Jayson Rodda
Jayson Rodda Head of Digital Marketing at Find Your Ideal Customers

What is better: SEO, Google Adwords or social media?

When looking to market your website, there are 3 key areas: SEO, Adwords & Social Media.

I am often told, I only want to proceed "my way" because I have either tried or talked with someone else that tried and failed with one method or another.

How did you find and evaluate the merits of each method for your business?

I would love to hear from anyone that believes only in one method, rather than using an integrated marketing strategy.

Why do you swear by one rather than another?

Top voted answer
Sandy Moore

Sandy Moore, Owner and Online Strategist at

Top 10% Website

Jayson, I never recommend anyone use AdWords in their marketing campaign unless they do one of the following 3 things.

1. Outsource Your AdWords Marketing Campaign

2. You have done an extensive course on how to effectively use AdWords

3. You are already an expert in this field.

Don't get me wrong AdWords works, but unless you are an expert you will just be throwing your money at Google.

Having started my business with virtually no marketing budget I utilised methods such as content marketing in conjunction with social media which worked brilliantly.  However, I would suggest that one strategy alone won't work as effectively as a combined strategy.

Especially when it comes to content marketing... you must have the correct marketing platform such as WordPress.org, your website and content must be fully optimised and you should also incorporated article marketing off page or even Press Releases to really get you on top of the search engines fast.

In regard to your statement "i only want to proceed "my way" because I have either tried or talked with someone else that tried and failed with one method or another"

I've heard this quite often over the years and when people say they have "tried and failed" that really means they quit using the strategy before it had time to stick.  Marketing your business online is not that difficult when you know how.... however you really need to be patient, the results will come.

All online marketing strategies work in different degrees of use and how they are implemented and patience is the key.

Jayson Rodda

Jayson Rodda, Head of Digital Marketing at Find Your Ideal Customers

Hi Sandy, I agree with your thoughts thanks for sharing. Have a look at an blog post I wrote called "Google adwords management cheat sheet for small budget". It is a step by step guide to start a campaign with small $. Hope that helps. Enjoy :)

Sandy Moore

Sandy Moore, Owner and Online Strategist at

Jayson, I was actually refering back to when I first started online and had a low budget. I'm on page one of the search engines now right in front of my target audience. I'm sure others will benefit a great deal from your post. I'm always looking for guest content if you are ever intersted in writing something for my marketing site?

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James Norquay

James Norquay, SEO Director at

It depends on your budget and you need to be smart with your money.

1. With Adwords in the Australian market the cost has gone up and up, my advice is to be smart with your Adwords spend do not blow it on silly keywords which are not going to convert. Find the keywords which convert and implement conversion tracking.

2. With SEO you have many areas to take care of, it can still provide the best ROI for your investment but the thing is results do not happen over night and it takes months to yield good results in high competition niches. It is about doing your research and making sure you target the right areas.

3. With Social you need to make sure you have to time to be active on a daily basis on the account, you need to reply to users and you need to post informative information about the brand. It can involve a bit of work yet results can be long lasting.

In the end of the day its a case by case basis, you need to test what works best for you on an on going basis. 

Jessica McGrath

Jessica McGrath, Marketing Consultant at Stoke Marketing

Although they all have very key roles in a marketing strategy, SEO should be considered crucial to start. It ensures that you have a very sound website and relevant content for those who know nothing about you but are looking for your service or product. Appearing in search for all the right reasons is key to being an upfront and transparent business and important for any first time visitor to your website.

Danielle Butler

Danielle Butler, Graphic Designer & Marketing Consultant at Web Ninja Pty Ltd

Totally agree with you Jessica. All have their roles but organic SEO would be my most important to drive targeted and pre-qualified leads to a website.

Gregory Ferrett

Gregory Ferrett, Editor at Monday Motivational Moment

Top 10% Selling Online

I agree with Sandy in regard to AdWords.I was fortunate to start using adwords in the first week they were available. In the three months following that week I saw the bid price for the key word 'Sales Training' go from just $0.10 a click to nearly $3.10 a click to be in position one. Today the main keywords are all dominated by majors and people like us need to be smart in the way we use Adwords or go broke quickly.

I think the key to online marketing is being patient, as mentioned by Sandy as well.

