Will Social Media Marketing Consistently Outperform Search Engine Optimization?

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The only thing that remains constant in this life is change and there are huge positive changes taking placing on the web, especially with how we market ourselves and our products. Its very important to keep up to date and constantly conduct self-analysis to ensure that we are practicing the techniques that work for our blogs and business. So let’s take a look at how effective Social Media Marketing (SMM)  really is in comparison to results gained from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and which practice works better for a blog and at what stage.

Activities I Consider a part of Social Media Marketing

Just to set the stage for the discussion, I consider the activities below as part of social media marketing:

  • Commenting on other blogs
  • Connecting with other bloggers
  • Using social media sites to talk about products / ideas
  • Creating online profiles that promote your idea / product
  • Guest posting on other blogs
  • Collaborating on projects with other bloggers

Going Viral & Spreading Like a Wildfire

The word “Viral” is defined as “…to do with or caused by a virus.” So when we go viral with our blog, business or idea we are spreading like a virus throughout the social internet and infecting and affect the minds of our readers and viewers of whom we did not even have direct contact with. So suddenly, 100 visitors become 1,000 visitors, then 10,000 visitors and so on. This is especially effective if we have a unique product or idea.

Social Media has afforded many business and personal websites to reach out to thousands and in some cases millions of persons across the world at a very minimal cost and time.

So my questions is this: Are you spending enough time on social media marketing or are you waiting for the visitors to come to your site?

I can guarantee you that if you have the quality content to market, engaging in social media will bring great improvement to your site’s traffic and long-term growth and success.

Here are 2 social media sites from which I am enjoying an increase in readership to my blog and have made some brand new connections with other bloggers:

Twitter – Ensure that your site or blog makes it easy for visitors to tweet your posts by using the Tweet Meme share button. Its very important to work on building your twitter presence by engaging other users by following them and connect with persons you find interesting within your niche. Having a large targeted following on twitter can bring you massive traffic when you tweet your articles.

Blog Engage – This is an excellent site to use as a tool to connect with other bloggers and get your articles out on the web. Blog Engage allows you to publish your blog posts to a buzzing community and allows others to vote on your articles and you can add friends so it pretty much works like Facebook but is built for bloggers. Create an account, start publishing your posts, vote on other articles that you may like and watch the traffic flow to your site. Be social! Get to know others in the blogosphere while sharing your thoughts and ideas. Be very active, make your presence felt in a non-intrusive way and watch yourself grow as a blogger.

The sites above will definitely help you to see an increase in traffic to your site especially when combined with reaching out to other bloggers by commenting on their sites and creating quality content / services that users will be interested in.

Engaging in online social activities is a very proactive way of attracting visitors to your site rather than waiting for persons to use a search engine to stumble upon your site, which in basic terms may be by chance.

Actual Results from Social Media Marketing vs. Search Engine Optimization

Well I cannot discuss this topic without showing some actual numbers that represent the idea. So here is a glimpse of what my traffic looks like from social media activities versus results from search engines. The samples are shown over a 1 month time frame using Google Analytics

Visits from Social Media sites & Referring Sites that I have interacted with:
Referring Sites Google Analytics Graph

Based on the graph above we see that visitors are spending some time on my blog reading and are engaged. You will also note that readers from referring sites accounted for 59.24% of total traffic. Traffic within this group was typically obtained from sites like Twitter, Technorati, Blog Engage, blogs that I have commented on and guest posted, etc.

Visits from Search Engines:
Search Engine Google Analytics Graph

The graph above shows traffic from search engines with a much higher bounce rate with less time spent on the site and accounts for only 8.82% of total traffic. The search engine traffic here comes from Yahoo, Google and Bing.

Note also that in the graph above the spike in search engine traffic at about April 6 seem to have occurred because of my blog being upgraded to a Page Rank of 2.

So the conclusion is clear: Social media activities encourages better quality traffic than that obtained from search engines.

Conclusion

The conclusion is apparently very clear; traffic obtained from Social Media Marketing outperforms Search Engine traffic, especially for new blogs that do not yet have a reputation on the web. For a site to be truly successful in a shorter period of time the owner or author needs to be super active on the web interacting with others and working to make themselves and their site known.

