As I wrote about a couple of months ago, content marketing has become the hot new buzzword in marketing these days. Google it and you’ll get 361,000,000 results, with the Content Marketing Institute’s website ranking at the top.

But what specifically can content marketing do for your business? I’ve talked about this in several previous articles, including this one. Here, I want to dig deeper into how content marketing can help improve your search engine optimization (or SEO) efforts

They Go Hand in Hand

For some insights into this, I contacted Stacy Williams, the CEO of Big Drum, a digital marketing strategy firm. I’ve known Stacy since she founded the company in 2001.

“Success with SEO increasingly relies on having fresh, quality content on your website,” Stacy said. “By ‘quality’ content, I mean information of value to your target audience that addresses their needs and pain points and is unique and well-written. Ideally, this content will also position your company as a thought leader and help pull prospects through the sales cycle.”

According to Stacy, this content can take many different forms: for example, a web page, a blog post, an article in a Resources section, a white paper, or a video that’s on an optimized web page.

A few years ago, the search engines weren’t real particular about quality when analyzing content for SEO ranking purposes. This gave rise to a strategy known as “keyword stuffing” in which marketers wrote content that was literally stuffed with keywords and keyword phrases they wanted to optimize. But the content was poorly written and sometimes didn’t even make sense when you read it.

When the search engines changed their algorithms so that websites were punished for posting keyword-stuffed content, this changed the content marketing game drastically. Now, marketers have to invest the time and money to create quality content as Stacy described it above — by either having the content produced in-house or hiring freelancers to write it on a contract basis.

Using Your Quality Content

OK, so now you know why quality content is important to SEO and how it can be generated. But how can you use this fresh, high-quality content to boost your organic SEO rankings? Stacy lists four ways:

1. Add more pages to your website. The more pages on your website, the more keywords you can target and the more opportunities you have to rank high. “I’m assuming that each piece of content will be optimized for one or two targeted keywords,” said Stacy. “Here, the keywords should be worked into the article’s headline and body copy, as well as the meta description tag.”

2. Grow the size of your website steadily over time. Google, in particular, tends to favor larger websites with beefier content over smaller websites with thinner content. “This is especially true when the larger website is steadily growing at a fairly consistent pace over time,” Stacy said.

3. Continue to seek out high-quality links back to your site. Link-building has become somewhat controversial recently, but Stacy said the search engines still consider the quantity and quality of links pointing to your website in their ranking algorithms. “If your site is jam-packed with fresh, quality content that seeks to inform rather than sell, it’s much easier to get inbound links. Truly stellar content can sometimes go viral and earn links while you sleep.”

4. Encourage people to share your content on social media. According to Stacy, social shares are becoming increasingly important in the search engines’ ranking algorithms. “If a lot of people are liking, sharing, tweeting, and +1′ing your content, this tells the search engines that it must be high quality, so you’ll be rewarded with higher rankings.” Therefore, be sure to put social sharing buttons on each page and encourage readers to share.

A Critical Marketing Component

“Fresh, quality content is critical for marketers today,” Stacy emphasized. “Not only does it help build your brand, credibility and authority, but it can also pull more prospects into the top of your sales funnel by increasing your company’s visibility in search engine results.”