I thought of this when I was discussing with my brother about social media and SEO (search engine optimisation). For your information, he’s the entrepreneur of an online game publishing company in Jakarta, Indonesia (like Blizzard & Aeria Games, but locally). Of course with me and my passion for social media, I was totally pushing the idea that social media is quintessential for the success of his business, but he rebutted that by saying that it’s just a tool to gain better SEO. He started investing in SEO recently and have been gaining lots of traffic to his website and he pretty much ditched social media efforts for SEO, which of course I totally disagree to!
First of all, what do you actually do when you have a social media job or responsibility in a company? Well, grabbing information from TCO, they say that you collect and monitor data, insights and trends along with analysing them and creating content based on the information. What will be the results of this? Increased audience engagement and interaction, plus hopefully better customer retention and brand loyalty as a result of it. Also, did I mention possibilities of viral word-of-mouth? All sounds good huh? But then why SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
93% of all internet traffic comes from search engines, and Google dominates all! Now tell me, what site do you use to test whether your internet is working or not? Well I don’t know about you, but a few millions of other people and myself go to Google.com. What exactly is SEO? Wiki says it’s “process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine‘s “natural,” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”), search results.”. Basically, they’re the methods to make your website or whatever appear on Google better. It makes the world so much better by having Facebook.com appear when you search up Facebook because you’ve forgotten the URL (…really?). A great example of the use of SEO is shown below for Blender – where when you Google it, it’s not the appliance that pops up as first.
It’s quite annoying when you’re actually looking up a blender.
So.. how does SEO and social media relate?
Although there are many methods such as black hat ways (you can check it out on Wikipedia here), SEO can mainly revolve around content (white hat), and social media fuels that. As you can see in the picture above, YouTube videos come up too. Try Googling your own name and you”ll also find that retweets, tagged photos, Facebook statuses and so on appear too. The question is, which do you prioritise? SEO is your car, and social media is petrol.
Many companies focus on SEO (e.g: my brother) because they really do increase traffic by stacks. But so what? I mean, what’s the point if you gain traffic but it doesn’t provide you with any real benefit or effect to your profits or at least customer conversion rate? I’ve checked out my brother’s reports and found out that although traffic was very much increased, his CTR (click-through-rate, basically clicks and activity in relation to the traffic) was quite low. So people do check his website out, but they probably don’t spend too much time on it and move on to something else, possibly due to content (I haven’t checked on my brother’s full analytics to completely prove this though). With this in mind, it doesn’t seem that my brother’s SEO endeavours were contributing much to profits or customer acquisition. Another thing is that there may also be possibilities of negative content appearing when searched – that’s something you wouldn’t want.
Focusing on Social Media
Okay, so if focusing on SEO isn’t realistically effective.. what about social media then? Well, content creation requires much more effort, time and also money as compared to SEO since it’s not really something that can be automated. Plus, if you’ve managed a company’s social platforms before, you’ll realise how hard it is to get customers tweeting or even just ‘liking’ your stuff (although I’ve posted some hints on increasing engagement on Facebook here). Therefore, it may not produce the same amount of exposure as you would if you invested more in SEO, and it’s quite unpredictable too.
It’s really a hard choice. Here’s a chart that might help, but don’t put your bets on it.
I don’t know the reasons behind their decisions to invest more in SEO, but my thought is that SEO is something that provides at least tangible and definite results (the traffic and all) while social media is much more complex to handle.
I personally believe that conditions would be different for varying industries and markets. So, how about using Google Analytics to check out your main driving force between SEO and social media? See which one produces more results, but then again take into consideration the correlation between both methods to your real profit generation. For the online gaming industry, this would be graphing traffic from SEO and social media platforms in relation to the number of account sign-ups (I’ll be doing this for my brother’s company soon, I might post up some insights I get from it).
In conclusion, it really is a dilemma! You wouldn’t know that a book has good content if it doesn’t really get exposure out there. Yet at the same time, if you hear about a book but then find out that it actually sucks.. it’s the same thing (I’m sorry, but I did that with the Twilight series). Ultimately, all I can say is that search engines are integrating social data into their results and the appropriate optimisation of both SEO and social media is required for utilising the online digital world in general. The only big no-no is to ditch one for the other!
What about you? What do you think is the best way to optimise both SEO and social media? Tell your stories of utilising the two features too!