Has Social Media Made SEO Irrelevant?

seo and social mediaJust a few years ago, search engines (and paid advertising) were about the only way to draw new visitors to a website.  But a few years is an eternity on the Internet.

Now social media is all the rage.  Everyone is talking about how connect with new people using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Search engine optimization seems so… 2007.

So, has social media made SEO less important?

Yes and no.

In 2007, organizations had two possible sources of new visitors free search listings and paid online advertising (banners, sponsorships, pay per click search ads, etc). 

Now, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites provide great opportunities to connect with a lot of new people and draw them to your website.  They have become a third major source of new visitors. 

Let’s Check the Numbers

Last year we added a Facebook page which currently has 469 fans and a Twitter profile which currently has 3300 followers.  We post links to all our blog articles on both Facebook & Twitter.

It’s difficult to tell how many visitors this blog gets from social media because most twitter users use an app instead of Twitter.com.  In analytics & stats, visitors from Twitter apps often appear as “direct” traffic or as coming from one of the URL shortening services.  But we estimate 2% of our blog traffic is currently coming from social media.

In January 2007, this blog was getting 6.8% of its traffic from search engines.  That percentage has dropped to 5.3%.  However, overall blog traffic has grown 70% over the last 3 years.  Even though the percentage of visitors coming from search engines is down, the actual number of visitors is up significantly and still more than double those coming from social media.

Actual Results May Vary

Of course, your results may be very different depending on a number of factors including how much effort you’ve put into SEO and social networking.

The bottom line is search engines provide a greater opportunity for connecting with people and building traffic than ever before.

How about you?  Have you checked your logs or analytics lately?  What percentage of your website visitors are coming from search engines? Social media sites?

How much effort/resources are you putting into SEO vs social media?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

8 Responses to “Has Social Media Made SEO Irrelevant?”

  1. Great article.. As a new small business I struggle with whether or not I should pay a company a few hundred per month to do SEO if in the long run it doesn't amount to anything in such a competitive market as car shipping and with the ever changing internet.

    So far I have focused on multiple blogs, a solid website and lots of social media.. We'll see.

    http://www.iqtransport.com

    • Scott, I hear what you're saying. Ultimately it comes down to prioritizing limited marketing resources. I certainly think blogging and social media can be very productive ways to market a small business online. Two additional things I think are worth noting:

      1) Small start-ups in competitive markets usually can't compete for the most popular search keywords related to their market, but with keyword research they can almost always find productive 2nd & 3rd tier keywords they can compete for with a little bit of work.

      2) When figuring out what marketing to do, it's important to consider the value of one's own time. People often talk about blogging, social media, and even optimizing their own sites as being "free" marketing, but doing that ignores the value of their time.

      Keep up the good work Scott!

  2. Scott & Paul, great comments. One other thing to consider when doing it yourself are the results that you get when doing it yourself in comparison to hiring a professional.

    A couple year's ago, I tried to install lighted crown molding in my master bedroom. I thought I had the right tools and working with my father-in-law (who is does great job building wood shelving, etc) it seemed like it would be a easy project. We'll after 4 hours of frustration and only getting one wall done, I called up a friend who grew up in the wood-working industry. He knocked out the other 3 walls in under 90 minutes (and corrected my mistakes on wall #1). Hindsight is always 20/20, but I wish I would have hired him from the start.

  3. Hi,
    I guess SEO and Social Media Marketing are only partially direct competitors. SEO also covers stuff like on-site factors which make a site both user- and search engine-friendly. But in the long run, social media marketing has more potential, you just have to tap that potential.
    On the other hand: there are companies which offer products and/or services which are not really community-friendly (highly specialized medical technology and know-how comes to mind). For them SEO is propably the easier solution. Than again, SMM has not been around too long and there are still a lot of people out there who have heard the term but do not know what it means, so let's see where the development goes.
    As the line from this 70's song goes: You ain't seen nothing yet.

    • That's a good point about different types of organizations. Some by their nature have more potential for success using SEO others have more potential for success using social media. All organizations can benefit to some extent from both.

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