Every once in a while I hear someone get all butthurt about which is better, Search Engine Optimization, SEO Guides, SEO Marketing”>Search Engine Optimization or social media marketing. The SEO purists turn their nose up at social media marketers and dismiss it as spamming in disguise (kind of ironic, since SEOs have had their fair share of snake oil accusations), while social media marketers point out dozens of examples where they were able to get a site ranked solely using linkbait and social media, without any SEO considerations. Having been on both sides of the fence, I’ve heard both arguments. Which discipline reigns supreme?

Hardcore SEOs seem to be more technical, whereas social media enthusiasts emphasize creativity and content. When I started out doing SEO, I always enjoyed the content creation part of the job more than the keyword research and core SEO bits, which is why social media is a better fit for me. On the other hand, I know someone who got pushed into a social media “guru” (that word, I know) role but later transitioned into a technical SEO position and is much happier with the new job duties. Still others argue that SEO is easier than social media marketing, and pretty soon we’ll end up a war as epic as the battle vs. Canada in the South Park movie.

blame-canada“Those damn elitist SEOs!”

What about the argument that social media is more personalized than SEO, and is therefore more difficult? I mean, duplicate content is shitty no matter which way you look at it, but in the same vein you can’t look at Mr. Skin’s 16,000 Twitter followers and think in order for your landscaping account to be successful, you need to post links to nipple slips and shower scenes (well, you could…). But that doesn’t mean SEO is a cakewalk by any means — you often have to deal with complex information architecture, URL rewrites, and a host of other head scratching issue. You wouldn’t use the exact same SEO tactic for every single client, much how you’d customize a company’s social media marketing strategy, because different sites have unique issues that need addressing.

Well, what about which industry has more dumb-asses? Well, on one side you have people swearing that a certain SEO tactic has proven to work, only to have Google come out and say that it actually doesn’t and hasn’t for years, or that they changed how something works months ago and nobody noticed until they pointed out the change. On the other side you’ve got people who think they’re social media experts hurting their company’s reputation because they don’t know how to handle a couple of negative comments or Internet trolls.


I don’t necessarily think one is “better” than the other — obviously the ideal scenario is to have a well optimized site that successfully reaches out to its consumers on appropriate social platform, whether that’s via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or an internally run forum or blog. Shoe’s a good example of marrying the two together successfully, with his suite of Internet marketing tools and the Shoemoney System and promoting them via his blog and on Facebook and Twitter. Having said that, I can see how people make the case for one over the other, and I certainly prefer the work that goes into social media marketing over SEO.

What do you guys think? Do you emphasize one over the other? Is social media overrated or just a fad, or are you in the belief that SEO is over-thought and over-analyzed? Or do you not give a shit about either of them?

By Rebecca Kelley

Rebecca Kelley is the Director of Marketing for This or That Media. She also runs Mediocre Athlete, a hobby blog about exercising and training, and My Korean Mom, a blog about her harsh but amusing Korean mother. In her spare time, Rebecca is a freelance blogger for hire, loves food and movies, and trains for marathons and triathlons.

76 thoughts on “SEO vs. Social Media: Which is Better?”
  1. I think that both SEO and Social media strategies are equally important and should run in tandem with each other.

    Depending on the type of company and the industry they are situated in will determine whether the focus should be on SEO or on Social media tactics.

    If you are big into social media for your company, do yourself a favor and optimize your content to reap the inherent SEO benefits of many web 2.0 sites.

    Optimize titles of blog posts with keywords and use various page rank sculpting techniques to ensure no juice is leaking from your site. Consider the implications of real time search in how you construct tweets. Have keyword rich meta data in social media profiles. Write sticky posts that will generate natural linkbaiting.

    If you are all about SEO and do no social media for your company, start thinking about how you can engage with customers/prospective customers in a meaningful way and put a human face on your company. Remain authentic and transparent and your customers and your company will be better off.

  2. I don’t think SEO and social media are either/or propositions. Anyone who’s seriously involved in Internet marketing these days understands the power of social media to drive traffic to a site but also understands that SEO is equally as valuable.

    Many of my clients are already involved with social media and understand the value of it. With those clients I focus on SEO.

    With clients who are new to both SEO and social media, I’ll assist them with social media or point them to appropriate resources to get them started.

    I also see the value of doing PR and trying to get stories picked up by traditional media. I don’t advise clients to cease all other marketing activities and just do SEO with me. That certainly would be self-serving and irresponsible, but I’m sure there are some people who might.

    Traditional marketers call it a marketing mix for a reason.

