We all know that "once you build it they will come" is a myth. Too many websites are rotting away in cyberspace because companies don't know how to drive traffic. Yet even among those in the know, there is an ongoing debate which is more important: optimizing your site for search engines (SEO) or your social media marketing efforts (SMM).
So, what should you focus on?
The first truth is that you need both. Even though social media channels don't really have an impact on site rankings, you can't do SEO without them.
Social media marketing is essential. So is SEO
Social media is essential to drive traffic to your website. As consumers increasingly spend all of their time on Facebook and LinkedIN, the paradigm of web surfing from site to site has disappeared. 85% of traffic is already mobile, and around 2/3 of that is spent on Facebook. Scrolling on your smartphone is the preferred consumption modus, not mouse-clicking links on the desktop.
Media companies like newspapers and TV stations are gearing their content entirely towards Facebook as they watch web site hits fall month after month. New shopping features on Facebook mean that commerce too will be increasingly happening there.
Still, websites have their uses. Especially in the B2B business, you want customers to see your company website which is still the best place to showcase your products and services. Customers who need those products and services will search for them. Here's where your SEO strategy comes in. Without SEO, you will be relegated to the nether regions of the Google pile.
But your best clients aren't necessarily those searching for you. Companies are increasingly creating products with uses and names consumers are not familiar with. Factory automation companies for example use concepts not yet widely known. SMM is the ideal strategy for these companies, because they need to create a platform, or post on a platform that allows them to reach the right target audience and talk to them about solutions to problems their customers are not yet aware of. In Taiwan for example, FB pages like Taiwan's Future reach a large audience of people interested in technology. Posting there or similar sites is the right way to reach B2B customers. Thousands of similar Facebook pages exist in every country, and marketers must embrace them in order to remain relevant.
How to decide what to focus on
If you absolutely must have both SEO and SMM, the question is how much effort you should put into each?Moz.com offers a few blog posts with excellent insights into the effectiveness of each strategy and the link between them. You also want to use Ahrefs, Rival IQ and SimilarWeb for analysis. Blogs to watch are blog.bufferapp.com, razorsocial.com and searchengineland.com for search and socialmediaexaminer.comand socialmediatoday.com for SMM.
Now the key to optimizing your SMM is to understand that the vast amount of users share and like content, but never actually read it, i.e. don't click through to your web site. So likes and shares are not the metrics that bring the best leads. What you really want is to focus on the posts that get the most click-throughs.
Once people click through to your website though, are they just reading that one blog post, or are they clicking through to your other pages? Are they subscribing to the newsletter? Are they buying products? The answer to these question are in the Pixel. Facebook offers this amazing tool and gives you insight into the behavior of your visitors. Together with Google Analytics it is the nexus between SMM and SEO: comparing the data from Google and Facebook will allow your to make a judgment.
The results may be surprising. We recently implemented an SMM strategy for a company in the factory automation sector who believed that any potential client would come primarily from organic search results. After we set them up with social channels, a blog strategy and then put the Facebook Pixel on their site, we found that within six months they had four times more conversions from social than from organic search results. It seems counter intuitive, but the truth is, consumers do not always know what they are looking for, and those actively searching for you might not be your best clients.
So the answer to the question whether you spend more time on SMM or SEO is, unsurprisingly: look at the data!