For many business owners, SEO is a mysterious, man-behind-the-curtain service. So many business owners don't know what it is or how it works. The natural human response to something we don't understand? Stay away from it! But in this case, that's not an option. You're losing out on market share every day you choose to ignore SEO. You know it has something to do with how your website is built and what's on it. Obviously, it's not good if things are broken like buttons, pages, or links. But what is real optimization that works? What are you paying for every month in an SEO campaign?

In a recent presentation on SEO, we mentioned the top 3 things we hear from small businesses about SEO. Do any of these sound like you?  

1. You're paying for "SEO services" and have no idea what you're getting. (Literally, we've heard it all - They're getting us keywords? Facebook ads, I think? A blog? Lunch delivery?) 

2. Meh, you get enough traffic and so you really don't worry about SEO. Who needs it when you're doing okay? 

3. SEO is complicated, expensive, and you don't understand it so there's no point in blowing $$$$. 

Yikes! We are out to prove that SEO is NOT too complicated to understand or implement on your website. It IS an investment of both time and consequently money, but if you do your due diligence as a business owner you will reap many times over that investment down the road.

But back to our original question...

What are you really paying for when you get "SEO services?" 

Yes, there is a technical component to SEO. 

Yes, some things do depend on the code of your website, the page speed, etc. 

But, and this is huge so don't miss it:

If you just focus on all the technical aspects and leave out any kind of content strategy, you're missing the ENTIRE point of search engine optimization. 

You could have the most technically clean website in the universe, but if you don't have awesome content on it, your online presence won't be worth much. 

Why? Because most marketers / business owners miss this:

The very foundation of SEO is words...

...content. language. titles. descriptions. You can't optimize what doesn't exist. So much of SEO comes back to a discussion about the content. Think of your website as a book that Google is reading. One of thousands in the library.  If yours doesn't have a good story with a great title and a foreword, it doesn't get taken off the shelf. 

"Wait, i thought we were paying for SEO, not blogs!" 

Guess what? Part of SEO is articles, news, or blogs. FRESH and CONSISTENT content is a HUGE deal in Google, because nobody wants to read last week's information. That's why when you Googled "presidential election" last year you didn't get results from 2008; you got the most current results. Fresh content gets ranked faster. If you have thin content (just a few words on a page) someone who is putting the effort into crafting deep content that answers questions will always be ahead of you. 

We aren't the only ones who see how important content marketing is. Check out this research from Hubspot that directly correlates blog frequency with website traffic. The results are staggering, and especially for small companies. 

They don't just complement each other. Content Marketing is how you get SEO done. 

Do you see that SEO and content marketing HAVE to walk hand in hand? The answer to a lot of SEO strategies IS content marketing. For example, some cornerstones of SEO can only be accomplished with a content marketing strategy: 

You can't just throw words on a page. Content is how you get it done. Your keywords have to be in the right context. 

Carry that thought right over to your URL structure, titles, descriptions, headlines, and photos. All of those elements have to be related to your content, with the same kind of consistent language. It's foundation is the content. 

You only get links guessed it! Awesome, radical, want-to-share-it content. 

What gets shared on social? Stuff people like. Information they find interesting. Content people love and want others to see. 

All the technical components like being mobile-friendly, having a fast site, and an easy-to-use structure mean nothing if you don't have your content marketing in line. 

Some of the most successful SEO campaigns are the ones producing the most, high-quality content, consistently. That's the winner, every single time. It isn't a once-and-done deal, and neither is content marketing. This is an ongoing conversation that we happen to frame well for the search engines. But you certainly can't have content marketing without SEO, and you can't have SEO without the content.