How We Turned an SEO Team into a Content Marketing Agency

Today’s guest post is from one of our favorite customers, Kevin Gibbons, MD of Quaturo.  You can connect with Kevin on Twitter or Google Plus.  

Having recently launched a content marketing agency, Quaturo, BuzzStream kindly invited me to write about how build a blogger outreach team.

“Content marketing is evolutionary, not revolutionary”

Apologies for the cheesy quote, but I think it’s clear that the SEO game is changing and it has evolved heavily towards rewarding great content.

The concept of marketing via content isn’t new at all, even if content/inbound marketing is a relatively new term. Just look at some of the magazine headlines from the 1950s as an example – they still have some of the best examples of content marketing out there today:

content marketing shift 

Why make the shift to content marketing?

During the last 12 months especially, we found that we were getting the best results for SEO projects by content marketing. I did some research back in May for a presentation at SMX London, with the goal being to review the impact of Google+ towards SEO.

This showed that websites who were heavily using Google+ were seeing a significant uplift in traffic – a 42.6% rise over a 3-month period, to be precise.

Was it a direct correlation? No. But interestingly, what it did show was that these sites were benefiting in large increases to organic search traffic and they all had one thing in common – they were actively using social media and doing content marketing!

So with Google clamping down harder than ever on unnatural links, it’s no surprise that content marketing is outperforming traditional link building.

So what did we change?

Having had a small team (initially four people), we decided that we couldn’t do it all. So rather than trying to impact all things search, we decided to focus on:

a)     What we found works best in client campaigns, and

b)     The part that our team enjoys working on the most and gets the best out of their individual skills.

But this didn’t mean that previous skillsets were lost – in fact, not at all, they just became more focused and put to better use.

SEO/Keyword Research = Content strategist

For Gillian at Quaturo, the transition from SEO to content strategy was quite an easy one. Her skillset and strengths in keyword research fits in very well and ensures that she can consider the SEO impact that is made from content at the point it is being planned.

Having an SEO skillset means that you already do lots of similar tasks – for example:

  1. SEO audit = content audit – this just means that you take a more in-depth look at how a websites content is performing. How much traffic does it generate? Where does it come from? How many links/social shares are attracted? Etc…
  2. Competitor & marketplace analysis – here you would review the gaps in content between competitors. If you’re getting beat by your competitors in Google, there’s a very strong chance it’s because they’ve a) got more links than you, or b) got better content than you. So focus on what really makes an impact and create great content which attracts natural links!
  3. Tools – SEOs use lots of research tools. Content marketers are no different – we’ll use keyword research tools such as Google Trends, UberSuggest and the Content Strategy Generator Tool to name just a few. We’ll still look at link and social metrics too – but with the main intention of building a content plan and a list of target placement sites for outreach – using BuzzStream of course!

Link building & Social Media = Blogger Outreach Specialist

Obviously a large percentage of any SEO campaign over the last 5+ years has been heavily weighted towards link building. This makes sense, it’s the single strongest factor and signal to Google over a website’s reputation and trust.

As with the study – we found that after in-depth SEO audits and competitor analysis, we normally reached a similar conclusion. The client needs more content – and they need more links! It doesn’t matter how much research you do, these two things are always essential.

And with Google’s panda/penguin updates – it means it’s becoming harder too. Google are getting much better at spotting unnatural link profiles and a shift towards building content-based links is an obvious step forward.

So for Quaturo, we quickly changed Pak Hou’s job role from a link builder with good social media experience, into a blogger outreach specialist. Making good use of his link building skills to focus on content placement – and using his social media background to build relationships with influencers in terms of promoting content.

Client/Project Managers = Community Managers

Previously when Chelsea headed up the SEO team – she would have to ensure that all aspects of an SEO campaign were addressed and on track.

To a certain extent this hasn’t changed hugely, but by having a clearer focus on content strategy, development and promotion, this makes it a much simpler process to manage. So how rather than having to worry about all aspects of a campaign – we can look to ensure that we’re all on track with delivery of content against the editorial calendar.

This also helps to ensure that we all have our individual parts to play within a project – so we’re working better as a team. And plus it allows us to know when we’re expected to be involved at a particular stage.

Copywriters = Expert Bloggers & Graphic Designers

The role of copywriters has also evolved a lot during the last 12 months in my opinion. With Google authorship becoming so important, the days of relying on copywriting services and ghost writers are becoming less and less effective.

  • Find influencers/expert bloggers – Being knowledgeable within a niche and having a reputation online for doing so is valued much more highly valued in Google now, and rightly so. Now it’s all about the personal profile behind the content. If you’re an influential author for a number of authority websites in your niche, then of course Google are going to trust your writing more.
  • Quality beats quantity – we’re now finding that quality beats quantity almost every time in Google– so rather than creating 100 articles based around your target keywords, write one instead! Become an ultimate resource on a particular subject and you’ll naturally generate links/social shares – getting rewarded by Google as a result. It certainly didn’t do Wikipedia any harm!
  • Mix it up! Not all content has to be written. Still create blog content and in-depth articles, but don’t just leave it there. Try creating videos, infographics, ebooks, whitepapers, video typography, HTML5 – find what your audience likes and give it to them. It’s not difficult!

