Businesses that start online are growing and it’s no surprise. Some require zero investment, while others just don’t need a physical location like they would have in the past. Remember Warby Parker? You should, because it completely shook up the eyewear space — an industry once based on the assumption that consumers would need to visit a traditional brick-and-mortar store for a try-on — and the company is still thriving.

With all this in mind, it should be clear why search engine optimization (SEO) has become a priority for many businesses’ marketing plans. Online, the list of search engine results is the row of storefronts and your website is your store. Without effective SEO, your customer might walk right past your store and into another, more prominent outlet (i.e., click a competitor’s website that ranks higher in the search results than yours does).

Content marketing is one powerful way to give your SEO strategy a boost and get those customers walking into your store. Here are four reasons why you should be doing content marketing for your online business if you aren’t already:

1. It Can Help You Rank for Target Keywords

When it comes to SEO, you don’t want your website to simply rank — you want it to rank for relevant search queries. It’s a delicate balance: You want to rank for keywords that have enough search volume that they can bring a considerable number of people to your site, but you don’t want to rank for so broad of a topic that it’s impossible to compete or the searcher’s intent becomes too difficult to understand, even for Google.

For example, if you search “bagel,” Google will give you local bagel shops, a nutritional information panel, and several other pieces of information. This is because “bagel” is such a broad query that Google is not 100 percent sure what you’re looking for.

Content marketing gives you the opportunity to rank for specific long-tail keywords that convert well and have a solid volume of searches — e.g., “new york bagel delivery” instead of the simple “bagel.” You want each page on your site to rank for specific keyword strings.

You should create content that answers a question for or provides information to a searcher who is also a potential customer. Use your target keywords to inform what you create, then watch the organic website traffic grow over time from those keywords. For example, a bagel company looking to rank better in search results for the query “new york bagel delivery” could create a blog post that lists out which boroughs of New York order bagels for delivery the most. This would be an engaging piece of content and would help the company rank for that keyword.

2. It Can Earn External Backlinks to Your Site

Your SEO strategy doesn’t necessarily need to include acquiring backlinks from other websites to yours, but this is an important factor for search engines when determining the trustworthiness of a site. A link from another reputable site acts as a vote of confidence for yours in the eyes of a search engine. That site trusts yours, so Google is more likely to trust yours as well.

There are a few methods of earning backlinks, and content marketing is by far one of the best. It earns inbound links for your website in an organic way, which is the true representation of a credible website. Avoid “black hat” SEO strategies and agencies, as well as backlink farms. You may see short-term gains with these services, but they aren’t sustainable. Plus, you run the real risk of getting your website penalized once Google figures out what you’re doing.

Content marketing is a legitimate way to get backlinks. For example, on my team, we create informational pieces, data analyses, and many other types of content. This genuinely informative content provides material that journalists and bloggers will cover on their own websites, which consequently generates backlinks. Often, these pieces of content will continue to earn inbound links even after we’ve finished promoting them. Plus, these pages add value to users of the site — something Google has specifically mentioned site content should do.

3. It Provides More Opportunities to Pass Link Equity to Other Pages on Your Site

Similar to how external backlinks from trusted websites can help yours, an internal backlink can boost other pages on your site that need help ranking or aren’t being indexed by Google at all (which means they aren’t showing up in search engine results).

A link from one page of your site to another passes link equity to that page. For example, a blog post that earned five backlinks from other websites would pass on that vote of confidence to other pages of your website if you include internal links within that blog post. Plus, internal linking can be a natural way to continue a site visitor’s journey beyond that first page.

That said, you shouldn’t stuff your pages with internal links, nor should you use repetitive anchor text. Never forget that the fundamentals of SEO are all about creating an informative and user-focused website. Don’t overdo it on any one strategy because “that’s what Google likes.”

Employing content marketing will mean creating new pages for your site, whether those are landing pages or blog posts. This means more pages where you can create internal links to other pages on your site. Plus, if the content performs well in terms of rankings and backlinks, that page will have considerable link equity to pass onto other pages on your site.

4. Your Competitors Are Probably Already Doing It

You may have heard the saying, “If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.” This is a pretty extreme statement, but there is some truth to it, especially if your business exists within a highly competitive space. Business growth minimizes risk in most cases, but more importantly, it prevents you from losing ground to competitors because you sat still while they advanced.

The concept of content marketing isn’t new. Your competitors may not be employing it specifically for the purpose of SEO (it has other benefits), but they are likely reaping the SEO rewards.

There are no instant fixes when it comes to ranking position. It takes time for the results of your efforts to take effect. The sooner you establish a comprehensive SEO and content strategy for your website, the sooner you’ll see your site’s condition improve — and the harder it’ll be for competitors to get an edge on you.

Here’s the caveat with any suggested approach to marketing: It needs to be done well. Don’t create content for your website just to create content. Publish something that will actually provide value to your customers. It will benefit your business in more ways than one.

Maddi Salmon is a content marketing manager for Go Fish Digital.

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