Business websites: SEO versus Social Media, Part 3
Monday, 26 November 2007 — by Wayne Smallman
Social Media does not and cannot benefit businesses in the same way that SEO can. I can’t stress this enough, because the evidence is all around me. And being both logical and objective, I have to follow the facts as they are and not how I’d like them to be…
In the 1st and 2nd installments, I comprehensively picked through the arguments claiming that Social Media has any material benefit to the 99% of businesses out there. However, Tad persists with his erroneous argument that Social Media beats SEO.
“I have the impression that Wayne is driven somehow by a strange kind of nostalgia to the easy days of SEO…”
For my ‘blog, I do the SEO work first so that I have the foundations in place to generate a natural and constant stream of organic search traffic. Then I build upon that with Social Media campaigns, which are reinforced by our Social Networking exploits. No nostalgia anywhere to be found.
And you know what? These tried & tested strategies work. Want evidence? Go onto Google and look for: “what is technology?” and see who appears. That’s a product of SEO in action and not Social Media, and it’s taken me less 3 weeks to achieve, not months or years.
Conversely, the chances are that you’re reading this article because it’s currently doing the rounds on StumbleUpon. So that’s Social Media in action, too. But this is a ‘blog, not a business.
SEO is a proven method of generating qualified traffic. Social Media is still to some extent an unknown quantity, which most businesses don’t even know exists. Don’t believe me? Go find 10 random businesses with websites and ask them about SEO and Social Media and see what answers you get.
Who really benefits from Social Media?
The top 1% of businesses on Earth; like Apple, Jaguar, IBM, Nike, British Petroleum, Gap, Sky, Ford…
The reason that these businesses succeed with Social Media where the likes of the average butcher, or baker or candlestick maker fails is that they typically have one or more of the following: colossal brand recognition; global market penetration; very inventive marketing teams; something very unique about their product and / or service.
Also, they typically have a vast array of unique content, all of which is often wrapped up in Flash-based branded portals, linkbait, teasers and viral marketing campaigns, as well of armies of satisfied customers, eager to see their favourite brands succeed. That is the scope and power of Social Media in action.
Additionally, see what you get when you type any of the aforementioned businesses into a popular search engine. That’s SEO in action, too.
Contrast that against the butchers, the bakers and the candlestick makers around the world. Most of these guys don’t even have someone with marketing training, let alone a marketing department, least of all a budget.
After spending about 3 hours in total, neither Kate nor myself could find a shred of marketing evidence providing a case for Social Media as a driver of brand awareness and web traffic for small businesses. That isn’t to say such evidence doesn’t exist, but if it does, it’s rare and it’s isolated.
The true value of SEO compared to Social Media for small to medium sized businesses
Claim 1: Small businesses do not need much content, they need websites with 5 pages.
Counterclaim: at no point did I ever state the above. Normally, I would just ignore such things, but Tad compounds his complete misinterpretation with errors and factual inaccuracies.
For anyone to benefit from “long tail” search strategies, much like Social Media, they must first have something intrinsically unique about their business or product / service offering. How does your street corner hardware supplies store compete with Ace Hardware for “hardware store” on Google as an example?
However, with even more emphasis being placed on localized search, there is a greater chance of some degree of success for smaller businesses and their search marketing campaigns in the near future.
And what of Social Media? The chances of success are slim at best. And if any business did succeed, it’s a fleeting success at best and isn’t sustainable, either. So even in such circumstances, Social Media isn’t a sustainable approach to business marketing whereas SEO is.
Claim 2: Small business owners and employees are too busy, lazy, stupid or not web-savvy enough to blog or engage in social media.
Counterclaim: sadly, it appears that Tad is paraphrasing me in such a way as to discredit me, which is lamentable.
To be honest, I don’t even understand his argument for business ‘blogging, which he seems to be making a claim for. So I’ll make his argument for him.
Yes, business ‘blogging works, because there’s evidence of that. However, not all businesses will want a ‘blog, largely because it’s a time-consuming exercise, which they will not see (in terms of identification) the benefits of, or be able to justify, given their lack of comprehension.
This isn’t about stupid or lazy business people, this is about business people working to their strengths first. A lot of businesses simply aren’t “customer-facing” in such a way for a ‘blog to add either credibility or value.
Why would one of my clients who sell new and renovate old properties want a ‘blog? That’s one example of a business, I could pick dozens.
Claim 3: Small businesses dealing with or selling non-sexy products or services will never succeed on social media.
Counterclaim: strange as it may seem, Tad builds his entire argument presumably around a one-off Social Media hit for a plumber. Sadly, we’ll never know whether that claim is true, since he doesn’t provide any other supportive evidence.
Additionally, he’s not providing any context. Plus, I would hazard a guess and say that the reason this particular plumber succeeded was because there was something ‘intrinsically unique’ about what they had to say, which differentiates them from their competition. So they too (though loosely, I will freely admit) fall into the 1%.
Claim 4: Several profiles at Web 2.0 services are useless for small businesses.
Counterclaim: Tad again paraphrases very, very poorly. I made no such claim at all. I didn’t even mention the phrase “Web 2.0″ in either of my previous articles.
I have written at length about the value to both individuals and businesses of Personal Branding & Brand Management, so I am actually an advocate of reputation management.
Instead, my original argument revolves around the very real issue of Social Network Fatigue, which isn’t particular to any kind of business. Social Network Fatigue is however more of an issue for ‘bloggers like Tad and myself, which reinforces my point that it’s going to be very difficult to sell the idea of managing umpteen social profiles to the average business owner, given it’s such an onerous task.
Claim 5: Befriending people online does not make sense for small business owners or employees.
Counterclaim: paraphrasing incorrectly once again. Tad simply goes on to reinforce my arguments from the very beginning — with points 5.1, 5.2, 5.4 — and fails to address the real questions I raised in my two previous articles, which tacitly points to him conceding to my previous answers to his arguments.
“5.3 — In SEO you have to write long copy in a really boring repetitive style using keywords in such a way you rank well…”
The measure of disrespect being shoveled into the laps of not only his own clients but mine and every else’s in the SEO industry is simply appalling.
The claim that copy is often ‘boring’ is naive and entirely relative. To him the copy may appear boring, but to his clients’ customers, it may well be the very ingredient that clinches the deal.
“5.4 — So business owners are often very hesitant to even admit they do SEO.”
Examples, please! I’ve never heard of such things. In fact, nearly all of my clients are only too eager to learn more about SEO, because there are visible, material benefits, some of which they are very much able to manage themselves.
The argument provided by Tad seems to illustrate how the inability of someone to articulate complex strategies, ideas and technical minutia into very simple analogies for their clients may well perpetuate the notion that SEO isn’t as strong as Social Media.
As an example, when a client of mine wants to know what the search engines really want from a website, I have already prepared a very clear and easily understood article for them.
If the case was that Social Media had any real benefit for the majority of the businesses out there, I’d be saving myself a lot of effort. But the facts clearly demonstrate that 99% of businesses will probably never benefit from Social Media as they would from SEO.
As a business owner, I follow the money-making strategies, so I can offer the best service to my clients. It’s about knowing where the money is, and for businesses, Social Media isn’t even close to the mark…
- Business websites: SEO versus Social Media, Part 1
- Business websites: SEO versus Social Media, Part 2
- The value of business ‘blogging
- Personal Branding & Brand Management
- What the search engines really, really want from your website