There’s much to be said about the respective values of social media and SEO, both as individual entities and a collective. A cornerstone of search engine optimization is linking, while social media is all about being, well, sociable. But which is better today?
That’s very much a question that’s open to debate, depending on who you ask, you could expect to hear a whole range of answers. Networking has become ingrained in the Internet marketer’s psyche, building relationships while interacting with your fellow professionals and consumers. But can it really compete with building an impressive linking infrastructure when it comes to marketing your website online?
Let’s start with the positives…
Both techniques work in very different ways. You build links by making requests, payments (only to the right people – directories and the sort) and creating content that causes a stir. Networking can of course help this process. When you get noticed by more people, they may be inclined to link to you; there’s no certainty of course, but social media is a way of raising a profile and showing off your expertise to the world – prime link bait conditions.
There are easy ways to get links and hard ways. Even if you create a fantastic blog, a great new piece of shareware or a stunning design, there’s no assurance that people will find you. Quality links are often those that happen organically, the kind of thing that you can’t force. Article submission and press releases will assure you of at least one (sometimes more) link back to your site; while the every little bit helps strategy is a good one, that link can take time to gain and time is precious, particularly when the outcome doesn’t quite justify the means.
Of course the main reason most people create an article or release, at least in an SEO capacity, is to get it picked up and syndicated across a number of sites. The dream ticket is a major news agency picking up a story on their newswire and sending it global; this, of course, is extremely rare. For this to happen, it needs to be relevant, it needs to be interesting and it needs to provide something new. Regurgitating the same stuff over and over again may save time, but that could well prove to be a false economy.
But once again we’re thrust back into the realms of Web 2.0. If you want to get people talking about your content, you may first need to start shouting about it. Herein lies the weakness though of social media.
…Now for the negatives
There is still a cloud of mysticism that hangs over the social side of the Internet. Just how effective is it? If you have the time to dedicate to interact with the wider community day in day out, then the benefits can’t be argued. Normal people have become celebrities, while the celebrities themselves have been out there growing legions of new fans. All very positive. But what is the value of a follower or a friend? Commenting on blogs, reciprocating tweets and conversing offers a fantastic community spirit; allowing users worldwide to get involved in a continuous conversation.
What all this won’t do, necessarily, is improve your site and its strength. You might get traffic, in fact you will almost certainly get traffic, but if this comes from the same basic group of people, none of whom have the slightest interest in using your business or buying your products, is it really worth the investment of time? Friends and followers aren’t just an ego trip; it shows a level of influence and provides a wider sphere of influence. A strong linking strategy though goes further.
Every link you earn will join a wider group of inbound pointers. Google likes websites that people like pointing to. Therefore, Google likes nothing more than a site with links going to all pages, coming from a variety of sources and in a natural fashion. While there are dangerous links out there, toxic ones that will cause more damage than good, these can be avoided and banished if need be.
Whether it’s on a directory, bolted onto an article or has come from a respected source organically, the power of the link is hard to question. Aside from a permanent new gateway for targeted traffÃc to find you, it adds vital strength to your website’s overall profile. PageRank maybe all but defunct, but that doesn’t mean that links are treading the same path.
We wouldn’t ever discourage people from using social media; it has fantastic potential and is evolving all the time. But if website promotÃon and search engine marketing is what you’re looking to do, the tried and trusted link may well prove a more constructive use of your time. It maybe a quieter way of going about things, anti-social even, but links get you seen on search engines and search engines get you seen by consumers.
Your online profile may ebb and flow, your popularity wane, but when you build a strong link profile you create stability and open the door to continued development. They are the foundation to any successful site; so while it’s always nice to have flighty friends, the stability and long-term benefit of a link is still very much the method of choice for most.