Social search vs SEO: A comparison

Social search vs SEO: A comparison
Oct 23

David Jenkin

Social Media

Social media has become an intrinsic part of our lives and younger generations certainly couldn’t imagine a world without it. For many, social media has become the default channel through which to access the web. As a result, the phenomenon of “social search” has emerged and is picking up momentum. But does that mean the focus is shifting away from SEO? Let’s look a bit deeper.

The case for social search

Nearly 60% of the world’s population now use social media, according to Statista. It’s not surprising then that social search is the best way to reach a sizeable portion of online audiences since they choose to remain within the walled garden of a social platform when looking for information. 22% of consumers prefer to use social media to discover new products or services, according to Hubspot’s 2022 State of Consumer Trends Report, and for Gen Z consumers, that number shoots up to 57%.

The reasons are numerous and often compelling for users. For starters, social media allows them to access a broader and more diverse range of information. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and others host vast amounts of user-generated content with a full spectrum of sentiments. When it comes to exploring new products and services, research compiled for the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index shows that organic user-generated content is considered by 92% of consumers to be more trustworthy than conventional advertising.

Trust is, therefore, a critical factor in social’s favour, and why many consumers appreciate the way it puts influencers front and centre for discovering new products. It complements this with a higher degree of personalisation, making search results more relevant. Social search considers a user's social connections and interests, and what content their friends or people with similar interests have engaged with, then aims to deliver search results that are aligned with their preferences. Real-time updates ensure social search yields more up-to-date information, especially with regards to news and events. It also prioritises visual content through images and videos that result in a more enriching search experience. And users can engage directly with the content they find through comments and likes, then easily share it with their own networks.

The case for SEO

While social media plays a pivotal role, search engines still reign supreme when it comes to information discovery and potential purchases. Stats from Highervisibility show that 53% of all web traffic comes from organic search and 15% from paid search. In comparison, research from GrowthBadger (from a study of 3.25 billion website visits) puts the average for traffic from social media at just over 6%, but with a high degree of variation across different markets and industries.

There are also downsides to using social platforms as the go-to option for search, not least of which is the sheer volume of data they contain. Curating and presenting relevant content has proven to be a huge challenge for social media platforms, even with the help of machine learning and advanced algorithms. Much user-generated content is irrelevant or of low quality, while privacy concerns and platform abuses in terms of spam, misinformation and harmful content remain an ongoing challenge.

The perfect union

Social search enriches the search experience and its likely to continue becoming a more popular way to find information and products, but the trend isn’t likely to seriously challenge the reign of the search engine just yet. Marketers shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking it’s one or the other.

In fact, Google and Bing have recognised the importance of social search and have integrated social media content into their results. By doing so, search engines can provide additional context to search results through relevant social media posts and timely information that wouldn’t otherwise be easy to find. It means the latest updates, trends, news, and events can be found directly from a whole range of social media platforms with a single search.

This demonstrates the need for a balanced approach. Digital marketing consists of many moving parts, all of which work in harmony with one another. Social media and SEO have a symbiotic relationship and one shouldn’t be neglected in favour of the other. But it requires a broad range of skills to master them both, which is why it makes sense for a business to close the gaps in its capabilities by outsourcing.

With our digital marketing services to support you, no opportunities need slip through your fingers. Come and learn about what we can offer, from a strong social media presence to rock-solid SEO and plenty more.

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