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Why Small Businesses Should Spend More Money on Social Media Rather than SEO

For years, marketers raved about the benefits of SEO because it enabled small businesses to compete with corporations flaunting big budgets. SEO was a perfectly affordable way to reach qualified customers.

SMBs especially loved that SEO made it easy to slowly, but surely compound your growth – up until recently. To many businesses’ disdain, Google made several changes to its search ranking algorithm which turned marketers’ plans upside down. Now, you can no longer utilize the same, repetitive link building strategies or publish simple keyword-stuffed content to game search engines and drive more traffic to your site.

Back in the day, many great empires were built on SEO alone.

Take Demand Media, for instance. The once strong publishing network was brought to its knees after Google decided to update its search algorithms to filter out “low quality content.” At least, that’s the wording the ominous search engine has used in reference to the churn-and-burn content mills of the past. Mahalo is another late example.

Over the past five years, a lot has changed in digital marketing. Today, small businesses realize the old “tried-and-true” link building tactics were actually a bit dishonest and failed to provide true value to readers, and have since updated their strategies. What’s more is that social media marketing is no longer this “new world phenomenon.” In fact, our connected society makes this the golden age for social media marketing, and frankly you’re losing out on a ton of great opportunity if you haven’t yet established and executed a solid social media campaign.

Now, if you’re wondering what to do with your marketing dollars, invest more in social media than you would in SEO. Here are 4 smart reasons why:

1. Social media is perfect for increasing engagement and loyalty.
It is also one of the most effective and scalable channels for doing so. Not only can you push out messages which are fun, funky and topical, you can also give your users platforms with which they can be appropriately heard. As much as businesses hate confrontation, social media also provides plenty of opportunity to win over and win back customers if you’re willing to suck up your pride and put your users ahead of yourself.
2. Social media exposes your brand to new audiences
If you have a message worth sharing (a clever thought, blog posts, press announcements, etc.), social media provides a medium which you may use to disseminate your message. And if you’re lucky, your content may go viral, allowing you to reach even more potential customers and users.
3. Social referrals grew faster than visits from search
A study I published, which tracked inbound traffic to 200,000 sites across the web, revealed social referrals grew 111% year-over-year while traffic from search shrunk 6% during that same time period.

4. Social signals indirectly boost SEO
Though Google suggests social signals do not directly impact SEO, there are plenty of indirect benefits from a strong social media marketing strategy. More bloggers, journalists and users will discover your content through social media and will likely link back and reference your articles.

SEO is very narrowly-focused and doesn’t allow you to have as much lateral engagement or viral potential. Nor is it a growing channel, and you’ll be happy to know that, in any case, your social media marketing efforts will support your SEO efforts.

The numbers show that social is growing (and will to continue to grow). Therefore, you should treat your customers, fans and followers as important partners who will help you build an empire. Search engines will help you inbound targeted searchers, but social media will provide you with an outlet – or several – to communicate your brand and personality to your users who will be excited to buy your product and share your story with friends.

Even before search engines existed, great businesses became big because they invested in a brand that customers really loved. That’s why you should spend more money on social media to continue to engage your users – the individuals who truly make your business, not search engines.

Now what are some of your best tips for engaging fans on social media?

Danny Wong is the Co-founder of retail startup Blank Label and the Marketing Manager of social discovery platform Shareaholic. His published work can be found on the Huffington Post, The Next Web and ReadWrite.