All online brands have to be a publisher

The transition from SEO to content marketing is actually very natural, so providing you have a talented team – that progression doesn’t need to be too difficult.

And let’s be honest – you should have been doing it anyway! If you look at the brands that are winning from panda, they’ve been doing content marketing for a long time – so it’s no coincidence that the likes of OkCupid,, MoneySupermarket etc are benefiting from an increase in organic search visibility. They’re great online brands – so of course Google are going to reward them!


  • Kieran – if I’m reading your comment correctly, I think one of your other points is that content marketing should include content to support the customer at every stage of the marketing funnel. I think this is a really good point and one that’s not discussed much in the SEO community (yet). From the point in time where the customer is unaware that solutions even exist to help them with their problem, to the point where the customer is deciding between offerings, there should be content in place to support their needs…and it should be structured in ways that guide them to the point of purchase.

    I suspect we’ll see many more of the stronger SEO agencies extend their capabilities into these areas over time (I’d include Quaturo in this group). Each of the different marketing groups has unique capabilities that are critical to this…I think SEOs bring a metric-driven and scale mentality approach that’s incredibly valuable when paired with PR pros, social media pros, CRO experts, etc.

  • Great post! I totally agree, and am thankful to be able to pursue a career in writing I feel confident in thanks to the rise in content writing in regards to SEO.

  • Thanks Kieran, definitely think we’re on the same page.

    Also agree, our interpretation of content marketing is certainly a different angle to the content strategy led approach which is popular with the BrainTraffic/Confab/Content Marketing World crowd.

    Whereas our approach is coming from a more content-focused SEO/link buliding and social buzz angle. Both effective and hugely important, just in very different ways.

  • I don’t want to argue about semantics, but …

    Is this really “Content Marketing”, isn’t this just link building using content.

    “Content Marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.” CopyBlogger

    Content Marketing is MORE than just gathering links. Somewhere along the lines SEO has interrupted content marketing as guest blogging.

    Copywriters = Expert Bloggers & Graphic Designers

    This really isn’t true. Copywriters could work across the customer lifecycle or on one specific area, they could work on print publications, newsletters, product pages etc etc. You seem to be suggesting that a copywriter today is just a blogger who does fancy pictures.

    If you are using content marketing to generate links & shares, that’s cool. But the message from most SEO agencies seems to be that’s all there is to content marketing. To me that’s one metric content marketing can be measured by, but it’s only one small part.

    Content Marketing can also be below and above the line – this also seems to have been forgotten by SEO agencies.

    I think it’s awesome you guys are building links/shares via content marketing, but i also think you are doing a disservice to the excellent content marketing agencies who have always been content marketing agencies and who’s talents go beyond just generating links & shares e.g. brand awareness, conversion, retention, nurturing etc etc etc

  • Hi Kieran, thanks for your comment.

    I just wanted to respond, as I completely agree with all of your points. I definitely don’t see content marketing as an activity which you do just for SEO reasons. Although we are from an SEO background, I see the best campaigns working as an integrated/hybrid approach – so I would see content as being central to your social media, PR, branding and paid media campaigns as much (and in many cases, probably more so) than it is to organic search.

    I’m not sure if I got this across in the post, but the point I wanted to make was that link building has evolved into a much more PR-based activity.

    So yes, we would look to generate links and improve organic traffic by content – but in order to really succeed, links should be a by-product of good PR – not the main goal. If you can get your content infront the right audience, whether that’s potential customers, bloggers, journalists or social influencers – you’ve got more chance of benefiting indirectly from an SEO perspective, so I would see getting your content in front of your target audience as the main goal. And then if they happen to link to you and this increases your organic search, then great!

    Many of our recent clients have actually come to us not for SEO, but because they are looking for lead generation and sales, or to increase social media buzz and online PR around their brand. Which is the way it absolutely should be looked at in my opinion.

    As for your point on copywriters – yes completely agree again. I was looking at this more from an SEO perspective, so copywriters and ghostwriters who may have written copy in the past for article distribution or blog placement are now less effective. That doesn’t mean to say that copywriters for newsletters, print, product pages etc have been replaced by bloggers – I definitely don’t see that happening.

    In many ways Bloggers = Authors would be a better comparison, because writing and ranking in Google is now much more about people and context than it is just about content.

    Hope that helps to clarify a bit – let me know if you have any questions though.

  • Hey Kevin,

    Thanks for the comment. I wasn’t having a pop at your agency – it sounds like you guys are doing some great stuff. I am just a little concerned that the SEO industry is going to start spinning content marketing as a new form of link building, where in reality content marketing has been around longer than SEO, and isn’t anything new.

    I’ve seen SEO agencies (not you) write posts about their content marketing for links, and all it is, is guest posting. This is just link building under the guise of something else. Guest posting has been around for a long time, heck, even forum posting with signature links falls into this category. If the objective is to write a piece of content in exchange for a link – or produce a piece of content in return for links – I struggle to see how this differs from “Link Building”

    As you say, I see links as a by product of great content marketing – so in total agreement :)



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