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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.


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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