The Content Marketing Paradox

There are two types of algorithms ruling the internet in 2023.

If you understand them, everything gets a lot simpler. Especially your content marketing strategy.

The first is the social media algorithm.

Social media algorithms are engineered for maximum eyeball time. In other words, they aim to get users to spend as much time consuming content as possible.

One of their primary goals is to keep users on the social media platform for as long as possible. This equals more ads shown during each session, and more ad revenue for the social media platform.

Because of this, the content that gets prioritized by social algorithms tends to have a few common characteristics:

  • Content with clickbait graphics and headlines that grab a user’s attention
  • Content that stimulates a user’s “lizard brain” to stay engaged and continue consuming more content on the platform
  • Content that stimulates a user’s desire to express their opinion via social engagement (likes, comments, sharing)

The second algorithm ruling the internet is the search algorithm.

The paradox of SEO is that authority and visibility is assigned by the Google search algorithm in almost the exact opposite way as social algorithms.

Social algorithms give authority and exposure to content that has high engagement, but keeps users thirsting for more.

While Google’s algorithm assigns authority and rankings to content that has high engagement, and concludes the search. If a user clicks to a piece of content and returns to Google to continue searching, the algorithm views that content as incomplete or lower quality and ranks it accordingly.

In other words, Google wants content that closes the loop for whatever the user was searching for. Where social algorithms aim to keep the loop open for as long as possible.

If Google consistently delivers high quality search results, it leads to high retention for their product. And more ad revenue in the long term. Whereas social platforms earn more ad revenue by capturing as much of a user’s time as possible. Hence the different goals of each type of algorithm.

What do these co-ruling algorithms mean for your business?

First, be aware that most content writers are going to approach their writing from the lens of the social media algorithm.

This is the most well understood algorithm, and almost everyone’s behavior has been “trained” by it to some extent. Content writers are especially susceptible to the reenforcement of vanity metrics such as social shares and likes.

Second, in order to succeed with SEO and organic search, the search algorithm can’t be an afterthought to your content. You can’t just optimize blog posts for keyword density and call it good like 10 years ago.

Succeeding in search today requires a comprehensive content strategy that answers the question: how will our content deliver complete answers to user queries that “close the loop” on their search? If you can’t answer this, your competitors eventually will and you’ll lose massive amounts of traffic to them.

Third, the ultimate aim should be to create synergy between social and search in your content. It’s a waste of resources to silo your content by channel. SEO focused content can do great on social, and vice versa.

But in order to pull off that synergy, you need to understand the content journey you’re taking visitors on once they arrive at your content. As well as the larger context of the journey visitors have already been on before they reach your content. Without an understanding of the bigger journey taking place across the interwebs, it will be tough to please both algorithms while also achieving business goals like driving conversions or enabling customer success through your content.

Need help unlocking SEO traffic to your content, while being mindful of your social acquisition strategy? I have the unique background of working on social campaigns with 6 and 7-figure annual budgets. So I understand social acquisition. And know how to create real synergy between social and search content. Let’s talk about your situation.

Interested in working with Ryan? Click to learn more about his SEO and CRO services.