Media Monday: SEO Is Dead Due To Social Media Prominence?

By Whitney Blessington | October 7th, 2013

SEO | Social Media

I read a blog post a while back that was forwarded to me by a co-worker. The post’s headline was pretty strong – SEO is Dead. Long Live Social Media Optimization. While there are good points and statistics listed in this article, it’s a little bit shocking to think that someone could actually suggest that SEO is dead. While social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are already functioning as search engines, I know firsthand that Organic Search is not going away as a top referral source.

We do quite a few web business audits per week here at Cabedge, where we look at the Google Analytics accounts of most of our clients. The trends are not shifting as much as the media may have you believe. Organic Search is still king. What’s even more interesting is that this article even goes to far as to suggest that one of the reasons Google is going to be overtaken by social media outlets is because of users being turned off by paid ads. 🙂 Again, the data – ahem – the real data; suggests that not only is Organic Search not going anywhere, but that paid search  referral traffic also has a huge piece of the pie.

Now, a better approach to this type of article would have been to simply point out how neither can really get along without the other. Users are trusting both, at a high level – and it’s really a matter of user circumstance as to which one gets the referral. In other words, in many cases, User John or Jane Doe does not actually care whether Facebook sends them the information, or whether Google does – they trust both. They trust friends on Facebook, those they follow on Twitter, and yet they will make an organic search on Google when they’re looking for new ideas or to get more of an idea on how to validate a suggestion from a friend.

Social and organic search are both similar layers to a digital marketing strategy that need each other to survive. Both can and should be used by businesses for lead generation, but social can obviously be used more for building a community of advocates, or quickly spreading direct referrals.

It’s also important to note that Social and Search show each other mutual respect. Google realizes two main things about popular social media outlets.

1. In Google’s constant quest to accurately measure the popularity of websites – it can use date from social media sites and activity to validate the strength of a brand online.

2. Google is building their own social network, let’s not forget G+ in all of this. They would not be doing this if they didn’t believe that social media played a strong role in internet marketing.

Going along with #1 above, businesses need to become savvy about their strategy and realize that they can use social for two main things:

1. To build up legitimate popularity and traffic to their website.

2. If they’re not on social media, they’re missing out on an undetermined amount of potential users searching for related information and finding them on either Twitter or Facebook.

So it’s pretty clear that SEO needs social, but why does social need SEO? In other words, why isn’t SEO dead, as this article suggests?

“What then is social media optimisation? It is about inviting people into conversation rather than merely broadcasting a message. It is about listening to social media chatter and acting on the results. It is a hashtag or twitter handle on every ad, and a responsive team behind that social media presence for those who respond. It is integrating multiple touch points on multiple channels so that customers get a consistent experience across all of them. These things are not trivial to implement, though the technology to do so now exists, and they have the potential not only to drive sales but also to transform customer experience.”

Good points about two-way vs. one-way messaging, and this is why social has grown so rapidly. Also, while it is certainly important to have an optimized profile on Facebook, Twitter and other social outlets (so that when users search relevant terms on those platforms, your business is on the radar – same as Google SEO concept), Social Search is not replacing Organic Search. And back to the advertising argument, users may have noticed that Facebook is now allowing cover images to contain marketing copy; and that there are more ads on Twitter than on Google Organic sometimes.

Nashville Interactive AgencyScreen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.29.49 PM

But, I maintain that while internet users (aka, pretty much everyone) do value peer-input, they also feel quite a bit of emotion or personal-experience driven reviews can drastically and sometimes unfairly alter the feelings and opinions provided on social media. Google Organic Search will continue to be the un-biased third party. Again, while it may seem like Organic Search is dying, the proof is in the numbers I see in the Google Analytics audits I do every week. Social is feeling Organic, not killing it.

Now, when it comes to lead generation, the verdict is still very much out in terms of where to put your company’s resources from a marketing perspective. The challenge is that you can’t ignore either. The reality is that most companies can only afford to focus on doing one really well.

This is where inbound marketing can come into play huge and help all areas. Content driven marketing customized per user group can be delivered via social, paid and organic search, and generate leads for your business as users engage. I know companies probably hate to hear that they need to continue to work all layers into their marketing strategies, as it’s definitely more work. However, while there are no easy answers, there are more efficient ways than ever to use all layers to your advantage and refine an effective digital marketing strategy to grow your business.

Paul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLC – an Atiba Company – and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites.

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