Social media and search engine marketing (SEM or ‘search marketing’ for short) lie at the heart of digital marketing. Both disciplines are great tools with which to generate qualified, valuable leads for your business online. However, social media and search marketing are different in the expertise required to deliver them effectively and the fundamental way in which they engage with a brand’s target audience.

In this post we compare and contrast the two sides of the digital marketing coin as well as looking at how they might work together as well as highlighting some key points.

Search engine marketing

First, let’s define the terms ‘search marketing’ so we’re all on the same page. When we’re talking about ‘search marketing’, broadly speaking, we’re talking about search engine optimisation (SEO) and Google Adwords or ‘pay per click’ (PPC). These are the two ways in which a company can get themselves in front of people based on what they have searched on Google, but they work in different ways.

SEO describes the process of getting your company’s web pages to appear as high on Google search rankings as possible. The first key point:

Investing time and money in SEO is effectively buying real estate on Google.

The more money and resources you put into it, the higher up in Google’s rank you will appear for various search terms. Important to note is that these pages rank in Google’s ‘organic’ results – i.e. the ones not being paid for.

But if SEO happens ‘organically’ and is free – what am I paying for?

Well, this brings us back to the very fundamentals of SEO. Google ranks search results on relevance to the enquiry or search made. But ‘relevance’ is a completely subjective term. Besides, does someone searching “social media agency” need help managing their business’s social media presence or are they looking for a job in digital marketing? Key point two:

Google objectifies ‘relevance’ using a complex and dynamic algorithm.

Due to the complexity and dynamic nature of Google, hiring an expert to manage your SEO is the bulk of your monetary cost. The search algorithm is closely guarded and ever changing, with approximately 200 variables affecting your rank.

social media and search marketing

Now, here’s why SEO and PPC marketing are different in practice:

Even if you have prime Google real estate, there’s no guarantee that people will visit your website. With Google Adwords, on the other hand, you only pay if someone actually clicks on your advert and goes through to our website or squeeze page.

With PPC you are simply bidding on the space around the organic results for that search term. Anyone, with any business and any website, can do this – no matter how good their content is or how established their site is.

But here’s the thing:

If you’ve got a great website with some great copy, you can rank organically for certain Google searches and, (depending on your target audience) most people know these places have been ‘earned’ rather than ‘bought’. It stands to reason that around 80% of people will click on organic results, with only 20% clicking on paid advertisements.

Useful marketing stat:

Of those people who actually click organic results, around 40% will click result number one, with second and third receiving around 18% and 13%, respectively. Click rates diminish rapidly down page one with result number 10 achieving only around 2% of clicks (less than result one on page two!). Based on a 2014 study published on Moz.

So this is the bottom line in terms of search marketing:

Your leads are qualified based on what they search for on Google. And the number of potential leads is based on number of those searches performed.

This means you have to be clever about what searches your target audience performs when they’re in the market for your business, its products and/or services. In as simple terms as possible:

Companies should invest in SEM if their audience is likely to be searching for terms relating to their business.

Social media

What we mean by social media marketing is simply anything that occurs on the major social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram including content production and sharing and paid advertising.

Essentially, social media facilitates conversations between business and customers over both closed and public networks. Social media can be used for brands to put messages in front of an audience based on their behaviour and demographics. On a Facebook promoted post, for example, the marketer selects which demographic they want their audience to have and their other desired features including pages they like and how old Facebook thinks their children are(!). This boosted post then goes out and vies for position on those individuals’ screens.

One way of looking at social media marketing, particularly to contrast it with SEO and PPC, is that your company is using the internet to go out and find your audience, rather than the other way around.

This might either be through targeted Facebook ads, posting content to existing fans or by using Twitter or LinkedIn to find individuals based on what they’re talking about or say about themselves. Therefore, your company should be looking to use social media if:

  1. Your audience is already aware of your brand, and/or
  2. You can pinpoint your target audience using targeted adverts or by using Twitter and LinkedIn lead generation

Social media and search marketing

The main difference is that search is just that – people searching for a business that provides certain products or services. Savvy social media marketing is predominantly the other way around – using social media to identify your target audience. There are, of course, big areas of cross over, especially between social media and SEO. Social media impacts on SEO in numerous ways and platforms like YouTube are now recognised as major search engines in their own right.

Here’s what you need to know:

So can I just hire someone to do social media, SEO and PPC?

Well, you certainly can – there are plenty of people out there who will be able to manage all of these elements of digital marketing for you but, in reality, each discipline is highly technical and represent very different marketing approaches, as we’ve seen. It’s very easy to post content online through social media, whilst Google makes it pretty straightforward for you to spend money on AdWords PPC too. Virtually anything you do online contributes (in some way) to your SEO so it’s quite easy to manage all three simultaneously. But the issue is that this kind of management will not yield great results on any of the three channels.img-appdev

Throwing money into AdWords PPC can be a major waste of time for some businesses, especially if the ads are poorly targeted and designed. In fact, for businesses with a low ‘ticket price’ or customer lifetime value, PPC will make no sense, whatsoever.

Does your audience use Google to search for specific things? If so, your pages ranking highly amongst results for these searches is very important. However, certain commercial terms, such as “new car” or “social media agency” are incredibly competitive – think carefully about other terms they might use when Googling and create some great copy for them. Investing in a real SEO expert to help you with on-site SEO tactics and building natural back-links is a good move.

A very good digital marketing consultant should be able to give you a pretty good idea of which channel is best to use or, at least, try first. As with many forms of marketing, you won’t know exactly which channel will work best for you until you actually try them. One of the wins, however, is that with digital marketing, you can accurately track multiple metrics and ultimately, ROI.