Discussion:

Please leave a comment and let us know what you think? How has SEO and Social Media Marketing worked for you? Do you think it will be the same 5 years from now? Let us know.

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32 Responses

  1. Keller Hawthorne

    04/07/2010, 02:07 pm

    Interesting article Sam! I will say your traffic results are little biased toward social media at the moment as your site is new and lacks rankings in the search engines. I would be greatly interested in you following up with this post in year, once you’ve established some se rankings. You’re posting often and consistently, which indicates to me that you will gain many top se rankings in the near future.

    In the beginning of my blog, the majority of my traffic was from forums and other blogs. Once I established rankings and built up my content, Google became my biggest traffic source. Blog Engage has become a great new source of traffic for me as well in recent months.
    .-= Keller Hawthorne´s last blog ..The Mystery of the Missing PageRank Part Two – How to Investigate the Issue =-.

    Reply
    • Sam

      04/07/2010, 10:43 pm

      Thanks a lot for sharing that Keller.

      I will definitely do my best to do follow up reports on the changes in traffic that take place as my blog matures. I’m really anxious to see the results and share what I will find.

      The traffic from referring sites have been of much better quality in terms of time spent on site and user interaction than traffic from search engines. Do you find that the same with your blog since you built up better SE rankings?

      Thanks for being a return visitor Keller, Its greatly appreciated :)

      Reply
      • Keller Hawthorne

        04/09/2010, 11:07 am

        Well, my rankings are all based on the posts I write and what keywords they target. If done properly, you can bring in a great amount of targeted traffic through search engines, though I suppose you don’t have as much control over it as you do with social media. When participating at Blog Engage, for example, I know what type of traffic to expect – fellow bloggers, many who use WordPress and are interested in better blogging tips. Sphinn = people who are interested in SEO.

        The downside to social media traffic is it can be tainted by people who are just looking to get a link back to their site by leaving a comment on your blog. Some others use social media outlets to become the “top contributor” and get their face seen – meaning they vote for blog posts without ever reading them. Of course, this doesn’t hurt you in any way – in fact it’s still beneficial as they’re sharing your post with their audience and helping your site appear to be popular. But those people tend to fade away in time.

        I’ve had great readers find me through search engines and others through retweets and social networks. But I agree with you – visitors from social networks seem to be more likely to initiate conversations and relationships as that’s why they’re using the social network to begin with. You can also count on them being a fellow blogger.

        I’m keeping an eye on your site Sam – I like your content!
        .-= Keller Hawthorne´s last blog ..How Did Google’s April 2010 PageRank Update Affect You? =-.

        Reply
  2. mark

    04/07/2010, 09:25 pm

    Hi Robyn,

    One of my friends (andy) told me about your page, and I must say, this is a well thought out and well written post. I am fairly new to blogging, so I learned quite a bit here and I really appreciate it.

    I do have one question, although it is not related to this post – Is the blue Twitter box below from a plugin?

    Have a GREAT day!

    - mark

    Reply
    • Sam

      04/07/2010, 11:17 pm

      Hey Mark,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my post and that you now have a better understanding of blogging. Send my best regards to Andy :)

      The blue twitter box below is created by a plugin and can be downloaded from this link: http://comluv.com/download/twitterlink-comments/

      Hope this helps. Whenever you need any assistance with your blog simply use my contact page to reach me.

      Have a great day and please subscribe to my feed to receive further updates. :)

      Reply
  3. Sachin @ Web Design Mauritius

    04/08/2010, 01:46 am

    Nice overview Robyn. I will however dilute the information in the same way Keller did, your blog being young will build its presence with time and more SE traffic will be coming in. Your post is to the point though. Social Media is the up and coming method of promoting content which will be dragging us kicking and screaming in the future of content consumption. I’ve discussed it in an article on the Web Design Bureau of Mauritius.

    There’s one important thing that you stressed upon : traffic from social media stays longer on the website. There’s something to dig in there… Is it because of the social media user’s profile? Do visitors from Twitter stay longer than those on Facebook?

    P.S: there’s a mistake in the blog enngage link.
    .-= Sachin @ Web Design Mauritius´s last blog ..Failure of the web design community in Mauritius? =-.

    Reply
    • Sam

      04/08/2010, 07:25 am

      Thanks for your feedback Sachin.