There is a big temptation by smaller organisations to buy Facebook likes, hits and Twitter followers. DO NOT BE TEMPTED! I have observed others who have tried this. One site I know (a person I advised not to follow this strategy) got over 250,000 facebook 'likes' after only a few weeks - but not one conversion and their online credibility was decimated. The only way to build a following is to build a real following. My own BLOG has almost 1,000 followers on Facebook - but each one of them reads my BLOG regularly and many of them I know personally.

Greg Ferrett

Jayson Rodda

Jayson Rodda, Head of Digital Marketing at Find Your Ideal Customers

Hi Greg, Patience is the key. As they say "Rome wasn't build in a day" Whilst the good old days of $0.05 clicks are long gone, businesses are making return from very high cost per click. I work with client who pays $50-$60 per click and making great ROI from spend. The keys are to profile your "ideal customer" and really understand the relationship between first time sale value & lifetime value this client can bring to your business. This helps provide perspective on the true value of leads and what you should be willing to pay. Once the concept is ingrained - $0.05 or $20 cost per click becomes far less relevant. I am just starting out and running a combination of SEO & PPC. Social is next challenge to conquer.

Jenny Spring

Jenny Spring, Managing Director at

Top 10% Selling Online

You didn't add blogging?

Gregory Ferrett

Gregory Ferrett, Editor at Monday Motivational Moment

good point - too many entrepreneurs do not value their own words and forget this important medium which adds an enourmouse amount of domain authority.

Tim Greig

Tim Greig, Owner at Green Galah Pty Ltd

Pretty sure blogging is accepted as being part of social media.

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Trish Fehon

Trish Fehon, Online Marketing Expert at

It entirely depends on your niche & where your customers "hang out" - if none are on FB then don't waste your money there, find where they do hang out first.

But really it's about testing, testing, testing. Then tweaking, tweaking, tweaking.

Off page SEO these days is more about "Content Marketing" (blogging), On page SEO is still crucial and done right will be very beneficial for your website & blog, done  wrong (or not at all) won't hurt your website (as such) but it certainly won't rank - unless there is little or no competition in your niche.

Adwords are effective in most niches, but again, test, test test, tweak, tweak, tweak.


Click Click Media

Click Click Media, Digital Marketing Agency at

Hi Jayson, choosing the right online marketing strategy depends heavily on your goals and budget. If it is for direct response, and quickly then AdWords, after running an AdWords account, you can use those keywords in SEO - which is a long-term strategy. However, the main issue depends on the landing page/website and whether or not is aimed at converting. 

Jayson Rodda

Jayson Rodda, Head of Digital Marketing at Find Your Ideal Customers

Thanks Ashleigh. Great point, conversion rate will make or break any adwords campaign. Far easier to double your conversion rate than 1/2 your cost per click.

Jayson Rodda

Jayson Rodda, Head of Digital Marketing at Find Your Ideal Customers

Thanks Ashleigh. Great point, conversion rate will make or break any adwords campaign. Far easier to double your conversion rate than 1/2 your cost per click.

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Neil Steggall

Neil Steggall, Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Top 10% Leadership

Thanks for the question and all of the answers. As someone looking to take a new (at least in Australia) company into this space in 2014 its a very confusing environment and not easy for the uninitiated to understand. Forums such as Savvysme are a great help 

Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang, Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

Thanks Neil, very encouraging to hear :)

Craig Reardon

Craig Reardon, Contributor at

Thanks Jayson, but I disagree on your three key areas.  As much as the marketing tactics change, the marketing fundamentals remain and the key one here is that of the 'marketing mix'.

This marketing mix (choice of marketing tactics) is different for every single business because each differs in budget, market, skills, strategy and a range of other factors - though there is some uniformity within industries.

As much as I'm an online marketing advocate (as well), the traditional media will still drive traffic more than online media if you have the budget and message.   

The three you mention are now very important, but they should be considered alongside traditional media rather than instead of.  :)

Jayson Rodda

Jayson Rodda, Head of Digital Marketing at Find Your Ideal Customers

Thanks Craig, totally agree that there are other marketing tactics beyond online that can outperform or be better suited to individual businesses. This question was specifically in reference to online, which many business owners will have dedicated budgets, limited knowledge & resources. It's becoming increasingly difficult for small business owners to properly resource a digital marketing strategy, so compromises will be required. I wanted to hear from business owners that swear by one method or another and why. The "why" part of the question was what I wanted to flush out. Would be interesting to extend out to broader range of tactics including traditional marketing. With the switch to online, I'm sure there must be some forgotten or less hyped about tactics where businesses are getting traction. What would you recomend as being some other tactics that owners of an ecommerce store should consider. Lets say its small and there is a budget of $2-$3k per month.

