If you’re a regular on LinkedIn, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the term thought-leaders. And while you might assume this term is reserved for the Steven Bartlett and Richard Branson’s of the world, it is a strategy that can be utilised by anyone with knowledge and experience in an industry.
But did you know that you can become a thought leader yourself?
You can then integrate this into your content strategy, to help attract customers and grow your business.
In this blog, we’re looking at the difference between SEO content and thought-leadership content to help you decide which is best for your business.
What is SEO content?
At Jammy Digital, we spent years designing functional and beautiful websites. And everyone always thinks that’s enough for the business to come flooding in.
But the truth is, it’s difficult for your website to rank without a stream of in-depth, informative, and educational content. Google isn’t too bothered about how ‘pretty’ your website is (just that it works!)
It’s estimated that the number one listing on Google accounts for 27.6% of all click-throughs. And only 0.63% of all Google searchers continue through to the second page of results.
So it’s not only crucial that you create content, but that you create content that ranks on search engines. Otherwise, your potential customers will struggle to find you online.
SEO content is well-written, engaging, and informative content, with a primary focus on getting your website to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s all about creating content your customers are searching for, so you show up higher in rankings.
SEO content harnesses the knowledge of SEO and keywords, optimising content for search engines, so the right people find it.
What is thought leadership content?
First things first, let’s define thought leadership by itself, before going onto the content.
Thought leadership is the delivery of content that uses expertise, insight, and experience to help you become the go-to source of information in your industry.
Thought leadership isn’t so much a type of content, but rather an approach to content creation, created by tapping into the expertise, insight, and experience within your business and the wider community.
People often think that thought leadership content has to include controversial or outspoken opinions, and it can, but it doesn’t have to.
What it does need to be is authentically and recognisably you, with a strong brand voice. No sitting on the sidelines; it’s about letting people know what you think.
Thought leader content can include:
- Stong and/or controversial opinions
- A desire to share their knowledge
This type of content helps businesses and individuals build credibility and be seen as an expert.
The different types of thought-leadership content marketing
I like to split thought-leadership content into different categories including:
- Original research content…
- Business decisions content…
- Expert interview content…
- Customer client stories content…
Examples of thought-leadership content
1. Original research content
This could be via surveys or analysis, for example, reviewing websites and reporting your findings.
If you do this right, you can become the ‘original source’ for a particular topic, meaning lots of others will link back to your article, which can skyrocket your rankings.
An example is from Backlinko, which analysed 3.6 billion pieces of content to better understand evergreen content.
2. Business decisions & strategies content
Want to stand out as an expert?
Give a little insight into your business and the decisions and strategies that you have implemented.
You can detail why you made those decisions and whether or not they worked. If not, you can let people know what went wrong – and what you learned from it.
In this example, Orbit Media shares its 15-year-old content strategy, detailing what worked and what didn’t. It’s a great way to showcase their expertise in SEO and content strategy – the service that they offer.
3. Expert interview content
As much as you would like to be, you probably aren’t an expert in everything.
So, why not capitalise on the expertise of others and bring that knowledge to your audience?
This can be done via guest blogs, but a great medium for this type of content is podcasts.
A great example is Steven Bartlett, Diary of a CEO podcast – where Steven interviews different leaders and CEO, bringing you their top tips, learnings, and insights from their careers.
4. Client stories content
You can tell your potential clients how great you are, but it’s much more believable if it comes from someone else.
So, why not let your clients do the talking?
This blog from Buffer puts one of their clients at the forefront and lets her write her own case study on how she used the scheduling tool.
It’s common for people to write blogs on product and service features, but this type of blog talks about them in a way that actually teaches potential clients something. It’s a powerful way to show the impact that your product or service could have on a business.
SEO content vs Thought leadership content: what results do they get your business?
Results! Let’s face it, most of us aren’t creating content (thought-leadership, SEO, or otherwise) just for fun. As exciting as creating content can be, I’d personally rather be eating chips on the beach or reading a good book (or both).
