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Why Social Media Is a Better Investment than SEO

This guest post is by Gary Arndt of Everything-Everywhere.com

As a blogger, you probably do not have the luxury of having a staff of people to work for you. As such, your time is very valuable and you need to spend it where it will do the most good. We have reached a point in late 2010 where the work required to generate traffic for a normal blog via search engines is much greater than that required to generate an equal amount of traffic via social media.

My thesis is simple: for the majority of bloggers, the time and effort invested on social media is better spent than time spent on SEO.

This post will probably generate controversy. There are an army of people out there who make a living selling SEO products and services. To use an old adage, when you only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail. To them, SEO is the beginning and end of traffic generation.

To be sure, search engines do drive a lot of traffic, however, with the increasing pollution of search engines with content farms, Google’s love of big brands/big media, and the increasing amount of work required to rank for ever longer keywords, SEO is no longer worth the effort for most bloggers.

The power of brands

Google loves brands. The reasoning behind this actually makes some sense. An easy solution to the problem of spam websites was for Google to give extra authority to sites that have large, established brands. This doesn’t bode well for bloggers, however.

To given you an example of how much authority brands are given, several months ago I conducted an experiment. I had an article that I had done some link building on. After several months the article ranked #3 for the keyword I was targeting (behind two large media properties). I had an opportunity to put some content on the website of a very large media brand. I put that article, word for word, on their site to see how they would rank for the exact same keyword. Within an hour, they were ranked at #4, just behind my original article. In a day, they were ranked above me, even though the same content had been on my site for months and I had gone through the effort to do link building.

I realize there is a new content bonus that Google will give articles for a while, but the fact they were able to rank so high, so quickly, even against a previously indexed article with links, shows just how much the deck is stacked against blogs. Google can’t easily tell the difference a legitimate blog from a made for Adsense spam site. If they could, there would be no spam.

If you are in a niche that doesn’t have a large traditional media presence (niches like Internet marketing, SEO, or social media) you might not notice this because there is little media competition. However, if you are in a niche with a large traditional media presence (like travel, politics, news, sports, or food) you might see on a regular basis how difficult it can be.

Brand vs. individual authority

You might think that Darren Rowse has a great deal of authority on the subject of blogging. You would be correct. However, in the eyes of Google, Darren doesn’t have any authority; ProBlogger.net does. This is a fundamental problem with how Google works. People invest trust and authority in other people while Google puts authority in URL’s.

As a thought experiment, lets say Darren sold ProBlogger.net and started up a new blog called The-Blogging-Pro.info (a horrible domain name, but just stay with me). Everyone who reads this site, subscribes to the newsletter or follows Darren on Twitter would know to now go to the new site to get Darren’s advice on blogging. The authority that Darren has developed over the years would stay with him, even if he moved to a new domain. Google, however, would still put its trust and authority in ProBlogger.net, even though the real authority has moved to a different domain.

Social media solves the authority dilemma. You know who is authoritative and isn’t. I often ask people how many people they can name who have written an article for National Geographic in its 122-year history. Most people can’t name a single person. Yet, if I ask them who is behind their favorite blogs, almost everyone can give me a name. We trust the New York Times or National Geographic because of the reputation the brand has developed over the years. Even if the author of a given article knows nothing about the subject (which does happen), they are assumed to be authoritative just because of the brand they are writing under.

Writers will usually give a list of the publications they have written for as their credentials. Their authority is a second hand authority derived from the publications they have written for. (“I am a successful author because I have written for large, successful publications.”)

Blogger authority is first hand authority. It comes directly from the reputation they have developed over time from their audience.

The power of individuals

The fact that people know who bloggers are is exactly the reason why blogs have a comparative advantage in social media. The New York Times Twitter account might have millions of followers, but they can never do more than pump out links to articles. It can’t have a conversation, talk or listen. If it did, who would be the one doing the talking on behalf of the brand?

The part of social media that actually builds trust and authority is totally absent from most large media properties. They are simply not able to engage in a conversation as a brand. Some companies like ESPN have banned their staff from using Twitter precisely because they didn’t want their employees to develop their own authority outside if the network. If they did, they’d become too valuable and they would have too much leverage when it came time to negotiate contracts.

