SEO vs. SMO: Driving Traffic Through Search Engines and Social Media

Search engine optimization (SEO) and social media optimization (SMO) are two of the bigger concerns for webmasters and bloggers, as they can both have substantial impacts on the amount of traffic a website or blog receives. But does optimizing your site for search engines hinder your SMO efforts (and vice versa) or can they co-exist? And what are the similarities and differences between the two?

SEO has been a common activity of website owners for years now. Although search engine optimization still remains largely a mystery to many webmasters and bloggers, its basic concepts have been, and still are, fairly simple.

While SEO is no doubt effective, a relatively small number of websites are optimized due to a general lack of knowledge and a high price tag for most professional services. In addition to the cost, SEO is ignored by some because it is difficult to produce immediate results, and real growth in search traffic takes time.

This post will take a look at SEO vs. SMO to see what the differences are in traffic numbers and value to a particular website.

What’s so great about search engine traffic?

  1. Search engines send tons of free traffic to those with high rankings for popular search terms.
  2. Traffic is targeted since the visitors have searched for what you have to offer.
  3. With continued development of a site, search engine traffic should increase with trust and new pages being added.
  4. You have control over which search terms you are targeting.
  5. Once established, a strong authority site can quickly achieve high rankings for brand new pages (example Wikipedia).

Social media optimization has only become popular in the past few years as the use of social networking sites has exploded.

When compared with successful SEO, social media traffic is less steady. Although those who use social media effectively can consistently draw traffic with new content, even the best SMO experts experience large peaks and valleys in terms of traffic. But fortunately, the peaks will be very high.

One of the biggest differences between SEO and SMO is the networking aspect. SMO is heavily-reliant on networking and strong profiles, while SEO can be done without this.

What’s so great about traffic from social media?

  1. Anyone can do it.
  2. The highs in traffic can be very high.
  3. Success can be accomplished from day one of a new website or blog. There’s no need to wait to become a trusted domain.
  4. You’ll make valuable contacts along the way.
  5. A power profile will allow you to get traffic just about whenever you need it (with certain sites).
  6. The traffic snowballs. Those who are successful draw large audiences. Large audiences can lead to more success with social media and increased visibility.
  7. The structure of your website isn’t really important like it is with SEO.

Comparisons and Similarities of SEO and SMO

Link Building:
SEO – Inbound links are a large determining factor in rankings.
SMO – Links are a result of success, which means that SEO benefits from good SMO.

On Page Elements:
SEO – Title tags, headers, image title, bold text and use of keywords are all influential on search engine rankings.
SMO – Coding and tags are not so important, while visual attention grabbers make a bigger impact.

Titles:
SEO – The title tag of a page tells the search engines what a page is about and carries a lot of weight in the rankings.
SMO – Titles and headlines are extremely important for grabbing attention and getting users to click-through.

Content Must be Easily Readable:
SEO – By search engine spiders.
SMO – By human readers.

Content:
SEO – Quality content is important in order to rank well.
SMO – Quality content is important in order to hold the readers’ attention and win their approval.

Content Plus:
SEO – Content alone will not produce high rankings. The structure of the site must also be sound.
SMO – While quality content is essential, visual presentation can also make a big difference.

Analysis:
SEO – Analysis is necessary in order to know which changes have made an impact (positive or negative) on the site’s rankings.
SMO – Analysis is necessary to know what types of content draws interest.

Predictability / the Benefit of Experience:
SEO – Experts are able to reproduce success with new sites (although it’s not as easy as it sounds), as the same elements can be applied.
SMO – Those who know the social media audience can recreate success by publishing posts and headlines specifically for this purpose.

Success Breeds More Success:
SEO – Trusted domains will have a positive effect on all pages, including new pages.
SMO – Power profiles on sites like Reddit can keep traffic flowing with new submissions.

Can SEO and SMO Co-Exist?

Although the title of this article is “SEO vs. SMO”, I really think that the two work together rather than separately. Link building is probably the best example.

Pages and sites that are popular with major social media sites like Twitter and Reddit will usually receive a lot of inbound links. Those links are a direct result of SMO, but they can have a significant impact on search engine rankings.

New websites and blogs need to start getting quality inbound links in order to start getting search engine traffic. Why not use social media to promote content, make it visible to as many people as possible, and draw inbound links?

I believe that SMO is the best way (at least it’s the best free method) for new websites and blogs to draw visitors. This early success with social media can have long-lasting effects on search engine rankings as well.

