Every business needs to continually be looking at ways of driving more traffic towards their website. Some may think that as long as you are doing this, it doesn’t matter which method you choose – but they are wrong.

Two of the most popular digital marketing methods used are paid search and social media, but which is the best and what is right for you?

Comparing online marketing methods

Let’s look at both and put them head-to-head:

Paid search

  • When looking for something online, most people use the ‘Search’ function– if you don’t think this is true, apply this theory to yourself; if you are looking for something online, whether it be a new dress or a new home, don’t you go to your favourite search engine, such as Google and just type it in? A recent report showed that 61% of people use search engines when looking for something to buy. It therefore makes sense that if you want to be found, you need to be out there and seen with some powerful keywords.
  • You can see what people are really searching for – by using the freely available tools such as Google AdWords Keyword creator, you can get off to a great start. Punch in a few keywords or phrases and you will be able to see which are the most popular and have the most searches per month.
  • You can double up when using Google AdWords – if your paid search includes Google AdWords then take the time to customise the way you look in searches. For example, if you have a special offer or sale on, you can show this in the sponsored listings whilst having your usual website in the organic ones.

Social Media Marketing

  • You can get recommended with just a click – the same report showed that 75% of people looking to buy something in the 18 – 26 age group used social media site recommendations to guide them. Once you have a good following, a like, tag or share will enable your business to get found via these personal recommendations.
  • Knock any critics on the head immediately – with paid searches, online reputation management can be a constant headache; one bad review/report and the damage is done. Compare this to social media where you can communicate with anyone feeling disgruntled immediately and turn their dismay into a compliment. This also shows other customers that you genuinely care.
  • Choose to pay – the option is yours. If you want to spend money on Facebook ads or promoted Tweets, social media provides a great opportunity for you to increase traffic to your website as well as generating more fans and followers. Or you can just stick with the free option.

One versus the other

So the big question is, should you focus on one or the other; paid search rather than social media for your online marketing or should you do a bit of both? The thing is, the two are entirely different. Do a bit of investigative work. If you have Google Analytics on your website, look at the sources of all traffic and see where the top three come from. Look at the percentages for each. This will help you to make a decision. If your stats look something like:

Google 43%
Twitter 6%
Facebook 10%

Would you want to lose any of these? Look at the historical data too and see how your traffic has changed. Is the search engine traffic going up or down? Is Facebook on the up? If you want to play safe and not risk losing any traffic, then spending your time marking via a mix of all of them makes sense. By keeping an eye on your PPC management, watching the stats and reacting as they drop, you can boost when you need to.

But can paid search and social media help each other?

Yes! Once you have done your keyword research, you can use the same words/phrases on your social media sites. At the same time, make sure that you optimise all of the customisable entries that you can such as the name of your profile, image names or description. Google provides a great Chrome SEO Site Tool that will enable you to do this. Focus on things like title, meta descriptions and keywords, H1-H4 tags in order to boost your branding via the use of improved keyword placement, particularly if you are posting blogs.

Social media marketing can also help with your paid search. For example, if you are having problems with a bad entry in the search results relating to your brand, product or service, you can negate it or push it out of the way by creating a very positive impression via social media. When the post that you have created appears on the first page, your brand reputation is boosted and any bad stuff knocked for six.

Many buyers that use social media may also check out search engine results to ensure that they are reliable. As an example, if a Google search for a new computer or TV flags up a brand or name that you have never heard of, it makes sense to go and look at their Twitter/Facebook pages to see how they are being talked about and what their customers think of them. If they have plenty of recent status updates and are communicating with customers quickly and regularly, this puts a few ticks in the right boxes. Don’t see this? Then most people may steer clear.

And the winner is…

So there we have the low-down and the nitty-gritty on both paid search and social media marketing. You may have a personal preference as to which option you choose for your business, and this may dictate which one you commit the bulk of your energy or marketing budget towards.

But if you genuinely feel that neither one is better than the other and that in fact by using both social media advertising and paid search you can boost traffic to your website, then maybe a little bit of what you fancy from each is the motto of the day!