Online marketers have been speculating about whether search engine optimization will continue to be relevant as social sharing is growing in popularity. As we begin 2013 and businesses look to dominate their markets in the New Year, the answer to that question has very real consequences for businesses.

The short answer is yes, SEO will continue to matter in 2013. But as in the past, your online marketing strategy should not be solely focused on one tactic. Remember, it’s not a matter of search engine optimization vs. social media marketing. Because both of these tactics should ideally operate in tandem, it’s imperative that your company dedicates time to both.

We will keep a close eye on the SEO and social trends in 2013 as they continue to evolve. In the meantime, here are some compelling reasons why you shouldn’t count SEO out just yet.

People Still Use Search Daily

Search engines like Google are not going away any time soon. Google managed $14.1 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2012 alone, and 96 percent of all its revenue still comes from search-related advertising products. People are obviously still using search engines to answer their questions.

But the methods people use to search and find information are changing — and Google continues to tweak its search algorithm accordingly. For example, social signals are becoming more valuable to search engines and their users. Site relevance is no longer dictated solely by your site’s SEO, but also through your network’s interaction with the company. This is a major reason why having a balance between SEO and social is so important.

Technical SEO Still Has Value

In order for your website to be visible by search engines, you must make an effort at properly formatted, technically accurate, on-site SEO. That means your navigational architecture must be optimized and your XML map must not contain broken URLs. Your title tags, H1 tags and meta description tags, as elementary as they seem, should also be optimized.

This is less of an ongoing, monthly practice, so it pays to spend time up-front to make sure everything on your site is SEO friendly from the start.

You’re Not a Household Name Brand

One argument as to why search engine optimization is a dying art is that there’s been a shift in the way major publishers are getting content to their readers. Large media companies are increasingly generating more traffic through social sharing. For example, Scott Havens, SVP of Finance and Digital Operations of The Atlantic Media Company, says, “Sixteen months ago we received the same number of monthly referrals from search as social. Now 40 percent of traffic comes from social media.”

That sounds terrific, but your organization is probably not a major publishing company. Large publications like The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post are well-established brands with lots of brand capital. They create high-quality content on a daily basis and people already know who they are. That makes social sharing a logical and effective point for much of their traffic.

What about the rest of us? How can the millions of small businesses get traffic to their sites when no one really knows about them? The answer is still search — at least at first. This is why search engine optimization still has value. For example, if someone wants a cupcake and doesn’t know the area, Google is still one of the best ways for that customer to find the local item he or she is looking for.

Content Is Still King

Whether it’s for social or SEO, your company needs to create original content. And with the latest Panda update to Google’s search algorithm, there’s a greater focus on quality content than ever before.

If your content is of a high enough in value to be shared through social media channels, search engines take this activity into account and may index your site faster. Content still fuels organic traffic too; the more content you have, the more referring keywords your site has.

Perhaps the most important argument for SEO is that it converts your traffic. SEO leads have a 14.6 percent close rate, while outbound leads close a measly 1.7 percent. And that’s ultimately what your online marketing tactics are for — more business!

Online marketing and technology move at a frenetic pace. We’re always looking for the latest tactics. Sometimes we get so caught up with what’s new, we forget that there is still value in the old-school tactics. Search engine optimization is definitely changing, but now is not the time to completely abandon SEO for social. Find the right mix for your company and dominate your competitors in 2013.

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