Bloggers have the ability to do an end run around traditional media precisely because we are capable of having a conversation. That is something a faceless brand can never do.

SEO is time consuming

Critics of this article might point out that if you just worked harder, you could rank for anything you want. They are probably right. It isn’t a question of what is possible. It is a question of the return on your investment. The concept of time ROI is absent from almost any discussion on SEO.

As I stated above, the deck is stacked against the little guy in SEO. Google loves brands and can’t associate authority with individuals. To just keep pace with media brands, you have to put in much more work. The New York Times doesn’t have to bother with link building. You do. That alone should tell you how fair the playing field is.

Bloggers have a comparative advantage in social media. We can appeal to human notions of authority, not algorithmic notions. We can have discussions and conversations, and brands can’t do that. Moreover, it isn’t hard to do. All you have to do is talk and most of you are probably doing that now.

Already you are seeing a shift in some media outlets to superstar journalists. What is happening is the same thing you are seeing in the blogging world. People are putting their trust and authority into people, not the brands they work for. It will only be a matter of time before the superstar journalists realize they don’t need their media masters anymore.

Writing for humans vs. writing for machines

Despite what Google says, the key to good SEO isn’t writing for good content for people. This is a bald-faced lie which anyone who has spent time trying to rank for a keyword knows. Human beings enjoy alliteration, puns, jokes and other forms of word play, which are totally lost on an algorithm. What makes for a good article from a content farm is exactly the thing, which you should not do if you want to covert readers into subscribers. Content created with SEO in mind is more often than not fun to read.

Google’s original rational for the “create good content” argument was that people would naturally link to good content. That is no longer true. People share good content on Twitter and Facebook, which is either closed to Google, labeled as “nofollow”, or doesn’t have anchor text. The world Serge and Brin wrote their seminal paper for in the 1990’s doesn’t exist today.

Traffic as a means vs. traffic as an end

Newspapers have developed an obsession with visits and page views. Many bloggers have the same problem as well. They view raw traffic as the end game because they view the world though an advertising model. Under this paradigm, the more traffic you have the better, regardless how you get it or for what reason, because it will lead to more ad clicks.

Many bloggers have wised up to the fact that advertising isn’t the best way to make money. CPM rates keep falling and will keep falling so long as ad inventory grows faster than online advertising budgets. It has reached a point where to make money via advertising you have to either have an enormous media property or have an incredibly targeted site devoted to a very niche keyword.

Most blogs don’t fit into either category. They don’t have millions of page views per month, and they don’t niche themselves into talking about only instant coffee makers. In this middle space, what matters aren’t raw page views to generate advertising revenue. What matters is growing a loyal following of people who view you as authoritative in your area.

In this model, traffic is just a means to an end, not an end in itself. The real end is getting traffic to convert to subscribers and loyal followers. You will be more likely to get a follower from someone who views you as having authority rather than someone who is just looking for bit of information with no idea of who you are.

Google-proofing

Google changes their algorithm all the time. There are companies who have been destroyed by changes made at Google. Fortunes rise and fall based on how Google decides to rank sites. A major question you have to ask yourself is “how dependent do I want to be on Google?”

All the hard work you put into SEO can be destroyed, or at least significantly altered, but changes at Google. Authority and reputation with other people, however, doesn’t change on a whim.

Also, knowing that Google is going to change in the future, in what direction do you think it is going to change? My bet would be towards a greater reliance on social media and less reliance on links. I’m sure there are engineers at Google right now trying to figure out how to translate the authority and trust that individuals have into their search results.

Choose social media for greater ROI

I am not saying you should block Google from indexing your site. I am not saying search engine traffic is bad. In fact, there are blogs out there that would be best served by an SEO strategy.

What I am saying is that outside of a few things you can do in the creation of your blog, don’t worry about SEO. Make sure your permalinks make sense, create a site map, install the appropriate plugins … and then stop worrying about it.

Invest your time where it will give you the highest return. Today, I believe that place is in social media. Do you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Since March 2007, Gary has blogged from over 70 countries at Everything-Everywhere.com. He was also named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 Best Blogs of 2010.