  3. Both are important, I favor SEO more though. Social media is good, but you need to put a lot more effort into social media than SEO Media to get the results in the most cases. For SEO, you get to #1 and enjoy the traffic, for Social Media it is constant updates (twitter, facebook) , failures (digg, mixx, never got to page 1 actually), etc. 🙂 I am pretty sure they become almost equal now and anybody who is serious about marketing does both.

  4. Social Media is needed for any type of business , due to the fact an online presence is necessary .
    While as SEO is needed if your business can gain from online traffic.

  5. Since you asked, I think I have a lot of work to do.

    My current strategy is “cargo cult.” Just blindly do “the right thing” to learn the mechanics of doing it, then see how it works out. If it doesn’t work out, do something different.

    So far it seems to be working.

    For example, everybody says “Add valuable comments to blogs” and you will get better traffic. Ok. So it took a couple of weeks to get going, but it seems to be working. So continue to do that.

    What’s next?

    Hard to say. Facebook page maybe. More SEO stuff. I’ll figure something out.

  6. My website is only a couple of months old and i have started a twitter account (only about 15 followers so far!) and a facebook site(about 200) BUT I am never sure if they have ANY effect on SEO bevause you never see any backlinks appear on Google or Yahoo. How do you find out if they are working?

    1. Twitter and Facebook links are rel=”nofollow” and therefore pass no link juice to your site in the eyes of Google.
      They are better leveraged for building communities and driving traffic to your website.
      However, Keyword rich Twitter names do tend to rank high for exact matches. Not the best SEO tactic though.

  7. For me now, I get better results with SEO than twitter or facebook, even help the SEO.

    It’s a big diference

  8. Anyone engaged in marketing online who doesn’t think that SEO and social media are made to work together may as well hack off their left arm and then their left leg, too. In many ways, any veteran SEO could argue that social media is just a new mutated arm of SEO, but a sexier, more cerebral, more engaging, more …SEOish one. And social media jedi could easily distinguish it as something apart from SEO all they want (certainly it’s more interesting), but the two are completely joined at the hip. It seems to me that social media was always the active ingredient germinating and mutating within SEO (as “content”).

  9. Ya know – I used to be a firm believer in search marketing through optimization. Not anymore, especially with the real-time search being pushed out there left and right.

    We have a 6-month old site turning out 500k monthly pages – less than 35% comes from search now and the majority are from social nets.

    Facebook / Twitter / Stumbles / etc.

    Search driven “Volume” increases considerably every month, but not at the same rate of sharing from social nets.

    Didn’t you say SEO was dead a LONG time ago?!

  10. […] Robert Scoble wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptBlog Entry About SEO vs. Social Media: Which is Better? […]

  11. I’m a little bit countryyyy.. and I’m a little bit rock and rollllllyeah! Sorry, got me in a South Park mood.

    Haven’t we been using social media sites as a vehicle for distributing linkbait for years? Two sides of the same coin. You should consider opportunities for SEO when focusing on social media and you should consider opportunities for social media when focusing on SEO.

    You know, I learned something today. We should be trying to get traffic, not arguing over what’s really an abstract division between what people perceive to be two completely separate industries.

  12. I’ve always looked at as if you can’t have one w/o the other. They go hand-in-hand so well and yet people try to separate them so much.

    I’m a marketer – and any good one knows you need to be clean esp when it comes to url structure. This is when SEO comes into play.

    In the end though can’t we all just get along?

  13. Disclaimer: SEO here.

    I believe that one is not better than the other, but I have personally experienced greater success with SEO over all other points of Internet marketing.

    When I look at social media in it’s current state (removing the personal messaging from the business), I see it being used to acquire links (standard links and/or followers and friends which will ultimately link to you), which we all know can increase one’s rankings. Thus, social media (in this case) is actually SEO-motivated.

    If I were consulting for a new business, I would tell the owner that his/her business model and strategy should dictate which should get the more immediate focus. I would also tell them that just because one drives more links, traffic and conversions today does not mean they can afford to ignore the other. You cannot put all of your eggs in one basket and survive long-term on the Internet; you must diversify.

    The fact is that most successful websites and blogs (like Jeremy’s) have survived and thrived long-term because the have adjusted to the ever-changing landscape, and by doing so have garnered a healthy amount of organic traffic, direct traffic and social media-based traffic. A true Internet marketing-mix.

    Again, although I prefer SEO over social media–mostly because I have seen several millions of dollars generated from my SEO efforts over the past decade–I do know that I need to participate in the social media space to extend the messaging for any brand I represent, including my own.

