Search Engine Marketing vs Social Media Marketing. Which is Better?

I’ve come to an interesting and temporary conclusion about marketing through social media and search engines. It’s that the latter, in my personal, and again, temporary opinion is better.

And to prove it, I’d like to share a number of case studies I’ve done on both platforms and what I’ve gotten out of it that led me to conclude this.

search engine marketing vs social media marketing

Let us quickly dissect each platform so we know what’s up:

Search Engine Marketing (SEO):

Here, we are aiming to make high ranking websites, particularly on Google. Here, our main goal in order to achieve this is to create high quality websites that are filled with rich content, and a ton of it.

The more of this we have, the more rankings/traffic and sales we have. I’ve repeated this formula across many different websites over the years and when you’re dedicated and truly work at it, this will absolutely lead to massive success. I have a number of cases to support this, such as this one.

Social Media Marketing:

Alright, so let me just say that my knowledge of this isn’t that grand and my evidence will be anecdotal, but I have been involved in things like FB ads, fan pages, and most recently Instagram, which I will explain in a bit more detail shortly below. While I have learned a great deal, I have come to the conclusion that:

This type of marketing is mainly profitable for those who have e-commerce websites, through personal experience and reading tons of programs that talk about success on these platforms and mainly pointing to selling things on an e-commerce type site, but making the products on that page specific to a niche audience on the social media network.

Most of the success that happens will happen if you’re famous, and that typically occurs when someone has a search engine presence. For example, famous marketers who became popular off Google, will have fan pages and grow a following there, then use that following to make sales. In short, it begins from SEO in my opinion…

My personal experiences, explained in greater detail:

I’ve tried Facebook ads on a number of occasions, but have not been very successful. I’ve just wasted money on it to be honest. 

I’ve created a FB fan page and it has SLOWLY been growing. Yet I “feed” it and grow it’s popularity with content I put up on THIS website, that I later share on the fan page. I will admit, there is a GOOD reason to make a fan page if you have a website, because likes from that page, feed the SEO of the actual website, but the purpose here is to get free likes for better rankings on the back end.

I’m also “heavily” involved with Instagram now. I have a nature website I’m marketing with tons of images from my own travels. My following is VERY slowly growing, but it is frustrating at times. 

Here’s a few points to show that SEM may be more profitable/better than the other:

I have found that search engine traffic is much more likely traffic to buy. The idea is that if people land on your site, they have likely been looking for something and if you have a niche page, that audience is typically one that looks for solutions to problems, thus they are in an almost buyer ready stage if not already prepared to get something.

Social media traffic in my opinion is more of the type where people are just browsing through, seeing things that entertain them and clicking on a like or whatever represents the like button on whatever platform they are using (Instagram, FB, Pinterest). Therefore, by that idea, I find those audiences are far less likely to be convinced to buy anything. 

Take Instagram:

Because my following is growing SO slowly, I’ve come to the conclusion is that my efforts may be better spent writing articles on where I’ve been to try and get SEO traffic and have that traffic follow me on Instagram.

I’ve also spoken to a number of GREAT marketers who agree that most social media stuff is less profitable and even distracts people from doing the real, profitable work which is SEO.

The fact is, for most of my experiences, and frankly for those who I know are good at social media, these “likes” and shares rarely convert into sales. Most of the time, people in these places aren’t doers, they are more of the type who like seeing things and at most participating by liking it and if you’re really lucky, sharing it. 

But the likes are not sales, you can literally call them “brownie points”. They mean very little UNLESS…

The hybrid way of building a profitable business through both platforms:

While I am still open to considering that social media marketing may be as profitable if not more so than SEO, I will say that every experience I’ve had has led me to believe that SEO should be FUELED if nothing else by the other.

Take the fan page I talked about and how I was using it to get likes to boost myself on Google. Likes don’t go a long way, but they add up and help. They help with exposure, they help with audiences who visit your site and see the many likes which adds credibility, it acts as a stepping stone to SEO success.