UPDATE: Darren has added his thougths on the SEO vs Social Media debate here.

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Comments

  1. Why would this post generate controversy? It’s 100% accurate and correct!

    The days where one depends upon search engines for the majority of traffic are done and over (if you’re looking to create long-term success online). Social interactions, social media and social recommendations are what drives interest and traffic these days…with a far greater staying power than fickle SEO thingees.

    Love the ‘google-proofing’ term, btw. Very true.

  2. I completely agree with you. Social Media doesn’t assign us algorithms to deal with, but SEO does. Also SMO is much easier & less time consuming than SEO. In SMO we don’t have to please the Google God :P

  3. Thanks for the emense amount of detail in your article. I have to say that i do think you have a point but the results are heavily dependant on which niche you are in. I know you meantioned it but i am in the internet marketing niche and i get much more traffic from search engines and i have tried to dedicate equal amounts of time to each traffic generating method. I see your point though, when you are in technology or news blogs it helps massively if you have a brand.

  4. The overall effect is difficult to measure, but I take the 10000 (targeted and interested) visits from search engines for (nearly) 0 hours of work vs. the few who come in and bounce away after (re-)sharing for the countless hours I use in “social media”.

    It’s been proven many times that the visitors from search engines are far more likely to turn into buyers than those from social media sites, that’s just how it is, people in social media expect things to be free – it’s many times harder to turn them into buyers.

    Social media comes with other benefits, yes, but for (relatively) free traffic that bring results, you can’t beat SEO, sorry.

  5. Vernon says:

    Gary, I agree whole heartedly with you. I remember when I was first trying to get into the whole website/blog thing, I would regularly search my keywords and see how I was doing, and read everything I could on SEO.

    But when I read the kk.org article “1,000 true fans” everything changed in my view of how to go about it.

    I’ve started doing blog posts with this approach:

    - Write first for readers who like to read just what I like to read.

    - If I really still have time (usually not) think about SEO. Not to hard

    - Tweet (and if it is really relevant to my own real friends, share on Facebook manually).

    This post just motivates me to push on with this much more enjoyable approach.

  6. Dominique says:

    Interesting post, Gary…thanks for the food for thought.

    I’ve never particularly worried about SEO. My biggest concession to SEO is probably in the way I title articles (making sure to include specific locations in titles, for instance). Makes for less than sexy titles f’sure.

    I’m thinking Midwest US travel isn’t the most over-populated niche. The vast majority of my traffic comes from searches–and usually from search terms closely related to a specific destination or Midwest topic. That also means I have a disproportionately large number lot of new visitors each day.

    I have mixed feelings about some SM efforts because I’m having a bit of trouble seeing how the disproportionate amount of time I seem to spend on it is vs. the number of visits I see from those links. My gut feeling is that a lot of my regular readers come from my SM efforts, but I’d love to know how visits I get via SM rank in metrics like length of visit, depth of visit, and loyalty vs. the new visitors I see via searches.

  7. Yohay says:

    You have great points about the growing importance of social media and the falling ROI of SEO.
    What I’m missing is an elaboration of how to grow authority in social media, and which social media outlets should I put my time in.
    The FB group for my site already has over 1700 fans, but the traffic it generates is still very small in comparison with Google or with related sites in my niche.
    I’d love to hear more tips about social media usage.

  8. Walker says:

    What a great article. I will take what you’ve said as an extra incentive to spend more time improving my blog’s Facebook page. I write for a content site, where revenue is generated by ads and I have found the articles which bring in the biggest money are not very readable, but rather strings of keywords. So, I totally see your point!

  9. I LOVE this post, Gary! I completely agree that bloggers, and companies for that matter, should spend their time in whatever is bringing in the highest ROI.

    I have also found that good content creates the empathy with your readers that will ultimately be translated into “authority.”

    Looking forward to more good insights!

    Sharon Mostyn
    @sharonmostyn

  10. Vanessa says:

    Very well said. I have noticed this especially in the food niche, more specifically recipe blogs. It’s totally impossible to rank anymore with the first page of results is filled with allrecipes and the like. I’ve since turned to social media and cooking communities and have stopped worrying about search engines. Great article.