    If I were starting a new site, and did not already have a large voice in my niche, I would devote most of my time to building a website that was search engine friendly and user friendly with content that was needed and solved problems. I would use social media to update people on pre-launch stuff, the launch itself and then post launch on an ongoing basis. But, I would prioritize which platforms my target audience was using the most and split my time to ensure I got the biggest bang for the buck.

    Again, one is not really better than the other, but one is currently generating a hell of a lot more revenue than the other.


  14. I think that social media is better and more powerful these days but it has to be a mix of both. If people know your brand from social media and look for you in google, but cant find you, then whats the point?!

  15. Definitely both. SEO on my blogs and social networking to help gain traffic. Social networking has the added advantage to me of being fun.

  16. Neither is better… people think of SEO as a cause of a result, I look at SEO as the result and not the cause…

    If people were to practice proper link building, which includes social media links, the activity also contributes to good SEO results.

  17. Your posts are great. This is really interesting again. I love coming back to read your blog via your twitter updates. If you want to learn some more excellent SEO techniques which could send your site to dizzying heights in the search engines, you should check out my Web 2 Mayhem Review.

  18. […] the original post here: SEO vs. Social Media: Which is Better? – ShoeMoney®  SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "SEO vs. Social Media: Which is Better? – ShoeMoney®", url: […]

  19. You cant compare Shoemoney and Social Media with SEO period. Anyone who is just starting out and thinking they are going to make it with just SM is in for a world of shock. Shoe has a massive amount of followers which makes SM look appealing but in reality even he started out with SEO.

    Not saying that SM is a waste of time, but for just starting out it would be wise to have a balance between the two without over neglecting SEO.

  20. Neither is ‘better’ but one may be a preferred strategy. IMHO both are better because of that overused 20th century term ‘synergy’, the sum is greater than the parts.

    Like you, I prefer social media because like you, I am a social animal. Perhaps a dumb ass at times but social nevertheless.

  21. SEOの記事についてですが、大変、興味深い記事であり、非常に参考になりました。


  22. SEO is much better…. people that visit your site are much more tech savvy and will not support advertising at all.

    But, social media is good for attempting to get stuff to go viral.

    People coming to your site from SEO are more likely to take action (click or buy) and people from Twitter or Facebook are extremely impatient and may only stop by out of curiosity.

  23. Don’t they both work? I mean doesn’t an intricate partnership of SEO and SMM seem like the best solution for everyone? I dont understand why one necessarily needs to be better than the other. I am sure that they both add value in their own way.

  24. When it comes to website traffic there are a million ways to get it. SEO has and always will be important for any site trying to get a decent ranking. Social Media is important but very time consuming. You need to decide which sites are worth your time then allocate some time each day towards interacting with people. Unline SEO which is one way, social media is a two way street. You have to participate and be helpful, not just yell things about your business or company. That won’t get you very far. So I think they’re both important to a successful website.

  25. […] SEO vs. Social Media: Which is Better? – ShoeMoney®13 hours ago by Rebecca Kelley  Blog Entry About SEO vs. Social Media: Which is Better? – […]

  26. To be serious, I don’t even give a thought about any of those two. What is more important is continue writing and making sure that my readers have something new to read and enjoy staying at the site.

  27. Although SEO is requisite,but it’s kind of boring.I think that social media is more interesting

  28. Two heads will always be greater than one so having SEO and social media’s power all in one place, it would be easier for a blog to earn more followers, get more sales, find more affiliates and be recommended by other websites because it’s got great content which solely markets what the targeted audience want, how will they be fed by information and how will good relationships last. Thus, optimizing both social media and SEO will always give the best shot.

  29. You can say both have their significant value. But I would give my vote SEO as i think its a great process for improving not only your site but for making it popular locally or globally.

  30. Aside from the fact that no company serious about marketing should have to make this choice in the first place, it’s worth remembering that there are some brilliant synergies between SEO and Social Media, with both helping the other in a really big way.

    At Tamar we’ve been doing Search for 12 years, and Social for close to 3, and we find that our clients really benefit from the knowledge we have in both fields when optimising for the other…

  31. Both SEO and Social Media Marketing is important depend on client requirements SEO is slow process rather Paid Social Media Marketing fastest if your media partner is well know.

  32. I think they are both important for different reasons.

    You can de succesfull focusing one eother or, but being able to do well with both SEO and SM, is what we all want.. golden grale? lol

  33. I hate all of these “versus” things that people do all the time and I think you hit the nail on the head. Why do you have to do one or the other? I spend a considerable amount of my time doing link building, but I also spend a lot of my time in social marketing where I’m just talking to and helping people who are in my niche. Do both!

