There has been a lot of talk over the past several years about the intersection of search and social. Many suggest that both will inevitably merge in a meaningful way, and there's good reason to believe they may be right.

But when it comes to SEO, just how big a role is social playing?

According to SEOmoz's 2012 SEO Industry Survey, the biggest name in social -- Facebook -- has become a big focus for SEOs. As noted by MediaPost's Laurie Sullivan:

When asked which tasks SEO professionals spend time doing overall, 76% said they set up and run Facebook business pages; 74% analyze, track site speed and page-load times; 69% analyze competitors' backlinks; 64% analyze competitors' content; 64% set up and manage Google+ business profiles; 63% analyze data in Google Analytics; and 59% blog.

The fact that SEOs are involved in managing social networking profiles isn't exactly surprising: the demand for assistance with social is high and SEOs are well-positioned to win this business. But SEOmoz's numbers are also mind-boggling: when it comes to "inbound marketing focused actions", as a percentage, more SEOs are setting up and managing Facebook Pages than looking at analytics, evaluating competitor backlinks and content, producing content or dealing with duplicate content -- activities that many of us would consider even more crucial to SEO as it's generally defined.

The lines between SEO and social media marketing are blurring

The big question: is this a good thing or a bad thing?

While there's no doubt that Facebook -- and social generally -- is an important part of the online marketing mix, SEOmoz's survey data would seem to suggest that the lines are blurring between SEO and social media marketing. For clients, particularly those that only have a vague understanding of SEO and what it entails, that may be problematic. After all, even though from a high-level SEO and social may increasingly go hand-in-hand, when it comes to the details that drive results, expertise matters.

An experienced SEO may not be the right person to set up and manage a Facebook Page. Likewise, letting your social media consultant handle your SEO may mean you're not getting the level of SEO knowledge you think you are.

If SEOmoz's data is any indication, that is a lesson that many companies may learn the hard way, which could be quite painful given how many companies, particularly those that have been behind the digital curve, are increasing their investments in both SEO and social.

Patricio Robles

Published 23 August, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (6)

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Graeme Benge

Graeme Benge, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Many disciplines are merging now. FB is a platform where a community interacts and most industries need to have a presence. Optimising a site means putting the user at the fore front not just a search engine so social has become another aspect of what is now Digital Marketing rather than SEO.

almost 6 years ago


Ed Lamb

The person or agency overseeing SEO needs to lead content strategy. How that content gets distributed/shared across channels, once it's produced, would be part of SEO. But managing the social profiles part of SEO? No, SEOs should support as necessary but not run social pages.

almost 6 years ago


Syed Noman Ali

Its not a SEO its help in SEO as a social signal search engine checking social signals and promote them according to real social share...

almost 6 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

Obviously I'm biased since I work in SEO, but I think it's better to have an SEO person manage your social media than a social media person manage your SEO. A good SEO provider is going to understand how to leverage social media on its own as well as for SEO. I don't know if a social media expert would be able to do as much SEO work if they didn't come from an SEO background.

almost 6 years ago

James Perrin

James Perrin, Digital Communications Specialist at Feefo

I completely agree with Nick. Whilst an SEO can manage Social Media profiles, the same is not necessarily true of a Social Media experts performing SEO. Having said that, it really depends on the goal of your Digital Marketing campaign; with social media still in its infancy, it's very difficult to measure ROI. So whilst employing Social Media experts to engage and interact with users is fantastic, if these users are not converting into customers, there's a problem. SEOs seem to be more rounded in this sense, as there seems to be an end goal when using social media; exposing and sharing content, branding, PR, but ultimately to drive traffic to one's site. It's all part of the Digital Marketing landscape, and for any online marketer, you have to be a jack of all trades, not just a master of one.

almost 6 years ago

Michael Rock

Michael Rock, Owner at Rocktek

SEO will continue to DOMINATE even as social media platforms grow. Even with "social signals" being given a higher relevance by Google and Bing they still have to have rich content to keep search relevant.

Facebook has somewhere around 80,000 wall posts and 500,000 comments made every minute. Imagine trying to write an algorithm for sorting up that much "Social Noise" and separating it from relevant content!

almost 6 years ago

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