Content is all part of a wider marketing effort to increase traffic, leads, and ultimately sales. If your content is not getting you results, then it’s a waste of time and energy – two things you don’t have to spare running a business.
So, in order to compare the two, we need to understand the results that you can get from each.
What does SEO content help you achieve?
When creating SEO content, it’s all about getting your website to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). The goal is to discover exactly what your potential customers are searching for and create content to answer those questions.
As the stats show, if you don’t rank your website within the first couple of search results, then it’s unlikely people will click on your website.
So, great SEO content should help you to:
- Increase your search engine rankings for a variety of keywords
- Increase your website traffic
- Increase your backlinks from high-authority websites
Plus, there are the intangible benefits of SEO content, that enable you to attract the right customers and have better quality conversations.
But ultimately, the primary goal of SEO content is creating content that helps you rank highly and get found online.
Related content: How to 10x your website traffic
The results of thought leadership content
Unlike SEO content, thought-leadership content is not about what people search for. It’s about building authority and positioning yourself as a subject matter expert.
However, while the content is not focussed on ranking, it does still have some pretty incredible results when it comes to traffic and conversions. According to SEM rush, 81.4% of thought leadership content results in organic traffic. And if that’s not enough, 47.6% generates the all-important leads and sales.
It’s partly down to the fact that by the very nature of thought-leadership content. It’s WAY more likely to get you backlinks from other content creators.
For example, let’s relook at “original research” content – one of the types of thought-leadership content previously mentioned. This is a style of content that Brian Dean at Backlino has absolutely nailed. He carries out in-depth research on relevant topics and creates content with details and specificity that no one else has covered.
Thought leadership is not necessarily an SEO strategy. However, it increases the likelihood of backlinks (we’ve even used some in this article), establishes expertise, and optimises the website for rankings. Therefore it does benefit SEO, although it’s not targeting that.
The mechanisms that enable thought-leadership content to drive your business include
- Brand credibility and authority
- Generates backlinks, shares, and mentions
- Attract potential customers
SEO content vs thought-leadership content: when should you use it?
Content is sold as the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to growing your business. But the truth is, there is no one size fits all, and not everyone will need to implement the same content strategy.
But which one is right for you?
When should you use SEO content?
Relying on referrals to grow your business?
Struggling to bring in leads?
SEO content is all about utilisng and capturing the existing search traffic within your market in order to drive revenue and grow your business. And it’s extremely valuable at helping you rank and convert when correctly implemented.
This is why we recommend that all businesses implement an SEO content strategy, assuming you have the following in place:
1️⃣ An up-to-date website (that wasn’t designed in the 90s)
2️⃣ A website that’s easy-peasy to navigate (no use getting loads of traffic to your website if all those people end up getting lost and then leaving.)
3️⃣ Decent and clear website copy
4️⃣ Products or services that sell right now (great content will not make up for a bad product/service)
5️⃣ Access to your actual website and blog (ie. your web design company isn’t holding it hostage)
Assuming you have these things, you can get started on creating a successful SEO content strategy that helps you will all the benefits we’ve already discussed. Start by thinking about what your potential customers are searching for and create content around that (or hire us to do it for you).
Related content: Why referrals are bad for business (and what to do instead)
When should you use thought leadership content?
As we now know, the point of thought-leadership content is not to rank, but to influence and gain authority.
The challenge is, that without an existing audience it’s hard to gain traction with thought-leadership content.
This is why thought-leadership can be seen as a more advanced form of content, that builds upon an existing content base. Think of SEO content as your BA honors, and the thought-leadership as your Master’s course. You need the foundations of the SEO content and the audience that comes along with it in order to really make an impact with thought-leadership content.
There are also undoubtedly industries that lend themselves to thought-leadership content more easily (such as business and marketing), as there is no one right way to do things. Although this creates huge potential in more traditional industries, as no one else is creating this type of content.
So, if you are already creating content, and driving organic traffic via search, then I’d recommend starting on a thought-leadership content plant too.
