What is SEO, SEM, SMM, SMO?

What is seo, sem, smm, smoWhen I first started building websites, I had never heard of the term SEO, let alone SEM. I knew that building a website was not enough. Once you had it, the next step was to find ways to promote the website.

In the late 1990’s, when I was first starting out, I believed that the best way to promote a website was through word of mouth and traditional paper advertising. I had no idea how to promote a website through the Internet. In those early days I tried everything from driving around with a sign on my car to handing out business cards and giving away pens and pencils with my web address.

Fast forward to the present and there are many ways to promote your website on the Internet. A quick search online and you’ll see the acronyms SEO, SEM, SMM and SMO all over the place. But what do these terms mean and what is the difference between them? It can get confusing trying to figure out jargon. So let us define each term and identify what makes it different.

What is SEO?

Google defines SEO (search engine optimization) as follows:

Improving a website’s presence in organic search engine results.

online marketing vocabulary, Learn with Google

It seems like a very simple definition, but let us elaborate more on this. Basically, it is the process of improving the visibility of your website to your online audience via search engines. In other words, optimization methods which help improve your website’s ability to be listed on the first or second page of organic search results.

In the most simplest terms, you want to create unique, fresh, quality content written for your audience and then you want to build quality links from relevant websites to point to that specific content. Of course, SEO involves a lot of work and there have been many books written about it, but if you stick to the basic rules of writing quality content and building quality links, then you are taking the right steps towards improving your website’s presence in organic search results.

What is SEM?

Sometimes you hear people using the terms SEO and SEM interchangeably and although these two terms may have once had a very close origin and meaning, today they are distinct from one another. Let us see how Google defines SEM (search engine marketing).

The use of online advertising on search engine results pages to help visitors find your website. SEM often uses pay-per-click (PPC), a bidding model that charges advertisers only when someone clicks on their ad (also referred to as cost-per-click, or CPC).

online marketing vocabulary, Learn with Google

As we can see, SEM involves paid advertisements such as Adwords, Bing ads, Yahoo and any other methods of online advertising. This process involves the creation of campaigns and measuring results. You set a budget and expect an immediate return on that investment. It is also the fastest way to get your website to show up on the first page of search engine results. These results show up as sponsored ads at the top or side of the organic search results.

What is SMO?

So now we know what SEO and SEM are, but what is SMO? SMO stands for Social Media Optimization. Perhaps the best definition I found for this was via a forum on the discussion of SMO:

Social media optimization increases the visibility of your social media profiles, your social networking activity and your published content so that it is found by people searching for information and resources that relate to your content. Social media optimization helps drive traffic to your website or blog, makes it easier for others to share with their circle of influence, builds community around your brand and helps search engines index your social media profiles, social activity and blog posts more easily.

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The bottom line is, you have to build online profiles via social media networks so that you can share the content you create on your website or blog. Additionally, you add social media share buttons to allow other people to easily share your content.

What is SMM?

Similar to SEM, SMM stands for Social Media Marketing. And as you can guess it involves paid advertising through social media networks. If you are familiar with Facebook ads, then you are seeing SMM in action. It is the process of using paid advertising to broaden your customer reach and increase your brand exposure.

Which is right for you?

So we have defined the terms above and have identified that SEO and SMO are methods that you can implement yourself whereas SEM and SMM are methods which require paid advertisement and setting a budget. Although SEM and SMM will get you results fast, they are limited to the size of your budget. SEO and SMO are more long term solutions which, if done right, can continually bring in the desired results for your business. So which is right for you? This all depends on your business goals, but at least now you understand the terms and can make an informed decision on which methods to use.

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46 Comments

  1. It is a very clear and precise post about what is SEO, SEM, SMM and SMO and what would be the ideal choice for a business. I am much delighted by your style of writing because everything is written in simple terms thus eradicating the need for jargon and making simple things complicated with elaborate terms.

  2. To me the definition of SEO is about getting traffic tot he site the wider SEM includes getting traffic to the site but also making sure that traffic converts and does something. This activity make take a lead from a variety of online sources not just the website itself and nurture it.

  3. Hey Jose,
    Great article, A great overview of all digital marketing aspects. In this digital era, you can’t afford to ignore these digital marketing tactics to be successful entrepreneurs.

  4. SMO can be of two types :

    Adding social media features to the content, which include social news, RSS feeds, polling and user rating tools and incorporation of third party functionalities like videos and images.

    Promotion in social media apart from content marketing which includes blog posting, blog commenting, participation in group discussions and updation of status in social networking sites.

