Is social media or SEO the best way to boost your digital marketing? Are both of these tools necessary for online success or is Social media the new SEO?
A lot of webmasters, small business owners, and other digital marketers ask me about the role of social media and SEO in the digital marketing process and wonder which is better to use to get more online exposure especially when they have limited budgets for their online campaigns.
I have to admit that this is a very good question and one that I spend a lot of time in the past finding the right answer. It is confusing because social media did change the way we do business on the Internet and naturally webmasters want to know what is the impact of social media on SEO and where to put your money and effort.
In short, none of them is better; you need both and I will explain below why. Before getting into the details and to make sure that everybody is on the same track, let’s see very quickly what is social media marketing and what is SEO.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is the process of utilizing social networks for the purpose of promoting your products or services. This may be a surprise for some but social networks are not used only for networking and talking with your friends, for marketers and companies they are a very important selling tool.
What does the social media marketing process involves? In short, SMM has to do with building your brand reputation in the social networks by creating a group of followers who are interested and want to interact with your brand. To do that you need to identify your target audience and try to connect with them through a well design content marketing plan and social media campaign.
This involves posting content that is relevant and interesting in your social media pages and also engaging with your followers.
Does it work? In the past, many marketers had doubts about the effectiveness of social media for selling but in the last couple of years things have changed dramatically. Recent studies show that customers who engage with a brand on social media are likely to make more purchases from the particular company. Other studies show that more than 70% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase after they saw a posting on social media.
My own personal experience with social media marketing the last couple of years is similar with the studies in the sense that we have seen really good results promoting our customers products and services (in various niches) in the social networks.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a process for optimizing a website for search engines. By optimizing we mean making those configurations on the website code, view, content settings and structure so that search engines can ‘read’ (crawl) the website easier. The more they can understand about a website, the greater are the chances of achieving better rankings.
Search engines use a number of rules to decide which websites to show in the top positions and SEO is about satisfying those rules. A seo friendly website is also more user friendly so the benefits from SEO go beyond rankings.
Does SEO Work? It certainly does. SEO can improve your search engine rankings and this means more traffic and sales since people using the Google search box are highly targeted. They either have a problem and they need a solution, or have a question and looking for an answer.
Is Social Media the new SEO?
If you do a search about Social media Vs SEO, you will see the sentence “social media is the new SEO” a lot. What this phrase implies is that social media shares (likes, tweets, pins, +1s, LinkedIn shares etc) have a direct influence on rankings like SEO. Is this true?
The answer is somewhere in the middle. Social media is not the new SEO because SEO was and still is about optimizing your website and content for search engines and users. In order to achieve good rankings in the long term, you need SEO.
Social media on the other hand, is like a big survey where users can show their preference by ‘voting’ for different pages/websites by giving them a like, pin, +1 or tweet.
So, someone should expect that what is popular on social media should also be popular on search engines, but this is not always the case.
Social signals alone, cannot influence rankings. Google has stated many times that they don’t use social signals in the algorithm. On the other hand, many studies showed that pages that do well in social, rank high in Google search results.
If social signals don’t affect rankings, why do we need social and how come popular posts in social rank better in search engines than non-popular posts?
The answer is simple:
You need social because its another source of traffic and a great sales tool.
You need social shares because you want to win the ‘social proof’ came.
You need social sharing because this means more people will see your content and this increases the possibility of other webmasters naturally link to it, which indirectly will boost your SEO.
In other words, social media indirectly helps SEO by generating more exposure for a web page/site.
Social Media VS SEO – Which is better?
As stated in the beginning of this post, you need both. It’s not the one or the other since both can help a website / online business get more traffic and under some conditions, make more sales. SEO will make sure that your content can be read by search engines and social media will help you get your content in front of more people faster. The more people will see a page, the more are the chances of linking to it, sharing to social media or engaging with the content.