  11. Hugo says:

    This is article is funny on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that when leveraged effectively, social media efforts can be the biggest driver of SEO success. In other words, with every passing day, social media and SEO are becoming more and more intertwined. There’s no reason to pick one over the other.

    That essentially renders the title of your post moot.

    P.S. If you don’t take the time to craft SEO-friendly title tags (not the title of articles, but the meta element) you’re missing out on tremendous ROI potential.

  12. Excellent points. The online world is like the offline world: to compete with the big dogs you either have to be a big dog or have a lot of money. But the little guy can build a small, devoted following by giving a personal touch.

  13. Deborah says:

    Gary, this has been the kick in the butt I needed to spend more time and effort with social media. I’ve been somewhat active on Twitter very recently, but I have neglected my Facebook and LinkedIn presences. I have also struggled with the whole “keyword density,” etc., metrics, but I see now that I don’t need to stress TOO much about that.

    This shows me where my time is better spent — on being a person who writes and shares useful content, not a machine. Thanks!

  14. Ken Mueller says:

    Thank you for this. Great post. With SEO, we spend a lot of time spinning our wheels, trying to outguess Google, which, of course, Google doesn’t want us to do. Google wants the search process to be natural, tipped in favor of the searcher…not businesses.

    And the fact is, I find that Social Media and blogging, if done well, give you that natural SEO that you need. A well done blog gives you everything Google wants to see: traffic, inbound links, changing content, key words, and more.

    Definitely gonna share this article with clients and friends who think they need to spend a lot of money on SEO.

  15. Gray says:

    Great article, Gary! It basically sums up what I’ve noticed with my own online results. I also believe in a “quality vs quantity” philosophy of traffic, which is to say I’d rather have 5000 raving fans than 5 million people who accidentally stumble across my site via a search engine and immediately leave and never return. I do write my blog for people and have had a devil of a time with SEO. It boggles my mind a bit and when I have tried to focus on keywords, I haven’t necessarily seen the results from that because there’s just too much competition out there in the travel blogging world. Twitter is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to my blog. And I also enjoy the interactions I have with people via Twitter. I’ve met so many cool travelers and bloggers there, so it’s not just a more productive use of my time, but more personally rewarding as well.

  16. Justin says:

    I think there’s a lot of truth in what you say but I don’t think I’d throw the baby out with the bath water. We still need to keep our eyes on where traffic is and the most related terms that have traffic related to our posts. We don’t always have to address it but that awareness is key. We need to make conscious decisions about these things, to me it’s part of the process. There are still lots of niches and areas that can and should be optimized for. There are also many areas where we’re basically SOL in direct keyword SEO. Still though, with a little creativity related niches can be exploited for good use. For example, posts that refer to a brand might be able to leverage that brands traffic since there is often much less competition on the brand itself instead of related keywords. ; )

  17. EF Cussins says:

    I know when I work on social media I do get an increase in traffic. Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of a weekly talk radio program. The traffic to the blog did increase. These increases were definitely more than all the SEO that I have done.

  18. Infonote says:

    Hi,

    A great article which is well written and you explain correctly.
    From what I understood your metric is ‘traffic’.

    I agree social media does bring more traffic.
    However, most websites/blogs sell a product/service/affiliate and content. I am not an expert in any way, but if you change the metric from ‘traffic’ to Click To Rate or actual sales, you will find that search engines give a much greater return on investment than Social Media.

    Note: For me social media includes Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit etc.

    Conclusion: if your metric is just traffic than I agree with the article.

  19. Brent Klauck says:

    Well written post, Gary, but I’m going to have to partially disagree. Not on everything, just with your last few points.

    From first hand experience, I’ve seen the huge inflow that SEO can bring, both on my own site and on those of some of my clients at my previous job as an SEO. I completely disagree with your statement that “ROI is absent from almost any discussion on SEO” as you’ll see in my analogy below. SEO is not easy, but neither is social media if you’re doing it right. The rewards of both are great as well, but your investment into SEO will always be high and have to be high. Your investment into SEO does not in order to see a return.

