What’s the Difference between Content Marketing and SEO?

As a full-service Internet marketing agency, we offer our clients a wide variety of options for improving their online presence. And for the most part, those services are pretty distinct—web design and social media are two entirely separate fields, as are, say, copywriting and ecommerce development.

But there’s a little bit of a gray area when it comes to two of the strategies we offer: Content marketing and SEO. So much of a gray area, in fact, that it leaves many of our clients asking, “What’s the difference?”

If you want to learn more about what makes SEO and content unique, you’re certainly not alone. Read on to learn how the two are different, as well as what that means for how you use them for your business.

You can also contact us online or call 888-601-5359 today for your free evaluation!

What is SEO?

Before we discuss the distinction between SEO and content marketing, it’s important to first have a solid understanding of each one individually. So to start, SEO (short for search engine optimization) refers to everything you do to make your site rank higher for relevant terms in search engines like Google.

It encompasses quite a few different strategies, including:

All of these tactics work together to help certain pages on your site rank well when users type words or phrases related to your industry into search engines. For example, if you run a local restaurant, your SEO strategy might be put together with the goal of ranking first for searches like “Italian restaurant in Harrisburg” and “best Italian food in Harrisburg.”

Best Italian food in Harrisburg search

What is content marketing?

Content marketing, on the other hand, involves creating pages on your site that your audience will find interesting and using those pages to move potential customers through the sales funnel. The types you create depend on your audience and goals, including blog posts, articles, guides, infographics, videos, and more.

(For more information, check out our complete Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing.)

The relationship between SEO and content marketing

As you may have guessed, the primary reason for the confusion between these strategies is that there’s a good bit of overlap between the two. In fact, they actually have a mutual relationship.

Including keywords in the content you create helps it rank better in search engines, meaning that it will attract more traffic and be more effective in reaching your content marketing goals. Conversely, adding strong content to your site will improve its authority, which will give a boost to your overall SEO.

Basically, the better your SEO, the better your content will perform—and vice versa. But for a more in-depth explanation, take a look at this article about how content can improve your SEO.

The difference between SEO and content marketing

Now that we’ve established the relationship between the two, it’s time to dig into what, exactly, separates content marketing from SEO.


First and foremost, you should always create your content with your target audience in mind. This means that your copy, graphics, and formats should be designed to suit your human visitors best. We certainly encourage you to optimize the pages you host it on, but do so in a way that doesn’t detract from the content that you present.

SEO, on the other hand, requires much more knowledge about search engines and their crawlers. And although you could argue that the people who design and use search engines are also human, the fact is that search engines themselves weigh keywords, title tags, headers, and other code-related elements much more heavily than your average visitor.


As a result of these different audiences, the approaches you take toward SEO and content marketing should also be slightly different.

When doing SEO for your site, you should take an analytical approach to all of the changes you make. Use tools like Google Analytics to dig into the hard data, and research keywords to determine new opportunities for growing your traffic and rankings. Considering that search engines use algorithms to deliver their results, a data-based strategy is your best bet.

Your human visitors aren’t nearly this scientific, meaning that your success depends on creativity to a certain degree. Attracting the attention of potential customers requires standing out from the thousands of other industry blogs online, which is best done by offering something completely unique.

There’s no proven “formula” for success with content marketing, which can be frustrating if you prefer working with hard data and facts. But if you consider yourself a creative type, it could be a great opportunity to experiment with new topics and formats.


This should come as no surprise, but SEO and content marketing each have their own way of adding value to your site and marketing strategy. SEO primarily serves to attract qualified traffic to your site, and relates to the ways in which you reach new visitors. Content marketing has more to do with keeping those visitors interested once they arrive at your site and moving them closer to becoming customers.

Want to use SEO and content marketing for your site?

If you’d like to use these two strategies to improve your online visibility and reach new customers, WebFX can help as a full-service marketing agency. Our team has created successful SEO and content marketing strategies for hundreds of clients, and we will do the same for you.

Contact us today to get started!

Whether you need social media marketing services in Richmond or social media services in Raleigh, WebFX is here for you.