Digital marketing is a world of possibilities for all businesses. Taking your business online or reinforcing its online fronts can lead to higher conversion rates and better returns. Small and medium enterprises often rely on sleep digital marketing strategies to overcome the initial lag phase of the company and expand their current market. In fact, digital marketing has the potential to catapult these SMBs to the pinnacle of success. Today, almost every brand has an online identity, and online marketing has become an integral part of their marketing strategies. As a result, online marketing has become a competitive sphere. Each brand has to outdo several competitors to make its mark.

When small businesses fail to establish a digital front, it can become a barrier to their growth. At the same time, for a brick-and-mortar company, migrating to a digital domain can be extremely confusing. Terms like SEO, SEM, and SMM can become intimidating in the first rounds. Although you will hear them often when you adopt online marketing strategies, you will find it challenging to grasp their connotations and nuances the first few times. It might be because many bloggers and entrepreneurs use them interchangeably (but incorrectly). Or, it might be because of the constant uses of the abbreviations deprive them of the true meanings. Here, R1SEO will try to make the concepts of SEO, SEM, and SMM a bit less colluded. Moreover, we will also try to explain the importance of each for a business like yours.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

SEO is a popular search term, keyword and a favorite topic of discussion among all trending bloggers. While it may have several meanings in a variety of contexts, search engine optimization usually refers to the organic traffic a website or blog receives due to the quality of its content, keyword strategies, and technical aspects. You might think that SEO is for those, who publish news and gossip blogs because people are always searching for those. However, that is far from the truth. It is for every website and every blog on the web. If your company caters to the plumbing needs of people in Perth, even then you need to tell those in the city about the existence of your services. People will not necessarily know the name of your business or that of your employees. If your business website has the right distribution of the plumbing-related keywords, it will be much easier for the potential clients to find your business amidst the hundreds of other plumbing services in the city.

Plumbing was just an example. Your business can cater to any city in any state, but you need to ensure that you are always visible to the right people at the right time. The only thing that can improve your visibility is the correct choice of techniques. Search engine optimization is a multi-faceted front. It involves many factors including keywords, metadata, schema markup, page design and speed, website/webpage links and content quality. Since the demands of the Google and Bing users keep changing over time, the factors that determine the optimization of a page also change. These factors determine the changing search engine algorithms to a great extent. Your site architecture, responsiveness, and link directory are currently three of the most critical factors that determine its rank and traffic.

The first phase of SEO is manageable for most website masters and blog owners. It requires genuine and good-quality content. Next, even the best quality content requires smart keyword strategies. That is when you will either need the help of keyword research tools or an SEO expert, who can guide you towards the trending keyword options you have. Finding the array of keywords that will work for you can be challenging. There are several categories including high volume keywords and low volume keywords. Each type has its quirks. Picking the ones right for your site or finding the right balance between the two might need the intervention of an expert.

Once you have your content ready, you may believe that you have your SEO game in place, but that’s not even half of the battle yet. Next, you will need the on-page technicalities including the meta descriptions, title tags, SEO tags, SEO slugs and image alt tags. Once that is complete, you will have to think about internal linking, outbound links, and inbound links. Where you share the content will also determine your brand’s visibility. You need to understand that each share on social media and each mention might count as a ranking factor.

In short, SEO is complicated. After a point, it is impossible to tell SEO apart from SEM. You can think of search engine optimization as a tool towards finding the right audience in a market. While SEO works towards diverting traffic from search engines like Google and Bing towards the websites, SEM works a little differently.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing

Both SEM and SEO deal with online outreach. Unlike SEO, SEM deals with advertising that involves paid media budget. One of the easiest ways to understand it is by considering that it attracts traffic through the placement of advertisements on search engines. Have you noticed how the ads for products and services pop up within the search result lists, especially when you are on your mobile search engine? That happens because the companies you see on these ads pay the search engines for their smart placement during relevant searches.

For example – if you search for interior décor on your mobile device right now, you will see a slider of sponsored interior décor options. Next, you will see the nearest locations of the businesses that offer interior decoration services in your city. Next, you will come across the nine organically ranking pages along with another slider of Google Image results. The sponsored content you see first is the result of the paid advertisement by the brands. Your location, shopping preferences, and the search engine will determine the content of the sponsored section extensively.

Older versions of Google showed the sponsored content with a small green box saying “ad.” It was ubiquitous for the desktop searches for almost all popular western search engines. Through Google AdWords, you can set the location preferences, keyword densities and several other preferences that will determine the performance of your campaign. It is a form of Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising that does rely on keyword strategies. New entrepreneurs might find it a little tricky to understand the difference in the intent of keyword use during the development of a PPC campaign and that of an SEO strategy. That is one of the leading reasons you need the help of an expert, who can help you pick the right location, keywords, backend tools, HTML validators, and paid inclusion charges.

SMM: Social Media Marketing

Social media has become an integral part of any online marketing strategy. In fact, on every social media page including Facebook and Instagram, you will notice the presence of sponsored content. Although sponsored ads are taking the garb of organic content nowadays, it is easy to spot them once you know where to look. One of the advantages of brands advertising on social media is they can set the parameters to make them ideal for relevant content and appropriate users only.

If you have been looking at a lot of makeup trends and videos online, you may notice the increasing frequency of makeup adverts on your Facebook page. It also possible for makeup, skincare and lifestyle ads to sneak into your Instagram feed. The high relevance means that the brands know that the user is more likely to click on the ad. They have a higher chance of conversion, although they might be paying more for a more filtered audience. That is just one facet of social media marketing.

Another essential aspect of SMM for businesses is the practice of organic sharing of branded content. For example – you have a bakery, and you decide to host a cupcake gala for your customers for three days. People can come, taste, eat and buy your cupcakes for a 30% discount as long as they post their pictures with the cutouts or the branded boxes along with hashtags on their Instagram. Research shows that millennials do not mind sharing branded images on Instagram as long as there is some novelty in it. Each post can garner hundreds of likes and shares from the followers of the respective user. That spreads the word and increases footfall. Hence, through SMM you can reach a wider audience with a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing.

Today, no matter where your business is, you must have a Facebook page and an Instagram business account to relate to your customers. How do you hope to connect with them when they spend more than an hour of their free time on social media per day? However, your growing popularity on social media will also depend on the use of the right hashtags (keywords), user research, paid advertising strategies and social media tracking tools. In short, SEO, SEM, and SMM cannot remain in silos anymore. If your strategies do not overlap, then you need to fast-forward a decade. You need to revisit your digital campaigns so that your website optimization, search engine marketing, and social media marketing can communicate with each other!