Zac Johnson

Zac Johnson, CEO at Blogging.org

This really depends on a wide range of factors, such as how much time and money you have, and if you are generating money online with your traffic.

SEO is great for the longterm business model and generating free traffic, but it's also one of the most competitive areas as well. You will need to have a well-established site to rank for decent keywords.

ADWORDS is the best way to get instant and high-quality traffic, but you are going to be paying for all of it. This can add up fast in competitive niche markets.

SOCIAL MEDIA is very effective, but more so when you have some advertising dollars to spend. I would recommend taking a look at Facebook's self-serve advertising platform.

Be sure to consider each of the options above when trying to generate new traffic, leads and sales online.

Tim Stokes

Tim Stokes, Managing Director at

Having been 'in' marketing for 28 years and mentor of marketing I have some points of views from looking at the facts - i.e. the results of marketing from what hundreds of businesses are experiencing.

Starting with social media marketing, its my least favourite strategy. Posting often leads to nothing but wasted time. 

With all marketing from experience it needs to start to show some form of 'encouraging' results within weeks or a month, even for SEO. That point of view upsets a lot of marketing service providers!

The challenge with every marketing strategy is in the majority of cases not the strategy chosen but the execution of it. 

Most businesses have a website and it can and is a fantastic lead generation tool, however over 90% of all websites are very poorly executed. They are built by programmers more than marketers and so while they can look pretty, they fail to generate quality and high volumes of leads. The majority of websites fail in dozens of areas in how they are built from the design, to the wording, to the offers, to the page types and contents to the SEO on page. 

The number one reason why marketing execution is poor is because the focus is on how great the business is, showcasing its products and services and the greatly overused use of the word "we" everywhere. This self-promotion focus is the primary reason why any marketing strategy will fail. 

Keeping poor execution, in mind social media it why most businesses will fail with it. That and the very poor reach of any posts. These days you're lucky if 3% of fans/followers see any post from a business. Good execution can increase it significantly but that execution requires hours of research and investigation. 

Rarely will I meet a business owner who can state their social media marketing is working for them. Less than 5% do.

Google Adwords.
This is the best way to lose $1,000,000 if ever you wanted to, and get nothing in return. No other platform (except for perhaps TV) can burn up cash for little result as fast.

Execution is the number one reason, however there's another big reason. 

The allowable Acquisition Cost to buy a customer. 

Talking to expert Adwords managers has revealed that it is very common to pay 25% minimum and up to 50% or 100% of the average sale value seen, just for the advertising cost. 

How many businesses can afford to pay 25% or 50% of the sale value? Some can like high margin retailers. 

As the marketing company is focused on "Cost Per Lead" and not "Customer Acquisition Cost" many businesses aren't making money from their PPC advertising. 

Determining what the allowable acquisition cost is per sale/product/service is wise, before thinking of any PPC campaign. 

28 years of measuring advertising results and profits on sales has shown 10% of the average sale value as being an excellent figure. If a business sells a product at $100 then it would be 10% of the sale value can go to advertising to convert the lead into a sale. This may require tracking all leads to a source, which is achievable although sometimes challenging. 

Retailers can pay more than 10% as their rent is their primary 'acquisition' cost. In a service business, it has to achieve a net profit ROI on advertising spending so it can keep on paying the cash for advertising. 

Excellent, highly experience Google Ads management providers can assist with lowering the acquisition cost of buying customers and they need to. If they only want to focus on Cost Per Lead then find someone else. 

Google Ads can be very profitable, if you find a great management company. That's your greatest challenge.

I can only recommend 2 businesses after looking for many years. It's so complicated it needs a very focused company with many years of experience.

SEO is the most controversial marketing topic there is. Every business wants to rank number 1 and are willing to pay (gamble) on companies to assist them to achieve this almost impossible goal. So many promises are in the space on getting businesses to position 1 or on page 1. 

SEO definitely works as a good strategy, for some but not all businesses and that's only if you can afford the learning curve and patience for results that can take months or years. 

