SEO vs Social Media Marketing: Which Is The Better Traffic Tool?

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Leaving pay-per-click advertising out of the equation for now, is Search Engine Optimization(SEO) still the only game in town for businesses and non-profits seeking targeted traffic to their websites?

In other words, is it still necessary for a business to work so hard and so long to get to the top of Google’s search engine results in order to get a decent flow of targeted traffic to its site?

The problems with SEO are daunting. First there is the difficult task of finding relevant keywords that get respectable numbers of search engine queries each month, yet at the same time are not so competitive that you are fighting hoards of other businesses trying to dominate those same search results.

Next there is the matter of optimizing your site. If your site is already in existence, this may entail rewriting all of your content to sprinkle the right number of keywords throughout. And even that may not matter because your site is probably at a big disadvantage if it does not have your favored keyword within its URL or title. (Example: your URL might be and your site’s title might be “YOUR KEYWORD BLOG”). Given that, it probably wouldn’t be feasible to go back and start your site all over again.

Then there is the problem that even if you have your site internally optimized around a given set of keywords, it still must have numerous links from other sites pointing to it. Unless your targeted keywords have very, very little competition, you must have a lot of external links to establish its relevancy.

And if all that were not enough, just making it to the top of the Google mountain is no assurance that you will stay on top. Search engine optimization is a game of king of the hill. One day you may be on page one, and the next you may find yourself on page twelve - for no apparent reason.

But I believe social media gives you a new set of tools to get traffic.

First, as I wrote about in an article about Kansas attorney Grant Griffiths, Blogging to Dominate Keywords and Google, blogging (a social media tool in its own right) can sometimes be the best way to dominate search engine results. But it takes a lot of time and work to get there.

But if your blog is a platform upon which to create content, report on useful information, and link to other good content, you can use a variety of other social media tools to give it much more exposure than it might otherwise receive.

If you tweet about each and every new piece you put on your blog, you will attract visitors to that new article. See Hard Evidence That Twitter Brings Me Traffic (Part 1) and (Part 2).

Or if you create YouTube videos, post tagged photos on, bookmark your posts on or, you not only attract one-time visitors, you also expose your blog to people who may become fans or evangelists, who then spread the word for you.

It is the creation of true evangelists that gives social networking its true power. At its heart, social media marketing is really all about letting the market do your marketing for you.

Let’s take the social bookmarking sites I mentioned earlier. Social bookmarking is nothing more than a democratization of the web. Users “vote” for the best articles and content based on whether they found the information useful.

This is something no search engine can do with their algorithms and spiders.

Bookmarking sites give greater authority to those web pages that have been voted on by many people, who base their votes on the how they perceive the page’s quality rather than its keyword density. and are useless if you just bookmark your own content and no one else follows suit. But if hundreds of people like what you have posted and “Digg” or “Stumble” these pages, your content gains authority and thereby increases its visibility on the web.

The same is true with Twitter. Twitter is the “NFL” of social media, which means “Not For Long” if you simply send out spam-like tweets telling how great your product is. If you do this, your followers will block you fast and you will find yourself with no audience at all. But if you build conversations, create a community and provide quality content that solves readers’ problems, you will reap the benefits much faster than any SEO campaign could ever produce.

One thing that astonishes me about Twitter, for example, is how fast I am adding new followers. Although my numbers are still very modest when compared to others, I find that the number of new followers grows every single day.

This means I am adding to my “social capital,” and like all other forms of capital, this is a valuable business asset. It also means that going forward, my efforts will be focused on increasing this social capital, and thereby extending my reach among other social networkers.

Search Engine Optimization rewards sites that have a certain number of repetitive keywords, social media rewards sites that provide quality content.

So which is the better course of action: Search Engine Optimization or Social Media Marketing?

Personally, I think social networking puts the control into my hands. I no longer have to write with both human readers and Google algorithms in mind. My job is simply to create quality content and build a social community that appreciates my content. If I do that, the traffic will take care of itself.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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