Perhaps the most difficult part of owning a small or medium-sized business is deciding how to split up the online marketing budget. As efficient and trackable as online statistics are, there is still some measure of chance when it comes to picking the right online mediums on which to advertise.

It is difficult to know with a great deal of certainty which avenues are most effective without spending a great deal of money. For instance, social marketing versus search marketing has been one of the great debates for many small business owners over the past few years.

Social marketing has certainly been gaining in acceptance and viability. Social marketing fan boys talk about its increased ability to find and target certain customers and more the subtle way in which it incorporates itself into the daily life of those targeted. Revenues for the major social media sites are definitely up because of advertisements. There are many businesses that swear by this technique and cannot get enough of it.

However, search engine marketing is still first and foremost in the minds of most businesses. It is also still first in ad revenues.

The lesson to take away is that even though social marketing has its place, search engine marketing is still the king, at least for the time being.

The targeted customers that you can reach through social marketing still do not fully justify taking all marketing dollars away from SEM. There are simply too many people that you can find through search marketing that you cannot find through social marketing. Depending on your demographics, you may completely miss your target by focusing on social marketing.

As a whole, social marketing tends to work for businesses that are focused on a demographic ages 30 and under. For those businesses who want the more affluent customers from Generation X (and some Gen Y), SEM is absolutely unbeatable.

This is not to say that social marketing cannot work completely in and of itself for businesses in certain industries. The secret to succeeding in any online marketing campaign is to analyze what is working best and pour all of your efforts into that. The second and most important step to online marketing success is to learn what defines success for each of the marketing mediums.

Social marketing, if that is your preferred avenue, should be determined by analytics such as the click through rate and the bounce rate rather than the visibility of your ad or the final conversion rates. Since you are targeting a specific audience that has already come recommended to you by the social circles of those people and the social media advertisement algorithms, visibility should not be at the top of your list.

However, because you know that these people are more likely interested in what you have to offer, if your click through rate is low, you know that you have some work to do in the wording of your ad.

Similarly, if your bounce rate is high, you know that you should possibly switch the ad link to a different page within your site. Perhaps linking to your homepage is not effective because people want to be taken straight to the product. Multivariate testing is a good way to determine what works in this situation.

If you are a search marketing plan, you are interested in visibility above click through rate. Your click through rate will be naturally lower through this medium. However, your bounce rate should remain somewhat constant with that of a social media campaign. After all, if they are bouncing away from the page that you link to, you should have them link to a different page until you find the customer preference.

Heightened visibility should also convert into a higher customer conversion rate no matter what. As long as you are realistic about the percentage of conversions, you should be able to define success in a way that will help you improve your business.

This guest post was written by Darin Carter of Search Marketing Made Easy.

Zac Johnson is a online marketer with 15 years of experience and also a blogger at and, as well as the author of Blogging Tips: Confessions of a Six Figure Blogger on

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