Which is More Effective for Marketing: SEO or SMO?

Written by Howie Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL

The Web of SEO and SMO
As you may know, SEO refers to search engine optimization and SMO refers to social media optimization. Both terms are used to describe how easy it is for others to find you and/or how close to the top your listing appears after a Google search. Succeeding with each requires different tactics.
Organic SEO is based more on keywords in blogs, back linking, localization services (Google Places) and webpage design, while SMO is based more on postings on social media sites. While both are considered important, SEO has traditionally been considered much more important. Meanwhile, SMO has jokingly been referred to as the bad stepchild, or the one that requires a lot more efforts only to yield poor results.
Organic vs Inorganic Search
Traditionally there are two ways to increase the likelihood that someone will find you or your company on the Internet. You can buy the search terms used in Google searches—which is known as paid search. The alternative is known as organic search, which refers to freshly updated content on your webpage, unique and high quality content, motivating people to link to your content (backlinking), and interesting videos…all of which result in achieving better results.
But new research is claiming that it’s almost impossible to achieve the same results from organic search as you can from paid search. As a result, some are starting to think that unless you have a very unique product or highly specialized niche, the idea that you will appear on the first page of the Google search organically is almost impossible.
This was discussed in a recent article that showed that only 13% of search results are organic and the rest is “ads and junk.” This is not the first time the benefits of organic search were questioned. An article from Forrester Research in 2012 reported that social media was accounting for 32% of product discoveries as opposed to 54% from web searches. This represented an increase of 25% in 2011.
Is SEO dead?
As a result, some are saying that SEO is dead and SMO is the future. What is social media optimization? According to Wikipedia, SMO includes posting on networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as video sites such as YouTube. But it also includes review and recommendation sites such as Yelp and FourSquare.
While both SEO and SMO share similar objectives including marketing, sales, and brand recognition, SMO has some unique differences. The major being that social media is designed to create and foster a sense of community, bringing together individuals with similar interests.
But recently people are starting to talk about more differences. According to Kari Rippetoe of Search Mojo, an important difference and essential aspect of SMO is the ability to make your content as socially shareable as possible. That might mean sharing links on your blogs and your website to Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn.
Do you agree that SEO is dead and SMO is becoming more important? Are you finding that social media postings are being more effective than content marketing for getting higher listings in Google searches?
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Howie Fenton
is a consultant and business advisor at NAPL as well as a paid contributor to this blog. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity, and adding digital and value services through customer research. For more information click here.

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  1. Katherine August 6, 2013 -

    Frankly I’m a tad tired of people writing obituaries for SEO, print, and anything else they decided to arbitrarily deride. IMO, SEO and SMO are two sides of the same coin. They are both about driving traffic to your site at least in part.

  2. Howie Fenton August 7, 2013 -


    I like your comment especially the expression “people writing obituaries..”. I agree that there are a lot of dramatic expressions from the experts when they talk about what’s hot and whats not. Unfortunately, I think it is the nature of the high tech industry to have constant changes in strategies and tactics as well as mid-course corrections based on what is working or not working.

    Personally, I am fascinated by case histories of internet marketing strategies that are working and what is not, as well as theories of why. In terms of generating leads or making sales I am fan of SEO via content marketing (blogs) and using social media marketing to drive “eyeballs” to the blogs (content). This creates a synergy with both SEO and SMO strategies and I find that it works well.

    But not everyone agrees. Some say that SEO and SMO work best for B-B applications that are targeted for niche markets. They complain that trying to use SEO and SMO to target B-C markets with very competitive products is not working.

    But others would argue that you need to find a way to add more value to those commoditized products and remove them from the commoditized catagory. I would like to hear from other people about their experiences.


  3. Organic SEO August 8, 2013 -

    The post is really impressive. The debate on reaping the maximum outcome from paid search and organic search will go on. But i personally believe that it is bit impossible to expect the same results from organic search as you can expect from paid search.

  4. Anirban Pathak January 28, 2014 -

    Great Post. I think both SEO and SMO are important for getting result of your site in the search engine. SMO is considered as one of the part of SEO for promoting the website and SEO helps in building quality backlinks and generating traffic to your website. Both are helpful for increasing the ranking of your website.

  5. Leon February 12, 2014 -

    Not everyone can be on the first page and I think with SMO you can generate sales generating traffic through articles. You can also market the website content through SMO.

    The way I see it: Create good content for SEO and promote it through SMO channels like: Delicious, Stumbleupon, tumblr, Digg, Podbean etc

  6. Andrew Gill February 25, 2014 -

    Both are important for website ranking.Purpose of both is to generate traffic to your website.

  7. elutussmoservce April 5, 2014 -

    I think in Digital marketig SEO & SMO are both important. beacause SEO increase website rank & keywords value & SMO increase Social importance.

  8. Samseo April 9, 2014 -

    I could say both SMO AND SEO both are important for marketing.Just write the good content for SEO ,follow the rules and strategicS of google and then make the content popular through Social media by SMO

  9. suzyspring August 6, 2014 -

    In my point of view SEO is a slow and effective process to promote our site in search engine and SMO is faster and attractive way to make our site viewed. But both are importent in equal measure to maintain our site. I particularly like the content about “organic and inorganic search.”

  10. Ganesh Paul September 4, 2014 -

    SMO is a part of SEO. SEO generating back links and helps to improve organic search, it is good for website ranking, but SMO gives direct and referal visitors. So SEO and SMO are both important for marketing, from my point of view.

  11. SEO Glasgow January 1, 2015 -

    I think it depends on the industry you operate wether SEO or SMO is your main tool.

  12. EthanHawk August 27, 2015 -

    I think SEO and SMO both are important for website ranking. SMO is fast way to promote your website in Google and better result.

  13. Ethan Hawke April 21, 2016 -

    We cannot say that SEO is dead. Still SEO is important for getting backlinks and ranking of websites in Search Engines. However with SEO now SMO is totally very important for increasing awareness, brand popularity. For success of online business both SEO and SMO should be practice as to get profitable results.

  14. SavvyClan December 2, 2018 -

    I personally believe that it depends on your target market and also your marketing strategy. However, SEO is the vital component of digital marketing, therefore, it can never be dead and as far as SMO is concerned, it is the way to convey your message to your target market directly.

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