SEO vs. Social Media: Do You Really Need to Choose?

As a business owner in this day and age, you’re probably already aware that digital marketing is essential to the success and growth of your business. But digital marketing is a vast world; what if your resources are limited? Which aspect of digital marketing should you focus on?

If you had asked this question, say, five years ago, the answer would have been quick: focus on Search Engine Optimization. Indeed, in those days, getting your website optimized was probably the only real way to rank well on search engine results pages (SERPs) and make people aware of your brand’s existence. These days, however, the answer to the above question may not be so easy to come. The growth and influence social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter now enjoy have made it a bit difficult for businesses with tight budgets to decide what they should focus their digital marketing strategies on.

The End of Black Hat SEO

The key to SEO these days is to ditch black-hat SEO practices and focus on white-hat practices.

Quick Facts

For some background on the SEO vs. social media debate, you may want to review the following facts:

  • About 44% of online shoppers still begin the shopping process via search engines.
  • In the past six years, social media usage for product research has increased by 356 percent.
  • Google algorithm updates were implemented one after another, causing major changes in SEO.
  • Customer engagement has become more important for the success and growth of any business.
  • Google’s algorithms have become smarter.
  • Keywords are no longer enough to optimize your site.

So, going back to the question as to whether you should focus more on SEO or social media if your digital marketing budget is tight, let’s take a closer look at these two aspects of digital marketing as they are today.


Following all the algorithm updates Google has released in recent years, there are those who say that SEO is dead. The truth, however, is that while it has changed significantly, SEO is still very much alive. As mentioned above, almost half of online shoppers still begin the process via search engines, so it is still important for you to work on gaining top SERP rankings. You simply need to ditch the SEO practices of old (keyword stuffing, content duplication, unscrupulous link-building, etc.) and focus on high-quality content, relevant organic links, properly written titles and Meta tags, and other white-hat SEO practices.

A note on keywords…

Keyword stuffing is no longer acceptable, but keywords are still very useful for purposes of SEO. The key is to choose your keywords carefully and distribute them strategically throughout your content. You should also make sure the keywords are used such that the narrative of your content continues to flow naturally. Remember that Google’s algorithm has become smarter and the search engine can now tell if keywords are just being jammed into content without thought to context or relevance.

You should also be careful not to use too many keywords in a single piece of content, as that may be seen as keyword stuffing and may get you penalized by Google. Two to three well-placed keywords should be enough for each piece of content you publish. It is also a good idea to include your keywords in your titles and Meta descriptions.

A note on backlinks…

Just like keywords, links to your site are still very useful in today’s SEO, but the manner in which you earn or use these links may need to be changed unless you want to get penalized with non-existent rankings. Buying links is now a big NO, as the game has changed from getting as many backlinks as possible to gaining the best quality of links possible. High-quality links are those that are relevant to the content of the page to which they point and come from credible, high-authority sites.

In the past, links were gained (other than by buying them) by focusing on such tactics as submitting to industry-related directories and participating in industry-related online forums. These days, the best way to gain useful links is by regularly publishing high-quality, shareable content. This is where the nest part of our discussion comes in…

Social Media

Most people are engaged in social media these days, and many of the people on social platforms spend most of the day online. Even at work, people are constantly logged on to the Internet and into their social media accounts. The success of your online marketing campaigns therefore hinges not only in the SERP rankings you get, but also on the reputation you manage to build online. And one of the best ways to establish a positive online reputation is to engage with your target market on a regular basis.

What is the best venue for engaging in meaningful conversations with your target market? You guessed it right: Social Media. When you set up social media pages for your business, you give your customers a chance to voice out their opinions and ask you questions directly. If you simply read all their questions and comments without bothering to respond, you’re likely to be seen as being entirely focused on profit without caring for your customers’ needs. On the other hand, responding to their comments/questions promptly helps you earn the reputation of being a brand that truly cares. Guess which type of business is more likely to earn people’s loyalty?

Engaging Your Target Market

In order to succeed in online marketing, you need to engage your target market in meaningful conversation and social media is one of the best venues for that.

There is also the matter of word-of-mouth advertising. This has always been—and probably will always be—the most effective form of advertising. When people recommend your business to others, those to whom it is recommended are likelier to give it a try, since people they know and trust have already tried it. But word-of-mouth is no longer so literal these days. It no longer takes two or more people coming together in one place and talking face-to-face to swap stories about brands and products they patronize.

Social media is, in fact, known as the modern-day version of word-of-mouth advertising. People now talk about their experiences with certain brands and products on their social media accounts. So if you want more people to know about your brand’s existence, you need to work on getting your social media audience to talk about you—on a positive note, of course.

So, how do you get your brand mentioned repeatedly on social media? And how do you get a lot of people to share your content to their social circles? By going back to the basics, that’s how. Keep creating well-written, original, relevant, and interesting content. Publish them on your website or blog and promote them on your social media pages. And be sure to make the content easy to share on a wide variety of social media platforms. Incorporate social sharing buttons on your website and blog, and don’t forget to post links to your content on your social media pages.

SEO and Social Media

So, SEO and social media are both essential to the success of your digital marketing efforts, which brings us right back to the question we posed at the beginning of this article: Which aspect of digital marketing should you focus on if budget is tight? Actually, you may not really have to choose one over the other. Many businesses have successfully launched a joint approach and you may want to follow suit.

You may not realize it, but Google’s spiders crawl not only regular websites, but also social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. When it sees your brand being mentioned by a good number of users on social sites like those two, or when it sees a good number of industry influencers linking back to your site on their social accounts, Google is likely to reward you with good rankings. This is because brand’s that are repeatedly mentioned in a positive light are generally seen as an industry leader. In the same way, websites that get links from industry influencers are generally seen as authority sites.

Two Sides of The Coin

SEO and social media are best seen as complementary aspects of digital marketing—like two sides of the same coin.

So, you see, the best way to make the most of your digital marketing efforts is not to see SEO and social media as two separate aspects. Rather, you should view them as complementary—two sides of the same coin, so to speak. The SEO of today is no longer just about keywords and links, but also about high-quality content, strong web design, and social engagement. Your efforts on social media will help you gain the trust and loyalty of your target market, which gets your brand mentioned more and increases your influence. This, in turn, leads to better SEO results.


Some people say social media is the new SEO. This may not entirely be true, but social media has indeed taken on a more important role in the world of online marketing. Content that manages to establish strong social media presence is likely to increase the number of industry-related sites that link back to you and boost your website’s SERP rankings as well. In order to do well in SEO these days, therefore, you should also do well in your social media efforts. SEO or social media? Our answer is…SEO and social media.

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