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Social vs Search: What is More Effective for Small Businesses?

April 25, 2012 · 15 comments

in SEO, Social Media

Social vs SearchWhen it comes to promoting a website small business owners now have a massive decision to make, whether to choose social media or search engine optimization to enhance their online presence.

The decision makers are left with a range of questions that if answered in a straightforward manner will benefit everyone involved in the promotion of a said website. However their task is complicated when the experts and marketers who they look to for these answers are themselves, split down the middle as to which choice is the road to success.

Choosing whether social media or SEO is going to be more effective for your local business relies heavily on what your brand is looking to achieve online. This means that before jumping on social networking sites or attempting to rank higher on Google, brand managers must have clear and concise objectives for their online strategy.

These objectives may be to increase lead generation, improve interaction with the target audience or to raise brand awareness, to implement the correct strategy it is vital that first you know what you want to achieve online.

Lead Generation                                              

Like many local businesses your online objective may be to increase lead generation. If this is the case it may be worth listening to the 500 or so marketing professions at B2B and B2C companies who agreed search marketing is more effective at generating leads than social media. The figures found that for some companies, SEO increased lead generation by nearly 60% showing the advantage that ranking highly on Google for targeted key phrases has over merely having a social media presence.

Discovery

SEO is also extremely effective in increasing the visibility of local businesses online.  In a similar piece of research carried out earlier this year 38% of consumers said that they rely on search engines to find local restaurants, bars and clubs as opposed to just 3% who rely on social media sites to find the information they are searching for.

The reason for such a gulf in figures is simply because social networks are not search engines. We are creatures of habit; to ‘Google’ something is now everyday language to search for information, and to find that information quickly.

Increasing Brand Awareness

These findings may be quite conclusive that search marketing, in particular SEO is more effective for promoting local/ small businesses online, however that doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t have its benefits.

Whereas SEO and search marketing may be more effective for increasing visibility and lead generation, if you are looking to raise brand awareness for your small business many leading marketers agree that greater brand exposure and awareness are the top benefits of social media marketing.

So What Next. . ?

The changes that have been made to search algorithms in recent years has seen the importance of social media rise considerably. Many believe that social signals such as ‘likes’ and shares on social networks such as Facebook and Google+ can have an effect on search engine rankings for phrases relating to a specific brand.

This has led to the line between social media and SEO becoming particularly blurred in recent years. From the figures used in this article what we can conclude is that search marketing enables customers to first and foremost discover the web presence of your local business.

This is shown through the fact that SEO is more effective for increasing traffic and visibility online whereas social media excels in raising brand awareness as customers confirm the presence of your local business by connecting with them on social networking sites.

I hope this article has helped to answer many of the questions that brand owners, particularly those working with small businesses, may have had over whether SEO or Social Media is more effective for online promotion. It really does rely on what you want to achieve online, but what is becoming apparent is that soon the question won’t be whether to use Social or Search, the question will be how you use them together to produce a truly effective online campaign.

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Charles is an SEO assistant at Innermedia who specialise in helping small to medium sized UK businesses enhance their online presence through both social media & SEO. If you are a business owner in greater London, or the Essex area and are looking for an SEO agency Hertfordshire contact Innermedia.

Charles has written 2 awesome articles for us at Opportunities Planet

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa April 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I would agree SEO is still in the lead but you can form wonderful relationships for your business through social. With SEO you can be found by folks looking for you to serve a need of theirs. Social cannot do that yet. Good article!
Lisa recently posted..Are You Keeping Up With The Changes on Social Sites?My Profile

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Charles Morley April 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Must definitely. The relationships that can be created through social media are what make the medium so fascinating for marketers and why brands who use it effectively have seen great results already. Interesting to hear the speculation that Facebook are improving their search algorithm, we will just have to wait and see what impact this will have!

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Alex from webhosting April 25, 2012 at 7:51 pm

The aim of social network is to generate millions of visitors per day on a site. Social media is a big part of our lives and we can use it for effective promotion.
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Rizwan Sultan April 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm

I think Social media is more powerful if you really interested to getting traffic or increase business or sale but now days Google make a drastic change in Over Optimized sites so I think SEO is a big risky.
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Donna Merrill April 26, 2012 at 2:41 am

SEO is very important, but these days Social Media is on the rise. With all the social sites and ratings, I feel we need to have both. Many have not paid attention of the power of social media. I love it and it is my passion. Tracking my seo vs social media, I find, for me, that social media brings more business to me than anything else.
Branding is the key point here and must be done properly and consistently. If we are not branding ourselves properly on all the social platforms, we are “giving away” our business.
Thanks for pointing this out.
Donna
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Charles Morley April 26, 2012 at 11:25 am

Hi Rizwan you raise a good point with the over optimized sites crack down by Google but I would have to disagree in saying that it makes SEO risky. If anything I think it makes SEO even more effective if carried out properly and that is what Google is ultimately trying to achieve by penalising over optimized sites in the first place.

Donna, I agree. If any business no matter how large or small wants to be effective online they must do two things. Firstly they must brand themselves correctly, appealing to their target audience and differentiating themselves from competitors, and secondly they must have an effective integrated online approach across both search and social.

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William Amis April 27, 2012 at 9:49 am

Charles,

I must say from my experience before blogs and now with them I use both. One without the other is just crazy. You need to interact with people and give them quality content that can be put to use.

