SEO and Social Media: What’s the Difference?

When marketing your site, a common question is whether you should use social media marketing or search engine optimization. Of course, this is a false dichotomy and most effective website marketing uses a mixture of both. But when you’re just getting started, it may be tempting to focus on one or the other. So this blog post will explain the differences between SEO and SMM, and a future post will discuss the actual techniques and strategies you can use.

You can think of search engine optimization as having two components: on-page optimization and off-site optimization. The goal of SEO is to get people using search engines (like Google or Bing) to find your website when typing in a specific query. The search engines “read” your site to determine what it’s about (relevance), and then examine how often other websites link to it (authority). When your website is both authoritative and relevant, it will rank highly for a given keyword.

On-page SEO focuses on making your website relevant for a given keyword. You’ll use the term generously throughout your site (while still writing in a natural, conversational manner), and use URLs and images that are consistent with that keyword.

Off-page SEO focuses on authority; the goal is to pursue links from other websites, and preferably popular ones. When other websites commonly link to you, it makes your website appear more authoritative.

Social media can improve SEO to some extent, but in some ways the goal is more short-term: to simply get website visits when a link is shared socially. There’s nothing difficult about this; you simply post a link to your site on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. The tricky part is doing this in a way that adds value and makes your customers excited to connect with you. If you’re simply advertising yourself on social media, no one will pay attention to you. But when you share something people generally like, your content has the potential to go viral.

Social media marketing typically requires a longer-term investment — people will stop visiting your site as soon as you stop sharing links on social media. And while this may make SEO sound like the more attractive option, it’s typically a bit more expensive to pursue an SEO strategy. Therefore, you have to carefully weigh your options before going all-in on social media or SEO.

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