Organic SEO vs. Social Marketing: Which Wins?

Organic SEO is the tried-and-true way: go forth, get backlinks, build authority, rank for keywords, get traffic. Social marketing is the cutting-edge method: go forth, build a crowd, raise fervor, post links, get traffic. Both are being promoted strongly by professionals in the traffic-building industry. Both are about the same cost per month (which is to say, they vary wildly within the same range. ) So which one is the better choice?

Organic SEO
Organic SEO is reliable. It’s stable. It’s been proven to work. You have to invest a bit of money up front, but in the long run, if you stick with it, organic SEO will always pay dividends. SEO companies have been around far longer than social media gurus, and they by and large have their business down pat.

The advantage of organic SEO is that the only way you can really fail is by quitting, or by hiring a complete nincompoop as your SEO guy. Any decently skilled SEO company will eventually get you a healthy dose of killer traffic if you pay them for long enough. The questions with SEO are not “will it work”, but “when will it work?” and “how much will it cost to attain first page placement?”.

Social Marketing
Social Marketing, on the other hand, is a higher-risk, higher-reward proposition. You can imagine SEO as a linear graph: for every $X you put in, you get Y amount of authority, which eventually translates into search rankings and thus into traffic. Social marketing, on the other kind, is kind of like buying scratch tickets. For every $X you put in, you get a chance to nail huge traffic, but most often, it’ll just sit there and spin.

Social marketing, when it hits, hits HUGE. There are some long-term, small crowds that do build around anyone who sticks with Social Marketing for a long time, but the goal in SM is to go viral. Viral, in this case, means your ideas leap from one head into a thousand heads virtually overnight, and traffic comes beating down your doors.

Which is better? That depends largely on your tolerance for risk. Most small businesses should probably start with organic SEO — most successful businesses should probably pursue both in varying degrees.