    I also do not agree completely with “writing for humans vs writing for machines.” With SEO, of course you must write to catch the eye of the bots, but now think of it from the opposite perspective of the reader. If you do a search on Google, how do you find what you want? You scan, looking for the keywords for what you’re looking for. Making your content SEO friendly helps the reader as well, even though you fail to see that. I agree that your content needs to be reader friendly and had valuable and interesting grammatical additions, but you don’t have to get rid of these to include SEO.

    Your comparison between the two as “traffic as a means vs traffic as an end” is an interesting take and I think you’re on to something, but I don’t believe it is a disadvantage of SEO. Getting people to visit your site is a positive thing. Its your responsibility as a writer to keep them there.

    And finally, while Google does change their algorithm, it is always for the better. If you’re writing for your reader, making clean, organized content highlighting what’s important, in the end you won’t be hurt. Darren has seen these effects in the past and when it’s happened, it sorted itself out in no time.

    I think the most accurate comparison I can make is to your personal income. SEO is like a passive, residual income. You do it once and the rewards continue to flow in whether you work on it anymore or not. On the contrary, if you stop your social media presence, the majority of all advantages stop as well, including the most important: site traffic, personal brand image, and loyalty of readers/your reliability.

    That said I do not argue your belief in social media as an extremely valuable medium. It is my belief as well, but a substitute for SEO it is not.

  20. Gary:

    You make excellent points, and overall I don’t find fault with your argument. However, I could make a case that what you said is akin to stating that “it is better to exercise than eat healthy foods”. Both choices support the obvious goal of a healthy lifestyle, but balancing each effort will always yield greater results over time.

    I believe the better advice is to balance both efforts, SEO and Social Media. To be sure, SEO can be a mind numbing chore and it can take weeks, months, even years to see results, but once in place, quality SEO yields positive returns virtually forever. Well optimized content has always ranked in search queries.

    By balance, I try to optimize most of the content I produce; whether it be a blog post or a web page. Once published, I use Social Media to promote and point to the new content. In this way, SEO provides the search engines with relevant content to help increase the authority of the site while Social Media creates immediate traffic and possibly additional links, which furthers the purpose.

  21. As an web presence developer, one of the first things potential clients come to me and say is ‘I want to dominate with SEO, can you help me?”

    This article is going to help me make them understand that SEO is not the be all end all of internet market.

    Like you said, it is still a very powerful tool, but it is always changing. Trying to use nothing but SEO for traffic is extremely time consuming and never a guarantee.

    Posting a link back to your new article from Facebook and Twitter however, are instant sources of traffic. Most of which is returning visitors that already feel you are an authority.

    Thank you for posting this, I plan to link it to any new potential client that comes to me ranting and raving about SEO, while I try to convey the importance of building community and authority.

    Thanks!

  22. Gary Arndt says:

    Actually, my metric would be “followers”, however that is defined. It could be RSS subscribers, email subscribers, twitter followers or Facebook fans.

    The conversion metric you should worry about is converting traffic to followers. If you have followers, then you can sell any future product without reinventing the SEO wheel.

  23. Buddy Hodges says:

    Very interesting article, Gary! I guess the ROI depends on what you are selling and whether your goals are short-term or long-term. I believe (and I hope) that readers are becoming more sophisticated and skeptical of advertising from unknown sources. At the risk of repeating a truism that is becoming almost trite, “people buy from people they know like and trust.”

    Ironically, some of the machines are really only talking to other machines. Maybe bots and auto-responders are falling in love. In the long run I think relationships nurtured on social media will be worth more than transient traffic.

  24. I think both seo and social media are key components in a successful web presence. Social Media will probably be more sustainable and you will be less reliant on Google.

  25. Darren says:

    I generally dislike posts from ProBlogger but this is REALLY, REALLY bad.

    First,
    “You will be more likely to get a follower from someone who views you as having authority rather than someone who is just looking for bit of information with no idea of who you are.” – Evidence? If someone comes from a search engine looking for ‘wedding rings’ and you provide extremely valuable information on that topic and a catalog, then you are instantly becoming an authority in their eyes.