      I will be continuously using my blog as a case study to share experiences and find the truth about certain topics. I’m starting to think that the amount of SE results for my site versus traffic from social media in the future will depend on how active I am in social media. I think that in the future when the blog grows, my social presence should grow as well so the impact will be even greater. I’ll check out your link and let you know what I think.

      Traffic from social media is a much better quality and I think its because it gives us the ability to choose our target market more effectively. Whereas persons who find my site through search results may not be looking for what I have to offer, so they leave. Social media gives a blogger more control.

      Facebook has been the lowest performer for quality traffic but it is improving slightly weekly. Users from twitter definitely stay 100% longer.

      Thanks for the heads up with the link, I corrected it.

      Reply
      • Sachin @ Web Design Mauritius

        04/08/2010, 07:37 am

        Facebook might be the lowest performer for sure but I’ve found a little trick on it. By injecting my blog feed in my profile, each post is duplicated there and sometimes the whole discussion on a given subject is carried on the Facebook page rather than on the blog itself. At the end of the day it is the content that’s the most important, isn’t it?
        .-= Sachin @ Web Design Mauritius´s last blog ..Beware of blogging burnout. =-.

        Reply
  4. Tinh

    04/08/2010, 03:51 am

    Excellent experiences and I do agree that commenting is a MUST for any bloggers as it could be a good way to drive a lot of traffic that can convert into regular readers. Thanks

    Reply
    • Sam

      04/08/2010, 07:27 am

      Thanks for reading Tinh and I hope you will be a returning visitor :)

      Commenting is the easiest way to get traffic, especially for newbie bloggers.

      Reply
  5. Edwin

    04/08/2010, 08:16 pm

    for me seo is pretty dead. i know its essential to do it but i just implement it once and forget it. social media requires more work and for me like you provides better results

    Reply
    • Sam

      04/09/2010, 08:12 am

      Hey Edwin,

      I don’t think SEO will be dead until traditional search engines die, so for now we will just have to keep optimizing our sites so that we can cover all grounds. Certainly social media marketing is what will give us that bigger bang to get the traffic moving.

      Thanks for commenting Ed.

      Reply
    • Keller Hawthorne

      04/12/2010, 11:50 am

      Ok, I have to jump in here as two people have mentioned setting and forgetting SEO or putting it on auto-pilot. SEO is an ongoing process – you don’t want to set it and forget. It requires consistent updating of content, reanalysis of keywords ever so often and link building, be it internal or external.

      If you consider SEO to be merely fiddling with your meta tags, then sure – you don’t need to fuss with it very often. But SEO is SOOOOO much more than that. SEO is truly about content – and content requires updating.

      Just my two cents as a slight SEO nerd.
      .-= Keller Hawthorne´s last blog ..Name Swapping: Why Displaying a Different Name in Your Header (or Logo) than Your Domain Can Hurt Your Website =-.

      Reply
      • Robyn-Dale

        04/12/2010, 12:53 pm

        Hey Keller,

        I think I may have not been looking deeply into all the activities that are defined within SEO. It is also true that it does take some analysis and regular check up if you want to seriously target specific keywords and dominate SERP. Creating targeted content is basically second nature for me so I tend to overlook that fact when talking about SEO.

        I think I may need to experience more of the riches of SE results to develop that real appreciation for it as you do :) Hopefully that’s real soon, so that I can write more on the topic and actual results.

        Thanks for the heads up Keller! :)
        .-= Robyn-Dale´s last blog ..5 Additional Extreme Steps to Secure Your WordPress Blog =-.

        Reply
        • Keller Hawthorne

          04/12/2010, 02:02 pm

          Traffic from search engines can be so beneficial – especially when you don’t have money to invest in advertising. A business can literally thrive based only on se traffic – of course it’s not advisable to put all your eggs in one basket. So, I think you’re doing the right thing by spreading out your efforts and focusing on other avenues of traffic.

          Social media wasn’t really a big deal 5 years ago when I first got into Internet marketing, so I focused my learning on SEO. It’s paid off greatly, but it certainly isn’t the only valuable source of traffic these days.

