Internet Marketing is in a state of constant change. This places major stresses on organizations that try to keep up and are not quite sure what initiatives they should invest in and which ones are a waste of time.

For many companies, one of the biggest current challenges is to decide how much energy to invest in SEO vs. Social Media.

Should you do both? Just SEO? Or is SEO dying and should you focus on Social Media? This is what I will try to address in today’s column.

Discovery vs. On Demand

I recently had the pleasure of doing an interview with Danny Sullivan, and we talked a bit about the balance between social media and search. Danny nicely characterized the search related value of social media as follows:

“I think search has his cousin called discovery, which is showing you things that you didn’t necessarily know you wanted or needed, but you are happy to have come across. I think social is very strong at providing that”.

My own personal experience lines up with that viewpoint. I always had trouble keeping up with my RSS feed reader and was not very good on staying on top of the latest news.

However, ever since I have been more actively engaged on Twitter, and now Google+ as well, I have found that I am much more current at all times. These social sites are keeping me abreast of the latest events. I get exposed to new content I might not see in my reader for a week, and also to content that would not have shown up in my reader at all as well.

So where does search fit in then? Let’s see what Danny had to say in the interview about that:

“… when a pipe breaks in your house, do you go onto Facebook and ask friends who you should call or do you go to Google and search for a plumber? You (go to Google and) search for a plumber. It’s an on demand need.

On the other hand, you need a dentist, it’s not an emergency, and you need a good recommendation. Tapping into your friends is very powerful. How the search engines figure out a way to integrate that is a next big step”.

I also think there are other needs the search fills that social does not. If am researching something, which is not an on-demand need, but for which my friends may not have the answer, or the complete answer, I will also go to search.

You can even see scenarios where my friends might help me get started, but I also use search to dig deeper. I think there is a lot of interaction that takes place between the two.

Don’t Forget Social Signals To Search Engines

This topic has been written about many times, so I won’t cover it again in depth here, but remember that social media activity is monitored by the search engines, and is used as a ranking signal; Danny Sullivan confirmed this in December 2010.

While this has evolved, and will continue to evolve, it is clearly a rich source of data that can help the search engines determine what content on the Web is the most important.

What Is The Right Balance Between SEO & Social Media?

I would argue that the great majority of enterprise class organizations need to be highly active in both arenas. There is too much traffic available from both sources. How a B2B organization might approach that is probably quite different from how a B2C organization would, but I believe the need is still there in both cases.

Should you have an equal investment in each? That might be the right answer depending on your organization. I think it is clear though that the scope of the investment at the point should be similar. You do not want to spend 90% in one discipline and 10% on the other. If you do, you are leaving a lot of opportunity on the table.

Social referrals and non-branded organic search referrals both bring you new customers. Whether you are a B2B or B2C organization, strong endorsements from a social network, or someone finding you on a non-branded search query will help bring you new business.

Let’s Dig Deeper

The most important aspect of this is that both strategies be interconnected. You do not want your social strategy and your SEO strategy to be operating independently of one another. This would be a mistake, as there is a great deal of connectivity between the two disciplines.

For example, I recently did an interview with Google’s Tiffany Oberoi. This interview was tweeted 181 times, including by Matt Cutts. As a result of this, it received 181 tweets, 39 +1s, and 166 links (as of August 7, 2010). This is a great yield for an article on the site. It has also generated over 5,000 page views, largely driven from social sources (so far), but those links will help drive the SEO strategy.

So what was the impact on search? Here is the ranking of the site for the search phrase “reconsideration requests”:

So not only did it get a burst of highly relevant traffic from social media, it is also poised to keep driving traffic over time for a highly relevant search phrase. This ranking is relatively new, but it has already begun to send some traffic, and the average page views per visitor coming in on the term is over 4 pages. Now that is an engaged visitor.

You want to build this type of virtuous circle where your social strategy is closely tied to the value proposition of your business. This will give you the right connections that will enable you to derive meaningful traffic from social media, and have it help your SEO efforts to boot.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Enterprise SEO | SEO - Search Engine Optimization | Social Media Marketing

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About The Author: is the president of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy outside of Boston. Eric publishes a highly respected interview series and can be followed on Twitter at @stonetemple.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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