    Second, have you ever done SEO? SEO can be done effectively if you write for humans, you just need to insert a few keywords here and there. And you aren’t writing for search engines…search engines are used by PEOPLE, those keywords are typed by PEOPLE so using those keywords doesn’t mean literally you’re optimizing for SEO but you’re optimizing for words PEOPLE type.

    “What matters is growing a loyal following of people who view you as authoritative in your area.” >>> Says who? This is a big delusion. What matters is….can you guess…yeah Money. Because most people are blogging to make money. SEO traffic brings people who have some type of intent and you monetize them based on that intent. If people arrive through your site via digg/stumbleupon/reddit/facebook/twitter their “intent” is usually entertainment.

    Derren could btw get the same authority into the-Blogging-Pro.info if he wanted to, he would just do a 301 redirect and that’s all.

    Nevertheless, what’s the answer to “Is social media a better investment than SEO”? Like with most question, it is “it depends”. What’s your method of monetization? What niche are you in?

    The fundamental flawed assumption here is that “authority is everything”. This is VERY difficult to prove. First, what is authority? Are all people perceiving authority in same way?

    A better framework, I propose is to use the framework by Theodore Levitt: Be the company people want to “hire” to get a particular job done. Derren may be the authority for people looking to monetize/bring traffic to their blog. You may be the authority for ‘I want to find good places to travel and need to find someone who’s already been there’.

    Things are way more complex and there are so many factors for a simple statement like ‘social media is better investment than seo’ (and I’m not sure if my comment is ‘perfect’ too).

  26. Infonote says:

    “The conversion metric you should worry about is converting traffic to followers. If you have followers, then you can sell any future product without reinventing the SEO wheel.”

    @Gary Arndt Exactly social media does not tend to convert as well as a search engine query.

    In general, people use Facebook for entertainment purposes or Digg for browsing, and not purchasing. If someone searches for ‘Product X’ on Facebook, in my opinion they are less likely to buy a product than when a Google search is conducted for that product.

    It will be interesting to see a study on this. Since I am just basing myself on experience.

  27. Plenty of food for thought in this post. I agree that social media is important. The jury’s still out on whether it is a better time investment than SEO though.

    I tend to agree with the previous poster, my conversion rate from search engine queries is higher than with social media. I guess the bigger question is whether that will change with time. We’ll have to see.

  28. What an excellent article, reminds me that why my traffic is so low even though I am writing good content. I have really been struggling with what to spend my short amount of time on. Sounds like I started off right, will have to see where it takes me.

  29. Lucian says:

    Social media investment is good if you have a generous budget to advertise your social media presence, to keep great prize contest if people become fans. Or social media works great if you are already a well developed brand and very popular. You can get the benefits by doing nothing. Seo can be a side effect of popularity.

    If you have a small website with tight budget then you can work hard to make good seo, or to have someone to do it for you with low budget and get a lot of visitors.

  30. Eric Pratum says:

    You have a lot of valid points. That being said, you can’t argue with spending a small amount of time on trying to draw in more search traffic, right? After all, not everyone is involved in social media, emails links to each other, etc, but everyone uses search. Yeah, you’ll have way more competition if your vertical is dominated by a brand, but the same would be true of any marketing channel. What would be more valuable for a lot of people honestly would be a rundown of how to balance social presence building with search engine friendly content writing.

  31. Gary, finally the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m glad you wrote about this as many people seem to think that Google is the answer to everything. More importantly, I would like to see how the current social media will change in Q1 & 2 next year as much has been said and discussed, then again… we shall see.

    David

  32. I publish a mom-and-pop site that attracts more than four million visits a year, and I spend zero time on SEO beyond the obvious things that are in Google’s Webmaster guidelines (such as using descriptive titles and headlines, and organizing content in a logical way that’s useful to human readers).

    Also, social networking works better for some topics than for others. In the travel-planning category (where my wife and I operate), the most interested–and desirable–readers are active travelers who are planning trips to Elbonia or Widgetville or Timbuktu. Reaching strangers who are researching trips (and who arrive via Google or Bing) is far more productive for us, and for advertisers, than reaching friends and followers at Facebook and Twitter.

  33. Very informative article.

    For me… I simply can’t imagine altering the copy of a post so that it gets more search engine traffic.