          Sam, you’re doing a great job with optimizing your blog based purely on how often you’re updating it. That’s great that content is 2nd nature for you! For some of my clients, it’s of no concern and they wonder why they don’t have better se rankings.
          .-= Keller Hawthorne´s last blog ..Name Swapping: Why Displaying a Different Name in Your Header (or Logo) than Your Domain Can Hurt Your Website =-.

          Reply
  6. Tia - BizChickBlogs.com

    04/08/2010, 10:39 pm

    Great article! Awesome insight and thanks also for sharing the graphs. This fits right into an article I wrote on Monday about Common Sense Blogging: SEO or Social Media? Perfect.

    I think many bloggers, if they look at the data, would see that their best bet is to continue building relationships, circling the blogosphere, and building one to many relationships. SEO isn’t dead, it just should be on auto-pilot.
    .-= Tia – BizChickBlogs.com´s last blog ..The 5 Unmistakable Signs of a Lazy Blogger =-.

    Reply
    • Sam

      04/09/2010, 08:08 am

      Thanks for reading Tia! :)

      That’s a unique way to look at SEO, being on auto-pilot. I agree, SEO is more like a robotic task so I’m sure better software could be developed to completely automate it.

      The ability of each blogger to present unique content, build relationships and effectively utilize social media is what will set successful bloggers and the mediocre apart.

      Glad you like the article Tia.

      Reply
    • Sam

      04/09/2010, 11:38 am

      Thanks for commenting Dennis.

      I would love to see your blog’s SEO/SMM comparisons since you’re so active in social media. Which social media site or activity has worked best for your sites in terms of traffic quantity and quality?

      Reply
      • Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing

        04/09/2010, 06:07 pm

        Dang, as soon as I ht publish, I knew it would come back to bite me n the ass. lol

        I said social side, not social sites, and did so on purpose. I really should have been clearer; totally my bad.

        I’m currently on NO social networks, not even Twitter…that’s all slated to start this year.

        I was referring to what you wrote above about blog reading/commenting/networking/JVing and so forth. That hole thing is HUGE for me. I can say without even looking that that has overpowered search engine stats 100fold.

        I WILL however be doing my share of true SEO/SMM comparisons though. I’ll be rejoining social sites, but one at a time this time and I’m learning more about my own SEO daily. ;)

        Twitter is first. I have a post coming where my readership will pick my username… should be interesting. :-)
        .-= Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing´s last blog ..DEDC Remains DoFollow – BUT… =-.

        Reply
        • Sam

          04/10/2010, 04:20 am

          Lol..Understood Dennis :)

          Your activities still fall within SMM and can be tracked. I’m expecting to see things skyrocket for you once you start networking through twitter and others.

          Reply
  7. Keith Davis@public speaking

    04/18/2010, 09:23 am

    Hi Sam
    I read this post with trepidation, I know that I do very little SMM and have concentrated on SEO.
    SEO was king in the days when I dabbled in html static sites and spent hours on the SEOMoz website.
    I do interact with other bloggers and leave comments on other blogs, but nothing else.

    Your conclusion is clear…
    “Social media activities encourages better quality traffic than that obtained from search engines.”

    Not the result I wanted but I can’t argue with your figures.
    Looks like I will have to start moving from SEO to SMM.
    .-= Keith Davis@public speaking´s last blog ..Flying in formation =-.

    Reply
    • Sam

      05/04/2010, 03:31 pm

      Hey Keith,

      Thanks for reading :)

      There are definitely some huge changes taking place with social media. However, I would not advise that you stop doing SEO but find the right balance between it and SMM. I’ll be posting some articles in the future on how to incorporate SEO in social media sites and profiles, so be on the lookout :)

      Reply
  8. Rob Rammuny

    05/02/2010, 02:00 pm

    Great article you whipped up here. In my overall opinion, with the constant growth of social media it will dominate search engines (if haven’t already)

    Look at Facebook… they are the #2 site in the world according to Alexa. We also have Twitter and all these other sites. Pssh… I wonder if Search Engines will even be used as much 3-4 years from now.

    Reply
    • Sam

      05/04/2010, 03:21 pm

      Hey Rob,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment :)

      Results from social media sites have already started to dominate search engine results. Though this depends on how much you’re using social media for promotion. Google has already started to include social activities and conversations in their search results. So search engines will have to evolve as user demand and interaction changes.

      Reply