You’ve probably heard the expression, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This is especially true when it comes to using search engines and social media to market your small business. Your customers are using both, and the existing web infrastructure involves an interplay between the two that you have to be prepared for.

You don’t want to get left in the dust when your customers are turning to these relatively new tools for guidance. If you fail to fully embrace either one, and you might lose ground in both. Want to know why? Here are a few critical reasons it’s a good idea to use both search and social media in your online marketing strategy.

Search and Social Are Constantly Evolving

Search engine and social media marketing are both always changing, and you never know when a change to either one of them might affect your business. That’s one of the main reasons you should be working on an effective campaign for each. Take a moment to think about the traffic that your website gets today. Imagine if you were to lose 80% of your Google search engine traffic. Could this actually happen, and more importantly, could your business survive?

In fact, this scenario has already happened. Earlier this year, Google made a major change — known as the “Panda Update” — to its search algorithm. This change caused a wide variety of websites to lose their keyword rankings and to become invisible to search engines virtually overnight. Many of the affected sites have still not recovered the traffic (or the sales) they lost in the process.

SEO businesses also felt the crunch. Core service offerings like article marketing (which depends heavily on search engine ranking) were greatly affected by Google’s changes. Some SEO clients actually fired their search engine optimization agencies, blaming them for the dramatic reduction in search engine traffic.

On the social media side, Facebook also caused quite a disruption to businesses when it changed its Facebook Page design. Countless businesses that had designed customized tabs and specifications for the old “fan pages” had to have their business Pages completely revamped to adhere to the requirements of the new Facebook Pages. For many businesses this was a costly and unexpected undertaking.

Search is Starting to Rely on Social

Another reason that you need both search and social elements in your marketing: Search engines are starting to incorporate social media signals in their rankings. Google began to incorporate tweets and other social media status updates into its real time search function, then decided to create their own version of the Facebook Like button — the Google +1 – and have it show up in search results. In another example of the blurring of the lines between social media and search, Microsoft’s search engine Bing incorporates Facebook updates in its results. If you want to be successful in search, you also have to consider the number of social media signals your site is receiving to boost its authority.

That explains why you need social media elements for effective search results — but do you also need search elements in your social media toolkit? The answer would seem to be yes. Basic on-site search optimization elements like effective page titles and meta descriptions are now showing up on various social media applications when people share your content. For example, web page titles show up in some retweet applications, so you’ll want to make sure that elements like your “TITLE” tag are both SEO and Twitter-friendly.

Your Customers Are Using Both

Last, but certainly not least, you must consider that your customers are not just searchers or social media users. They’re both — using search and social media to find what they’re looking for online. When it comes to researching a product or service, many people will look for a business on search engines first. Then, when they find the business, they’ll check the website to see if that business has a Facebook Page or an account on Twitter.

Here’s where the social proof kicks in. If they go to Facebook and see that 20 of their friends also like the same business, they will immediately feel more comfortable and will be more likely to engage with that business. The same process occurs on Twitter. When a person sees his or her trusted followers already engaging with a business, it acts as an unspoken endorsement. To make the best impression possible, you’ll want your business to be prominent in search and popular on social media.

Does your business focus primarily on search, social media — or both? Share your experiences in the comments below.

[Image credit: Ian Sane, Orin Zebest, Les Chatfield, Elvert Barnes]