Navigating digital marketing as a business owner can be an overwhelming experience when you’re trying to create the perfect formula for keeping your business a well oiled machine. Scroll down any social media timeline and eventually you’ll see an ad touting Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Social Media Marketing (SMM), and other tactics as the guaranteed way to make a million dollars overnight. Well, maybe not overnight but it sure seems that way. Odds are you’ve wondered if your business needs Search Engine Marketing or Social Media Marketing, and which is best for business growth.

As your business continues to expand, you may discover that you need to use both tactics for different objectives. Search Engine Marketing and Social Media Marketing  come with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. However, with a solid understanding of how to leverage these tactics to grow your business, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on how to incorporate each into your overall marketing plan to produce a high return on your investment. 

How does each tactic work? Which one is better? Let’s explore… 

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Seems like a dumb question but as Google continues to evolve so does all that is impacted by Search Engine Marketing (SEM). In business marketing terms, it’s about optimizing your exposure in all areas of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) of Google, Bing, etc., anytime someone in your market area searches for your business or any of the products or services you sell.  In other words, how well is your business represented in the search engines when a ready prospect is searching for the things that you sell? The goal of SEM is to improve your exposure in the SERPS and to drive good, prospective customers and clients to your website where they will learn about your company, your products or services and hopefully, will convert to a lead or sale. 

Why is SEM so important? Well, just think about how many search queries are inputted into Google on a daily basis: 3.5 billion, according to one study. It’s evident the importance of making sure your business not only shows up in relevant search results, but appears on the first page through an effective SEM strategy.

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing (SMM) involves using apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many others to build your brand and create an engaging community that likes and purchases from your business.

SMM involves a more intentional approach to social media platforms than simply uploading the occasional post to your business account. Marketing experts know that the best results from social media advertising spring out of bespoke solutions, carefully tailored to each audience segment, as well as the unique attributes of each network.

What’s the difference between SEM and SMM?

SEM and SMM can both be very valuable tools to grow your business. However, they accomplish this objective in different ways. 

  1. Focus

In general, the focus of search engine marketing is to generate clicks and, subsequently, traffic to your website. Whether you stick with organic SEO (i.e producing content that will climb Google’s unpaid “natural” rankings) or dive into the world of Google Ads Pay-Per-Click (PPC), the main objective is to get the highest number of qualified visitors to your website, convert them into leads, and ultimately, sales.

In contrast, social media marketing may have a number of different objectives apart from funneling traffic to your website. For instance, you may want to leverage SMM for increased engagement, or enhanced brand credibility. And in many cases, companies use social media accounts to foster customer loyalty to their business, rather than to directly drive sales.

  1. Content

There’s a world of difference between content that performs well in an SEM context, versus what works for SMM.

For search engine marketing, you’ll typically have either paid ads with clear and  concise copy or organic content that will show up as top results.  Studies show that the optimal word count for organic SEO falls somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Of course, successful posts may be much shorter or much longer, depending on a wide variety of factors that come into play, such as relevance, domain authority,  and content structure to name a few. 

On the other hand, social media is typically not the medium for longform pieces of content. In fact, a 2021 survey found that 85% of marketers rank short-form video lasting no more than 15 seconds  as the most effective type of social media content. 

  1. Cadence

How often should you post content for search engine marketing? SEO-driven content may only be published a few times per month, depending on the size of the business and what’s being sold. In fact, email newsletters have grown more personalized overtime with companies choosing to showcase specific content to different audiences. 

On the other hand, the effectiveness of social media marketing is contingent on staying on top of the changing algorithm patterns on the various social media apps to achieve maximum growth and brand recognition on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and many others. 

Which method is better?

That’s the million dollar question. And maybe you already saw this coming, but the answer is, it depends. It depends on your industry, budget, goals, sales cycle, etc. Neither one is inherently “better” than the other. A digital marketing strategy that combines both approaches will work much better than either one alone. In many cases, you could sum up the synergy between SEM and SMM this way:

Social media marketing increases brand awareness of and engagement with your brand, while search engine marketing increases both engagement and the likelihood that consumers will select your brand when they are ready to make a decision.

Building a powerful online presence that increases your bottom line is no easy feat. Instead of wasting time and money with trial and error, connect with an AdEdge Digital Marketing expert today for a free Digital Marketing Health Checkup.