5 Reasons to Opt for Search Engine Marketing Instead of Social Media Marketing

Businesses willing to promote their products and services online face the inevitable need to choose the most efficient marketing strategies for their unique needs. As noted in an article by Forbes, they have to take into account elements such as:

  • Financial limitations;
  • Local or global focus;
  • Targeted demographics;
  • Consumer persona characteristics;
  • Internal capabilities.

Depending on these and other characteristics, smaller companies were generally advised to choose social media marketing (SMM) in the past as the most cost-effective tool for reaching their prospective audiences. As opposed to it, traditional search engine marketing (SEM) was considered something more suitable for large corporations with specialized marketing departments. As well as, substantial budgets for developing and launching promotional campaigns supported by thousands of banner impressions and contextual advertisements.

However, the situation has changed substantially over time. Modern search engine algorithms presently allow local businesses to promote themselves in search outputs via geotargeting or get instantly shown on Google Maps to reach their prospective consumers with unparalleled effectiveness. These changes substantiate the need to revise many of these ‘tried-and-true’ assumptions about SMM and SEM since firms with limited resources may actually be better off using the second option in the 2020s as opposed to SMM becoming progressively more expensive over the years.

Below, we analyze 5 reasons to opt for search engine marketing instead of social media marketing.

1. Greater Control Over the Course of Your Marketing Campaigns

A group of people gathering around a table in an office and planning for their work.

In the social media world, most of the heavy lifting occurs on the platform side, which may be both an advantage and a disadvantage. On the one hand, you simply have to pay money for ad impressions, prepare high-quality advertising materials, wait for the first shares and reposts, and hope that your ad goes viral. This is an easy-to-understand approach for companies of all sizes that works like a repeated cycle of ‘fire and forget’.

With that being said, you have little control over the whole process in terms of seeing where the traffic to your social media comes from, what the bounce rates are, and whether you are reaching your target audiences. With more than 7 million advertisers presently using paid Facebook options, it is no wonder that the platforms may not be willing to provide full control to individual companies willing to customize their campaigns in order to ‘cut through the noise’ more effectively than their rivals.

On the other hand, search engine marketing offers such instruments as:

  • keywords optimization;
  • search engine optimization (SEO);
  • analysis of all incoming traffic;
  • mobile-first website design;
  • development of quality backlinks;
  • optimization of website content for better organic search traffic;
  • conversions rate analysis;
  • etc.

As you can see, most of these tools are available ‘on your side of the bargain’. While this exposes you to higher risks of failure, experienced marketers find this greater control valuable in terms of fine-tuning their campaigns and optimizing their website performance over time.

2. Local Search is More Effective with SEM

A globe with a pin on it on a chevron background.

Continuing the weapon analogies, social media marketing is similar to carpet-bombing tactics where you bombard all users by sharing some matching characteristics with your advertisements. This may work well for a VPN service or some fast-moving consumer goods like a new cookie product from a popular brand. This may not work well for a small local business primarily interested in consumers from its adjacent area. The development of search engine’s geotargeting capabilities makes them a more suitable tool for such firms in a variety of marketing scenarios such as,

  • new dwellers walking around the area looking for a laundry service or a cafe with good reviews;
  • a person with an almost discharged smartphone looking for a small restaurant nearby;
  • office workers interested in buying some hot food during their break;
  • people looking for a good printing service in close proximity;
  • etc.

In most of these cases, proper keyword marketing and local positioning in search engine outputs can work better than social media marketing. While Google Maps does not offer shares or reposts, your business profile can be rated and reviewed by your customers, which gradually builds its perceived trustworthiness and online reputation.  

3. Your Prospective Consumers are Already Interested

Three asian men and women looking at a cell phone.

In social media marketing, you largely rely on user persona characteristics such as demographics and assume that a person possessing them may be interested in your product. However, these predictions may not be accurate if they are not based on extensive focus group testing. From a strategic standpoint, this means that you are playing a guessing game trying to determine whether some consumer characteristics will increase the possibility of conversion.