SEO Tips

If you’re looking for ways to improve your SEO, here are 10 SEO tips you can follow to help identify potential improvements that can lead to higher rankings and more search engine traffic.

1. Find and Fix Dead Links

Finding dead links on a website can be time-consuming and annoying if you try to do it manually. Broken Link Checker is a free online tool that will crawl your website and search for dead links.

Once you know where the dead links are, you can easily correct them.

2. Check for Web Crawl Errors in Google Webmaster Tools

Another way to identify broken links is to log in to Google Webmaster Tools and check the crawl errors that are listed. You will see a list of URLs that the Googlebot was not able to find on your site.

3. Check for Missing Title Tags

The title tag of a page is, of course, one of the most important on-page factors for search engine rankings. Every page on your site should have a unique and descriptive title. If you have a relatively small website, you can easily check for this manually. SEO Book had a free tool available that did this manually, but it has been blocked by Google. Google Webmaster Tools will provide you with this information under “Diagnostics” and “Content Analysis.” WordPress users can install the All-In-One SEO Pack plugin to control page titles throughout the website or blog and ensure that each page/post has a proper title.

4. Find Your Most Productive Search Phrases

Google Webmaster Tools provides some valuable information about your site’s rankings and what phrases searchers are using to find you. Under “Statistics” click on “search queries” and you will see the top 20 search queries in which your site is appearing. This information may help you to find a few phrases for which you didn’t even realize you were ranking well. In this case, you may be able to increase those rankings even more by optimizing your site or a specific page to specifically target that search phrase.

On the right side of the screen, you will also see the top 20 queries that were used to actually reach your site. This shows what people are clicking as opposed to simply where you are ranking. On both of these lists, when you see specific queries you may know exactly which page on your site it is referencing. It’s not a bad idea to go to those pages and double check the meta descriptions to be sure that they do an effective job of telling potential visitors what the page is about and enticing them to click through from the SERPs.

5. Add “nofollow” Tags As Needed

Any time you link out to another website that you don’t want to be followed by search engines you can use a nofollow tag on the link. While there is no need to use nofollow on most links from your website or blog, they can be used for links to sites that don’t need your link juice, such as Google, Yahoo, etc. Most bloggers use NoFollow on links to FeedBurner for RSS and email subscriptions.

Additionally, you can also use nofollow tags on internal links to somewhat control how PageRank is passed throughout your site . For example, you will see a lot of website owners and bloggers that use nofollow tags on links to a contact page, since there is no need for the contact page to rank well. For more information about using nofollow on internal links, see Using NoFollow to Control PageRank Flow from SearchNewz.

From time-to-time, it’s helpful to go through your site and see where it might be helpful to add nofollow tags. An easy way to do this is by using the NoDoFollow add-on for Firefox (there are several similar add-ons as well) which will show all nofollow links in pink/red as you are surfing.

6. Look for Opportunities to Add Internal Links

Internal links within your website can help to tell search engines which pages are most important. It can potentially help your rankings to add internal links to those pages that you would like to rank higher. If your website continually has new content added (such as with blogs) there will always be opportunities to improve internal linking. Older pages/posts may be well-suited to link to a page that hadn’t yet been created at the time when it was published.

7. Check Your Search Traffic Trends

If your website is suffering from falling search traffic it is obviously helpful to know some information about the trends. Most of us check daily/weekly stats on a regular basis, but longer-term trends aren’t always examined. Using Google Analytics, or a similar program, analyze your search traffic over a span of several months. What are the general trends? Which pages have increased search traffic? Which pages have decreased search traffic? You may be able to identify some problems that need to be addressed or some opportunities that can be taken advantage of by knowing a little bit more about the trends.

8. Check Your Keyword Density

What words and phrases are you targeting with your website? Do they appear on you page more than other words? The keyword density tool from TrafficZap will allow you to enter a URL and it will produce a report of the words and phrases with the most density on the page.

9. Test Your Page from a Spider’s Point-of-View

A spider simulator can help you to quickly see how search engines see your page. SEO Book also has a nice, free spider simulator that will check several factors and provide you with a brief report. The report may help you to identify some simple improvements that can be made.

10. Check Your Rankings

One of the obvious things that you’ll want to check is your search engine rankings for your targeted keywords or phrases. Mike’s Marketing Tools has a nice rankings checker that will allow you to enter a URL and a search phrase and it will show you where you rank in the leading search engines.

For more relevant SEO tips check out these posts:

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