Internet marketing is a constantly evolving practice and rapid development and changes in how web marketing strategies work require a company to remain flexible and adaptive.  Search Engine Optimization and social media are two of the main web marketing and business generation tools available. Learning to maximize their potential can reap a substantial return on your investment, but when a company has limited time or financial resources is it more profitable to use one over the other? If so, which is the most beneficial?

It is in your company’s best interest to do an objective benefit analysis. Both search engine marketing and social media outlets such as Facebook marketing have their positive aspects and their drawbacks. Let’s take a good look at what each of these can and can’t do for your business so you can decide which marketing strategy is the best use of your time and money.

SEO MARKETING
1. Ease of Implementation
The key to implementing an effective SEO marketing campaign is to know how search engines work and what are the most effective keywords and best keyword placement. This is where contracting the services of an experienced SEO company can really pay off as far as return on your investment.

A good SEO services company knows the correct ratio of on-page SEO compared to off-page SEO, and the best use of SEO strategy in link building to generate interest and drive web traffic to you.

2. Maintenance
A well-worded, keyword-rich blog post that contains timeless content is indexed by search engines, and will continue to turn up in page results for several years. You can get a lot of mileage out of well done SEO content now and focus your efforts on other areas of marketing and web development, allowing the post or page to work for you on the search engines. How’s that for low-maintenance?

3. Cost Effectiveness
The cost of SEO marketing depends on if you generate the content yourself or outsource content creation to an SEO services company. Creating your own content can be time-consuming and involve a lot of trial and error to find the right combination of keywords and keyword placement. Hiring an SEO services company could well be a one-time expense if the content is well-written and timeless; it is worth the investment for their expertise in this area of marketing.

But how effective is it for marketing?
A recent study revealed that 61% of customers use search engines to locate products and services and to research a company or product before doing business. Keyword-rich and proficient SEO content writing can capture potential customers and drive them straight to you.

SEO also works great for mobile searches. Content oriented toward local customers is more likely to generate sales; people look for local industries when they are on the go.

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

1. Ease of Implementation
It may seem easy to just start Tweeting or set up a Facebook profile, but there is a little more effort involved. It takes a lot of time and concentrated effort to gain a following on social media outlets, but it is a great means for really developing good relationships with your customer base. This way you can get to know the preferences of your market and better focus your efforts.

However, you must keep content fresh to keep your followers coming back; the shelf-life for “What’s hot now” isn’t very long. You must create innovative and engaging material that people want to pass on. The good news is that the content, video, graphics, and links you post can be altered and integrated across multiple social media platforms.

2. Maintenance
Social media is very labor-intensive to keep on top of. While it is a great way to stay in touch and personal with customers and advise them of the latest news and product information, you are constantly competing with a barrage of other news and information. Your updates and Tweets could be buried in a matter of minutes.

To use Facebook and Twitter marketing effectively requires a full-time social media marketing manager to make sure that your information doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

3. Cost Effectiveness
If you simply create an account, a page, or a group, your main investment is in the time. However, there are ways to put your money into social networking that put your information front and center.

As with Google’s sponsored links, you have the option of purchasing sponsored ads on Facebook and promoted Tweets that will put your brand front and center on these sites, leading to a larger response from potential customers. One <a href=”http://www.readwriteweb.com/biz/2011/05/facebook-sponsored-stories-are-more-effective.php”>study</a> indicates that sponsored ads are 46% more effective than free advertising on Facebook.

But how effective is it for marketing?
The same study concluded that 75% of consumers in the 18-26-year old age bracket really heavily on recommendations from friends before purchasing a product or service. These recommendations, likes, tags, and shares on social media sites can expose your company to potential customers within the extended sphere of your core market’s social networking contacts.

This can give your company an exponential amount of exposure without any extra effort on your part. Another benefit is immediacy. Everything happens in real time, so if there is a problem, it can be dealt with right away.

The question is, does a ‘like’ necessarily convert to a sale? It is very easy for someone to click a button, but that doesn’t always translate to hard sales figures.

So, which is better?
Intelligent use of either marketing avenue can ensure that your business rockets to new heights in terms of web traffic and lead generation. Solid, well-structured content that connects with your core market converts those leads into a solid base of satisfied customers.

When done well, either method can reinforce and enhance the other; they are two sides of the same coin. The same strategies that you employ in your SEO marketing can also be used to bolster your social media presence and vice versa.

Apps like Google Analytics provide you with information in hard data about the overall effectiveness of each of your web marketing strategies. You can use them to compare current traffic or go back over time to locate trends and fluctuations in your traffic patterns.

This data is a valuable tool to help you see where your efforts are paying off, where you can refine, or what you need to reduce or cut from your marketing budget altogether. When you compare those numbers to actual sales, you can clearly see what is working for you and focus your efforts there.