In the case of search engine marketing, the customer is already interested in the type of products and services you are willing to offer. The competition in this sphere comes from alternative offerings from your rivals in your industry or your region of presence. This means that you can focus on studying their unique inefficiencies and optimizing your website content to actually win this game.

Another less obvious advantage of selecting SEM over SMM is the lack of need to engage with your audience. Social media platforms are based on two-way communication. Prospective consumers expect you to be available on a 24/7 basis and to instantly respond to their queries. But are all small brands really ready for this? Investing money in 24/7 support is a costly decision that may not create proportional profits.

However, the inability to provide an instant response may result in the loss of many clients drawn to your page via paid advertisements. On the contrary, SEM works as a passive tool guiding your website visitors through their customer journeys without your assistance. It is still increasing your conversion results even when you are away from the keyboard.

4. Search Engines Do Not Own Online Stores

A group of people at a POS terminal with a laptop and a phone.

Let’s face it – many social media platforms are actively looking to diversify their main business by entering new areas in the 2020s. As we all know, Facebook Shops and Instagram Shops are effectively transforming two of the most popular platforms into marketplaces right now. However, this also comes at a cost for business customers who are slowly but steadily drawn to this format of sales bringing increasingly hefty commissions to these companies.

In this closed-loop ecosystem, you invest your money in social media platforms twice. The first time you pay them for advertising your products and services. The second time you pay the fees for hosting an online store on their servers and processing your orders via them. While this may look like a win-win situation for smaller brands, they rarely consider the long-term perspective.

The Wall Street Journal draws a grim picture of such companies being forced to pay increasing fees for both of these services even despite the low user engagement throughout the pandemic period. This is an extremely concerning sign since you are effectively investing your hard-earned money into a third-party resource that can legally delete your account and completely eliminate your online presence, brand power, and sales revenues with a couple of clicks or a simple database error. Concerning, isn’t it?

5. Consumer Base Ownership is Not Compromised

Two woman at a hair salon with a tablet in hand interacting with each other.

Well, the previous point brings us to the most problematic of the five reasons. All marketers are looking to imitate the ‘Apple trick’ called ‘consumer lock-in’. They want clients to be isolated within their ecosystem of offerings and decrease the number of their contact points with competitor offerings. The bad news is you have zero control over your customer database if you prioritize SMM over SEM.

Let’s consider some practical implications of using social media platforms as your primary marketing instrument,

  • You have limited control over the process of the customer journey occurring on a standardized third-party resource.
  • You cannot embed your own marketing funnel within your website to organize it in the most efficient way.
  • The platform can easily offer ‘alternative products and services’ from your direct competitors in recommendations to customers.
  • You cannot use pop-ups, limited-time offers, and promotional discounts that are traditionally utilized on most company websites to stimulate up-selling and cross-selling.


5 Good Reasons to Opt for SEM Instead of SMM: Conclusion.

Summing this up, the use of SMM means that you are developing a database of customers that does not effectively belong to you. While it may seem like a valuable marketing asset, you can lose it due to a single Facebook outage like the one that happened in October 2021 or due to a violation of some internal corporate policies of such platforms.

On the contrary, the use of search engine marketing does not grant Google or other search engines any control over your client database. Any prospective client reaching your website via the outputs of their online queries will browse your ecosystem of offerings, use the payment systems of your choice, and be exposed to your up-selling or cross-selling offerings on their customer journey.

Google has no vested interest in your business interactions and does not get any additional income from it. These considerations strongly suggest that the use of SEM may be a more sustainable choice from the long-term perspective. It represents an investment into your own assets and a customer database that cannot be taken away from you in the future.

Author: Ellie Richards
This article is written by Ellie Richards. Ellie is an Online Marketing Manager for Original PhD, specializing in PhD research paper help. She specializes in research, content, and article writing on various topics, including Education, Marketing, and Technology.

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Souvik BanerjeeWeb Developer & SEO Specialist with 15+ years of experience in Open Source Web Development specialized in Joomla & WordPress development. He is also the moderator of this blog "RS Web Solutions".