Why Social Media Trumps SEO
Why Social Media Trumps SEO
Once upon a time (specifically, about five to ten years ago), optimizing your website for the search engines was a relatively cheap, simple and effective method for getting the word out about your small business. Just launch a few pay per click campaigns, enter a few keywords as tags and titles, spread a few good links to your blog out across the internet, and voila! There you’d be on the first page of Google, ready to accept all new business you possibly could.
That world, however, is no more. Thanks to a number of upgrades to the Google search algorithm and an increasing amount of online competitors, there’s just no easy way to do SEO anymore. That’s not to say that SEO isn’t important, or that it can’t be done. It’s just that your time and marketing budget will be much more effectively spent by concentrating on other highly effective marketing techniques, which ironically happen to be great for SEO in the long term.
Why SEO is Getting More Difficult
1. Your Budget and Resources Can’t Compete
If you were the CMO of a major corporation, my message to you would be radically different. In fact, that message would be something along the lines of, “Throw as much money at it as you can! It’s not like your smaller competitors will even remotely keep pace.” This should be obvious when it comes to something like Pay Per Click (PPC) ad bidding wars, in which large corporations won’t even blink at numbers that would make a small business owner start drawing up bankruptcy papers.
It’s a little less obvious when it comes to all of the many other SEO activities you’d need to be doing in order to be competitive, some of which we discuss below. Without the resources to invest in one or even several SEO specialists to do this for you full-time, you really won’t be making much of a dent, no matter how much you do. You also probably can’t afford all of the fancy software that keeps the big corporations on top, including incredibly precise analytics.
2. You Probably Don’t Have a Lot of Clout
Whether they’re storied brands like Coca Cola or they’ve just got the budget for a PR war chest, big brands have a lot of pull in the media. That makes link building infinitely easier, as more media coverage means more natural linking back to the brand page. Exacerbating the problem even further is the fact that Google and big brands are total BFFs. Most big brands have a dedicated rep at the company, there to help them get the most out of their SEO strategy and guide them through Google updates. Why wouldn’t they? Big brands bring in a lot of revenue for the search giant, and they’ll jump through hoops to keep them happy.
3. Time is Limited
Even if there are still ways to do SEO on the cheap yourself, you’d need a lot of time to devote to it. That’s why big corporations have full teams dedicated to the task, or have employed an agency to do so. Trust me: if the only time you’ve got for SEO is tossing up a link on a small time blog somewhere, it’s best to direct your energy and your time elsewhere.
4. Nothing is Constant
The problem that underlies all of this is that nothing with Google is constant. When they change their algorithm, whole industries have to shift along with it. As I’ll argue below, most of these changes are actually a good thing for small businesses, as they’re meant to reward helpful, natural content readers actually want to consume as opposed to spam. While you can certainly still game the system, you’d have to be a dedicated expert to do so. And even if you wanted to do legitimate SEO, you’d have to run an enormous number of strategies from data scraping to REGEX and all of the sixteen techniques listed here, if not more. Along with that, you’d have to stay constantly up to date with Google’s new releases to avoid being penalized for your tactics. Is that really the best use of your time?
Why Social Media is Awesome
If Google is constantly reinventing itself so that it can better reward helpful, well-written online content and authentic voices, than your best “SEO strategy” is to give Google both of these things. And that is where social media comes in. Here are just a few things you can do with it.
1. Get Hyper Targeted
Sure, when you’re doing PPC you can narrow down who sees your ad by demographics. But other than that, you’re pretty much dependent on an entire internet’s worth of people googling the search terms for which you’re hopefully optimized. In contrast, with social media, it’s clear that each site attracts different people for different reasons, and therefore it’s easier to determine not only whether or not that particular site will be useful to you, but also how you should behave upon it. For instance, when you’re trying to promote a cupcake business, you know that it’s entirely appropriate to post a photo of your delicious treats to Pinterest, while you’d perhaps want to post a blogpost entitled, “Top 5 Secrets for Managing a Kitchen” on a more career-oriented site like LinkedIn.
From there, you can narrow your efforts even further to interest-related groups on each site, as well as by location. The more targeted your efforts get, the more likely your social media posts will stumble under the nose of someone who’s actually interested in what you have to say, the more likely they are to visit your main site and become a paying customer. Take that, SEO.
2. Reach Out Directly to the Best Potential Customers
Unlike SEO, where you might know the gender of the people who are searching for you and even what device got them there but not their name, their personality, or anything particularly useful about them, with social media you’ll have a wealth of actionable data in front of you. What questions are your potential customers asking that no one else is answering? How do they speak? What type of posts do they respond to? On social media, it’s all just a Twitter stream away. Even better, by simply searching a few hashtags to see who’s searching for a company like yours, you can easily find good people to reach out to for a much more intimate and direct connection. While you never want to spam anyone, why not reply directly to something you know you can answer? When these people do become customers and have either a complaint or compliment to pay you, social media is the best place to respond directly, offer apologies or thank yous, and show other customers just how responsive you are.
In other words, social media is the opposite of SEO anonymity. On social media you can cultivate real, rich relationships, open up dialogue, and speak in your authentic and distinctive voice. And that’s what will win you new customers in the end.
3. Stand Out as an Industry Expert
Creating expert content for your blog is still a great way to get found by the search engines, as you’ll naturally use important keywords for your industry; in fact, this is a lot of what the algorithm overhauls are meant to reward. However, that content will be even better for both your SEO and for customer perception and awareness of your brand when you share it on social media. On the customer end, they’ll know that following you means getting excellent, direct information from an industry expert. This is all the more so if you also share other people’s expert content and, better yet, if key influencers in the industry share your posts. From an SEO standpoint, all of these sharing will look great to the Google algorithm, so your rankings will increase. See how circular this is getting?
4. Engage Your Customers
Again, so much of SEO is done behind the scenes that if you concentrate the bulk of your efforts on it, customers won’t have a great grasp of your personality. In contrast, on social media the opportunity exists to do so many more fun things, like running contests to which followers can actively contribute, creating games, doing giveaways and promotions, and so forth. More engagement with your brand on social media means more shares and more traffic to your site, all without ever consciously clawing after a keyword.
Of course, SEO isn’t dead, and in many ways social media has even become a form of it. No one is stopping you from throwing in a few keywords here and there. But overall, you’re going to get more bang for your marketing buck — and more SEO juice too — if you concentrate your efforts on developing an engaging, fun and expert social media presence and cultivating rich relationships with your customers. So I guess the real question is, what’s your Twitter handle?