    Getting your writing to sound and feel good is really hard and shouldn’t be compromised so that SEO is benefited.

    People will share your stuff when your content is good. So making it as good as possible without compromising it one bit is wise.

    Of course, it’s not enough to have good content for people to share your stuff. You have to also be known which you can accomplish through guest posts, and general interaction with other bloggers and readers.

    Enjoyed this article and its implications.

  34. I agree but I would have appreciated your definition of Social Media in the article… Also without content and SEO Social Media is gonna be a tough thing to do!

  35. My blog is still an infant, only two month of posts and less than a month of analytics tracking. In that month, my forum links and social media presence have definitely been the best source of traffic for me, but my blog is about table top games, and design in particular, so those places are also the most likely place to find readers looking for that type of game.

  36. Gil Pizano says:

    Excellent point you make here Gary! Helping to influence the flow of traffic to either your blog or to a friends site, is becoming more and more complicated as time goes on. However, the same aspect of what causes successful traffic from coming to a site is the same. The respect and enjoyment of your readers. Without those, any site will eventually end up with little traffic if it ever gets it.

  37. Heidi Thorne says:

    I track the sources for sales and inquiries. Have many been resulting from search? Only one this year. Most of my business is generated through both offline and online networking. On the online side, the inquiries are coming from my contacts in social media. Most of my blog traffic is generated through Twitter. So, yes, I totally agree that focusing on the connections and conversations is the way to go.

  38. I see social media dominating Google. In fact, my top 5 sources of Internet traffic are mostly social media:

    1. Facebook
    2. Google
    3. Kindle Boards
    4. Twitter
    5. Goodreads

    Facebook is far ahead of Google in terms of sending me visitors, and Twitter is growing fast.

    David

  39. I totally agree! I’m about as ungeek as anyone can get, but we have managed to create one of the top blogs in travel without knowing anything or doing anything with SEO.

    All of it was totally by accident, like our first Soultravelers3 youtube video going viral with over a million views. Social media rocks and is a lot more FUN than SEO because it’s all about connecting with fabulous people around the world. ;)

  40. Sutekh says:

    Thanks for this..Im finding Facebook to be incredible at building a strong fanbase. People who feel they can just talk to you and you can vibe with. They get to know your personality and are more likely to read what you have to say.

  41. Interesting read. However, I would argue that the effectiveness of social media vis-à-vis search engine optimization really depends on the nature of the website or blog. It is also worth bearing in mind that not all potential customers/readers of your website will be active in social networks. On balance, the time investment for social media is sometimes just too high compared to SEO.

  42. MelodyO says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this article. I’ve been blogging for about 14 months without any real concern for SEO or keywords. (My blog is not monetized) Ninety percent of my marketing of my site has been through twitter. In fact, sometimes I feel like I am working towards being a personal brand of a sort. Granted I know that I know that what I am doing is small, and my traffic would make you laugh, but the essence of this article: Build your credibility, build your authority and use social media to do that, really resonated with me.

    About 50% of my traffic is organic google results, and another 20% is direct (I assume that means bookmarked ?) and the rest from an assortment of places. However the 6% of my traffic from twitter represents people who really stay and read content and are likely to leave comments too. I’d say that nearly all (80% to 90%??) the comments on my blog are from people who have a twitter profile.

    @SabrinaMantle – I went and looked at your twitter profile and your blog. You’re not following very many and it doesn’t look like you are having a lot of twitter conversations. Maybe be a little more social. :)

    @Darren – You honed in on “What matters is growing a loyal following of people who view you as authoritative in your area”
    ^ All I have is anecdotal evidence, but I think that is true. At some point, if you have one niche that you know a lot about, and people begin to associate your name with that niche, you’ll get all kinds of questions coming in to you … I know I get a couple of emails a month from people who just want answers, and then there are many more tweets. I don’t want to talk traffic numbers, and in the big scheme of things, I’m small, but I am seeing the ways that what Darren describes above is coming to life for me.

