focus your time and effort?
What Is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is, basically, the way your website is setup to help search engines read and/or interpret your page content, and to provide humans with a great user experience.
Technical SEO includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Robots.txt: Text files that live in your website’s root directory, robots.txt is a set of instructions that tell crawlers what they can and can’t crawl. Disallow low value pages, duplicate pages and other content you don’t want indexed.
- Meta robots tag: Similar to robots.txt, the meta robots tag uses the content=”” attribute to tell crawlers not to index a page (NoIndex), and/or follow any of the page’s links (NoFollow). Note that the NoFollow command applies to the whole page. Add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to an anchor tag to nofollow individual links.
- XML sitemap: Sitemaps contain the list of every page on a website, along with some important details about those pages. Search engines use them to find pages, as well as figure out how often is should crawl a site. Any page you want to appear in SERPs should be in your sitemap.
- Page speed: Page speed and load time are really important for user experience and SEO. Optimize your images, caching and redirects; and use G-Zip compression to improve load time.
- Structured data: Structured data, like RDF, microdata or JSON-LD, help computers interpret the context of the words used in your text. It’s how you harness the power of the semantic web for your benefit. Google relies on structured data to create its rich search results, and the better they can interpret what’s on a page, the more likely they are to serve it for a relevant query.
- Responsive design: Websites that use responsive design via the mobile viewport are more likely to be seen as mobile friendly by search engines. Responsive design scales a website to render according to the device screen, creating a better mobile user experience. This eliminates the need to create alternate versions of your website that serve based on user-agent, which is even more time and money for your development team.
What Makes Technical SEO So Important?
If you do some research, you’ll notice that other than site speed, most aspects of technical SEO aren’t ranking factors on their own. All things being equal, a site with a robots.txt file isn’t necessarily going to outrank a site without one.
So why should you spend all this time working on something that’s not going to give you a boost in SERPs?
Because technical SEO can have a huge indirect impact on your rankings, and your ability to even get indexed in the first place.
Think about it: without a robots.txt file or sitemap, Googlebot could waste all of its crawl budget trying to access a folder full of images or videos. Or, if you don’t use canonical URLs, people linking alternate versions of a page will dilute your website’s link juice. No structured data? Your Knowledge Panel isn’t going to look too robust, either.
So, without technical SEO, your website isn’t going to go very far with Google.
What Is Content Marketing?
First a definition:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
– Content Marketing Institute
Second: a truism:
Content is king.
You’ve probably heard that before – it’s been around since Bill Gates published it in 1996.
What makes content king?
Content is the whole reason people go to your website from search results. They want to read, watch or listen to whatever is on the landing page (and, hopefully, take an action based on that). Inbound marketing like SEO relies on quality content to attract leads and customers.
The Value of Content Marketing
The value of content marketing is twofold: SEO and conversion rate optimization.
Content has several SEO benefits:
Linkbait: When you do it right, content can work as natural linkbait. People naturally want to share high quality, valuable content. And the great news is that your content will help build the right kind of links: high quality and natural links.
On-page: Great content is also a great on-page SEO tool. In-depth, authoritative articles give you an opportunity to use keywords consistently throughout the page in their most valuable places like HTML headers, URLs, image alt text and at every level in the body content.
Evergreen content: Evergreen content takes the combined link and on-page benefits of content marketing and makes it last. If you manage to publish some really great evergreen articles, you’ll continue to attract links and stay at the top of SERPs for a really long time. Take our SEO Guide on link juice, for example. This guide was published more than a year ago, but it’s consistently been at the top of the SERP, both as a rich snippet and the top result.
Good content marketing can also be super effective for your website’s conversion rate. Which is really what we’re all after, right?
Content, whether it’s articles, infographics or video, helps you…
- Create an emotional tie with your audience. This can mean eliciting an overt emotional response like those old tearjerker long distance phone commercials and nostalgic ad campaigns. Or, it can be a bit more subtle by highlighting the benefits of using your product/service and how it will make them happy.
- Build trust with the audience. The obvious way is by using reviews and testimonials to backup your claims. However, you can also use content to build a better, more valuable type of trust. Using product comparisons, purchasing guides and best-of lists, you can help guide people through the decision-making process. The more you help someone make a decision, the more they’ll trust you going forward. That means better conversions and retention rates.
Brass Tacks: Which Is Most Important?
The fact is, doing one without the other is pretty pointless. What good is having a super fast site that’s accessible to bots and humans if there’s no content for them to access? On the flip side, what’s the use of having great articles and videos if no one can find them (or wait around for the page to load)?
But there is a better way to do them both together to make each part more effective:
- Start with technical SEO. This is the foundation of your pages. Get everything set up well in the beginning and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and headaches going forward. So, spend most of your time on technical SEO at the very beginning, or when you’re redesigning or migrating a site.
- Publish your content after you’ve checked your technical boxes. But, and this is the really important part here, make sure your content marketing is a continuous process. You should be consistently publishing new content on your website and promoting it via social media, email and link building outreach.
In terms of importance, technical SEO and content are equals. But when it comes down to where you’ll spend most of your time, it’s content marketing. Simply because you’ll be creating new content on a weekly, or even daily, basis.