  34. […] SEO vs. Social Media: Which is Better? (shoemoney.com) […]

  35. Both are important and can reinforce each other. Don’t ignore social. it is rising in importance and can help your SEO. And don’t ignore SEO because a huge number of motivated people search. All of us early adopters and geeks are into Social, but the masses are still into searching.Plus, SEO for real-time ties into social directly.

  36. They are both important and should complement each other to get the most benefit from online search. But I think having a website with great content is most important. All your efforts would go to waste if people don’t think your site has anything to offer them. Just selecting one or the other is like putting all your eggs in one basket. What if Google decides to do some changes on their algorithm? Your site can drop in ranking overnight and your traffic will disappear.

  37. Not much point worrying which is better. Just use em to profit and be happy with whatever works best.

  38. Yeah, but don’t you have to actually bring something of value when it comes to Social Media. A tweet about fish tanks or acne products isn’t going to get much attention.

    There’s not much you can do to make Acai Flog a sexy tweet.

    It seems to me like Twitter is for the big boys like…. SHOE MONEY. Not the average joe seo.

  39. I definitely make use of both, even though I’m not big in social media at all. Some pages I do mainly SEO for, but for your average blog post, I don’t put a lot of (or any) work into KW research and SEO. Especially for posts like that, a bit of social media promotion can do wonders.

  40. Who really cares. It’s all about getting traffic to your website and getting conversions. Who cares how you get them there.

  41. Good article overall, personally I think that Social Media is the best overall as content is king when engaging new readers.

  42. I don’t really have a favorite or preference to which type of marketing I use as they both have generally the same influence and that’s pushing free relevant traffic onto your website.

  43. Great topic. I think you’re right Jeremy about needing to do both… and part of why some people bother with social media is in fact for the SEO benefits (link baiting). SEO & SMM are not mutually exclusive by any means and I don’t think that one is “better” that the other. In some industries, SMM just makes more sense that trying to dominate with SEO

    Personally however, I don’t find the work on the social media side to be anywhere near as enjoyable as SEM (SEO or PPC). I find that the whole social-sphere moves so fast that I can spend all day reading and catching up on things and never get any real work done. Fortunately, I have the help of some wonderful people that live for SMM. To each our own!

  44. I see them as tools for two different jobs. Both be effective at getting traffic and ultimately conversions but they do so differently.

    To attempt to relate it to the brick and mortar world:

    SEO is like claiming more and more of the roadside so your store is the the dominant thing in sight and the most convenient to get to. Location location location.

    SMM is more a communication tool. It would be like back in the day when the shopkeep would announce a clearance sale at the town hall meeting. One thing it can do that SEO can’t is to communicate issues and resolutions to visitors as well. SEO isn’t going to help you smooth over a mistake with your visitors whereas that’s one place where SMM shines.

    Both are terrific ways to get people to your store but they are very different and any site with ambition will use both and use them well.

  45. As far as I know SEO is much better that social media and social networks. This is according to my own experience and what I got as tests in my simple life.

  46. I think SEO is the best. I have never had success with social media. With SEO, it’s whole new story.

  47. I mainly focus on generating targeted traffic. However, I find SEO to be very important in order for site to have quality traffic!

  48. I’m going to go with SEO in this one from experience.

    Although, I would say they’re about equal and should be used in conjunction with each other. I think how you get your traffic is circumstantial; the most important thing is the content you publish.

    – Max

  49. Both are very valuable. I wouldn’t take one over the other if given a choice. Just 2 pieces of the puzzle.

  50. SEO is still the king . Though social media is taking over fast. SEO can never be replaced with social media. Search engines are going to exist for a long time

  51. If you need good traffic i think social media is better.And you need more time work seo than submit on social media.

  52. Social media is definitely an AWESOME driver of traffic… but like Rebecca says, it’s all about balance between SEO and social media.. do both!

  53. The DEMO Experience and the 3 reasons there aren’t many SEO experts | Mark Kithcart on Social Media & Online Marketing says:

    […] A good article by Shoemoney – SEO vs Social Media […]

  54. I am a dentist. That said I know the importance of getting people to visit my website. Therefore I think a blend of both tactics is perfect. I don’t know too much about hardcore SEO but I am careful about keyword selection and know the importance of backlinks. And I know that social media gets people to my site and eventually that gets the phone ringing…which I what I care about the most!

    Take what works best for your natural inclinations I say…and Go For It.

  55. I think that it is important to incorporate both strategies. I love getting organic traffic from google. One way to rank higher in the search engines is to drive traffic..and this is easily done through social media sites like facebook. Definitely both baby!

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