Note: This is the second article in a series of three guides for content specialists on how to optimize your content for search engines. If you haven’t already, please visit our blog to catch up on the first article.

There’s a raging debate (ok, probably not, but I have a flair for the dramatic) between marketing experts about which strategy is best used to grow an online business. Is it SEO, or is it social media marketing?

There’s one very key difference between the two, and that is timeliness. In our ongoing blog discussions on marketing, I want to take some time to break down the differences between the two and what benefits each can offer to your business. With data to push us in either direction, it’s difficult to make a choice on which one to pursue, but the reality is that they both serve their functions well.

They both create inbound channels. They both promote articles, content, or services provided. They both support the sales funnel. And still, even though they both do a lot of the same things, they’re both different in a lot of ways.

THE TOPIC

The first opposite comes in the form of the topic itself. On social media, content that stirs and engages emotionally often outperforms other types of content, while in search (SEO) content that is research-based and unbiased tends to do better.

Why is this? I have a few thoughts about the possibilities of why, but ultimately I think it comes down to people’s guards. I believe that reader’s defenses are lowered when engaging through social media. Platforms like Facebook do a good job of creating an atmosphere that doesn’t always allow unbiased formats to shine. That’s not to say that everything on social media is fake news, but it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate what’s true and what’s not. For this reason, users tend to engage better with what makes them feel versus what makes them think.

Outside of social media, internet users have been conditioned to become defensive against an onslaught of over-sensationalizations, advertisements, and deceptive web practices. Research-based content like how-to topics or articles from trustworthy sources often perform best in this space.

THE FORMAT

Second, social media tends to favor visual and short form text best. Posts with images generate an average of 53% more likes on Facebook than those without. In contrast, long-form text performs best in SEO. The top pages in Google averages over 1500 words.

Again, this goes back to emotional triggers on social media. It’s no secret that visuals are powerful mediums when it comes to convincing or motivating.

THE AUDIENCE

Audience targeting is an interesting dynamic when it comes to social media marketing vs SEO. On social media, you’ll find that you target your audience based on who they are versus what they think. When optimizing for search, you’ll want to target what people are thinking versus who they are.

The reason for this is that you can’t distribute your SEO content to the public, rather you’re hoping that public finds you. Tailoring your message to how people are thinking or what they’re searching gives you the highest measure of success. Inversely, social media marketing platforms like Facebook Business Manager allows you to create ads and define specific age ranges, genders, locations, and more when distributing your message.

THE CONVERSION

It turns out that visitors that are channeled to you from social media are less likely to buy, but more likely to share and spread your information. This is why awareness campaigns do so well running through social media as opposed to search. On the other hand, visitors from a search are more likely to be ready to purchase. We call these clients ‘purchase ready’because they’re here to take care of business. They are however less likely to share, interact with, or spread your information. They have a specific purpose and they’re here to get that done.

Keep this in mind when you’re in the planning phase of your SMART campaigns.

THE SPEED

Social media following, engagements, and conversations can happen instantly. This can be for good or for bad. That being said, your information appears as instantly as you post it, and results can begin filtering to you within minutes. SEO can be slow and uncertain. Keep in mind that even relevant pages may take days to be crawled, indexed, ranked, and then appear on a Google search. It can take days, months, even years to build up enough standing to where you’re showing on the first page of a search.

THE REACH

How much awareness can social media attract over search? In social media, there is virtually no limit to the number of people who can see your content. Your information can be shared, discussed, it can become trending, and the virality of it can drive huge amounts of attention to a topic or conversation. Traffic from search, however, will never exceed the number of people who search for that phrase. There is no viral factor to your landing page outside of the number of people directly looking for that information. It is possible however to drive attention to your search efforts through social media. The two can very well work in tandem, but alone, SEO will often never reach the upper limits of where social can.

THE EFFORT

The amount of effort you put into a project can often have a direct correlation to the outcome. This is true for social media, but untrue for search.

Social media marketing often involves many short actions, with outcomes that are quick to come and quick to go. Social media requires a high level of continuous effort. Responding to engagements (like comments), tweaking and adjusting display and distribution settings, tracking of the campaign, and so on. None of these things need to happen to increase visibility through search. Once the article is written, you set it and forget it, and let Google drive traffic to you.

THE MEASUREMENT

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it, evaluation is a huge factor in attribution to success. If you aren’t measuring and evaluating how your campaigns performed, how are you going to learn, grow, and do better next time? When it comes to measurements for evaluation, social media engagement metrics are all obvious and visible. How many likes did you get? How many comments? After sampling some of the comments, were they positive or negative? What’s harder to measure is visibility. Social media platforms do a mediocre job of reporting how much attention a post received outside of actual engagement. Just because I saw something doesn’t always mean I engaged with it.

SEO is quite the opposite. Visibility from traffic is easy to see and report, but engagement is harder to measure. Often times you can count on the fact that someone searching for your keywords and visiting your page had some purpose of being there, but outside of that, there isn’t much more you can tell about intention. Sometimes you get lucky and someone leaves a comment on your blog post, but those are far and few in between.

You can see that both social and search are all about connecting people, but they do it in two very different ways. Ultimately they do end up in the same place: a connection with an audience. All of these metrics lead to one last thing…

THE CLICK

Click through rate is the bottom line when it comes to marketing. The delivery of that lead to your website or sales funnel is what the goal should be, so optimizing your landing pages for clicks should be your top priority. To figure out what this means, check out our blog articles about PPC and Web Design.

And that’s that, folks. Be sure to tune in to our last blog post where we go knees deep into some advanced SEO techniques that you can utilize to increase your search traffic. Order in, coming right up!

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