A client approached me recently with an excellent question. He explained he had budget of about $2,000 per month and wanted to know if he should spend it on SEO, social media marketing (SMM), or both. Let me also tell you that this client is in a field that has mid level competition for keywords and his website is a few hundred pages.
This is an excellent question, and I think my client would likely get three different answers if he asked three different experts. My opinion is based on what I usually base my answers on, what my client’s goals are for the campaign. I asked my client this very question, but I think the phrasing of the question is important. A simple question of “what would you like to achieve?” is likely to get a response just as plain, “I want more sales,” Who doesn’t? I asked the question based on the different natures of social media marketing from SEO. Both practices can be used to drive traffic, but depending on the type of business it is likely that one may drive more measurable direct sales.
Social media, when not used correctly can be a total bust. Nearly every business has a Facebook page, but how many truly are receiving ROI from their Facebook efforts? They post their good deals or coupons and really don’t engage the user very well. Social media marketing takes a lot more thought for each company than SEO. Although both are extremely difficult to outperform today’s educated competitors, SEO is more straight forward. Pick keywords that matter to your business and then go to work on getting top five rankings. Getting the top five rankings is not easy, but still the goals and the path are clear. Social media marketing is not so straight forward and the effort for each campaign, and the platforms you might use can be vastly different.
My question to my client was “Is your goal to engage your prospects and customers in a way that you become a resource or destination, or is it your goal to get more traffic that want to hire you for your service? Of course his first response was, “what is the difference?” Well the difference is the type of person who visits your site often for information and engagement is likely to hire you with confidence and use you for several projects but it will take time to gain that relationship, while a search engine visitor will read your marketing material as a skeptic but may hire you straight off. Next question, “which one is better?” That is the golden question. This is where the difference between the two marketing sciences needs to be applied to the type of business and the typical customers they attract. You can make any topic social of course, but is it worth it from an ROI standpoint?
Let’s say my client sells brake pads. I can start a blog about all things related to brakes and maybe even find a way to make them interesting or engaging. However would $2,000 per month be better spent getting a top three position for a term that has 550,000 broad searches per month on Google? I think I would choose the top three spot. Now if my business model is to wholesale brake pads to auto shops, I might go the other route because a single account may have much more value than a single buyer. A blog with constant new information on the industry, specs etc might have a shop use it as resource and gain the type of trust and familiarity that wins long term clients.
The other challenge my client had to hear was about his budget. You can’t realistically expect to have a successful social media marketing and SEO campaign for $2,000 per month unless you are doing the heavy lifting when it comes to supplying content. Social media marketing is a labor intensive process and requires continued efforts. I think most business owners do not have the time to compile the type of quality content required to engage a niche as an authority. It is also often difficult to measure direct ROI from social media marketing, and if that is a must you may find it hard to commit to this type of effort.
Well my client made the decision to go with traditional SEO. I thought it was the right decision given his budget, his goals, and his type of customer. We set up a few traditional social media marketing platforms to generate no-follow links that support SEO and keep our client looking up to date, but our efforts were focused on a 20 keyword campaign designed to increase his traffic by 20% this year. I was able to do an ROI analysis using conversion rates, margin calculations, and lifetime value that demonstrated that the program would break even by month twelve. We agreed once the program hits break even we will double the SEO effort and begin a small social media marketing effort to support long term customer value.