Why I Chose SEO Over Social Media to Boost My Online Presence

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Here’s how deleting my social media accounts freed me to write what I want whenever and however I want to write it.

For many years, social media was a major part of my existence. It’s how I reconnected with people from my past, stayed in touch with my current friends, and met some really great people, my wife Thomas included. It was even a large part of my job as a digital marketer for over a decade, from 2007 to 2020. Even now, in my private life, I continued to use social media all the way into this year. On September 6, 2022, however, I swore off social media permanently and closed my accounts.

Not only has social media gotten me less than eight-tenths of a percentage point of my website traffic over the past two years, it became nothing but a time-suck. Even after limiting myself to only about a half-hour a day checking my remaining social media profiles on Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin, I find myself wishing for that time back. So, beyond my website automatically posting links to new posts to Twitter, just to keep it active, I am effectively banning myself entirely from it.

Why this sudden declaration? Honestly, my usage of social media declined precipitously in 2021, as I no longer had my freelance marketing business to advertise and promote. But, what finally drove me to finally give social media the big middle finger was what I saw my wife going through. Once upon a time, social media brought her about 90 percent of her website traffic and interaction. Now, she’s lucky to get a few of her Facebook friends and a couple of Twitter followers to check anything out. On my end, my once successful #writerslift posts are lucky to get four replies, the number my very last post ever got.

Another driving force in my decision to swear off social media was a literary agent who told Thomas that you have to spend eight hours a day, seven days a week on social media. She also told her to dumb down all of her work into five hundred words or less, use a cartoon icon as an avatar, and give in to whatever your followers want. This “advice” infuriated me so much that I began seriously considering the decision I finally made.

As it turns out, my personal website is humming along just fine with hundreds of daily visitors, some regular, but many of them new. How do I get 95 percent of my web traffic? SEO. The rest is direct, people literally typing my website into their address bar or clicking it from their bookmarks (I would hope!)

Why choose SEO over social media? That’s because SEO is about the big picture. It’s a lot of effort, sure. You have to identify low-hanging fruit topics, recognize opportunities for content gaps, and analyze which trends maintain or grow over time. It involves building cornerstone and skyscraper content. My website already has quite a few of these posts, which receive dozens of views each without me having to do a thing, thanks to the ecosystem of links I’ve built into my content web.

That’s right: a website is an ecosystem of links, internal and external. Best of all, if you self-host your own blog or website, which you most definitely should, you own all of the content and no one can tell you what to do with it. (Unless of course you have sponsors, but that’s a whole different topic altogether.) Yet, most people are content with just living on their Facebook fan pages, Twitter profiles, Linkedin resumes, etc. This is simply not healthy. Every single person on the planet with internet access should have a self-hosted website; there is no excuse!

On the other hand, social media has become about micromanagement of things that don’t matter: likes, reshares, and comments are great, but they are not the be-all end-all of existence. Most people who do interact don’t actually engage with your content off of that particular social network. The algorithms built into sites like Facebook (which I left in 2020 for personal reasons), Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and others are designed to keep you in a feedback loop on that social network.

In fact, the only reason I didn’t erase all of my social media after a firestorm in 2020 where my decade-plus experience in digital marketing was seen as a “threat” to young, narcissistic social media marketers was to stay the course just to spite them. Also, I wanted to have a way to help promote Thomas’s work, but I was finding that my re-shares were getting, at most, an extra click or two.

Now, this isn’t to say that social media isn’t incredibly valuable for a lot of people. The problem is that people rely on social media for their livelihood, and they shouldn’t! Especially for an introverted writer of essays, poetry, and articles about trading card games and pocket monsters, it simply has become no longer worth my effort or time. All of my energy has been re-diverted to making my website a palace for my creativity, and it will be spoiled with all of the riches of thought and effort I have left within my tired, battered body.

Due to years of overwork and a serious bout with cancer that nearly killed me, I suffer from chronic pain and fatigue daily. Some days I can barely get up to go to the bathroom, never mind work on my website. If I relied primarily on social media, then my website would completely suffer for it, due to my inability to be active for hours at a time as I once was. However, my experience has always been that more than half of all of web traffic has come from Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc.

However, by investing what good days I have into optimizing my articles for search engines, I let the search engine spiders do their crawling goodness and do most of my marketing work for me. Yes, doing SEO work is much more involved and requires hours of dedication to constant tweaking. But, the ROI is massively improved; this is how I was so successful in my career, taking businesses from barely staying open to having more work than they knew what to do with; you’re welcome!

Unfortunately, because I began to push SEO more than social media, I became branded as “old-school” and my jobs went to young, fresh college grads who live their entire lives on social media. I even was attacked by a few of them publicly who said I was out of date and I should get lost. So, I did, knowing full well that if these social media sites eventually go away or become pointless to use, I’d still have my SEO.

Now, I must admit, I’ve spent the vast majority of the past two years simply organizing my archives and posting things as they seem up to an acceptable standard. I neglected to do serious SEO for anything other than my pocket monster analysis or Magic the Gathering card reviews that had been previously optimized anyway, simply because I figured why not focus on what already ranks? However, that means I’ve been neglected my non-gaming content for far too long, which is why I invested in a lifetime membership to Ubersuggest to help me identify new keyword opportunities in revising my old content. (By the way, Ubersuggest is not a sponsor, but hey, if you’d like to give me a shout-out, Neil Patel, you’re awesome!)

While my wife is still active on social media, I simply cannot bother with it anymore. I have limited energy, and like anyone else, limited time on this earth. So, I need to put my time and energy into what I know best, which is SEO. Social media has become a numbers game full of fake plastic caricatures, a cesspool of fake news and alternative facts. I wasted enough time as a social media marketer to know that simply having the profiles and having your blogs auto-post to them is more than enough for these social media empires to take from me. I don’t need this crap anymore for the one random click I’ll get every day or two.

Perhaps the best reason for me to eject social media entirely from my life is the fact that, honestly, simply having these accounts made me lazy. I would post something, share it to my channels, and forget about it. Then, when I would come back and check how that post did, and saw it did almost nothing, I’d just shrug and move on to the next post. I became locked into the feedback loop of the idea that if it didn’t take off on social media, then it wasn’t worth posting at all.

If anything, this feedback loop destroyed my ability to produce the best possible content; as long as I was keeping to a schedule and keeping my online presence active, then I was doing my job. I’m sure to be far from alone from feeling this way. So, if your own social media habits have led you down this path, I strongly advise that you boycott social media for at least a week or two and truly reevaluate your creative process. I can almost guarantee that social media is holding you back from unleashing your true creative potential.

I’m sure plenty of “experts” will come and bark up my tree telling me I’m a complete idiot. But, I’m sitting here right now, watching my numbers continue to grow as I tweak and tinker with my vast archive of words. I suggest that every single one of you reading this take a moment to find yourself a good domain name, purchase some hosting from a trusted self-hosted WordPress service, and start a blog. Even if you just use it as a hub for your social media profiles, trust me, you will not regret your choice. You are much better off handing out your business card with a website prominently displayed. Sure, self-hosted WordPress isn’t free, but if you’re serious about looking serious, the self-hosted website is just as valuable now as it was in 1998.

Good bye, social media, and good riddance.

~ Amelia Phoenix Desertsong <3 ~

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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