There are countless articles on an abundance of blogs and web sites which debate the return on investment in SEO versus investment in Social Media: Which has the greatest impact on lead conversion? Which is the better investment? If the debate is framed to compare and contrast SEO and Social Media, it leads down a blind alley. Such questions view SEO and Social Media as separate entities, as an either or option in a marketing campaign.
The real debate is about how to make SEO and Social Media work together. Brands should not invest in one without investing in the other. Striking the right balance will lead to a far better return on scarce marketing funds. And of course the other marketing channels add value too: For example, a clever email marketing campaign can lead to Social Media involvement, boost fans and followers, and deliver Search gains. A myopic focus on only one area of online marketing leads to lost opportunity in other areas and a sub-optimal return on the investment.
Search is directed: a searcher is looking for something, the answer to a question. The successful search campaign, whether paid or organic, results from a brand positioning itself in front of the purchaser at the time of purchase. Social Media on the other hand is more about discovery: instead of looking for answers the potential consumer finds new questions to ask. It’s about sharing, about being involved, and learning about the brand and their planned purchase.
It gets really interesting when we see how Search behaviour changes when a user has been exposed to a brand’s Social Media campaign. Click Through Rates increase by 2.8% in organic search and as much as 50% for paid search, according to a study by Group M Search, comScore and M80. Users also become more inclined to use longer tail search terms and include brand terms and product terms within their search queries. So Social Media not only helps to increase the volume of traffic to a site it also improves the quality of the traffic. As people become increasingly involved in a brand’s Social Media activity, their Search intent becomes increasingly driven towards conversion.
It might be fair to say the difference between Search and Social Media is perhaps in the leads each one generates. Without an SEO investment, brands will fail capture their share of quality leads generated by their Social Media campaigns. And without the Social Media investment, the captured leads from an investment in search will be lower quality, with higher bounce rates and poor conversion.