To say that Search Engine Optimization is a volatile industry would be a gross understatement. The ever-changing landscape of search rewards the most inquisitive, innovative and agile, while it punishes the devious and the stubborn. It seems that now, as 2012 comes to a close, the SEO industry is once again on the brink of a tidal shift that few are pivoting for.

While the aspects of technical SEO, specifically site architecture, will most likely never go away, many of the tactics that used to win at search simply don’t work anymore. At the same time, previously weaker or unproven tactics like social media and content marketing continue to grow in effectiveness while influencing SEO tactics. The result is a new discipline: inbound marketing, which combines SEO, content marketing and social media.

One common thread amongst the three components of inbound marketing is content (which is different than content marketing):

  • Content Marketing: the pursuit of developing and distributing content that solves customer problems and generates leads.
  • SEO: the pursuit of getting your content to appear in the search results.
  • Social Media: a delivery system for your content.

In the old days, rankings could be achieved with poor to mediocre content, technical on-page sculpting and link building for the sake of link building. As Google algorithms continued to get smarter, content quality and link quality had to increase concurrently. Today, search engines are so good at identifying and ranking only the most relevant content that other traditional SEO tactics pale in comparison in terms of effectiveness. Combine that with alternate distribution channels like social media (which sometimes factor into rankings), and a new paradigm emerges: effective SEO should be content-focused with an emphasis on quality and publishing frequency (quantity).

Good content naturally acquires links and gets organically shared across many social media platforms. This drives social signals and natural inbound links, which drives rankings. There’s no ceiling for the amount of social signals and links that you can generate, so don’t hesitate to publish daily.

So, what kind of content now wins at search? It must fit the following criteria:

  • Content must solve a real problem – if your content doesn’t address a search query, it won’t get found. And if isn’t quality content, it won’t get shared.
  • Content must be easily shareable – this is where social media optimization (SMO) comes into play. Optimize your blog and rich media (infographics, white papers, videos) with social sharing buttons.
  • Content must be authored by a transparent subject-matter expert – Google has introduced a new ranking factor, AuthorRank, which takes into account the author of content. This means that anonymous content will always be outranked by content written by an established and credible author. Many believe that AuthorRank will dwarf all other ranking factors in the near-future.

The writing is on the wall, and many marketers have realized the importance of content. In fact, according to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America report from the Content Marketing Institute, 64% of B2B content marketers say they are challenged with producing enough content. So, you can either stand by and watch your competitors win at search through frequently published content, or beat them to the punch. Either way, your outdated SEO tactics won’t do you a lick of good. To get started in content marketing, check out our free guide: The 5 Ws of Content Creation.