    The concept of Social Media Optimization is often mixed up with the idea of search engine marketing. Though the main focus of both the processes is to drive traffic, but they are very much different from each other. SMO also benefits the clients with improved page ranking.

  5. Social Media Optimization is a process by which visitors are attracted to a website by promotion and publicizing through social media. Social Media Optimization is more commonly known as SMO, which is regarded as a subset to the social media marketing. SMO is known to be one of the best tools of website optimization.

    SMO can be of two types :
    Adding social media features to the content, which include social news, RSS feeds, polling and user rating tools and incorporation of third party functionalities like videos and images.

    Promotion in social media apart from content marketing which includes blog posting, blog commenting, participation in group discussions and updation of status in social networking sites.
    The concept of Social Media Optimization is often mixed up with the idea of search engine marketing. Though the main focus of both the processes is to drive traffic, but they are very much different from each other. SMO also benefits the clients with improved page ranking.

    There are a variety of organizations catering to the SMO requirements. ASearch Online is regarded as one of the best among them. Our company follows certain steps while doing SMO for any website:

    Define Goals : The first step to begin with the SMO work is to clearly define the goal of the website. SMO work is always future oriented and it is necessary to keep a track of the actual results that may follow after SMO is done.

  6. This is the best content i have seen. Very nicely written about all the aspects. Nice wordings. Easy to understand. 🙂

  7. Hi,
    I usually read blogs to know more about SEO and I’m really thankful that you posted an article about this. Now I have a lot of resources where I can learn SEO. Thank you so much for this! This would really help me.

  8. Before the marketing task, I would like to make a worth noting point that No marketing strategy can work if your beloved website lacks in appearance. With search engines constantly changing their algorithms, ranking factors are always being updated. But you can still build websites with SEO only. Adding social media sharing buttons and activity on social media profiles are additional ranking factors that can help a website improve in their SERPs.

  9. Thanks for Nice and Informative article. it contains lot more useful information about digital promotion, thanks for sharing

  10. Informative post!
    Coming straight to the point, I would say all the marketing techniques are vital to survive in the online world. You can definitely get traffic, conversions using a single technique but not as much as you get using all of them effectively.
    Before the marketing task, I would like to make a worth noting point that No marketing strategy can work if your beloved website lacks in appearance. Tools like TemplateToaster are well known in the market for crafting stunning sites. A brushed up site pays a long way for which you need to have an eagle eye when it comes to choosing a website builder.
    And use all the marketing techniques. DO NOT get glued to just one.

  11. Thanks for the post SEO, SMO, SEM is all about digital marketing. All are very much important for ranking your website in search engines also it makes easy to make awareness and branding of your product. Your blog is very knowledgeable for the new comers in Digital Marketing field.

  12. Thanks my friend, i read your article and get more information from this. Your article is right .Tanks a lot

    1. Thank you Brooke for your question. That is a very good point to think about. Social Media has become a very important tool to help build an audience and to make a website popular.

      With search engines constantly changing their algorithms, ranking factors are always being updated. But you can still build websites with SEO only. Adding social media sharing buttons and activity on social media profiles are additional ranking factors that can help a website improve in their SERPs.

      But you can also build websites quickly using SMO only. Both are important, but with today’s emphasis on Quality and Authoritative Content, I think search engines such as Google and Bing are going to be shifting towards that and put less emphasis on traditional SEO. Perhaps it is better to say that Quality and Authoritative Content and SMO may soon surpass traditional SEO.

      1. Exactly. You did elaborate my statement. Thanks for such informative explanation and you look quite familiar with technical SEO. Cheers

  13. As you note there seems to be some confusion online around terminology. I have seen a lot of blogs use the term SEM to define all search marketing including SEO as a subset.

    I like the definition you have used here – although I am not sure that would enable remarketing to be included in SEM. Do you believe this is the indusrty accepted terminology?

    1. Hi Daniel and thank you for reading my article. As for the industry accepted terminology, I think there will always be confusion as these techniques are constantly evolving.

      However, what is very clear is that online marketing branches into 2 main types: paid and organic. No matter what terminology may evolve, they will fit into one of the 2 types. It may be more useful to think of it this way. Hope this helps you understand this better.

      1. Hi Jose, According to your Article I Understand about 4 Terms which I Explain bellow. If there any mistake please Clear Me
        SEO is Marketing with Organic Way
        SEM is Marketing with Paid Advertising
        SMO is Marketing in Social Media with Organic Way
        SMM is Marketing with Paid advertising in Social Media.

      2. Correct! that is the best way to define online marketing as two sectors paid and organic. SMO is still a new term when it comes to the average person but your article described it perfectly.

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