What is SEO Anyway?

In a world of acronyms (SEO, SMM, PPC, SEM, etc.) it’s easy to get confused about what each of them stand for, and I’m constantly asked by clients and friends about the difference between them.  As a way of dispelling this confusion, I’ve explained each of them below.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Internet marketing acronymsThe term search engine optimization was first used in 1997 by John Audette and Bruce Clay, who are major players in the SEO industry.  Primarily concerned with organic rankings, or getting your site ranked for non-paid search phrases, SEO is a constantly evolving process because of frequent algorithm changes.  It involves changes to the website coding as well as offsite factors such as link building (or link earning) to increase rankings in the most natural way possible.  Although having the most long-term value, SEO is not an instant fix, nor is it a one-time thing.  It is an ongoing process that takes months and even years.

Pay-per-click (PPC) and Cost-per-click (CPC) Marketing

Unlike search engine optimization, which seeks to gain traffic from non-paid, organic search results, PPC and CPC are interchangeable terms for paid advertising strategies in which an individual or business pays every time someone clicks on their ad.  Pay per click is often referred to as the name of the strategy, while CPC refers to the actual cost of the clicks.  Most commonly, these ads can be found at the top of or to the right of search engine results, or on websites that are part of a search engine’s content network.  An advertiser pays ONLY when someone clicks on an ad, as opposed to cost per impression (CPI), where an advertiser pays every time an ad is shown, regardless of whether someone clicks on it.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Social media optimization utilizes social sources such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ to promote websites online.  Although the goal of SMM is similar to SEO, it is primarily driven by social outlets, meaning traffic is intended to be redirected to the website from these outlets.  This strategy is often focused on content promotion and branding, or building familiarity with a brand.  Research more and more frequently shows that social signals (Likes, +1s, tweets, etc.) are becoming ranking factors for websites, which is why SMM often overlaps with SEO.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Internet Marketing

Search engine marketing and internet marketing are broader terms than SEO and SMM and generally include organic increases to site rankings though search engine optimization, social media optimization, as well as paid listings through PPC (Pay-per-click) or CPC (Cost-per-click).  SEM and internet marketing include ALL strategies used to promote a website online, including press releases, content, social media, and PPC or CPC.

Many companies, including Dragonfly SEO, provide full internet marketing services, not just search engine optimization.

You may also be interested in:

Useful SEO Plugins, Resources, and Newsletters

Five SEO Tips for Small Businesses

Geoff Hoesch is the owner of Dragonfly SEO, a Maryland internet marketing company. He believes in a quality over quantity marketing strategy and works to promote white hat practices.

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