There seems to be a trend to think in terms of a dichotomy where SEO and content marketing are concerned. I often see articles that encourage companies to pursue an online content marketing strategy AND an SEO strategy. To be sure, they’re practically the same thing.
Content marketing is any strategy you have to produce content in any form and publish it around the Web. You may or may not optimize that content. It’s up to you.
SEO, or search engine optimization, requires content. You can’t have SEO without some kind of content. It would be like driving a vehicle without a car. The vehicle is your content marketing strategy. The car is your SEO. They’re somewhat distinctive but the same.
I’ll try another analogy. Let’s say you want to go from your house to the library in your town but you have no transportation so you must rely on public transportation. You take the bus. The bus follows a certain route that you have no control over. Nevertheless, you have a choice about taking the bus or not. You could walk, call a friend, or do nothing at all.
The bus is your content marketing strategy. The route is your SEO. There may be multiple routes from your house to the library, some better than others. The bus system is designed to follow a particular route. If you take a taxi, you could get to the library more quickly but it will cost you more.
Following this analogy, it may seem like SEO and content marketing are two separate things – and they are. But they are intrinsically linked.
Whether you take the bus, the taxi, or you walk to the library, you are still taking a route (an SEO path). Your SEO is something determined by your content marketing strategy (the bus system) and sometimes it isn’t, but the two are linked. The truth is this, you can’t have a content marketing strategy without SEO – even if that SEO is somewhat ineffective.