The Different Purposes of Social Media and SEO

Andrew Marshall SEO Consultant , Moore-Wilson

Posted on October 21st 2013

The Different Purposes of Social Media and SEO

social media and SEOSocial media and SEO are often spoken about alongside each other, with many suggesting that social media mentions impact the search engine results. While there can be an overlap, there are many fundamental differences between the two and the purpose of partaking in each is very different.

How can social media impact SEO?

There are a number of ways that social media may be impacting SEO. It is believed by some (but has never been confirmed) that Google, and perhaps other search engines, use social media mentions as one of their ranking factors. The theory here is that the more Facebook likes, Tweets and Google Plus 1s a site has, the more popular a site is. This, in turn, may signal that a site is of good quality, thus justifying higher search rankings. There are also theories around the amount of online mentions a brand has, known as co-citation, whereby more online mentions of a company or a website leads to being given more authority in the search engines. Mentions in social media can therefore make the search engines more aware of a brand and the industry they are in. Links from other websites are key in SEO and links from social media can help in this way too. The other main SEO benefit of social media is the very purpose of social media – branding. The more successfully social media is being used, the more well known a brand becomes. This can lead to more people writing about a brand and linking to their website, thus assisting SEO.

While there can be a strong overlap between these two forms of online marketing, the purpose of each and how each is used are very different.

Social media

The purpose of social media is primarily to build a brand and increase a brand’s visibility. With social media becoming more popular, the more a brand is covered across social media and the more times people see it, the more likely they are to be aware of it. There are many other things, though, that companies can achieve through the use of social media. 

A key benefit is that it can be used to build relationships with potential customers. Social media can be a great way of interacting with people and businesses before they become customers. Often people want information about a company before they commit and it is a good way of getting this information across. It allows a company to put a face to their brand, show they are interesting and, where appropriate, show their creative or humorous side.

Another use of social media is to make customers and potential customers more aware of what a brand is up to. This can be in the form of promoting specific campaigns, updating people on changes and showing off success. Brands can show they are on the pulse and up to date with the latest happenings in their industry. They can comment on industry developments and engage with people, including customers, potential customers, industry commentators, and even competitors. This helps in not just generating new business, but in customer retention too.  Queries and criticism can be easily and quickly responded to so social media can be used as a form of fire fighting.


The purpose of SEO is very different to that of social media. It is much easier to define and the main purpose has three stages to it; to improve search engine rankings, which increases traffic to a website, resulting in an increase in business.

The purpose of SEO is often seen as being simply to improve rankings for a set of keywords but, while this forms the basic aim of an SEO campaign, there is more to it than this. The ultimate goal is to increase business, meaning that the right family of keyword terms need to be targeted. Areas that people search for need to be targeted for a campaign to be successful; there is little point in investing a lot in being ranked well for things people don’t search for. Good quality traffic is also key, meaning conversions need to be considered as well as the pure number of visitors being captured.

Inevitably, businesses have specific areas they wish to target. This can be areas where they are currently struggling, areas where they feel there is the potential for growth, or areas where there is a current promotion. SEO can be used to generate business related to specific products and services.

The real purpose of SEO is making a website more attractive to the search engines while improving them for visitors at the same time. Having the right content, good internal linking, and perhaps having a blog are all key and things that help in a search ranking. They want to rank the websites that meet the needs of visitors the best. This has always been the case but they are getting better at establishing this.

Different purposes of social media and SEO

The specific purposes of social media and SEO are very different. Social media is essentially about branding and communicating with customers and potential customers while SEO is about increasing rankings in the search engines that lead to good quality traffic. The overall aim of both, though, is to increase business. Social media does this by interacting with people and making them more aware of a brand, while SEO does it by improving the rankings for things that potential customers will search for when seeking products or services.

(social media and SEO / shutterstock)


Andrew Marshall

SEO Consultant , Moore-Wilson

I work for Moore-Wilson New Media as an SEO consultant, working on both the company's own site and that of our clients. I regularly write about all aspects of digital marketing, particularly social media and SEO, as well as other subjects. 

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Posted on October 22nd 2013 at 2:45PM

Excellent points made here Andrew. A lot of people lump "SEO and Social Media" in one breath. (I am a culprit sometimes too!) However, it is important to highlight that the two can be related to one another but each do serve different purposes for a company. When working on both for company, it is important to be cognizant of the points that you brought up so that your efforts are successful. 

Posted on October 27th 2013 at 12:34PM

 I can understand what you are saying Andrew Marshall, I'm more a fan of the hollistic aproach, the way I see it. Social Media and Seo are part of the whole marketing campaign, because trough social media you people can blog about your product you get backlinks to your website.