When determining how to use social channels to improve traffic to your website or create a brand strategy, it’s apparent that SEO and Social Media go hand in hand. Consultants usually start with defining business goals, then associating those goals with specific social channel or SEO tactics. It doesn’t do anyone any good to just jump on Facebook and call it a day.  You have to understand why you’re on Facebook.

Within the digital marketing community, however, there is much disagreement on those tactics.  Specifically, whether to use social channels for link building or to create your brand as a presence on social media.  Search engine optimization is absolutely a valid technique for improving the traffic you receive on your website. However, social networks –at least in Australia–have taken over as the primary form of attracting traffic to your home page, according to the Sensis Social Media report. Which tactic really sees the best results?

Link building and SEO

With search engine optimization you get higher rankings in search results and there is absolutely value in this for those organic searches by people looking for your business.  Unlike selling yourself through your social presence, people looking for your business type are essentially “pre-screened” customers.  They are actively seeking what you do or sell.  To assist with this, social channels that focus on link building can be of benefit.  Twitter is great for providing a link to your homepage alongside witty participation in a hashtag contest or an engaging pic. Even a funny GIF can get people on your homepage, browsing your products, and becoming loyal customers in the blink of an eye.

This link building, however, sometimes gets the wrong kind of attention from the search engines themselves. Google has urged companies to stop building empty links like this and focus on the use of social media to generate traffic instead.  For those with considerable investment in their current strategy it is reassuring to know that they’re not diving into the unknown when establishing their social presence.

Social presence

According to the Sensis Report, 87% of Australians access the internet every day and 55% use it more than 5 times a day.  If you can establish yourself on social channels you have both the opportunity for inbound links and communication.  Social media is very useful at building interaction. Whereas search engine optimization builds you a bigger sign, social media gets you in the conversation. The sign is useful for catching people on the highway, but the conversation keeps the buzz up.

Social media explains why people should come to your website. According to the Sensis Social Media Report, 79% of large companies have a presence on social media, and 61% paid for advertising alongside that presence. In many cases, actual interaction with customers on social networks has better returns than traditional advertising forms. In a way, it harkens back to an earlier time of main street businesses where owners knew and interacted with their customers. If you develop a relationship with the customer online, they’ll come to you first every time.

Again, moving forward into a plan of action requires an understanding of the “waters” you’re about to dive into.  The Internet is a mighty big ocean and you need to know where your fish are before you can even begin to figure out how to fish for them.  That’s why it’s important to use guides like the Sensis Report that have already done that homework and can help you avoid some of the beginner pitfalls.