Considering SEO or Social Media for your business? Discover the pros and cons of each to determine what will work best for you.
It’s clear SEO and social media are beneficial for similar and distinct reasons, but most brand teams don’t have the capabilities to be active on every medium in a significant way.
With limited time, budget, and resources, it’s in an organization’s best interests to be selective as to what marketing endeavors they invest in and why.
To date, 65 percent of online consumers look up information with search to learn more, find info on local destinations, discover how to complete tasks, and browse items when shopping. Search helps businesses provide the right information to customers when and where they need it most.
While at the same time, 71 percent of consumers who had a positive social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.
Highlighting how social media is effective at both driving awareness to an organization’s offerings, but can also spread word-of-mouth at scale for companies.
Learn how to decide what your marketing team’s main focus should be and the pros and cons of either approach.
How to Select the Right Approach
Every organization has unique needs and concerns, which dictate who you’re trying to reach, the resources available for marketing, and the priorities across the organization.
When deciding whether to fully prioritize search engine optimization, social media, or combination of the two, analyze who your audience is and where they are most active.
“I think the main focus should always be to go where your audience is presently at,” says Rick Ramos, the CMO of HealthyJoy and author of Content Marketing: Insider’s Secret to Online Sales & Lead Generation. “It might seem like an obvious statement, but it does require a bit of research to fully understand where they are.
“Start off by working on buyer personas before you decide where to allocate your funds. You should understand what social platform [your customers] reside on, what their motivations in life are, what their fundamental problems are, etc.”
Develop buyer personas to fine-tune who you’re reaching and where they spend their time online. This might mean your customers are active on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook or that they mainly read blogs and aren’t active on social media at all.
With a clearer understanding of your customer’s activity, think about which aspect of the marketing funnel or the customer decision journey your organization needs help with.
For instance, if you’re looking to attract new customers, then the search engines and social media can each assist your business in distinct ways.
If your brand is looking to impact purchase intent, then serving SEO-friendly content on your website is one of the most effective approaches.
When it comes to retaining your existing audience online, social media is a more effective medium for cultivating long-term loyalty.
The right approach to choosing one channel over the other comes down to where your audience is active and what areas of marketing your organization needs additional support with.
Option #1: Focus Primarily on SEO
Investing mainly in search engine optimization is the strategy that most organizations will find success with over spending time solely on social media or a mixed approach.
Allows an organization to prioritize their resources into creating a framework for developing the right amount of high-quality content.
Provides time to experiment with different topics and types of content to continue to produce information that both ranks in search and serves customers.
Although continual content creation is required, once a company’s pages begin to rank in search they often remain listed for relevant keywords for the long term.
Ranking with relevant information can impact a person’s intent to purchase after repeated interactions.
No budget is required to rank in search, other than the costs associated with creating, optimizing, and distributing content.
An organization can achieve higher brand credibility amongst consumers when it ranks highly in search, especially when a person sees the same organization rank repeatedly.
Keyword research for SEO can inform a company’s approach to AdWords to help deliver results from both channels.
Ranking in search can be time-consuming as rankings may take up to six months to appear in Google’s search results, which can be frustrating when trying to determine the ROI of your SEO work.
Difficult to compete when trying to rank for highly competitive keywords phrases in certain industries, which may require moving a portion of your SEO spend to PPC.
The inability for a company to connect or communicate with consumers on Google search beyond having pages listed in the search results.
Relying on the search engines alone can be risky since your organization isn’t in control of algorithm changes or penalties, which could reduce incoming traffic significantly.
Option #2: Prioritizing Social Media
Many organizations have built their entire customer base solely through their use of YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and other social networks.
However, this approach is not sustainable for every company as social media is most often one of many channels an organization invests in for marketing purposes.
The variety of ways an organization can share content and creatively express itself on social media allows a company to share different types of content and messages. This level of flexibility helps companies work towards a variety of goals and stand out amongst competitors.
The ability to directly communicate with your audience on social media gives a company the opportunity to listen, assist and learn from its customers on an ongoing basis.
Although traction from social media tends to occur in the long term, short-term results are commonplace since content shared is immediately public and there are many variables that impact the visibility of any given post.
No budget is required to share content on social media, but resources are required to create, distribute, or boost content to a larger audience on these channels.
A singular focus on social media allows an organization to have more bandwidth to monitor activity per channel, which increases a company’s response time to reply to outreach, join conversations, and create content related to trending topics.
Once a company stops posting on a social media channel, they don’t have an active presence there, since users rarely visit a brand’s account to view their content.
Relying on social media alone is risky because none of these channels are under a company’s control, which means changes to their algorithm, feature sets, and more can change at any moment.
It’s difficult to measure the ROI of a company’s efforts on social media as many actions on these networks can’t be attributed back to social media as the original source.
Option #3: Balance Both SEO and Social Media
Many leading brands and top experts argue that balancing both SEO and social media is essential to reap the full benefits of these mediums and gain the most exposure for a company.
Social shares on a webpage slightly impact how that content item appears in search. For example, if a social media influencer with a large audience shares a piece of content, it’s likely to get a boost in search momentarily.
“When proactively getting more social media shares to content on a website, I have seen Google send more organic traffic as a result,” says Gardner. “Incoming links to content from social networks impact the Page Authority (PA) of that content for a particular amount of time.”
Social media and SEO can assist a company in different stages of the marketing funnel or customer journey to move them closer to a conversion.
“SEO and social media are inextricably entwined these days,” says Steve Farnsworth, the director of demand generation at Steveology Group. “Now, you need solid, consistent SEO that incorporates the problem focused topics your early stage customers are eagerly searching for.
“Moreover, if you fail to develop and maintain a healthy presence on the social channels where your company, product, or industry is being discussed, your competition will be happy to own it instead. Holistic marketing is no longer optional, it’s required.”
Content created for SEO purposes like a blog post or a video can be repurposed to use on social media, increasing a company’s exposure, while reusing existing assets.
Use social media to test different content topics and types to see what your customer base is interested in. After you’ve published this content, invest further in the successful topics and types of content for inclusion on your website to drive results in search.
A dual focus allows an organization to reach their customers both in real time on social media and in the long term through search.
Widespread promotion and discussion of a company’s content on social media can lead to getting more backlinks and referral traffic, which impacts search rankings.
Many organizations claim to embrace social media and SEO, but when splitting efforts across both mediums, many fail to dedicate enough time, talent, and resources to drive the results they’re after.
Investing in both SEO and social media can be a time-intensive venture, especially when first starting, as results are typically minimal in the first three months to a year. This often leads to an organization investing in paid advertising initially to see immediate results.
The full impact each medium has on the other will likely remain a mystery as both the search engines and the social networks don’t share many details about the specific variables that drive exposure on their platforms.
Which approach seems to be the best fit for your organization? Is your organization starting fresh with social media and SEO or are you reassessing your existing approach? Share your thoughts with us over on Twitter @ThorSocial. We want to hear from you!