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Technical SEO vs. Content SEO: How Each Works Differently

DBS Interactive
two human side by side silhouette profiles representing technical and creative components of SEO content overlaid with various semi-transparent machine gears and electronic circuit board pattern

EO with scaIn today’s digital world, SEO appeals to businesses because increasing your brand’s positioning, reach, and visibility in Google Search often leads to significant growth and marketing success.

However, achieving your search performance goals is more challenging these days because Google’s algorithm has grown so complex and intuitive that the search engine now looks far beyond what’s on your website pages when it decides how they should rank in search results.

To rank well in search, your digital content must be produced with a combination of technical web development expertise, a strategic understanding of how different marketing channels work together to funnel prospects to your website organically, and the web design skills to create landing pages that convert website visitors into leads and sales.

Of course, these are very different disciplines that require a thoughtful and distinct approach, so to help you understand the comprehensive nature of what is needed to perform in Google Search moving forward, we will now explore the important differences between technical SEO and content marketing SEO strategies.

What is Technical SEO?

The importance of schema

Technical SEO refers to the way your website is set up to help search engines crawl, interpret, and index your pages, in addition to how your site provides visitors with the best user experience. Unlike content marketing, the components of technical SEO are code-based, often requiring an experienced web developer for testing and implementation.

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What Does Technical SEO Include?

While technical SEO encompasses many different activities, the most important components of technical search optimization for websites include:

  • Page Speed Optimization

    The speed and load time of your website pages are really important for user experience and SEO, because users are more likely to abandon sites with slow loading pages. Additionally, Google’s Page Experience update in 2021 will result in slower sites being penalized with lower rankings. You can improve page loading times by compressing files, optimizing your images, caching data, and limiting redirect links.

  • Structured Data

    Implementing structured data such as schema markup harnesses the power of the semantic web by helping search engines like Google interpret the context of the words and media used on your site, increasing your chances of high search rankings. Google also relies on structured data to render your content as rich search results, also known as “featured snippets”.

  • Robots.txt Files

    A text file that lives in your website’s root directory, “robots.txt” is a set of instructions that tell search engine crawlers what they can and can’t crawl on your website. Disallow low value pages, duplicate pages and other content you don’t want indexed to conserve your “crawl budget,” which is the set amount of time search engines designate for crawling entire websites–that’s why helping crawlers more efficiently navigate the site and ignore the unimportant pages can ultimately help your ranking.

  • Meta Robots Tags

    Similar to robots.txt, the meta robots tag uses the “content=” attribute to tell crawlers not to index a page (“NoIndex”), and/or follow any of the page’s links (“NoFollow”). Note that the nofollow command applies to the whole page. Add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to an anchor tag to nofollow individual links.

  • Sitemaps

    Sitemaps contain the list of every page on a website, along with some important details about those pages. Search engines use sitemaps to find pages, as well as figure out how often it should crawl a site. Any page you want to appear in SERPs should be in your sitemap. The Googlebot crawler will soon be advanced enough to not require sitemaps, but even then it will still be wise to have one published on your site.

  • Mobile-Optimized Responsive Design

    Websites that use responsive design via the mobile viewport are more likely to be seen as “mobile friendly” by search engines. Responsive design scales a website to render according to the device screen, creating a better mobile user experience. This eliminates the need to create alternate versions of your website that serve based on user-agent, which is even more time and money for your development team.

  • Website and Information Architecture

    Site architecture refers to the structure that organizes and delivers the content on your website, while information architecture refers to the organization of content within that structure. This includes the hierarchy of pages where users find content as well as the technical programming that lets search engine bots crawl your pages. Site architectures optimized for SEO are attractive and efficient for bots to crawl.

  • Digital Accessibility

    Web accessibility is about making relevant content and images more easily accessible by the differently-abled user. What many marketers may not know is accessibility can have major positive impacts on SEO because accessible content and SEO-optimized content are both machine-readable. Search engines and assistive technologies (such as screen readers) are quite similar in how they read and navigate your site.

  • Fixing Broken Links

    Broken links are links that return a 404 error when clicked, instead of navigating to a new page, because the destination does not exist. Some of the typical reasons that broken links may not work include:

    • The targeted website is no longer available.
    • The targeted webpage was moved without a redirect being added.
    • The URL structure of the website was changed.
  • Using Secure Web Servers

    Secure Sockets Layer – or “SSL” – is a security technology which creates an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. You can spot a site using SSL fairly easily: the website URL starts with “https” (https://[website]) rather than “http” (http://[website]).

Why is Technical SEO Important?

Primarily, other than page experience factors, most aspects of technical SEO aren’t ranking factors on their own. All things being equal, a site with a robots.txt file isn’t necessarily going to outrank a site without one. So why should you spend all this time working on a type of SEO that’s not guaranteed to give you a boost in SERPs?

The answer: Because technical SEO can still have a huge impact on your rankings, including your ability to even get your site’s pages indexed in the first place.

Preserving Crawl Budget

The fact is that without a robots.txt file or sitemap, Googlebot could waste all of its crawl budget trying to access things like images or videos. Or if you don’t use canonical URLs, people linking alternate versions of a page will dilute your website’s link equity. If you don’t have structured data, then your knowledge panel isn’t going to look too robust in Google SERPs, either.

Featured Snippets & Voice Searches

Without technical SEO in the form of structured data or schema markup, it will be more difficult for search engines to contextualize the content on your site in a way that motivates them to place you as a featured search result, often called “featured snippets” or “rich text snippets” because they are more visible and prominent than other search results. Winning these can result in a huge increase in brand visibility and clickthroughs to your site, not to mention they are critical to winning voice searches, which are an increasingly popular form of online search.

