SEO, SEM, Social Media – which is best for your business?

When you're investing time and money in digital marketing, you want to make sure you're getting the best possible returns.

Search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and social media marketing (SMM) are three different approaches that satisfy different goals and make a marketing powerhouse when combined.

The best marketing strategy will grow your website traffic, increase sales or achieve your other objectives efficiently and for the minimum spend, but there's no one-size-fits-all solution.

Knowing more about the unique advantages of SEO, SEM and SMM could help you decide which marketing channel will produce the best results – and you don't have to put all your eggs in one basket.

What are SEO, SEM and SMM?

'SEO' is often used as a catch-all for digital marketing in general, but it's useful to distinguish between the different approaches you can use to promote your website and business. Here's a very brief rundown of their features and benefits.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

SEO strategies are designed to move your pages up the search engine results organically so more people will find you when they search for targeted terms. This is done by optimising every aspect of your website in line with the current requirements of search engine algorithms.

Search engine marketing (SEM)

Unlike SEO, which aims for organic, long-term growth, SEM involves purchasing ads on search engines to promote your website for targeted search terms. Also called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, SEM costs more upfront than SEO, but it can be effective for reaching customers who are ready to buy.

Social media marketing (SMM)

SMM covers organic and paid marketing that takes place on social media, from networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to image and video platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. SMM can drive traffic to your websites and build awareness and engagement with your audience.

Search engines vs social media marketing

SEO and SEM are different strategies for making your pages prominent in search engine results, but the end result is similar – users search for keywords you're targeting and they click on a link to your page.

Social media marketing is a very different situation, and with the huge audiences of Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, it's a marketing approach that no business can afford to be without in 2021.

Here are 9 major ways that social media marketing is different from search engine marketing and traditional SEO.

9 major ways that social media marketing is different from search engine marketing and traditional SEO Infographic

1. Audience

People use search engines when they're already looking for something specific and may be ready to buy.

Social media users are less engaged, but more likely to share content and build awareness and reputation for your brand.

2. Targeting

Search engines and social media marketing both allow for highly specific targeting of ads and other content.

While both can target by location, search engine targeting is based in behaviour, while social media targeting is based on personality.

3. Reach

SEO and SEM strategies can reach as many customers as you want to attract.

Social posts that go viral can increase awareness of your brand with virtually no limits.

4. Leads

SEO, Local SEO and SEM give you the tools to generate leads, though leads may be at a higher COA than paid ads.

For most brands, social media is a low driver of leads, however can generate more leads in the long-term at a lower cost when you reach a larger audience with the right content. However to first build that audience is a longer-term strategy that takes quite a heavy investment of time and dollars.

5. Content

Long-form, informational, evergreen content performs best for SEO.

Visual content and emotional topics get the most likes and shares in social media feeds.

6. Speed

SEO is a longer-term strategy (3+ months as a starting point with ongoing growth), SEM can help you achieve short-term goals.

Social media is fast by nature, but requires patience to see results as it is a brand-awareness tool, so until your brand is stronger, expect to see less actual leads.

7. Longevity

A high ranking page can continue to attract visitors for weeks, months or even years once it's indexed by search engines organically (SEO).

Most social media interaction takes place shortly after posting, with more eyes on your recent posts.

8. Reporting

Tracking traffic, impressions and conversions through search engines tells you what content is most successful.

Tracking shares, likes and comments on social networks tells you what content is most engaging.

9. Connections

Social media skills can be applied to blogging and interactive content to increase engagement.

SEO benefits from social media success when high ranking brands or content appear in search engines. This brand recognition when a user finds this brand in their search query significantly increases the chance that the searcher will choose the site they have an awareness of.

Why use just one?

Marketing performance improvement

As you can see, the different marketing channels don't exist in a vacuum. Efforts in search and social marketing benefit each other, and the best marketing strategies use multiple channels to cover all the bases and enjoy the unique benefits of SEO, SEM and social media marketing.

  • SEO builds your reputation and high quality engagement for the long term
  • SEM can target buyers quickly and provide current data on engagement
  • SMM increases awareness and engagement with your brand

If you're focusing on conversions, SEO could prove more cost-effective for long-term success, supplemented by SEM to make faster sales. Social media campaigns spread the word about your brand, creating more loyalty and drive traffic to your website to increase conversions further.

Diversifying your marketing activities means your messages will be seen by more people. The best cross-channel marketing uses different messages across different platforms to appeal to different types of users for the greatest chance of success. It also takes an average of 3 to 4 interactions before most users will think of connecting with a brand. Typically, 95% of visitors don't convert on their first visit to a website.

Quite simply, in an age of information overload where unknown businesses are quickly forgotten in favour of known brands, it is no longer enough to be using a single (or even 2) marketing channel to gain a strong market share.

Maximise your marketing

If you want to grow your business through effective marketing, Quantum's digital marketing specialists are here to help. We'll work with you to design cost-effective campaigns across SEO, PPC, social media and other channels to get the best return on your marketing budget and deliver real results.

02 9037 0851