Search Engine Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) promotes a website on Google, Yahoo and other search engines through various methods such as organic search marketing, paid placement, and contextual advertising. When a product or service of the website is searched, organic search marketing enables the site to appear in the first search engine results page increasing its visibility. Paid placement enables the website to be listed in the sponsored listings typically found on or adjacent to the organic search results (e.g. Google’s Sponsored links). Paid placement is also called pay-per-click, as the advertiser will be charged when the link is clicked. Contextual advertising places text advertisements on the websites having same content theme as the advertiser (e.g. Google’s AdSense).

Social media enables interaction among two or more people known to each other directly or indirectly by sharing views and thoughts on a topic of common interest. Social media includes websites and portals such as YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter and Flicker etc. Social media marketing uses social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis or any other online collaborative media for marketing, sales, public relations, and customer service.

  • Customers search for a product or service in a search engine when they are interested in it. Based on the search phrase they type in the search engines, a marketer can know the intention of the customer. This helps in identifying relevant keywords.
  • When a user searches for a particular product, service or any information, search engines returns most relevant webpages to the search query on the top of the search engine results page (SERP). Typically, the relevancy of the webpage to the search query decreases as we scroll down to the last results. Therefore, user focuses on the top webpages that comes in first search engine results page.
  • Website owners can promote their products or services by getting listed in the search results through the Search Engine Optimization campaign. A professional SEO company can enable first page rankings for the website increasing the chances of a click.
  • Advertisers can also opt for pay-per-click ads on search engines to promote their site.
  • SEM is measurable accurately. A website can measure the sales from a search keyword, which is very effective in tracking ROI on each and every phrase.
  • SEM is more affordable for small and medium size business to promote their products and services within their marketing budget.

Social Media Marketing

  • Social media enables direct communication between the companies and customers about the product or services.
  • It is a great tool to know the customer opinions and feedback, and to stay connected with the customers.
  • In social media, it is very easy to get a negative brand image. For instance, a person who had bad experience with a product can express his opinion in a negative tone. This destroys any positive image of that brand or product that can spread virally in no time.
  • The biggest drawback of social media marketing is, social media is primarily used for communication and not for shopping or advertisements, which distracts the user’s experience. Therefore, to influence the customer to buy may not workout in most cases in social media marketing.
  • It may not be as useful as SEM for small and upcoming brands, as the bigger and popular brands dominate the content.
  • The possibility of conversion rate is least in social media marketing.

A study done by GFK Roper for ‘Citibank’s Small Business Segment’ reveals that small businesses choose search marketing over social media marketing. More than 76% small business owners did not find social media to be helpful for their business to generate leads and expand their businesses. 86% of business owners have not used social networking sites for their business advertising or for any other information.

Social network advertising after a strong growth in 2008 of 33% is expected to show a negative growth of 3% in 2009. In the next 2 years it is expected to grow at a slower pace at 13.2% and then at a lower 8.2% in 2011, according to eMarketer. On the other hand, Search revenue accounted for 47 percent of 2009 second-quarter Internet advertising revenues, up from the 44 percent reported in the second quarter of 2008.

Marketers of large organizations, which have already established a brand image are using social media. Small business owners rely less on social media for marketing. Even for getting business advice or information, they are not using social media, instead around 61% of the respondents say they rely on search-engine sites.

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