In the Battle of SEO vs. Social, SEO Always Wins
Peter Panda

It doesn’t matter how much we love social media, how many fans or followers we have or even how well we convert via social channels. The hard, fast truth of digital marketing is that if you must choose between SEO and social for resources, SEO should always win.

And keep in mind — this is coming from someone who has been (not incorrectly) labeled a “social media guy.”

Search engine optimization should be the No. 1 priority in any digital marketing effort. That’s not to say social media isn’t a high priority or shouldn’t be a priority at all. In fact, I would argue that social media should be a close No. 2.  (More on that in a moment.) But search has, is and should be — for the foreseeable future — the primary focus of any digital marketing effort.

Am I nuts? Hear me out.

The Intent Is Different

Think about why people come to social media channels versus why they go to search engines. Why do you go to Facebook or Twitter versus Google or Bing?

When you go to Facebook, you are looking to socialize, to connect with friends, to see what’s going on in the world around you. You may share content, read content that other people share, post about your day, or check on pictures of your family or friends. You’re there to be social.

When you go to a search engine, you’re looking for something. You’re seeking an answer to a question, a solution to a problem.

On a search engine, you are in active buying mode. You are primed to click, purchase, download, read, etc.

On a social network, you are in inactive buying mode. (Notice I didn’t say passive. I said inactive.) You aren’t there to buy things. You might be there to read things and perhaps maybe even click on something that might appeal to you, but you’re not there to shop or seek solutions.

Let Your Data Do the Talking

If you don’t believe me, go look at your website analytics right now. Click on the Acquisition tab (in Google Analytics — it may be under traffic sources or channels in other packages). Drill down to see what channels, sources or mediums your website traffic is divided into.

Unless you’ve got a business or a website that is primarily focused on serving a closed group or private segment of people that isn’t advertised or promoted to anyone openly except that small audience, I’m willing to bet your top traffic source is organic search.

I’m willing to bet that, for the majority of you, organic search accounts for more than half of your total traffic.

Now go see how much of your total traffic is from social.

Unless you have an exceptional social media content strategy that funnels people to your website, it’s not even going to be close in comparison.

Social = Hand-Raisers, SEO = Handshakers

People who like or follow your pages on social media are not necessarily customers. They’re not necessarily fans. When they “Like” your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter, they’re simply giving you a virtual high-five.  They’re raising their hand and saying, “I don’t mind this company’s content in my stream.”

People who search for and find you via search are primed and ready to shake your hand, sign on the bottom line and do business with you — so long as you fulfill the need they have when they land on your website.

For that reason alone, search should be your top priority. It’s an audience of the right people at the right time and in right location who are ready to be delivered the right content (reason) to say “Yes! I want that!”

So, consider that as you look at your digital marketing efforts. Is your business such that visitors to your website convert to customers? How much time and energy are you putting toward search? How does that compare to what you’re doing with social?

Those questions might just give you a nice gut-check on your priorities.

In addition to award-winning content, social media and PR efforts, Elasticity engineers organic and paid search efforts for dozens of happy clients. Let us know if we can help you with yours.

Peter Panda

Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.

In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.

With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.

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