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Social Media or SEO: Where’s The Biggest Bang for Your Buck?

SEO or social media

It’s an interesting conversation – one that’s not about to go away anytime soon. For instance, I came across a great article on written by guest blogger Gary Arndt in which he argues that social media yields a better return on investment than SEO. No doubt a controversial allegation.

The purpose of SEO is to drive traffic to your website, while the purpose of social media is to engage people and get them excited about your brand. Is it an “Either-Or” issue?

I think the important question to ask yourself is, “What is the outcome that I am looking for?”

In my opinion, traffic is only a means to an end. The end is to convert visitors into subscribers or paying clients. In other words, the end is the bottom line.  Having a million visitors whose conversion rate is zero is entirely a waste of time and effort.

Also, consider (as Gary points out) that there’s only so much you can do in terms of SEO – use strong key words, in-bound links, relevant plug-ins and a few other things. But while creating sharable content that is fun to read and highly engaging is a long and weary road, eventually it leads to the same destination that SEO is supposed to take you to.

Also consider how volatile search-engines are – always making changes that seriously interfere with your search rank. I’ve heard of organizations that have been severely damaged by numerous changes made by Google.

On the other hand, social media is not as unpredictable as search. Once you have a good reputation with your followers, it is not likely to be taken away from you unless you do something stupid and self-destructive. There’s stability and longevity in social media.

Long-term, on-line success depends on social interactions with like-minded people not complicated algorithms that are impossible to figure out. My advice is to focus on creating content that is enjoyable and sharable. And then if you have the time to spare, go ahead and knock yourself out with SEO.

Which do you think shows a better return on investment?


  1. I think there are so many variables to the specific use that to say one is better than another is quite a stretch.

    One interesting test would be the ROI after two years of committing to one strategy or another. In other words, pump out two years worth of content and two years worth of building relationships via social media. Then see which one pays off more.

    On the one hand, Google may learn to love you over two years for certain, specific key words, and you get so much traffic that business is rolling, even with a mediocre conversion rate.

    On the other, the relationships you build could lead to myriad opportunities.

    The real issue is that no one is willing to devote two years to find out. We all want it now.

    • Hi Brett,

      Thanks for your feedback. You’re right that ROI settles the score. In the meantime, the complex and ever-changing nature of search engine algorithms makes it a frustrating experience for the end-user. The appeal in social media is entirely based on its usability and to some extent, enjoyability. Something tells me that in two years time, this conversation will change from ‘which one is better’ to ‘SEO? What were we thinking’. But that’s just my biased optimism :0)

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