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Complex Relationships: Social Media, SEO and Your Marketing Mix

The Correlation

Ask a marketer about the correlation between good social media efforts and SEO and chances are you’ll hear something along the lines ‘the difference between successful and unsuccessful companies is their ability to utilize social media as part of their SEO strategy.’

And this isn’t totally wrong. In 2010 (for the details oriented here is the link to that piece) Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web-spam team confirmed that Google does in fact use social signals as a ranking factor. In fact Google also had an agreement with Twitter granting them access to twitter data.

Now let’s circle back to 2014. As most of you are aware Google keeps on tweaking its pagrank algorithm adding and removing or reducing how and which factors affect site rankings. Now Facebook and Twitter are treated by Google like any other web property (video here). This means that Twitter followers and Facebook likes don’t have any kind of direct effect viz a viz search rankings.

Don’t believe us. Let’s do a small sample test. Let’s search for ‘Marketing Outsourcing’ on google.com and analyze what do you see? Along with the usual suspects (since the search term is a generic one) like Forbes, Wikipedia and HubSpot you find a couple of vendors that provide such kind of services. A further exploration of their websites and their social media pages reveals a good story. None of them are exactly bullish on social media (considering Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn only for sake of a quick analysis). So all in all your search rankings are not exactly related to your social media efforts.  

The Main Point

With the whole social media helps with my rankings conundrum over now let’s look at another scenario where effect of social media is highly touted. The other day a good friend of mine, engaged with an ecommerce startup was deliberating if she should and more importantly could use social media to drive sales? To answer her we did a little research. Consider ecommerce as a category (one of the biggest spenders and users of social media). As per a report by Monetate, online searches contributed to around 32% of overall sales as compared to a meager 1% contributed by social media. Needless to say considering the kind of investments going into social media (Social media budgets continue to soar and are expected to more than double in next five years) its impact on sales isn’t as much as its made out to be.

Why do I need social media then?

In B2B scenarios especially the ones involving mid to small size technology companies this question is vital and at times essential for their survival. Depending on your situation specifics if your primary expectation and aim from marketing is to generate sales leads then social media might not be the best way to go about it. For most small businesses cost of lead generation is a big issue and in such cases on a personal level we find SEO a better solution in terms of ROI.   

This is no way means that social media doesn’t have a role in the marketing mix. The human element cannot be ignored. Social media is a great marketing tool to build a personal brand and establish brand connect with your audience. You can also utilize it to educate your target marketing about the benefits of a solution like yours. However your expectations from social media and SEO need to different and so accordingly should be your investment on them in terms resources. And remember whether its SEO or social media the key to good progress is creating authentic, relevant, engaging and highly targeted content.  At least that’s the advice I give to our clients!

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