Content marketing graphicSEO, content marketing and social media have become the marketing buzzwords of the past couple of years. They are often talked about together and sometimes even used interchangeably, but no-one ever really stops to explain what they mean and what the differences between them are.

So we thought we would. It’s an area we’re doing an increasing amount of work in, so here’s our quick and dirty guide to SEO, content marketing and social media.

SEO, content marketing and social media all share the same objective: to raise the online profile of our brand and attract the attention of potential clients and customers. But they all seek to achieve it in slightly different ways.

SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It is the process of moving your website’s ranking up the search engines (mainly Google) based on specific keywords that are important to your business. The idea being that if someone searches for a certain word or phrase related to your business, your website is one of the first ones in the search results. So if you run a pet shop and you sell outfits for pets, you want to make sure that if someone is searching for ‘outfits for dogs’, your website comes up as near the top of the search results page as possible. It’s about getting your business in front of people who are actively looking for a particular product or service that you sell.

Content marketing (aka inbound marketing)

The second of the three terms – content marketing – is about attracting consumers to your website by providing information they find useful, interesting and relevant. By ‘information’, it usually means things like articles, guides, videos, whitepapers, reports, case studies. Basically, any kind of information that fulfils the vital criteria of being useful, interesting and relevant to your target audience. The sector you operate in, the type of business you run and the audience you want to attract will define what kind of ‘content’ you should focus on.

Creating relevant online content also has a second benefit, in that it helps improve your search engine rankings. Google rewards websites that regularly publish high quality information, so content marketing is a natural element of your overall SEO strategy.

Social media marketing

Social media is everywhere at the moment. The debates are still raging about how useful it is in a business-to-business context (see this great article on b2b social media in The Marketer), but love it or loathe it, for most businesses it has an important role to play in the online marketing mix.

So what does it mean? Essentially, social media marketing is about using social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube, or things like customer ratings and review platforms or comment forms, to build relationships with customers or clients and communicate your message to a wider audience.

It often works hand-in-hand with content marketing, as social media tools are a great way to let people know when you’ve got a new piece of content to shout about.

How to use SEO, content marketing and social media

SEO can be seen as step one in the process – getting your website as high up in the search rankings as possible.

Content marketing is like step two – on the one hand, making sure that when people visit your website they find useful information that creates a positive impression and, hopefully, encourages them to make a purchase, if not immediately then in the future. At the same time, publishing good content helps you gain a good ranking in the search rankings.

Social media is step three – spreading the word among the widest, most relevant audiences.

The theory that underpins all this is “selective consumption”. This is about people choosing when and where they want to interact with brands, rather than reacting to sales messages fired at them will nilly. The goal is to make sure that when they are looking to ‘consume’ – your businesses is one of the ones on their menu.