I just finished reading a guest post on the wonderful Problogger Web site which makes a case for investing in social media over SEO (Search Engine Optimization). While I get where the author is coming from, I disagree to an extent based on many premises which stem from one all-encompassing idea: Building trust and authority with people takes equally as much time as SEO does for search engines -- so why not learn to do both at the same time? My opinion is that social media should be thought of as a tool within the online marketing realm that actually helps SEO; not one that stands alone as a separate entity from it! For as much time as it takes to build authority and trust with people via social media, you could be allocating efforts within the same span of time building authority and trust with search engines via SEO! Believe it or not, social media and SEO play very well together both in what they achieve for you and how you go about implementing them.
One point the author of the Problogger post makes that I totally agree with is "Google-proofing" yourself. That is to say, it would be wise to extend your reach well beyond that of simply relying on a search engine to bring you traffic. In other words, if Google disappeared tomorrow or radically changed its ranking algorithm, where would you stand? That's the case the author posits which I feel has merit. Honestly, I can't imagine that a whole heck of a lot of people or businesses would remain unscathed and "Google-proofed" from something as drastic as Google disappearing or their ranking algorithm changed that much -- especially where generating new leads is concerned. To ignore search engines is to ignore a very unique and specific path of potential conversions. I mean, what if Twitter, Facebook, and all of social media disappeared tomorrow and all you had was Google? Would you find yourself wishing that you had invested in SEO instead? Obviously, I'm just putting the shoe on the other foot here to prove a point which really isn't necessary in the first place, because Google and social media are going nowhere. Therefore, focusing on both is where I feel the most value lies for most people, I think. Instead of "man, I should have been investing in this instead of that," you can do both!
Now, I know the author was addressing bloggers specifically, but I think it's way too easy to miss that point and assume he was addressing everyone reading the article with interest. Based on that, I think it's worth mentioning that not every industry has a topic that people are going to be interested in reading about -- especially if the topic is complex, boring, or so niche that writing extensively on it is nearly impossible. So in that case, it would probably be more wise to allocate your time and resources into SEO (i.e. fleshing out the money keywords, optimizing your code and content on-page, then building links). Fostering a brand and "Google-proofing" it takes a LOT of time and a LOT of energy creating content, disseminating it, and riding the "content in, content out" wave (e.g. the moment you post content and spread it via social media outlets, unless you've got something that's earth-shatteringly interesting and it goes viral, you've got a very small window of only a few days before the spreading of your content dissipates and then it's time to create MORE content so that people don't forget about you). Not to mention, depending on how you're monetizing your site or what type of conversions you need to make, you're going to be spending a lot of time talking to the same people along the way. Does that cut it for you? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't.
So, based on everything above, I'm making a case for why social media and SEO shouldn't be mutually exclusive of one another... that is, unless you can find a reason for why one would specifically offer a better ROI than the other (which the author of the article also notes at the end). Work on building trust and authority with both people and search engines, because both have unique ways of generating traffic, leads, and conversions and both are going nowhere anytime soon (if ever).
Oh, and when the author makes a point about how Google follows the influence of a Web site and not an individual, it's quite simple to solve that "problem:" Simply migrate all the content to the new site and 301 everything (just make sure your URLs/permalinks redirect properly so you don't get 404's). You will maintain all the link-juice you've established and then it's only a matter of time before search engines migrate trust and authority accordingly. Here again, this is why I recommend looking at social media and SEO both as equally-approachable entities to help build your trust and authority overall. Just as it's the responsibility of the individual or entity to make sure their viewership knows how to get to them, it's also their responsibility to make sure search engines know how to get to them. "Google-proofing" yourself is a good idea, but search engines aren't your enemy. Even if you don't focus on SEO specifically, the generation of content will automatically bring you traffic from an invariable number of keyword terms. If you have specific ones you want to rank for, then make sure you target them in the title tag (or post title), meta description (and summary/excerpt), throughout the on-page copy, and in categories/tags. From there, if your content spreads socially, it will rank in search engines accordingly.
Now, I'm not saying that SEO is the golden ticket to everything. Trust me, as an individual who has worked very hard as an investigative blogger prior to coming on-board here at ZDNet, I know how frustrating it can be to try to rank for specific terms only to be outranked when I *KNOW* my content is far-superior to more popular sites ranking above me. With that said, we're in an age where a big brand to search is also a big brand to social. That is to say, if you're pulling rank in search because of your popularity, there's a good chance now that you're doing it socially as well. That's another reason I think it's worth it to utilize both social media and SEO, because you stand to gain in some capacity from both (here again, unless you can specifically establish a greater ROI from one or the other).
Thanks for your time. I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on this as well, so please weigh in your feedback via the comments section below!
Problogger Article: Why Social Media Is a Better Investment than SEO