Social media marketing versus SEO. It's an increasingly relevant quandary that business owners have to deal with. Which one should you prioritize? Which one will work better, if at all?
All great questions. And all are important questions.
Let's face it. Ideally, we, as business owners, would all have limitless marketing budgets to pour into as many channels as possible. But we all know that is rarely ever the case.
Hard decisions must be made to allocate marketing dollars to the _right _channels, usually the ones that render the strongest return on investment (ROI).
We'll help you tackle the strengths and weaknesses of each strategy and, ultimately, which medium is best for you.
(Image Source: Pixabay)
Let's dive right in by assessing SEO from a broad view.
If all it took to convert your audience into customers was the single source that is your website, then you'd be set. If only your entire audience was already aware of your online presence and knew exactly how to find you via your website.
But no, it's never that simple. You need to proactively foster their awareness that you exist and inspire consideration of the value you offer in order to compete.
SEOs know it takes a concerted effort to position their brand in front of their audience. The trick is knowing who belongs in your audience before they themselves are even aware they belong in it.
A whole host of SEO tactics can be employed to raise your rank on the search engine results page (SERP). Let's nail down the object of these tactics now:
- It's More Universal – The number of users on search engines vastly outweighs the number of users on any social media platform. By focusing on search rankings, you'll be accessible to way more of your audience via one unified space.
- It's More Affordable – Compared to paid social media placements, SEO activities are typically more affordable, and the ROI margins can be a lot stronger than paid social channels.
- It's Long-lasting – Although there's the common issue that SEO takes time to develop and see results, its effect has staying power which can be integral in establishing a credible brand name over long durations of time.
- It Builds Authority – Consumers are often very encouraged when your brand ranks highly on the SERP. It helps them believe that the brand is a valid, trusted solution.
- It's Symbiotic With Paid SEM – Paid search engine marketing, like Google Ads, goes hand-in-hand with SEO and is a great way to utilize research committed to SEO. SEO keywords often lend themselves to paid SEM ads and vice versa. Google also provides tools for advertisers, presenting data on paid search volumes for keywords that can be used to help SEO.
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Social media benefits from varied placements (i.e., TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).
Similar to SEO, it can take time to build a following on a social platform. However, the result of said following can produce very passionate involvement from your audience.
That's the beauty of social platforms – the ability to interact with your customers beyond just the transaction but also with the aspect of community and sharing.
Let's take a look at a few pros:
- It's Focused – Social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram can have very deliberate patterns of activity from their users. By choosing to engage with those users, you'll have access to a lot of information on what they're looking for based on audience data relative to the platform.
- It's Great for Brand Awareness – Many new brands establish their first roots in the public eye through social platforms. Fostering brand awareness can be a fundamental first step in exposing what you offer to your audience.
- It Can Be a Commerce Channel – Some social platforms feature storefronts for brands to sell products directly from the platform without the need to visit their website.
- It Can Create Brand Loyalty – When a customer is in touch with your brand on social media, it begins to feel more like a daily part of their life. They become closely attached to your brand since they see you as a solution that has either helped them or could help them with a problem.
- It Can Develop Community – For example, avid bike enthusiasts love to know that the company they just purchased their new pro mountain bike from cares just as much as they do about the sport they love. They want to immerse themselves in the community and share their new acquisition with others. Likewise, they like to see what other bikers are doing in their enjoyment of the sport. A clever and caring brand will partake in these dialogues and help lead the narrative.
Let’s go through some of the obstacles that SEO can create.
- It Can Take A While To See Results – SEO can often take months to begin to see tangible indications of progress. It's a long game that requires patience.
- It Can Be Too Competitive – Depending on your vertical, search keywords can be more or less competitive. The more competitive a keyword is, the less likely that you'll rank highly for that keyword. Thankfully, we've got a handy tool to help identify the competitiveness of search keywords.
- It Requires Consistent Effort to Maintain – SEO isn't something where you "set it and forget it." It needs continued attention in order to thrive. If you go too long without significant updates, search engines will eventually regard your site as stale and prioritize it less in the SERP.
- It's More Unidirectional Versus Bidirectional – Where social media emphasizes communicating with your audience, SEO is more static in its messaging. Social media establishes a scene for dynamic interaction, whereas a user that finds your site on the web is discovering you on their own. This can, at times, appear less relational.
Now, let's go through some of the main drawbacks of social media as a medium.
- Its Exposure is Usually Smaller – Earlier, we highlighted a positive of social media being that it’s more focused in nature. Each platform may have smaller concentrations of your audience since not every audience member may be present on every platform.
- It Can Become a Negative Space – Social media sites, at the end of the day, are much like public forums. People can express almost anything they want about your business, good and bad. If not closely monitored, your reputation can be harmed by unhappy and unkind users.
- It Requires More Urgent Response – It's good practice to interact with users on social media as often as possible, and this can happen at any time. It can be time-consuming to respond to users' comments and posts when they're engaging with your brand.
(Image Source: Pixabay)
Alright, so you've got a limited marketing budget. You're trying to settle on which path is best for you.
Ideally, you would split your marketing spending and apply it to both strategies. It's best to test each one out and glean from your results which one is the stronger engine for your lead or sales generation.
However, let's say you want to do a little more predictive analysis first. You can apply some thought based on your own vertical to help arrive at which solution will render the most meaningful results.
You have to know your audience. Knowing your audience will aid you dramatically in anticipating which strategy is best for your situation.
Ask yourself, "What stage of the buyer's journey am I trying to appeal to for my audience?"
Social media platforms are a great space for the awareness stages of the buyer's journey. But they tend to perform weaker in the consideration and decision-making stage.
Typically, a user will become aware of your product or service via social media. This is the staying power that social media involvement can spark. They may not yet be ready to commit to a decision, but you've at least put yourself in their mind with the hope that they'll recall you when they're ready to commit later.
That's where having strong SEO to support your website searchability comes in. Arming your website as a lead generator can tend to the full sales funnel from initial awareness to consideration and finally to the decision to purchase.
However, in most cases, when you're trying to drive traffic to the site, it is simpler if they already know that they need a specific good or service. When that happens, you want to be the brand that's at the forefront of their mind.
When the user ultimately goes to Google to search for the topic, even if your website appears in the second or third position, you'll have already lobbied for their awareness amid social media placements. It's then that they'll have an internal bias toward your brand simply because they know you better than other brands.
Perhaps social media is simply a means to an end for you by supporting your SEO. Perhaps it's only one touchpoint along the path a user takes to arrive at your brand as their chosen solution. Or maybe, it's the point of sale for your product – the end of the funnel.
On the flip side, maybe you're appealing to a more inquisitive audience – the kind of user wanting to know all their options. That's where making your site front and center for them on search engines can help them cut to the chase.
Knowing your audience, their problems, and how they seek to solve them is key to deciding whether to focus on social media or search rankings.