Social Media vs. SEO vs. Web Design, Why Does It Have To Be A Battle?

@Kevin | Strategy

I don’t understand why the world of Internet marketing is so fractured. It seems like there are three camps with each camp bashing the other. People will bash SEO disciples saying that they over promise, under deliver, and use shady techniques to game a system where nobody completely understands all the rules. Then you have people bashing social media believers saying that the ROI is poor, well that is if you can actually determine what the ROI is. Finally you have people knocking designers pointing out that a lot of modern designs are all sizzle and no steak. The sites they design might be pretty but they aren’t optimized for the end user, for search, or for social media.

These arguments have been going on for a while, what I don’t understand at this point haven’t we learned that all three of these things work in concert with each other? Creating a comprehensive strategy that touches on all three of these discipline areas is important, why are we still getting people taking shots across the bow of each of these skill sets? It is like people that work on a car saying the wheels are more important than the engine or the steering wheel.

Last month on SEOmoz Rand Fishkin wrote a post about Social Media Marketing and how he feels that it doesn’t produce the same hard results that a person can get from doing some solid research and improving the SEO on their website. Rand explains that getting results from the SEO changes don’t pack the same punch as social media on an emotional level, “To a marketer, from a selfish, emotional, human standpoint, it’s not nearly as gratifying as even the most superficial social media engagement.” Throughout the post he makes a logical argument backing it up with stats and well thought out points.

Personally I don’t think Rand is wrong, especially for what he is tracking but in reality would his time investment work for every company or product? No. A campaign that is focused more on social media than SEO has a place with a lot of companies, especially when it is focused on a short-term product or even a personality where the connection matters. Rand does acknowledge that he believes in the power of social media when it comes to certain strategies:

I recognize that SMM, when it achieves dual goals of traffic & link building, is of massive value (as are other activities designed to leverage the social web to bolster high ROI tactics), but I’m more skeptical of the ROI from social networking & driving up social media popularity.

In the end though for most companies a straight social media play isn’t going to work for them just like a straight focus on search engine optimization isn’t going to work for a lot of companies. (To throw design in there as well we can make the argument that you could have coolest looking site in the world but if you don’t have the other two planks very few people are going to see it.)

I don’t want to harp on Rand here because I think he is one of the more knowledgeable people on the planet when it comes to SEO. (And I know Rand wasn’t bashing social media, but his post was the one that got me thinking.) There is a flipside to this; I recently had lunch with a “social media guru” that is pretty well regarded in the social media world. At lunch he told me that he only had a slim grasp on the very basics of SEO but really felt like he lacked knowledge in that area. Judging from some of the sites he has worked with he also doesn’t haven’t a strong eye for design either. Is he really serving his clients that well because they are obviously missing major pieces to the Internet marketing puzzle?

A cohesive strategy touching on all three bases will lead to much better results than just focusing on one area.

  • Better design is going to improve your SEO, SMO, and improve your visitor’s experience.
  • Improving your SEO is going to bring in targeted organic traffic, give you information on what content to create, and help direct your design improvements.
  • Participating in social media (with a strategy behind it) is going to help drive traffic, improve customer service, increase links, and help not only convert but retain customers.

Isn’t it time that people being to balance out their skill set, stop looking down at other disciplines, and learn to create comprehensive strategies that will best service their customers?