And then take the travel website and connecting it with Instagram that I also talked about. The standard approach I am using currently is to show the images on Instagram directly, but that at most leads to a number of likes, and very few follows which rise and drop ALL the time.

Wouldn’t it better for me to have an official site with my travels and have the more relevant, interested audience see my Instagram be there, that they would then be more likely to follow me on? Also through the website, I can have a LARGER, more relevant audience flow into my Instagram page and follow me there.

Currently, I’m still in the process of testing this theory out, but frankly, there is no reason why it can’t work, it makes too much sense and should absolutely work!

My final thoughts and a question to all of you:

My whole point is that an online business should ideally focus more on SEO, because that tends to have more tangible success. Use social media as a piggyback if nothing else. But prioritize the SEO and building up of your site through that means and then using social media to add to it.

However, I am totally open to being wrong on my ideas here so if you’re someone who does either/both SEO and social media and have your personal thoughts on which one is better (or perhaps both), please let me know!

20 thoughts on “Search Engine Marketing vs Social Media Marketing. Which is Better?”

  1. Very interesting post. You mentioned that search engine traffic is much more likely traffic to buy. I’m inclined to agree if nothing but for the fact these people are actually searching for something. Although a well placed ad might inspire a sale if seen at the right place and the right time, I would put my money on the search engine traffic any day. As you mentioned, social media traffic in my opinion IS more of the type where people are just browsing through basically looking to be entertained or to be nosy. Social media traffic CAN be great if you know exactly how to target your ads.

    • Your mention of people being nosy made me laugh Sherman, but yeah, you made the point very clear: The incentive of the traffic on social media sites is generally one where the attention isn’t focused on anything in particular and just seeing what stands out. Search engine traffic is completely different and already looking for something, like a solution. It’s a different mindset and one where the search engine browsers are the more relevant traffic you need to visit your site to buy stuff.

      But don’t get me wrong, I will never discount social media sites. I’m still exploring them and slowly beginning to see their potential. There are advertisers who make it work and perhaps one day I will write a post on how they do it 🙂

  2. Great article! I agree with you on social media being more suitable for eCommerce websites. It depends on the type of niche.

    I have a site and it’s not eCommerce. I posted some of my articles in Facebook and got some ‘likes’ and some ‘shares’ but that was it. Probably good for brand recognition but I don’t think getting a brand that way is really efficient either especially when they’re just ‘likes’.

    Personally, I get better results on my website through SEO. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

    • This is the experience I’m having with my websites currently Monica and while I don’t discount social media, my focus is mainly on what has worked for me this whole time and that is SEO.

  3. This comes at the most appropriate time for me. Struggling with social media and the time required to do it definitely takes away from your creating more content and has for me. I have to agree with what you said about getting traffic first so you yourself ‘stand out’ on the social media platforms. When you are an unknown, it takes time to become known and respected. That being said, I do agree with the SEO theory. Thanks for an awesome article.

    • No problem, I’m still exploring aspects of social media and trust me, there are amazing way to profit off it, but so far, for a more general audience and regular people like us, SEO is better to start with.

  4. Great article on SEO, I thought that social media marketing was king until I read this. As an amateur entrepreneur I would like to boost traffic to my site in the most proficient way possible so I will definitely be checking this out. I am also very encouraged by the monetary stats that you showed on your website. Congratulations. That is incredible. I do have a question though, I like to blog, but I am in the beard business and I get writers block frequently. So do you have any recommendations for writers block especially in my niche.

    Thank you.


    • Hi John, writer’s block is completely normal for ANY blogger to experience. To counter this problem, I have an article that I think will greatly help you solve this issue and keep fresh, endless content coming in. Here it is. Enjoy 🙂

  5. My personal experience is same as yours. I like social media, so I tend to spend a lot of time publishing posts and communicating with people, and my network is growing, however, all these likes and shares rarely convert. But, I’m sure that not everybody would agree. For example, I have a friend who is a professional dancer, she has a website which she uses to present her activity (organizing workshops for dancers), but almost all her clients find her through her Facebook page.

