Why Google SEO Traffic is More Appealing Than Social Media

When a company loses SEO traffic, you hear they are dying or got decimated; when it is organic social media you hear about taking a dive or a hit.  SEO traffic is  more valuable from a direct ROI and new customer acquisition standpoint than organic social media.  Before my social media subscribers get upset, read to the end as both are important and help each other.

Unless you’re a social media influencer or community owner, your life will move on if you lose a couple social channels.

TL:DR

SEO traffic has the immediate intent to convert as the person is looking for a product or service right then and SEO traffic is likely new customers or reintroductions to your brand.  Organic social media traffic requires virality, consistent new content to keep your audience engaged, and often is people that already have your product or have used your service.  If they recently purchased, they don’t need it again right now even if they clicked to your site.

Marketing is an eco-system, organic social media may have driven the search query that generated the product or service sale.

The Complete Post

The difference comes down to three items in particular:

  • Dependability
  • Intent
  • A platform you control

Dependability

Evergreen keyword phrases that bring SEO traffic to your site happen each month with new people searching for solutions right then and there.  Social media is a mix of your current audience that already shopped and new customers, so the acquisition is less impactful.  Because SEO traffic is likely new visitors, your email and SMS lists grow faster and so does your customer base.  There’s a better chance search engines will keep driving traffic to you than organic social media algorithms because the platforms look for different things.

Social algorithms look for engagement signals to give you exposure to a new audience vs. search engine algorithms that look for page experience (and offsite attributes like backlinks and trust builders).

Here’s an example of the two.

Let’s use a search phrase that has 10,000 monthly searches, assume there is minimal seasonality, search engine features (answer boxes and maps with local listings) haven’t changed, your position in the search engine is stable, and there is consistent demand.

  • If the phrase sends you 1,000 visitors a month with a conversion rate of 5% and an AOV (average order value) of $100, you make $5,000 every month gross (before expenses) consistently.
  • With social media you may get 1,000 visitors with the same conversion rates the first month, they shop and follow your account because they had a good experience.  Your conversion rates may drop from the next 1,000 because those same clicks throughs have your product in hand.  Maybe 600 of the visits are for new customers vs. the 1,000 from SEO reducing the revenue from the organic social media visitors.

The algorithms matter too.

Search engines like Google have algorithms that look for aspects you control (on page SEO elements), but when your social media fan base is no longer engaged because they already have your product or service, social signals stop happening and your reach dries out.  Wedding and Baby companies are good examples.

Once the couple is married or the mother has given birth, their interest moves on.  In a couple years the baby is a toddler and the parents have toddler needs now.  If the marriage is working out, they don’t need more content about weddings.  But they could use anniversary advice, vacations, family planning, and in a few years relationship advice.  On social media you need separate accounts for these as they’re not relevant to the core wedding base.

If you share irrelevant content, they don’t engage and you lose your reach.  Your fans are not going to unfollow as their interests change.  This is one of the causes of accounts dying.

Google and search engine traffic do not rely on fan engagement.  They rely on you providing a good user experience to the newly engaged and newly expecting couples (as well as external signals like backlinks, trust, etc…).  By providing a positive experience you keep the traffic longer and a steady flow of customer acquisition and revenue.

And social media audience quality changes depending on who shares.  If the first 1,000 visitors that converted great came from adults in their 40’s because an influencer went viral, that doesn’t mean keep working with influencers.  The next viral moment could be a 20 something person with followers in their 20’s who have different spending power and needs.  You’re likely going to get less sales even though it is from the same platform and same quantity of traffic because the audience is different.  Or it could reverse and increase.  This is why SEO traffic is more “dependable” than organic social media.

Intent

Someone using a search engine is looking for an answer, product, or service right then.  A user on social media wants to connect with friends or family, see what their favorite influencer is up to, or to kill time.  Chances are they are not in a shopping mode.

Google searches are for the best XY product in a medium size, how to fix an ABC, or find a DEF service provider near me.  Social media will have some of these searches, but most are for fun and entertainment.  You could say someone is looking for how to fix a leaky pipe and goes to a video social platform.  That’s fair, but the user experience is very different.

Both search engines and social media platforms can show a video on how to do it, but search experiences give the products and tools to purchase what is needed for the solution where social media may only give a couple links total.  If the video is 5 months old, chances are these limited links have changed out and the person has to go to a search engine to find the product.

Marketing is an eco-system, organic social media may have driven the search query that generated the product or service sale.  Proper attribution is key, and that is one of the things we help our clients find.

A Platform You Control

Both search engines and social media platforms can cut you off from traffic and revenue, but only one can eliminate your ability to rebound.  That is social media.

You own your website and you can clean it up to recover SEO traffic.  While you’re waiting for SEO traffic to recover you can drive social media traffic, TV ads, PPC, and stay in business.  If you rely on your social media accounts, they can be shut down at any time, shadow banned, and closed with zero recourse for you.  If you’ve ever had an issue with a social network, almost all are notorious for a lack of customer support.  You likely just lost your business if it relies on social media accounts and traffic.

It sounds like I don’t recommend organic social traffic, that is far from true.  Many social platforms offer users links to post, and these links won’t help for backlinks but they can and do help search engines find and crawl your site.  Including pages buried deep that you want indexed but never get found.  When you go viral on social media, people hit the search engines hard for your brand and build trust signals.

As social media takes off, the media takes notice.  You can use the virality to get interviews, features, placed on shopping lists, attract content affiliates, and build your PR bar for consumer trust.  These are things that are much more difficult with SEO.  Marketing is an ecosystem.  Social has a positive impact on SEO, PR, email, affiliate, and SEO can lead to people engaging and following you on social media too.

Both are good for businesses, but if I had to recommend one over the other, I’d say SEO because it builds longer periods of stability.  The only exception is if you have a budget or an active group of highly impactful influencers to help you launch, then go with social media first.

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