There are "white hat" and "black hat" methods that can be used with SEO. Look up these phrases to learn about them. 

I don't like the 'lock-in for 12 month contract' approach of SEO providers as the business takes on all the risk with no guarantee of results. 

The challenge with SEO, Google Ads or Social Media is not having a clue what's important to understand with any of them. So business owners pay for service providers with a lot of "hope" they will receive value for what they pay.

Ignorance is extremely expensive. 

For 22 years I've mentored business owners on marketing principles, starting with how to measure their results. It's always where I start and if you're reading this post to try to identify what you need to know about the 3 main forms of digital marketing, I suggest you start with education. 

Ask questions online in Google searches such as... 'how to measure SEO results', or critical ingredients of 'google ad results', or 'social media success ingredients'. Learn about marketing and even pay some money to learn from a mentor or from a course etc. You pay once and then benefit for years and years, but without education you risk thousands of dollars for years and years. 

SEO starts with on-page work and that makes the biggest and fastest difference. 

I like SEO because of its rapid improvements - i.e. 2 to 4 weeks to see a traffic increase, when well executed.  That's if its started with on-page work first. 

All 3 types of digital marketing can be successful for most businesses however, its 100% determined by the execution of the strategy.

That said, social media success doesn't mean every platform will work great for a business. Facebook is terrible for my business whereas LinkedIn is good. Choosing which platform to focus on is the first step with social media and asking if its even likely to be successful. You probably won't get a truthful answer from a platform 'expert' which are abundant these days.

Keep that in mind if you're considering spending money on any form of digital marketing and all the best with your success. 

Yee Trinh

Yee Trinh, Cofounder at

Thanks for the detailed response Tim. I think it's safe to say for most businesses, whether you're looking at SEO, Adwords, social media or otherwise, it's a costly exercise for the inexperienced. More often than not, bringing experts into the business whether you outsource or hire in-house is the best way to go about it. Everyone will tell you what amazing work they've been able to do and if uneducated in the space, it is nothing but a gamble. Relying on someone's word is dangerous territory. Whatever it is you do, educate yourself about the basics of SEO, Adwords, social media. Make sure you know how to measure the performance and progress. Without which, you're months in and $'000s out of pocket with not much to show for.

Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang, Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

Top 10% Social Media

Although I don't think there is a "best" this question is a great one :)

Personally SEO is really key for businesses that need high traffic, whereas social is great for businesses that require a lot more loyalty and branding - e.g. businesses that rely on heavy customisation or differentiation to make the sale.

SEO usually drives more than 50% of website traffic for most businesses however there are many businesses that grew from just a social following e.g. BlackMilk - because of their business category. BlackMilk is a fashion brand that relies on differentiation and aspiration and peer influence that is more effective on social than via SEO.

If Blackmilk had a strong SEO strategy they may not make as many sales because who will buy a pair of leggings for up to $100 from a site they found by typing in a keyword "black leggings" vs. someone who has seen the amount of love this brand gets on social media and seeing their friends and influencers wear the brand and talk about it. Yes social will make me pay over $100 for a pair of leggings.

Although it's important not to discriminate against channels, online requires you to be doing things in all channel, the question is where should I focus knowing who my target market is and what my brand is going to stand for.

In addition I think these channels also target different stages of the purchase cycle with SEO and PPC targeting people that are already looking to buy, whereas from social it's a longer process of just "being around and familiar" which can happen before they have an intention to buy. Being a familiar name when they do make it to the stage of buying will give you lots of credibility over other brands when they do.

PPC also is extremely expensive and should only be used once you have an intention to optimise that channel e,g. getting really good at landing pages that convert as well as a robust sales funnel to capture information and lead to the sale.


Vahe Arabian

Vahe Arabian, SEO Consultant at Online Marketing Works

Social media and social media optimisation can also power your SEO efforts - hence you are leveraging owned and earned media channels

Click Click Media

Click Click Media, Digital Marketing Agency at


Just been looking through, and whether or not which on is 'expensive, all depends on the ROI and whether or not it is working for you. Regardless, with PPC, having a well built campaign can get you far! If you have a strategy coming into AdWords, for example a promotion, then you may see that it can actually work.    

Narine Poghosyan

Narine Poghosyan, Community Manager at

Top 10% App Development Get quote

I agree with James It depends on your budget  and  your features goals.

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