Outsourcing 101: Content Marketing vs. SEO Agencies

July 29, 2014 Amanda DiSilvestro

The terms “content marketing” and “SEO” are not interchangeable when it comes to agency work, but many people use these terms as if they mean the same thing. In fact, some agencies even refer to themselves as a content agency one minute and an SEO agency the next. Hiring an agency for help with online marketing is overwhelming enough with all of your choices, so it helps to know the difference between these two types. 

While it is true that there are agencies out there that offer both services and fall into both categories, it’s important to be able to differentiate between those that know they offer both services and those that are mixing up the terms. The better educated you are, the easier it will be to scope out the quality agencies who offer what you really want.

Definitions and Some Similarities and Differences

One of the most common mistakes small business owners make is researching and talking with an SEO agency when they really need a content marketing agency or vice versa. Below explains the differences between the two:

SEO Agency

An SEO agency will help look at your data and search metrics to find trends and make decisions about optimizing your website for search. It’s all about improving traffic and CTR by helping get your website to the top of Google. They will complete keyword research, make sure that quality backlinks are pointing to your site, make sure your site’s navigation is clear, and make sure you’re putting out relevant information at a time that’s right for a search engine.

Content Marketing Agency

A content marketing agency will help you create the perfect content strategy based upon how your company is structured (particularly the buying cycle). This means looking at what people might want to know when they visit certain pages and then crafting content that makes sense. For example, are they hoping to learn something about the industry in general? Do they need more information about the specific service or product you offer? Do they want to talk with a professional or read a testimonial? Essentially, this type of agency will help with your content strategy, making sure the right topics are covered the right way — and get in front of the right people. 

The Similarities and Differences

The biggest difference between the two types of agencies is that an SEO agency makes decisions based on data coming from search, and they typically make decisions about link building and web design. A content marketing agency focuses more on the data you get from your audience and creating content that fits.

However, as you can see, there is a little bit of overlap with these two different types of agencies. For example, the data that an SEO agency finds could very well help a content agency determine what to write about. Because both use complimentary data to make decisions, they are slightly similar. You’re inevitably thinking: So you should hire both types of agencies, right? Well, this isn’t always the case.

Choosing Which Type of Agency is Right for You

Of course you need to look at the needs of your company, but a good rule of thumb is to start focusing on your content needs so that you understand your audience and your buying cycle. Once you start to publish some great content (in the right places) that you’re really proud of and think would do really well with your audience, you can start enlisting some SEO help to make sure that content gets some visibility via search.

In the end, the truth is that the vast majority of agencies will take care of both responsibilities for you. However, you have to know what questions to ask to make sure they don’t just specialize in looking at one type of data. Again, looking at search metrics as well as audience-data (like social shares) both serve an important purpose—you can’t just look at one. 

Have you had experience working with one or both of these types of agencies? Any experiences with mixing them up? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comment section below.

Not sure how to kick off your content marketing? Get started with our free eBook, Blogging In The Age Of Content Marketing

About the Author

Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda DiSilvestro gives small businesses and entrepreneurs SEO advice raging from keyword research to local SEO strategy. She is the online content editor and lead writer for Higher Visibility, a nationally recognized SEO company that offers a wide range of SEO services to companies across the country.

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