    • Ah, your friend’s example is one which points to social media being a better converter than SEM. It makes sense because she has a local business and her specific niche is more visually based (dancing), therefore by providing videos and a fan page, she can attract people who also want to learn dancing.

      I would say in this case, niches that are similar to her’s make more sense to promote via social media. 

  6. I have heard numerous marketers/advertisers/wannabe leaders talked about how great FB is to build your business. Quite frankly, I am more reserved and have similar thoughts that of yours, I “personally” think FB is great for building your brand and exposure, but as far as turn FB traffic/viewers into potential consumers is a question for people to find out and for me to know, too.

    • Hi Pamela, some of the few, ethical and VERY successful marketers I follow also agree with our point of view here. I don’t deny that FB has great potential, but it requires a different strategy. In any case, if you build a successful SEO site, the traffic that comes into that can easily be funneled into a fan page, likes and having those likes be seen by Google as a great ranking boost. In other words, it has to start from SEO to come around in my opinion.

  7. I love your comparison between SEO and social media. Before I decided to go the SEO route I had been a part of like fifteen Facebook pages, watching how they post and what they do to bring in followers. I get how it works but like you said, you almost need to be famous and I don’t want to put in that kind of work.

    I also like the earning report you linked. I read blog posts about earnings sometimes just to remind myself that it’s real and it’s worth it so thank you for that. I’m relatively new to SEO (Just about a week in) and I’m very excited to see where it takes me.

    Just out of curiosity, did you get that site from scratch from $0-$50K in 11 months?

    • I believe you are referring to this actual site Rob right? If so, then no, the 11 month report was when the site was in it’s third year I believe. The first year, the site made a few $100, then the next I believe around $40k and the following year, aka the year in which I put up the 11 month report, over $70k. 

      As for the FB thing, I also agree that the most successful people have a presence outside FB to become popular on FB itself. While I fully acknowledge that social media marketing can work well and will keep experimenting with it, when I already have a good strategy that can positively affect my income and social media exposure (that being SEO), I feel like i should keep sticking to that and continue to improve my site’s SEO potential. 

  8. I think overall SEM is much more effective than SMM. Google is a site that pretty much everyone on the net uses on a day to day basis.

    When it comes to social media, most users that use that, use it to keep in touch with friends and if they find a facebook page, they will follow it because they prefer to just look at the stuff they post.

    I mostly have been focusing on just adding content and I only really use Twitter and Pinterest to share my content but even that I feel does not really do much without a big following.

    My question is, would it be necessary to create a Facebook page for my site or should I not worry about that?

    • Hi Arie, I would not worry about a FB page until your SEO focused website begins to get a lot of traffic and comments, then you can offer people an option on the page to follow you on FB for more updates. The more I am diving into social media marketing, the more I see that regular search engine marketing is not only more stable, but having a healthy SEM site can directly affect and create a healthy SMM campaign.

  9. Hey Vitaliy, I heard twitter is a powerful tool for SMM, would you recommend it? Or should I just focus on Facebook and Instagram because I’ve haven’t really tapped into twitter yet but I’ve had success on other media platforms. Great article by the way it was very thorough and precise.

    • Well Omar, honestly, I’d recommend you focus on SEO and not the other social media places you listed. And about Twitter, my opinion is that it only works when you have a strong/large following that takes your advice. I personally do not like Twitter.

  10. Awesome article, I really enjoyed reading it. Let me say that I have been playing with SEO a bit for my online store and it is a bit harder to use since I need to come up with longer descriptions for the product and there is only so much I can write about the product. I am currently using FBA and instagram and let me say that it is woking for me in that sense. I am getting a few customers each day.

    • Ah so it sounds like you’re experiencing the scenario in which I mentioned that ecommerce sites tend to do better on social media sites. I am curious, for your FBA (Facebook ads), are you targeting specific groups that are fans of the product/s you’re selling?


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