In the ongoing debate about technical SEO versus content marketing, the truth is it shouldn’t be an argument at all— you need to be doing both, and you need to be doing each very well.
You need technical SEO to bring visitors to the site by making it easier for Google to understand your business.
You need really great content to keep people on the site, making it worthwhile for Google to send visitors there.
Your SEO strategy should make room for both technical SEO and content marketing to thrive. A successful SEO strategist will blend technical and creative techniques to create higher-quality organic growth.
Technical SEO is Important, Now More Than Ever
A balanced SEO strategy looks at everything, but should start with technical SEO.
Google is putting more weight on site performance, page speeds, and security while favoring sites that are easy for them to understand. With the growing importance of mobile-first where Google will be using the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking results, technical SEO is a crucial piece of your organic strategy you don’t want to overlook.
You can spend an enormous amount of time and money creating content, especially if you want quality content (which is the only way it’s worth doing). But what happens if no one is finding that awesome new content or bouncing from the site immediately?
Pumping out content on a poorly functioning site with sloppy technical SEO can only get you so far.
Sure, Google may still be able to get an idea of your site content, but if you’re not taking the time to build a solid technical SEO foundation, you’re severely inhibiting the potential success of your content, perhaps even subtracting from its value.
Start with a Technical SEO Audit
Think about technical SEO like you’re laying a strong foundation, on top of which you can build and grow.
When you first start an SEO project, you’ll need to audit the current setup for technical SEO errors. Once you have a complete understanding of the existing site, you can better prioritize your strategy.
You may find that a site has minimal technical SEO issues that require cleanup, so you can dedicate more time to content. However, you may find a mess, and need to prioritize accordingly.
A technical audit should focus on items such as:
- Robots.txt, NoIndex, NoFollow
By telling Google what pages not to crawl, you can prioritize your crawl budget to the content that will boost your rankings and drive user engagement. Proper technique on this will be beneficial for no indexing admin pages, internal search results, low-value pages, and fixing duplicate content errors.
- Site Structure/XML Sitemap
You can directly tell search engines the structure of your site, along with page priority for indexing that content. Thoroughly planning the hierarchy and structure of your site will be incredibly beneficial to your keyword and content strategy.
- URL Structure
Use optimized, easy to follow URLs that follow your planned site structure for current and future content to boost user engagement and search engine understanding.
- Duplicate Content/Canonicalization
Avoid confusing Google or getting penalized for duplicate content. If not done right, canonical links can be extremely confusing for search engines, especially with e-commerce sites. Auditing duplicate content, implementing canonicalization, or combining pages to avoid cannibalization in SERPs will give the content you do prioritize a leg up.
- Page Speed
Page loading times are extremely important for user experience and SEO, reducing bounce rate and showing search engines your content is worth clicking on. You can use Google PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix to optimize load speeds (and continue optimizing as you add new content).
- Mobile Friendliness
In an increasingly mobile-first online world, this will only become more important. You can use Google’s Mobile Friendliness test to see how your mobile site stacks up. Consider responsive design for better user experience (which may require a new site design), optimized image content, and/or implementing AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages, to serve a faster, simpler version of your page on mobile devices).
- Structured Data
Adding structured data and Schema markup to your content is a tactic that Google rewards. It gives you the ability to be in control of the information search engines pull into their results, rather than leaving it up to their algorithms and risk confusion.
- HTTPS Protocol
Even if your content is awesome, if your URL says your site is ‘Not Secure’ due to an HTTPS/SSL security issue, visitors are going to bounce.
Ongoing Technical SEO
While many of these items are important to audit and implement when you’re starting a project or redesigning a site, dedicating time for continuous technical work will make your content and overall strategy stronger.
After an initial audit, you’ll need to spend time doing ongoing technical SEO to avoid internal cannibalization (your own pages competing with each other in search results), maximize your crawl budget by managing an efficient site structure, monitor 404 errors, and optimize page speeds.
Outside of user-related metrics, much of technical SEO isn’t as simple to tie a value to, which can make content-heavy strategy very tempting.
Technical SEO issues are easier to spot if something’s wrong, which is why it’s even more important to consult with someone who knows what they’re doing before you find yourself dealing with an index problem or penalty.
Working on technical aspects of SEO can enhance your overall site performance and boost the ROI on your content. It’s a valuable part of SEO that should not be put on the back burner or pitted against a content strategy, you need both.
Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE content. But we are thoughtful about how we prioritize it.
Both technical optimizations and content marketing should work together to create more powerful SEO.
Create a Smart, High-Quality Content Strategy
There’s no question that creating amazing content will help your organic rankings.
That being said, you need to do it the right way.
You need to spend the time to develop a piece of in-depth, well-written content that will attract your ideal audience, match relevant user intent, and keep visitors on the site long enough to engage and convert.
Start with a Content Audit & Review
Much like a technical audit, a content review is equally important when developing a content strategy.
Analyzing the current content on a site will give you an idea of what pages are already performing well from a user engagement standpoint. This is also where a good understanding of technical SEO on the site is incredibly valuable.
For example, if you see that a page has an extremely high bounce rate, you can’t necessarily assume that the content is bad. You could be dealing with a page speed issue instead.
A content review should also include an audit of how certain content is ranking in organic search results for relevant keywords. A page could be ranking for a variety of relevant search terms but due to user experience, people are leaving the site before they have a chance to engage with the content. Or worse, a piece of content could be really well done, but if the site has an overall index issue no one is even finding it in SERPs.
Using Google Analytics and Google Search Console to fully evaluate your content before spending the time and money to revamp it will ultimately benefit you. Knowing that a page already ranks for certain topics, as long as they align with your desired brand, can help direct your content optimization or expansion opportunities.
Optimizing or Planning New Content
The type of content your site needs will affect your strategy.
Whether your site needs a complete overhaul of major service pages or you’re outlining a new content marketing strategy for blogging throughout the year, there are several things to keep in mind:
- Relevancy for Target Audiences
In a world where everyone’s strategy is to churn out content, you need to make sure yours is providing a better value to your specific target audience that will allow you to compete.Relevancy needs to be thoroughly planned, starting with a technical site structure that supplements your keyword targeting strategy. You’ll also need to make sure the keywords you choose are focused on user intent, and that your page titles, meta descriptions, headers, URL structure, and copy all stay true to this target.
You need to craft your content thoughtfully. Use your tone, voice, and vocabulary to speak to the audience that you want discovering and interacting with your business.
- High Quality
As a user yourself, you can likely relate to clicking on a search result, looking for an answer or advice and landing on a page with thin content that isn’t useful to your original search.This is exactly what you want to avoid.
When you create or optimize content, you want to make sure it’s providing value to visitors and that it’s accurate, consistent with your voice and brand, easy to understand, and engages your audience.
- Fill in the Gaps
A solid content strategy should look for gaps and opportunities.Are there services offered that aren’t fully outlined on the site? Create content to provide answers for potential customers. Is there a niche audience that you want to target? Make a content gateway aimed at them specifically. What’s your competition doing? Evaluate if there’s an opportunity for you to compete or a get a leg up with more valuable content on similar topics.
Search Console data is also a great way to find content expansion opportunities within your existing content. Filter your Search Analytics by page, and see if that page is unintentionally ranking for any terms you’re not targeting on purpose. Then optimize your page and expand to include that relevant content!
- Content-Type Variety
Every piece of content on a page should work in unison towards the same goal.Use images that compliment your written content, and make sure they are relevant to the topic. Don’t forget to add compliant alt text to describe your images!
Develop video content that supports your topic. Video content can boost engagement, and also gives you an extensive reach through social platforms that will bring relevant visitors back to your site content.Create infographics that convey information in an easy-to-digest format. These can also be an opportunity for sharing and link building!
The more thought you put into your content strategy, the more likely it is to succeed.
If you focus on creating content that is valuable and served to the right people, you’ll notice the difference in its converting power.
Great content can also gain you loyal customers and build trust with your brand.
Don’t inhibit the success of your content by pursuing it without setting a solid technical SEO foundation, or ignoring the importance of continuous technical maintenance. Take the time to do both, the right way.
Combine Technical SEO & Content Marketing
The debate between content and technical SEO is an understandable one. And honestly, it really just depends. The reality is that neither is a blanket way to approach SEO.
Depending on your project, you may need to dedicate a lot of time to fixing technical SEO issues that are making it difficult for you to rank. On another project with fewer issues, you could handle maintenance on technical SEO while freeing up more time to pursue content optimizations.
That’s why working with an SEO team that understands the technical issues but also places importance on creative, quality content is going to provide the best value to your business. Intuitive Digital SEOs love getting technical, and we also love creating killer content— learn how we can help!