You also have to keep your name visible to the masses with SEO techniques. Just do not get into the ego trip most people start with posting their ranks. That serve no one except your ego.

People want one stop service and hands on support. They want to know the person and careless about products and services. If they do not like you then no matter what you do to bring traffic it is useless. I have seen the #1 ranks sites and its junk. There is nothing useful and never get return visits. You can end up on allot of the sites just by searching and landing on that site. You can’t find most things on a site based on all the affiliate junk in the way.

If people would just keep it simple and get involved vs pitch pages for leads. Then our industry would gain more respect and quality information would start to be produced at sites that will get returned loyal visitors. It works by remaining transparent.

Charles. I am honored to have read such useful information. I do look forward in hearing more of your insightful finds. Hey lifetime student and coach, thanks.

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Raena Lynn April 30, 2012 at 7:08 am

Hi Charles,

Great article! I think there must be a blending of both SEO and social media. It isn’t one choice or another. SEO is ranked high for helping people find what they are looking for. Once they do, then social media helps to create the trusting relationship they need to “close the sale.” The bottom line is businesses need customers whether the business is offline or online. Once the business is found, the relationship building begins. We do it in person offline. We do it using social media platforms online.

The recent Google changes indicate that they are trying to blend the two so people will get quality and support. I’m not limiting to products, but anything on the internet that is promoted, including blogs.

Not every marketer understands the importance of quality and do not promote correctly when there is a desperation to just sell. The consumer does not get what they are looking for in the product, service, or support.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing as a consumer to sit down at your computer, you do a search, and you are directed to a quality site with quality products of exactly what you are looking for within your price expectations? Then to top it off, you find a company with great customer support ready to accept your patronage in return for the beginning a great business relationship? Does that sound too good to be true? Of course not. With the pressure and competition to brand and rise above the rest, I think consumers expect that scenario. Offline works the same, except it takes more time and effort to find what you are seeking. But sometimes the personal social contact is worth it!

Raena Lynn
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Kyle April 30, 2012 at 8:52 am

Hey Charles,

You and the team of authors at opportunities planet always right such informative blog posts. I think the decision on whether to do more search vs. social also depends on the type of business or service someone has to offer.

Another way i look at it is, like you said, SEO is a great way for lead generation, social is good for leads to but SEO are people you know are going to be knew potential customers, rather than social media where they already have a notion of what you have to offer, but you can always upsale them!

Talk soon
Kyle
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John Ernest April 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

SEO is important, but I believe building up a relationship with your clients is more important. Look at it this way, when you have strong connections with other people, they are more likely to advertise your company by word-of-mouth, which is a very powerful tool for your company.

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Charles Morley April 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Some really interesting points raised by all. The fact that such discussion can take place I think illustrates how effective the two techniques are and the part we expect them to play for some to come in the online field.

William, your right about the amount of sites that are ranked number 1 for key phrases that are never going to be effective for their business or for driving sales. A lot of business owners may think that ranking well for a certain phrase is enough but it doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t getting a good number of searches or is being found by the wrong target audience. This all goes back to planning your marketing campaign, whether it be traditional advertising or SEO, the campaign must start with consumer insight and by gathering as much information about your target audience as possible. I think people sometimes forget that online but by starting with phrases that you expect your target audience to use and working backwards is an effective technique.

John, I can see where you are coming from. Building relationships is obviously the foundation of business and social media gives brands the best opportunity to do this however I think that many small business’s struggle with being discovered on social media. Many small brands may have a twitter page and a Facebook timeline but aren’t being found by their target audience. This is where some may say SEO helps brands be discovered, from there a consumer may visit a brands website and than find their social profiles however it may also have something to do with what Kyle mentions in the post above yours. It may depend on the type of business or service being offered. Word of mouth is massively effective but are people on social networks really going to spend time ‘sharing’ and talking about a loft conversion company? Or a company that specialise in providing spare parts for industrial sized musical equipment.These are just examples but I think many small business owners may not view their company as being ‘social’ enough to benefit from social media and instead would rather focus their time and resources on SEO and showing up in a place they know their target audience are actively looking for them.

Charles

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Perry Davis April 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Hello Charles

In the new economy small business marketers are faced with improving the performance of their marketing efforts. Charles this statement, “before jumping on social networking sites or attempting to rank higher on Google, you must have clear and concise objectives for your online strategy.”, is the fundamental step to improving their marketing performance. Once they know their objectives and answer the questions you share then they can create a blueprint for success using the most effective media.

Thanks

Perry A Davis Jr
Music City
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jacob May 1, 2012 at 8:36 am

SEO is used mainly for lead generation and branding. Social media is playing a big factor such as plus ones and fb likes on the rankings for content. So the best choice would be to mix both and use the branding and lead generation powers of both.
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Andreas Pazer May 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm

I would agree SEO is still in the lead but you can form wonderful relationships for your business through social. With SEO you can be found by folks looking for you to serve a need of theirs. Social cannot do that yet. Good article!
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Hannah Marr September 5, 2012 at 11:52 pm

good article. I think the real issue is that people need to combine both SEO and social media in order to make a real impact on their marketing campaign and over all sales. they feed off of each other and when used together can do more good than one or the other used on their own.

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