User-Centric KPIs

Technical SEO is not about improving code for its own sake–beyond making your site more discoverable and indexable, the general idea of every technical SEO best practice is to elevate the overall quality of your site’s user experience. When it’s done right, it will mean users stay longer on your site, more sites link to it, and a higher portion of your visitors end up converting–which are all search ranking signals that matter to Google.

So, without implementing technical SEO, your website isn’t going to go very far with Google. That’s bad news for business growth and brand awareness when so many people instinctively go to Google Search to learn more about you, even when they might see or hear about you elsewhere, including offline.

What is Content SEO?

Content marketing graphic

Content SEO is a marketing strategy that improves your website’s search ranking signals to reach and drive more search users to your site who are interested in the content published there.

The specific content you include on pages influences which search queries each page will rank for, but earning referral links from credible external sites to your website can also improve your site’s rankings, as well as elevate the overall credibility of your website domain for Google.

Regardless of whether it exists on or off your site, content that is robust, unique, and relevant to the intent of the keyword search will likely rank higher than “thin” content that is lower quality and does not satisfy searcher intent, or content that simply restates what is already easily found elsewhere on the internet without adding any unique or useful information.

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Why is Content SEO Important?

Content marketing is important because brands in every industry benefit from owning and amplifying the brand presence in online search–which is where a majority of both new and even existing audiences start their customer journey.

But creating content that performs well in Google and outranks competitors isn’t easy, because the search engine will evaluate your content against all other websites (at well over a billion, that’s a lot of sites), then rank your pages in the SERPs according to how well your content measures up against all that content published on competing sites.

That’s a big reason why driving traffic to your own website from other credible sites, or “link building“, is key to a successful content SEO strategy. The more that credible and authoritative sites link to your pages, the more Google can assume your site is credible and authoritative–otherwise, why would they link to you?

Ultimately, content marketing attempts to establish high relevance in as many of Google’s ranking criteria as possible. What’s important to understand is that those criteria keep changing with each algorithm update, and therefore your content SEO strategy has to continuously evolve and adapt, or else your search rankings will eventually drop after a future update.

What Does Content SEO Include?

Content SEO refers to creating content that helps your web pages to rank high in the search engines. It includes everything to do with the writing and structuring of content on your website. But without quality content, your site does not stand a chance in the search engines.

Once well-written content is produced, the search optimization process includes the following steps:

  • On-page Keyword Optimization

    Optimizing content with the right keywords is an effective on-page SEO technique. In-depth, authoritative articles give you an opportunity to use keywords consistently throughout the page in their most valuable places like HTML headers, URLs, image alt text, and at every level in the body content.

    You should put keywords in the following content elements to improve your on-page SEO:

    • Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
      Page titles and meta descriptions are two separate pieces of HTML code that should be found on every page of the internet. Like a book, they tell you the title of the page you’re on and a summary of that page
    • URLs
      While Google is increasingly not showing URLs in the SERPs, popular search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo still show them. URLs are a good way to signal to a potential site visitor what a page is about. … And keeping URLs shorter makes them user friendly and easier to share.
    • Avoiding cannibalization
      Keyword cannibalization occurs when you have too many identical or similar keywords spread throughout the content on your website. As a result, a search engine like Google can’t discern which content to rank higher. This means that sometimes it will give a higher ranking to the web page you don’t mean to prioritize.
    • Image alt text
      Also called “alt tags” and “alt descriptions,” alt text is the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a user’s screen. This text helps screen-reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers and allows search engines to better crawl and rank your website.
  • When you do content right, it can work as natural linkbait that will help build the right kind of links: high quality and natural links from readers who want to share it organically.

    Producing timely and industry-relevant content combines the benefits of link building and on-page SEO for lasting search performance. If you manage to publish some really great evergreen articles, you’ll continue to attract links and stay at the top of SERPs for a really long time.

    As an example, here is an example of linkbait we created for a client, one that is still earning links and performing for search queries relative to their market and industry (in this case, supply chain logistics).

  • Producing high quality content with “E-A-T”

    In the SEO world, “E-A-T” stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.”

    The E-A-T concept is discussed in great detail within Google’s guidelines for Search Quality Raters, which Google provides online to help webmasters understand what the search engine’s algorithms “look for” in a web page.

    The main takeaway is that demonstrating good E-A-T in content published both on and off your website can potentially help improve Google rankings. Additionally, while E‑A-T is important for all queries, some are more affected by it than others.

    For example, some types of pages or topics will potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. Google calls these “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. If your site is built around a YMYL topic, then demonstrating E-A-T is particularly crucial for its Google performance.

    It’s also important to understand that expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are similar concepts—but not identical. Therefore, they’re each evaluated independently using a different set of criteria, so there is no simple “catch-all” methodology that will address the breadth of Google’s E-A-T requirements.

Where Can You Find Technical and Content SEO Services?

Technical SEO and content marketing are two very different search marketing disciplines, yet both have become equally important when it comes to search engine optimization, especially for Google. So where can you find both technical and content expertise in one agency?

With over 20 years of agency experience perfecting content and technical SEO strategies for our domestic and international clients in B2B sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, and others, DBS has helped our clients:

  • Generate more leads
  • Earn more website traffic organically
  • Attract more qualified prospects
  • Establish industry thought leadership
  • Increase global brand awareness
  • Improve both domestic and international reach

If you’re interested in partnering with us to grow your business through SEO and smart content strategy, contact DBS to discuss how we can help.