Search engines and social media are both critical to your success online. These two mediums allow you to reach your target market, connect with your customers, and generate sales.
As such, it is imperative that you learn and be adept in using search engine optimization techniques that will make Google love your site and send you lots of traffic – for free. You also want people to share and talk about your products or services in various social media sites. Social media has exploded in recent years, and has become an important medium for reaching customers, connecting with them, getting traffic and even generating sales.
But as a small or home-based business owner, who really has time to learn both search engine optimization (SEO) and social media? With over a million and one things to do, do you think you can you work on SEO and social media campaigns?
This is the question that the new ebook from Hubspot called “SEO vs. Social Media: Which is Best for Your Marketing?” The ebook is based on the premise that small business owners have limited amount of time on their hands to learn and utilize both SEO and social media well, while managing and running their businesses.
SEO is not easy to learn: just when you think you understand what makes a site rank in the search engines, Google changes its algorithm. What is ok today can get you penalized tomorrow.
Social media is also tough as what you need to succeed in Facebook is different from using Youtube, and what works on Twitter is not necessarily what works in LinkedIn. And as soon as you think you’ve mastered Twitter, out comes a new hot social media site called Pinterest that you’re back to square one trying to learn how to work it.
SEO and Social Media: Advantages and Disadvantages
To help business owners decide which of the two is best for you, Hubspot enumerates the advantages and disadvantages of both SEO and social media for marketing, to wit:
Search Engine Optimization: Advantages
- Creating content you can repurpose
- Long term gains don’t diminish
- Long tail search yields targeted traffic
- Inbound links help your website and your reputation
- SEO gives an edge to local businesses
- As search engines’ algorithm becomes smarter, SEO is easier than it used to be
Search Engine Optimization: Disadvantages
- SEO takes a lot of time
- You still need to invest in technical SEO
- You don’t have just Google to think about
- Too much is out of control
- You can’t measure everything
- SEO requires long term upkeep
One misconception of SEO is that it is just about creating content, doing the title tags and counting the number of times the keyword is mentioned on the page.
SEO is comprised of a number of activities, some of which may be too technical for the average business owner. Content creation is a very big component: making sure that your content is the best out there, and that it is unique and original (no copying product descriptions from manufacturers or using articles from article directories). Once created, the content needs to be optimized for the search engines (called on-page optimization), and content optimization is based on keyword research. You then need to do both internal and external link building.
An important part of SEO – and the most technical — is site architecture audit and implementation. Your site may have the most original and highest quality content but if your site is full of technical errors, it will not rank well. I remember a top political site that generates more than a million visitors per month, that saw their traffic decrease by 75% due to the site’s canonical error.
Site architecture requires understanding and knowledge of URL structures, robots.txt file configuration, properly setting redirects through 301, 302 and meta refresh, site hierarchy for areas of link juice dilution/improvement, canonical tags, and a lot more things. Unless you are technically savvy, it is not easy tinkering and configuring with tools such as .htaccess or robots.txt files!
In addition, you need to know your analytics thoroughly. SEO and analytics go hand in hand, as your numbers will often tell you where the problems lie in your site – and where the opportunities are.
The Hubspot report also gives the advantages an disadvantages of social media, as follows:
Social Media: Advantages
- Social media improves your SEO
- You’ll build strong personal relationships
- Social Content can be repurposed
- More targeted networks means more customers
- Social media provides the user generated content you need to drive sales
Social Media: Disadvantages
- Social media fails without content
- Success takes a long time
- Social media content expires quickly
- Monitoring is time intensive
I’ve seen sites getting more than 100,000 visits a month from Facebook alone. That’s awesome! You look at their Facebook likes and be floored with 250,000+ liking the page — and yet your Facebook page can barely reach 500 likes. Success really takes a long time in social media, and costly as well.
Social media also involves a lot of listening — what people are saying about your business, what topics are being talked about, and what’s the feedback on your competitors. Good tools to monitor social media can be very expensive. For example, one of the top tools is Radian 6, and it costs anywhere from $600/month for only 1 topic profile to as much as $10,000 per month.
So Is It SEO or Social Media?
The Hubspot report concludes by recommending that you hire a social media manager to promote your content in the social networks. Or you can shift that to an SEO hire. Both of these options, however, may be out of reach for small businesses. You may not have the resources to hire an employee specifically for SEO or social media.
An alternative, of course, is to hire consultants to do the job for you. However, be very careful in selecting SEO experts to help you, as many of the very cheap ones can do more harm than good. They may put your links in bad neighborhoods or low-quality sites that the resulting poor-quality backlinks will taint your site and result in your loss of rankings. Quality “white hat” SEO firms do not come cheap: expect to shell out anywhere from $1,500 – $12,000 per month of more, with many SEO firms tying you to a one year contract.
So how should you manage your SEO and social media activities? If you must do both, there are a number of ways that you can integrate the two activities:
1. Make it a priority to learn SEO and social media.
For only 30 minutes a day, make it a habit to visit SEO forums and blogs such as WebmasterWorld.com (which covers both SEO and social media) and SearchEngineLand.com. Subscribe to the feed of Google Official Webmaster Central Blog and read through Google Webmaster Academy , which is designed specifically for beginner webmasters. Instead of gossip sites (my weakness!), read Mashable.com and other social media news sites.
2. Prioritize your social media.
Accept the fact that you cannot do all of the social media sites effectively: some may be better suited to your business than others based on the nature of your business and your goals. If you’re a home-based business, avoid location-based social media sites such as 4Square that requires you to identify the location of your business. If you’re running a blog with barely any photos, skip out Pinterest, which will do better for sites with loads of photos such as ecommerce or photography sites. If you’re on a lookout for potential business partners or investors, LinkedIn will be your best bet. If your site produces a lot of original videos, video sites such as Youtube will do well for you.
3. Use tools to manage your social media.
Tools such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck allow you to post simultaneously to different social media sites. You can post to your Twitter account, which can then be cross-posted in LinkedIn or Facebook. You can also schedule when your postings will be made. You can then prepare all your social media postings first thing in the morning, and set it up so your posts will show up throughout the day.
So what will be your priority? Will you do SEO, social media first, or both? You can request a copy of the Hubspot paper here.