Social Media v Search Engine Optimisation v Pay Per Click?

There are significant merits in having a good social media strategy (SMO) as well as solid Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) performance, with some great return on your Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign. I mean Twitter can generate tens, hundreds or thousands of engaged people clicking through to your site, off the back of one tweet; but how long can it take to generate that engaged audience.

A well optimised page can develop a huge number of clicks through to your site, for people searching for a specific keyword, leaving them wanting to buy your service or product. But what level of work went into optimising your site.

And your PPC, well within a few hours you could be generating some sales with some paid for clicks, and although those leads are costly, and perhaps lots don’t convert into sales, a number will do. So what is more important: SMO, SEO or PPC?

This is question I found myself pondering lots on behalf of clients when I was looking at Hubspot and other Social CRM software. And the answer for me is a question of percentages for all of them and those percentages will vary for each businesses.

Which marketing route is the wrong starting question. It’s different for every organisation. You need to know what the life cycle of the company is, and what the purpose of your SEO, SMO or PPC is. Too often I find that when I’m working with businesses, large or small, they’ve been given some twee ‘one size fits all’ advice, and feel pressure to have their online activity at a certain level from day one. Before they have begun, they are defeated and disengaged. They feel blindsided by the activity and don’t know where to start.

Naturally, my job is to help them see the wood for the trees, simplify their priorities and set them out on the right course of action that will help them achieve their goals, and give their business a greater return on investment.

When we meet, one of the first things I say (after milk no sugar please, I’m sweet enough already), is: ‘What are you currently doing online each month?’ And then I listen very carefully, because the answer they give, tells me almost all I need to know.

With one company, recently I was trying to help them swim with a great SMO and SEO strategy, when they needed the simple confidence to paddle and see some immediate tangible results. So we worked over the course of a couple of days on some immediate quick wins through PPC. And although I’m not generally a big fan on PPC (over-costly, people trust paid for links less, it’s one one on marketing), I saw this was helping build their confidence and de-mystify online selling. They’d liked the yellow pages and had always put an advert (and wasted money for years) advertising there. Trying to get them to think of marketing as being a means for businesses to help people (utilitarinism marketing) was sadly ten steps too far from where they were currently.

They’d got their head around Yellow Pages because it was familiar, and ‘they thought’ that the yellow pages was risk free. But this year that changed. The Yellow Pages provided them with a specific phone number for their advert. This in turn gave them stats that showed how many people had called their number from their advert. And funnily enough, they saw the obvious and realised that it wasn’t working (perhaps the number of pages in the Yellow Pages reducing and the shrinking of the format to A5 from A4 should have been a clue). They received less than 10 calls all year to that specific number, and none of these they thought turned to a sale. They were guessing, but probably accurate on this.

Needing to act and generate more sales, they’d been recommended marketing differently. They hadn’t adopted a new way of thinking, just an old way of thinking in a new format. If they were really honest, they wanted something to appease their conscience so that they knew they had taken care of ‘marketing’ for that year. I firstly got them setup on Yelp and other local review based sites. Naturally they were nervous about bad reviews, but soon discovered they were already on the site already and had good reviews. That was free. Business Directory. Tick.

Then, PPC though expensive and less engaged with an audience, was the most like Yellow Pages for them.  I gave it to them for a fortnight, and then turned it back off (without telling them). I then gave them highly targeted keywords, and with link baiting, and an inbound marketing approach with a downloadable eBook helping their customers, they got good visibility and good traffic. After a month the figures from the organic matched the PPC. They were suitably converted.

Even though I could easily have argued that putting the time into some SEO work (their site had the potential to be very content rich) or SMO (they were believe it or not still ahead of their curve with their sector entering into social media) would have been a wiser investment and would produce a greater long-term investment, PPC was right for them. For the first two weeks. Why? Because it was where they were at, and was what they could see. Everything else seemed a little obscure and random and at first stop, they didn’t understand the online world. They needed the confidence of simple results of paying an amount of money for a set number of enquiries. Simple.

It got me thinking that sometimes the worst option is the best option and instead of giving people a sense of pressure to go for the best option, allow them to settle for what they can understand. They don’t have to be all over social media, building up a loyal engaged base and obsessing over loving their customers. They don’t have to optimise their whole site, and build up their links online. Actually they need to be given space to start where they’re at, and not try to do everything at once.

Move people on step by step; don’t throw them too far beyond their comfort zone. And as they see the fruit, be sure to help them move on a few more steps. Social Media or Search Engine Optimisation or Pay Per Click- all three of them; just at different stages.

What do you think? What do you think are the best ways to get started marketing online?


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