Google AdWords, SEO or Social Media – Which is best for your business?

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Google AdWords, SEO or Social Media – Which is best for your business?
Diverse People Working and Marketing Concept

We are often asked by companies where to focus their marketing budget: Should it be Social Media? Organic Search? Or Paid Ads? It’s a common question and in short it depends on your objectives: Do you want to attract direct sales? Do you need to increase your brand reach? How much budget do you have and what returns do you need?

There is no “catch all” answer and every business is different so while your thinking about your objectives, let’s take a look at what each channel offers.


Google AdWords (Pay Per Click Advertising)

Google AdWords is Google’s pay per click platform. In short, you decide a budget, set up some adverts, add a list of keywords and you’re away. Your ads will start showing within a few minutes and you are billed every time someone clicks your ads. (There’s more to it of course, but for the sake of this blog, let’s keep it simple!)

I’ve managed 100’s of AdWords campaigns for a vast variety of businesses ranging from Locksmiths to Law firms and while it would be foolish to assume AdWords works best for everyone, it does work very well for the majority of advertisers.

The reason it works well is because when managed properly, it allows us to measure every visit, sale, telephone call and what contribute to that sale or call (a conversion). When we can understand exactly what leads to sales we can optimise a campaign by doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t. This usually leads to a degree of scale meaning that for every £X spent the returns are £Y. It then becomes a case of throwing as much £X at it to increase £Y in the same proportion. We can also react instantly, add promotions to ads, change keywords, target your customers via search, display and even their email.

In short, AdWords will give quicker and more scalable returns than other channels and by increasing ad spend, your sales should increase proportionally.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

The first thing you should understand about SEO is that it’s a long game. And 1, 2, 6 and 12 months is not a long time in SEO terms. SEO (if performed correctly) can give excellent results as your returns should steadily increase but investment should remain broadly the same.

But, It takes investment and time before you start feeling the results.

The second thing you should understand about SEO is that it’s a marketing activity. Now that might sound strange but there is a common misconception that SEO is a method of “gaming” Google to rank highly for your “number 1” search term (If this sounds familiar, please, please have a read of this blog.)

Google’s objective is to provide the best result for a searcher. The best result is not decided by how many links you can buy or how many keywords you can stuff into a web page. It’s much more intelligent than that (at least nowadays it is!).

To be number 1 in your industry (on Google), you have to be number 1 in your industry.

This means, providing a good service, having a great product and a website which works on multiple devices (i.e. mobile) and is easy to use should be your primary focus. It’s this approach which is synonymous with the most visible websites and this is exactly what Google wants.

A slightly simplistic example, but my point is this: If you look after your customers and follow Google’s rulebook (the Google Webmaster Guidelines) you will increase your visibility. Remember, though: Just like in the offline world, it takes time to become the industry number 1 and that means it will take time for you to DESERVE to be ranked number 1 on Google.

In short, SEO will take (much) longer to give a positive ROI but ROI can increase with little to no additional investment.

Social Media

Your clients have social media accounts, it stands to reason if your business is active, they’ll see you and buy from you right?


While sales from Social Media do occur, it’s unlikely to give you any scalable solution to selling your product online. For branding, it’s brilliant but for sales, not so much. But that makes perfect sense if we need to buy something the majority of us head to Google and search for it (which is ways Search Ads or SEO is better for direct sales – people are searching for products and ads / SEO is helping them find you).

Social does have huge advantages, though: Engaging with your customers and displaying your industry knowledge is a great way to build trust and develop a captive audience you can engage with. Pretty much every leading brand is active on social to ensure they are engaging with their customers and target market but Social Media is not their main source of sales.

In short, Social Media is great for branding but think of it as word of mouth marketing.


So which channel should you invest in?

Back to your objectives:

Sales with “quick” returns: AdWords (Remember, quick doesn’t mean instant, “quick” often means a few months!)

Long term, scalable sales: AdWords / SEO

Brand Awareness: Social Media / AdWords / SEO

In a perfect world, doing everything is always preferable but, if you have a limited budget, focus on the one channel that will help you reach your objectives. Spreading your marketing investment too thinly will be counter-productive and you’ll probably not feel much benefit. It’s better to focus on the channel that aligns best with your commercial objectives and then re-invest in additional channels later on.