You’ve heard the terms SEO, SEM, and SMM, but you may not know what they mean. If so, you’re not alone. One survey indicated nearly half of online entrepreneurs didn’t know what SEO meant.

Even if you’re not quite sure what these acronyms mean, you’ve probably heard they’re vital for your business today. You may be pondering the advantages of SEO vs SEM. You’re wondering how SMM fits into your digital marketing plans.

Is one of them more important than another? Let’s look at each of them and what they can do for your business.

Defining SEO

Let’s start with the most common term, SEO. What does SEO stand for?

This acronym is short for search engine optimization. It involves making changes to your website to help your page rank higher in search results.

Google uses more than 200 factors to determine ranking. SEO adjusts your page to take advantage of as many of these factors as possible.

One of Google’s ranking factors is backlinking. If your site has backlinks from other, reputable sites, it will rank better with Google.

Understanding SEM

Now let’s look at the SEM meaning. This acronym stands for search engine marketing.

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM? SEO refers to actions you can take to improve your search engine ranking. This will increase your organic traffic.

SEM focuses on paid traffic. When you use SEM, you’ll run campaigns and pay for ads. Platforms like Google Adswords, Bing Ads and Yahoo! Search Ads are examples.

What SMM Stands for

SMM is a newer acronym compared to SEO and SEM. It stands for social media marketing. It’s been around for nearly as long as platforms like Twitter and Facebook now.

This type of marketing is all about promoting your business on social media. It includes things like paid social search and paid social advertising.

The difference between SMM and SEM is where your ads appear. With SEM, your ads appear on search engines like Bing and Google. With SMM, your ads will reach your audience on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.


Now that you understand the alphabet soup of digital marketing, you have another question.

Do you need SEO, SEM, or SMM for your business?

For most businesses, the answer is you need all three. SEM vs SEO is often a debate that businesses have. Both are tactics to improve your traffic from search engines.

If you have a very limited budget, SEO is usually considered the better bet. SEM works faster. If you want to promote a time-limited offer or sale, SEM might be the right choice.

In a perfect world, you should strive to have both SEO and SEM as part of your digital marketing strategy.

What about SMM? Again, you should most definitely include it in your digital marketing strategy. If you’re trying to choose between paid SMM and SEM, though, you should look at how each performs.

Design a New Strategy

If you’re not already using these three strategies, it’s time to get on board. Including them in a new digital marketing strategy will help you achieve your goals.

If you’re still debating SEO vs SEM vs SMM, get in touch.

Our team of experts can help you determine how best to invest in these strategies. Driving digital marketing results forward can be this simple.