The other day a longtime friend of mine tweeted, “LIKES are the New Links.” As an SEO, I cringed a little. It’s statements like these I see coming from a lot of folks these days, the rise in social media popularity and the use of social media influence in both Google and Bing’s search results have lead many to claim, or even believe that social is all you need. Thankfully my friend doesn’t come from this school of thought, but her tweet got me thinking a lot about why social media as a sole online strategy falls so short of what a business, big or small, can achieve online.
The Appeal of a Social Only Effort
There is a lot of appeal to social only strategies, especially for small businesses. Social only strategies tend to:
- Tailor to smaller budgets
- Require less effort to gain momentum
- Require fewer resources
- Utilize existing social media understanding of staff, or office members
It’s easy to understand why so many businesses are drawn to social media. They hear all the buzz around social media, they see big corporations using social media in major ad campaigns and it leads them to believe that social is where its at. And in a lot of ways, they’re right.
Social media is a great way for brands big or small to increase visibility and create engagement among existing customers, but in comparison to SEO, social media has a hard time driving leads and delivering high ROI from a dollars and cents perspective. People use social media to socialize, but they use search to find solutions to their needs.
As a recent Search Engine Watch article pointed out, recent studies from both Adobe and Conductor find that when it comes to online queries, most consumers are still turning to their favorite search engines before their favorite social network.
Why You Need More Than Just Social Media
You need more than just a social media strategy, just like you need more than just an SEO strategy, or just a paid search strategy. At the end of the day digital marketing delivers numerous channels for businesses to pull from. And with anything, its never a good idea to put all of your eggs in one basket.
It Doesn’t Lend Itself to Discovery
Unless you’re running paid advertising on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the like, chances are you aren’t going to generate a lot of new discoveries for your brand or your business. SEO is great as a foundational element for building your online presence. It helps people who aren’t familiar with your brand find you and discover what you or your business has to offer.
SEO Can Strengthen Social Engagement
When you think of the core of SEO you think of on page factors such as Titles, Descriptions, and the like. Optimizing your website for discovery lends itself nicely to social media in that when people share your content on sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ they won’t just see words like “Home” or “Products” in the title of the links shared from your site. Instead they will be keyword rich titles and descriptions optimized for encouraging people to click through to your website and describing exactly what it is the page is about.
Social Can Increase SEO Visibility
When you look at the adoption of social results in both Bing and Google, you recognize there is a huge opportunity for businesses not only to use SEO to show up in the search results, but to take it a step further by having relevant content that has also been shared or liked by social media users who influence the person searching.
Search and Social Are Stronger Together
There’s no question that social media has become valuable tool, but as it grows in popularity and is analyzed by the search engines and how they rank content it will only increase in its value. However the value will only be there if you have a strong foundation within your website to fuel it. Without the proper SEO foundations in place, there is no way to guarantee your content is going to show up in front of the right audience.
I would never recommend a solely social strategy to a client, just as I would never recommend a SEO only strategy to a client. Fueling your business from a single channel is dangerous no matter what that channel is. If Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other social channels you’re using shut down tomorrow where would you earn your business online?