Thought leadership content vs SEO content: can you outsource it?
As a business owner, you wear a hundred different hats every day, and content is just one more thing to think about.
But can you successfully outsource content that sounds authentically you?
Or, is it something that you have to keep in-house?
Can you outsource SEO content?
A good SEO content marketing strategy requires a near constant supply of high-quality, search-engine optimised content – and that takes time to create ⏰.
In fact, we estimate that it takes around 10-16 hours in total per blog to create high-quality content, which includes:
6-8 hours: to write, edit & proofread your content
3-4 hours: of content design & formatting
1-2 hours: optimising each of your blog posts
Yes, you can pump content out at a much faster rate, but if you want to create in-depth and engaging content that ranks, then you’ll need to spend a little longer on it. This is why a large part of the reason why over half of businesses outsource their content marketing.
In addition, most owners know their business inside out, but that doesn’t mean they can write about it in a way that’s going to rank. SEO content writers are experts in writing engaging content that speaks to potential customers AND the Google algorithm.
While some argue that you can’t outsource SEO content writing, we definitely think that you can.
In fact, not only do we believe that you CAN, we think that it’s a positive step for your business. That’s why we’ve built our SEO & blog management service around outsourcing your content.
Yes, the content still needs to be informed by a subject matter expert in your business, but partnering with a talented SEO writer to outsource content can be a brilliant business decision.
Outsourcing to SEO content writers helps fill a skills gap in your team while saving you time and making you money.
Related content: Why is our SEO and blog management service so expensive?
Can you outsource thought leadership content?
You might think that thought-leadership content is harder to outsource. After all, it’s so dependent on your voice and expertise that surely it’s impossible to replicate via an outsourced writer.
And we agree, it is harder…but not impossible.
In fact, you might be surprised to find out that 48.7% of businesses outsource thought-leadership content.
However, it’s not something that an ad-hoc freelance writer will be able to achieve.
To successfully outsource thought-leadership content, you will need to develop an ongoing relationship with a writer or content marketing agency. But once you have a writer that you trust and that understands you, it’s possible to create high-performing thought-leadership content.
Again, it’s important to work with an experienced writer or agency that is able to translate your expert knowledge into influential content. But assuming you have a way to communicate that knowledge, there is no reason that you cannot successfully outsource thought-leadership content.
This is part of the reason that we don’t offer ad-hoc writing but, instead, a full SEO and blog management service. It allows us to form a relationship with our clients, understand their business, and convert their expertise into clear, informative thought-leadership content.
Can you have thought leadership content that also ranks?
Ranking on search engines is not the primary aim when it comes to thought leadership content, but it’s certainly not impossible.
As mentioned previously, the nature of thought-leadership content means that you are more likely to get backlinks from other relevant content creators. These backlinks are essentially votes from other websites, alerting Google to the fact that you have created helpful and relevant content.
The latest update from Google “the helpful content update” is an effort to ensure that searchers are seeing more “original, helpful content, written by people for people”.
So, while ranking is not the priority for thought-leadership content, it’s certainly possible. Originality leads to backlinks, which in turn build domain authority and ultimately boost SEO.
Plus, it’s certainly still possible to ensure that any content created is optimised for search engines (whether it’s the main aim or not) to make sure it’s positively viewed via algorithms.
Are there agencies that do both SEO and thought-leadership content?
While SEO content and thought leadership are separate, they are not two entirely distinct strategies. And while the results and means differ slightly, ultimately, both are aiming to increase revenue.
In our opinion, thought leadership content should be a part of a wider content strategy. You can’t become a thought leader without creating consistent content, it does not exist in isolation. However, it’s a brilliant way to set yourself apart from the increasingly noisy marketplace – and all the millions of blogs being published daily.
SEO content serves customers who are currently searching for what you offer and driving consistent organic traffic, while thought leadership content allows you to position yourself as an industry expert.
Owner at Jammy Digital, Digital Marketing Specialist and Writer of Young-Adult Fiction.