  43. I totally agree regarding the importance of social media, Gary. But what I immediately noticed, and found hilarious, is your Twitter account! In two years you’ve tweeted 4 times. What avenues are you using for social media? I love a bit of irony :)

  44. I would like to summarize this post with “wide comunication brands it’s better than only seo and sem activities”…

  45. Rusty Cawley says:

    Then is the reverse true? If I manage a well-established brand, then I am better off investing in SEO than in exposing my brand to the vulnerabilities and threats that come with social media.

  46. Elisabeth says:

    Thank you for an excellent article that comes at a perfect time. I’ve had one page ranking highly on Google for several months and just got bumped down lower than several sites that are nothing more than stuffed keyword lists. It has been very disheartening and this is giving me the boost I need to dust myself off and get back to work!

  47. Mark says:

    Thanks for the great post. I am new to the blogging world, and the more I read the more questions I have. I need the 101 to blogging! You have offered some great input, and I look forward to more posts.

  48. Ben says:

    I agree… to some extent… social media (participating on social networks and other blogs) is a great way to build your profile and attract visitors – especially when you just started. However it is very time consuming too.

    SEO should be a long-term strategy, it’s true that ranking well is becoming more difficult everyday, but I have the feeling that standing out amongst the millions of ‘gurus’ using Social Media to promote themselves is becoming increasingly difficult too.

    So I would say that you need both, and you could actually kill 2 birds with one stone by providing valuable content (as mentionned in other comments – write for users not Search Engines, Google ultimately values unique and quality content) on websites that will not only attract direct traffic and build your authority, but will also assist with your search engine rankings (watch out for no follows).

    Online Marketing is much more that focusing on one channel only. If you want to get more readers consider all tactics: PPC, SEO, Social Media, Email Marketing and even Ads and Affiliate Marketing – but as usual it’s a question of time and budget.

  49. fwd says:

    Just the fact that you can interact with the people who like your brand with social media makes it great to build a strong brand. Your brand is portable from one social platform to another. Your fans will follow you.

  50. Hi Gary,

    I disagree with most of the points you’ve shared in your post.

    Yes, I’m an SEO in case you’d ask. But then I’m also a social media marketer and an entrepreneur.

    Generally, I do agree that in some ways people are confined with the rules set in place by the different search engines (not just Google), however most of these developments are design experiments to make our experiences more humanized and intuitive–it is after all their business to make every search result as relevant as possible to their customer (us)–and that is a constant evolving process.

    On the other hand, I’d like to point out that you’re discussing SEO here only in the objective sense and you’re missing out a lot on the subjective side of things.

    Just to share, most of us love well designed products (e.g. Apple products, IKEA products, etc.) because not just because they are aesthetically pleasing but also because they function well in relation to our needs.

    SEO works the same. There’s a great deal of appreciation for technical aspects (e.g. as with design there’s behavioral science, ergonomics, visual design, interaction design, etc.) to create a seamless experience.

    I’m not sure if you hadn’t noticed but the best optimized sites are sites that are consumed best–I’m referring to sites that are easy to read, easy to navigate, loads fast, have great content, and so forth–not the ones that are spammy with totally unrelated and irrelevant links and keywords.

    In addition, SEO is not about traffic, it’s actually about conversion. It’s quite useless to hire an SEO to build traffic and not convert right? It just doesn’t make sense.

    We know SEs don’t rank meta descriptions, but why do we have to write them well? Yes, it is to convert.

    It’s also an important note to share that search in general is also becoming more social, not that it’s eating up the value of social media but what I’m saying is, is there really a difference between both?

    To me, it’s just ‘optimization,’ we need to create efficient sites/services/products not for the now, or the then, but for something more lasting.

    Social media alone can boost ROI, fast, but how sustainable is it for example Facebook gets boring? Or Twitter suddenly is not cool anymore?

    Lastly, no amount of marketing can save a lousy product. Here at ProBlogger.net, I don’t think it’s about Darren doing just SEO or just Social Media, it’s about doing what he does best while considering all the aspects that affect it.

    It is a matter of forming cultures of discipline, not cooking instant noodles for the now or the next.

    P.S. Another example would be having a great performing car with lousy interiors and vice versa. The relationship between SEO and Social media (and design, usability, content) is an inseparable discipline–in an amoeba economy, we can’t rely on cultures of complacency.

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