Here at Bubble, we think a bit of competition and rivalry is healthy across different sectors and departments… and it’s fair to say that rivalry is definitely alive and well in the digital sector in 2013. Now, while old-school debates like the historic SEO/PPC argument continue to rage, new ones are sparking up all the time as brands fight to find the best strategy for their online marketing efforts.
The flavour of the week in the digital rivalry stakes? It has to be SEO/Social debate. Now, the sector has been debating the ‘rivalry’ between the two for months but this week things stepped up a gear when an article appeared in the Guardian with the rather provactive headline “SEO Is Dead…”.
While a quick search on good old Google shows there are lots of articles already out there that have the same message, this one really struck a chord with the industry thanks to the angle it took and some rather controversial claims.
The long and short of it? The article claimed that SEO was dead and was being replaced by… wait for it… Social Media. Of course, just like any other topical article in the space, SEOs were quick to take the bait. In their responses, they pointed out the article’s ‘flaws’ and the writer’s apparent misuse of various facts and figures and clarified that SEO and Social Media are two very different marketing methods so one couldn’t possibly replace the other.
Whether the Guardian knew how controversial the article would be (aka what a great piece of link bait it would turn out to be!) remains to be seen, but I think the article received such an extreme reaction because it struck a nerve with the industry as a whole.
As I mentioned earlier, the digital industry loves a good debate and it feels like in a lot of situations, the industry is keen to force an either/or situation when it comes to two techniques, rather than a collaborative approach.
I’m not sure why this is but it’s definitely the case and while it might work in principle when it comes to two techniques that have the same core aim (ie. PPC and SEO are both used to drive traffic*), it simply doesn’t work when it comes to SEO and Social Media. Why? Because they’re totally different. Yes, the aim of both might be to raise a brand’s profile – but that’s really all they have in common.
Let me explain – with SEO, it’s all about discovery. It’s about providing someone with a solution to their query and helping them to discover new things. With SEO, there doesn’t need to be any prior engagement with the searcher because, like I just said, discovery is the name of the game.
When someone uses Google, they’re looking for something – an answer, a solution, a product, a service – and it’s an SEO’s job to provide them with that solution on a search engine by producing a great site, piece of content or video and ensuring the likes of Google and Co find it and love it.
Now, while a certain amount of discovery is involved in Social Media, the focus really lies in engagement and communication. 9 times out of 10, the audience are already familiar with the brand (after all, why else would they have started to follow them?!) so there’s already that connection there – the aim then is to make the most of that connection and turn it into a valuable business prospect.
With Social Media, it’s all about nurturing existing relationships, forming new ones and creating a community – and discovery only plays a small, tiny, minute part of this.
Yes, Social Media might be growing, but that doesn’t mean it’s replacing SEO – and it’s by no means “killing” it. At the end of the day, as long as people use the internet to find things and discover new content, SEO will always be around – it might take different forms and grow and evolve, but it’ll still be there in one format or another.
When you think about it like this, it seems ridiculous that articles like the one in the Guardian this week even exist. Like I said, it’s ludicrous to compare SEO and Social Media and pit the two against the other because they’re two very different marketing techniques with two very different aims.
In a way, it’s a bit like pitting Twitter against YouTube. OK, so they might both be social networks – but that doesn’t mean they’re directly competing against each other or have the same aims. As a brand, you wouldn’t ever be put in a position where you’d have to choose one or the other – because, to cover all bases, you need both.
And it’s the same with SEO and Social Media. As we move through 2013 and into 2014, SEO and Social Media are only going to become more important as more and more consumers get internet-savvy and, while the lines between the two might start to blur (as they already are), they’re still both going to have their place in the digital industry and both be invaluable to any online business.
As far as I’m concerned, (to steal a rather famous lyric), when it comes to SEO and Social Media: “War is over” – if there ever even was one to begin with! It’s time to stop wasting time with this ridiculous debate, move on and focus on how the two can work alongside each other, rather than against each other!
I’m really keen to hear your thoughts on this one. Do you agree that the SEO/Social Media war was pretty pointless – or do you agree with the Guardian article that SEO really is “dead”? Leave us a comment or send me a tweet – @amy_edwards88.
*Just to clarify, when it comes to SEO or PPC, it’s definitely not an either/or situation!