Reading Time: 4 minutes -

SEO or social media for online marketing?

With social media marketing becoming so intertwined with search engine optimsiation (SEO) and link building, you wouldn’t be alone if you’re getting a bit confused.

You may be wondering which gives the better ROI – SEO or social media? This debate seems to be ongoing. Many believe SEO is the better choice while others will bat for social media. This article will look at the differences between both approaches.

Traffic from search engines and traffic from social media, is there a difference?

Current trends show that more people are searching more what they need on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. For example someone searching for ‘iPad reviews’ will most likely be looking to buy an iPad. When it comes to social networks, people don’t typically join to search for something, they join sites like Twitter and Facebook to network and make connections with friends and businesses alike. It is through these networks that they hope to discover new information that grabs their attention, or build new and trusted contacts. However, I did say people don’t typically join to search for something, the difference between search engines and social media is narrowing, with search engines looking to offer more social features and social networks looking to add better search capabilities. YouTube for example acts as both a social network and search engine and is considered by many to be the number 2 search engine behind Google.

How can this difference can impact your business?

When conducting SEO, your website will become optimised for certain keywords which you want to be found for. When ranking for words like ‘iPad reviews’, it tells you the visitors directed to you form the search engines are most likely interested in buying an iPad. But when social media comes into play this becomes a lot more difficult to monitor. All you know is that they have come to your site because they have seen content or a mention of your website on a particular social network. You need to think very carefully about what you are trying to achieve and use tools such as Google Analytics to test the different approaches, track visits to your website, where they are coming and monitor user behaviour.

Benefits of Social Media

Social Media offers the following benefits and drawbacks:


  1. More exposure for your business. Beneath the scenes of social media marketing what you are often trying to do is create a viral marketing strategy. When you carry out viral marketing, word of your brand spreads like a virus – it moves faster and faster as the ‘buzz’ increases, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop it. If your marketing message has become viral, you can expect to see some serious growth in the number of visitors to your website.
  2. The chance to build a following/community for your products which is not possible or is much more difficult to achieve with search engine optimisation.
  3. Interacting with your audience is much easier. You are able to get feedback and customers can contact you instantly – win-win situation.
  4. Your reach amongst your target audience increases rapidly. For example if your followers tweet about you then your follower’s followers also come to know about you. Hence, free promotion among your follower’s followers.


  1. Social media marketing is not an overnight process. It takes a lot of time to build a following on social networks and to establish your credibility.
  2. Not all social networks are suitable for all businesses. Businesses who deal in premium (expensive) products or B2B business don’t typically expect sales from social networks and may not want to use Facebook for example, but there are normally always social networks that are suitable, for example LinkedIn is often a popular choice for these kinds of businesses as it allows them to build business connections and credibility.
  3. Social media posts have a limited lifespan. If you are promoting your content on Twitter for example, you are only getting traffic through your most recent tweets and re-tweets. But, in SEO you are getting traffic for a much longer period providing your content ranks on the first page for your keywords.

Benefits of SEO

SEO offers the following benefits and drawbacks:


  1. Over 80% of us now use search engines when we are looking for information, or a company, product or service.
  2. SEO is cost-effective as there is no payment to the search engine for having the privilege of being ranked within it. This is of course very different to other search engine marketing tactics such as Pay Per Click (sponsored listings) where you do have to pay for the privilege.
  3. SEO often reaches a much more targeted audience, as visitors referred by search engine results will only visit your site if they are seeking specific information your website, such as your products or services.
  4. Research shows that most people never click on the sponsored listings because they don’t trust them. Approximately 80% of clicks are on natural listings and only 20% on paid listings.


  1. The major challenge of SEO is that there are billions of pages in the search engine indexes and your position is dependent on a constantly changing algorithm which is not published. Therefore, making your pages visible can require specialist knowledge, constant monitoring and the ability to respond.
  2. In competitive sectors, it can be hard to get listed in the top few results for competitive keywords and this is when expensive alternatives such as Pay Per Click may have to be used.
  3. SEO alone provides no way for somebody to share a result that they have found with their connections, therefore struggles to achieve the same viral affect that is possible with social media.


Both SEO and social media have their own benefits and drawbacks. Search engines and social media usually provide the biggest source of traffic and this is something that no marketer can afford to ignore. You will need to have patience and you have to work hard to be successful in both SEO and social media marketing. There should be no one or the other type of approach; instead there should be a strategy that combines both social media marketing and SEO, one that can be traced back to your business goals and target market. It’s likely you will need the support of a Web Design and SEO company and perhaps even a consultant that provides social media marketing services to help you to get the ball rolling and provide some initial training. But don’t despair, there are hundreds of specialists you can get advice from and don’t forget to use blogs and forums where possible as there will be lots of people who are happy to provide further support and talk about their own experiences. Over the next few weeks we will be covering a series of SEO topics in more depth. Please follow us @opaceweb on Twitter for information blog updates. Also like us on Facebook and feel free to subscribe to our feed.

Image credit – Owen W Brown


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Latest Posts