Which is best for marketing – social media or search engine optimization? Each has its benefits, its drawbacks, and its applications.

Here are some pros and cons of each.

Social Media


  • You can interact directly with your fans in an online social setting. Paid advertising can sometimes distance you from your potential audience because people don’t like to be pandered to the right social media marketing strategy can position you on the inside.
  • Social media itself is free. It costs nothing to set up an account and when you’ve got the right viral campaign, it can take off like wildfire.
  • It helps your SEO. A social media campaign that spreads through a customer base attracts inbound links to your site or sites, which helps your search engine visibility.


  • Nothing in life is free. While setting up social media accounts can be free, you still do have to spend time and resources on your campaigns. For smaller companies, this can be cost prohibitive, which is compounded by the fact that calculating ROI can be difficult.
  • People go on social media to be social, not to buy stuff. Sorry. What social media marketing companies may not want you to know is that other forms of marketing, such as email, perform much better.

Search Engine Optimization


  • On-site optimizing is free. On-site SEO tactics, such as SEO-friendly content marketing and on-site optimization, only cost the time it takes you to do them.
  • Inbound search traffic converts very well. Inbound search traffic does better than social media traffic because searchers have intent. Someone who searches for “best summer t-shirts,” for example, probably intends to make a purchase.
  • It works on customers across the spectrum.  Whether you’re trying to increase awareness, build interest in your products, or close sales on cold leads, SEO is the way to go. For these reasons, is one of the most profitable internet marketing methods around.


  • Nothing in life is free. Though fixing up your site doesn’t take much time, getting backlinks from reputable sources takes lots of legwork, staff time, and money. Additionally, you will have to invest – either through outsourcing or in-house training – to keep up with the current state of the SEO world.
  • Algorithms change like the wind. The more deeply you attempt to exploit holes in the current state of the search algorithm, the more likely you are to get blown aside when the next update comes along.

When to Use Which?

Social media and SEO obviously both have their strengths and weaknesses, but it should be clear that neither is free and neither method solves every problem.

Here are a few tips for making the most of both:

Put them in the context of the sales funnel. The sales funnel, which is sometimes called the conversion funnel, first creates awareness among customers who don’t know about your products, then follows a multi-step process to increase interest and close the deal.

Social media, generally speaking, is more useful for building awareness and drawing customers in to content-heavy websites, apps, and so forth. People who use search to find a product or service are often already interested, so SEO tends to optimize the parts of your marketing strategy that are closer towards sales than marketing…though it too is a vital way to increase awareness.

Each program should be included as arms of your content marketing strategy. Make sure that the types of content you provide are suitable for each medium. As mentioned, social media is generally more useful for generating prospects and increasing awareness of your products and services, while SEO can also be used to increase authority, customer loyalty, and so forth.

Customers who land on your web page are more likely to make a purchase, read your blog, or study your company – so your content should be aimed at fulfilling those interests. Social media content should be lighter, more shareable, and more entertaining.

Neither is a replacement for advertising. Social media, SEO, advertising, and other marketing methods should all work together to blanket your target market. Advertising allows you to reach other portions of your target market that search and social cannot reach.

While search and social let you reach customers who are already searching for or talking about your niche market, the competition for attention is fierce. Advertising expands the reach of both and gives access to other media outlets, from blogs to apps to software installers to print media and more.


It’s important to understand that each method has its place and neither is a cure-all. Your marketing strategy, whether you use social media, search engines, display advertising, or another method, should be based around the needs and placement of your audience.