The Questions You Should Be Asking When Looking at Your SEO and Social Media Strategy

This story appears in the July 2018 issue of . Subscribe »

Q: When looking at our marketing spend, what’s more important fordigital growth: SEO or social media?
— Chris G., Minnesota

Before consulting, I made my living as an editor in media. Each job I held taught me the same lesson: Digital growth is not about manipulating tools like search engine optimization (SEO) and social media. It’s about using them to reach customers. Then it’s your job to create a sustainable relationship off of those platforms.

I’ll give you two examples of how those tools can go wrong. My first big job was fitness editor at a men’s magazine. Facebook was relatively new, and we aggressively built our following. The result was lots of “likes” but little direct revenue we could track. That audience eventually drove significant traffic to the website — and that was traffic we could monetize. After I left, Facebook changed its algorithm, and posts drove only a small fraction of the clicks they once did. Traffic shrank. So did revenue.

My next gig was as at a health website that had mastered SEO. Higher search results led to more traffic, which led to higher advertising revenue. Then came the infamous Google “Panda update,” a change to its algorithm that penalized content trying to game SEO by using hacks like keyword stuffing. Those changes sent us into a tailspin. We had to…