The last two or three years have seen social media emerge as a critical factor when it comes to digital inbound marketing. Of course, social media has existed for a lot longer, but businesses’ leveraging the power of these platforms for marketing purposes is still a relatively new thing.
As search has evolved in recent years, we’ve seen a number of questions asked of the SEO industry, from whether SEO is dead to whether social media is the modern equivalent of SEO. Consequently, many businesses are now focussing fully on social media campaigns, reducing commitment and investment into on-site SEO.
While the importance of off-site SEO has grown in recent years, particularly in terms of inbound links and how social media is harnessed, there is no evidence to suggest that pursuing a social media marketing campaign exclusively is a better option than planning and executing an SEO strategy.
Even if you were to make sure pages were optimised in terms of page titles, tags, and other metadata, that still wouldn’t be enough to justify doing no further SEO work and simply focusing on social media output instead.
The truth is that the best digital inbound marketing campaigns are diverse and cover a variety of channels. An ambitious business will never want all of its traffic or revenues to come from one place, so it therefore makes no sense to focus its marketing efforts in one area. Strong inbound marketing means using on-site SEO, social media marketing, and content marketing, both on and off-site, together in order to deliver the best possible results. You could even consider your social marketing part of your content strategy, which shows the importance of content in getting results in search today.
There is no question that social media marketing is a very important pillar of SEO. If you want a highly optimised site, it isn’t going to happen without some investment into social media platforms. There are some clear reasons why it’s wrong to focus on social media alone, however. Here are some that relate directly to social media itself.
It Isn’t Yours
Your website is great because it is your property. While you probably rent the server used to host the website, you own your domain name, you likely own your design, and you own all of the content that is featured on your pages.
While you might put a social profile together across a number of sites, you don’t own any of them. Even if you pay for premium membership on a site like LinkedIn, they can still choose to pull the plug whenever they wish. From a logical business standpoint, is it wise for a company to invest all of their marketing efforts into such a potentially volatile platform?
The biggest problems businesses face with social media is that it is both addicting and distracting in equal measure. If a customer logs into Twitter or Facebook and has a choice between visiting your site and finding out the latest gossip from the friend who appears next to you in their feed, what do you think they’re going to choose 99% of the time?
Although the launch of services such as Facebook Graph Search and revamped Twitter advertising are making it more commonplace for people to search for products, services, and businesses using social media, the numbers doing so aren’t anywhere near what they’d need to be to consider dumping search for social. In Google+ and all of its associated features, Google has also answered the challenge that other social media platforms laid down by enhancing the search features of their websites.
MySpace, Digg, Friendster, and Delicious, are all examples of how social media websites can enjoy a huge spike in popularity and then disappear almost without trace. The lesson is that a social media website can become obsolete and redundant very quickly. It might seem absurd to suggest that Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ will disappear in the near future, but very few of us know which new social platforms and ideas are currently brewing in an office or someone’s home right now.
If all of your eggs are in the social media basket, and certain baskets start to be dropped, that’s going to result in a lot of broken eggs, and a lot of hard work as you build a reputation from scratch on a different platform.
While you conduct a technical SEO audit at the start of an SEO strategy, it isn’t something you should just do once. Anyone who is interested or invested in SEO should have learned by now that SEO isn’t simply a process that you can “do” once and then forget about it. While quick wins can influence a website’s visibility in the search engines, the real strength of an SEO campaign comes with the on-going, long-term commitment to keeping a website fresh and moving with the times.
If you discarded on-site SEO, you’d be stopping yourself from writing blogs, auditing your site, adapting your keywords based on the evolution of your industry, amongst many other things, and it’d be folly to do so.
Yes, social media is an essential part of an SEO strategy. To reaffirm, you cannot have a successful search strategy if social media isn’t a part of it. While the power of social media is growing in terms of search and the role of social signals, you shouldn’t see it as the be all and end all. Even Google’s Head of Webspam, Matt Cutts, admitted in August 2013 that “+1s” from Google+ aren’t a huge factor in search algorithms.
Although there is every chance that outlook could change in the future, for now it must be recognised that social media is an important part of a wide reaching digital inbound marketing strategy. It is not more important than on-site SEO, which is likely to remain the case for many years, unless there is a dramatic shift away from the content focused world in which we’re all currently living.
At Bough Digital, we’re able to take care of all of your inbound digital marketing requirements, from on-site audits and link building to your complete social media strategy.