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SEO vs SMM: Walkthrough Successful Strategy [Simplified]9 min read


To all the marketing newbies, the terms SEO and SMM may seem alien. Adding to that, the overlapping of their concepts makes them difficult to differentiate. 

Are you also confused between these important terms of the digital world? Here is where your ambiguity will probably end. In this blog, we will briefly understand what they are and discuss how they differ from each other.

Before we begin,

It is important to note that both SEO and SMM come under the umbrella of “marketing”, specifically digital marketing.

A quick recap of what marketing is: “Marketing is nothing but a set of actions taken to attract people to a company’s products or services.”

So both of these are types of marketing that help a business promote its products and services on the web. It’s just the method and medium of marketing where SEO & SMM basically differ from each other.

But how exactly do they differ? Here we go.


  1. Basic Understanding

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.

It is a practice of optimizing content for the web to make it achieve higher rankings on a search engine results page SERP (Google, Bing, etc).

There are various optimization aspects involved in SEO to rank content higher on SERPs. They include content quality, relevance, backlinks, keywords, schema markup, etc.

What is SMM?

SMM stands for Social Media Marketing

It is the use of social media platforms (like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to promote the products and services of a business.

Marketing through social media channels includes planning, creating social media posts, investing in ads, monitoring the engagement with people through responses like views, comments, likes, and shares, optimizations, and interacting with the target audience.

  1. Purpose

For SEO, the aim is to make content search engine friendly for more visibility and accessibility by the targetted audience so that they get the information they are searching for. 

Search engines look for the most relevant information for a given query. So the optimization of your content through SEO is what makes you included in search results and found by the users who need that information.

And because your audience trusts these search results, people will most probably look for the top results in the SERP. 

So the purpose of SEO is to make your content reach that top position while also ensuring that your content deserves it.

Here, achieving more accessibility and quality traffic is the key goal. 

For SMM, the aim is to directly connect with people on social media, create brand awareness, promote products and services, drive traffic to a website, and interact with a set of audience/potential customers for marketing purposes.

Social media is where your target audience resides. So it’s one of the best marketing places as well. Creating your presence on social networking sites and providing value to your audience through quality content allows your potential customers to engage with you while getting aware of your brand, its products, and its services. 

Marketing through social media aims at increasing the reach, building customer relationships, driving more traffic, and thus generating leads.

Here, engaging with people is the key goal.

  1. Working

SEO: SEO involves applying all the optimization techniques to a piece of content so that it appears at the top of a search engine results page. Because of this increase in rankings, the content to be marketed becomes visible to more and more people. 

And thus, the possibility of attracting more users and converting them becomes higher. This is how SEO acts as a marketing channel for your business

Here is an example of a London Carpet Cleaning company ranking on SERP.

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Moreover, search engines also show paid results through PPC (pay-per-click advertising). 

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However, PPC is different from SEO. SEO encourages purely organic marketing. There is no need to pay for your placement on the top-ranking positions on SERPs for visibility. 

That means you just need to optimize your content/website as per the SEO tips, techniques, and best practices. This happens over time as you gradually establish yourself and your content gains enough credibility. 

SMM: Businesses use different social media platforms to connect with their target audience. And through these mediums, they try to create brand awareness, promote their products, and directly interact with their potential customers.

Here is an example of an Instagram profile of a spa showcasing its services. 

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Their content and engagements on social media platforms help businesses build relationships and convert users this way. This is how marketing through social media is carried out.

However, unlike SEO, SMM involves both approaches of marketing: organic and paid. In the organic method, the trust builds up over time as the audience of an organization engages over social media and gets aware of the brand and its services. While the paid one is used to achieve more visibility among the targeted users quickly.

  1. Achieving Results

In SEO, the search engine acts as an interface between you and your target audience. Considering all the SEO aspects, you need to make sure that your content is acceptable by search engines first to be able to reach your audience and gain visibility. This is why achieving ranking in SEO takes time, as the search engine recognizes your SEO efforts, and you gain its trust over time. 

Although it is a slow process, consistent efforts, and patience, along with following SEO practices properly, can give you great results and long-term benefits through SEO. Moreover, the KPIs that show where you stand during this process are the traffic and ranking on SERPs.

Here is an instance of the result analysis of SEO rankings.

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Whereas in SMM, you have direct access to social media for building connections with your target audience without any barriers in between. It surely takes time to gain the trust of users, but it allows you to reach people faster. Also, it is much quicker in showing what is working and what’s not.

And if we talk about paid SMM, it gives immediate results by quickly reaching the targetted audience through advertisements, but the results will last as long as you pay. 

Additionally, you can track your progress in SMM through various media responses like likes, shares, comments, etc. 

Here is an instance of tracking social media results.

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  1. Classifications

SEO: There are mainly three types of SEO, i.e., on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. On-page SEO includes improving the content of a website (e.g., keyword integration). Whereas off-page includes all the external optimizations for a site (e.g., backlinks). And technical optimizations are done on the developer’s end of a website (e.g., creating an SEO friendly website design).

SEO uses search engines as a medium for marketing. Examples: Google, Yahoo & Bing.

SMM: There are several types of SMM: social networking, image sharing, video sharing, and social blogging. Different types of SMM support different forms of media/content to market on different social media channels as suitable.

The common mediums for SMM are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.

Which Is More Important, SEO Or SMM?

The answer to this question is neither easy nor straightforward. The digital marketing world takes the support of both SEO and SMM. On one hand, search engines are go-to options when researching is needed, or queries need to be answered.

While on the other hand, social media is the most preferred medium for people to connect/interact with each other. 

If you ignore SEO, you will not be able to gain rankings to drive major traffic, let alone generate leads. And if you underestimate SMM, you will miss out on the most important platforms where most of your audience resides. 

Still, the choice between the two is dependent on your business goals and needs. Considering the above factors and identifying your highest priority can help you decide to choose among the two paths. 

In a nutshell, SEO is an option to select if you want to market through long-form content and achieve high amounts of traffic through search engines without having to pay for it, and most importantly, if you have patience for SEO.

Whereas SMM could be your choice if you want to humanize your brand, build connections, specifically target the users of a particular social media channel, and reach them faster.

Tip: If you are still reading, here is some additional advice for you.

As a final answer, the combination of both SEO and SMM is what you should be opting for. They both go hand in hand and complement each other in this era. You now just have to decide how much of each you take, not which one to choose.

Winding Up

So, with this, we hope that the explanations in this blog have added some clarity regarding the differences between SEO and SMM. You can now understand and compare both of them and choose the one (or the right combination) that suits your business goals.

Rabee Khan

Rabee Khan

Rabee Khan has led 100s of successful SEO campaigns in the most competitive verticals like SAAS, health, finance, and law. He's also helped 100s of agency owners scale by systemizing their SEO. Search Executive with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Skilled in Business Planning, Interpersonal Skills, Analytical Skills, Advertising and Marketing Strategy.

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