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.

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

Some 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.

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.


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.

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 Digg 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 Digg and 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 this 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.

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56 Responses

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  • Acopic - Web Designers, October 9, 2007

    I’m a new subscriber – liking the site a lot.

    Yeah I think SEO and SMO can co-exist. It’s all about planning your site properly before the build. Sort our your SEO/SMO plan and create your layout/navigation to match. Easy.

  • david, October 9, 2007

    Every blog nowadays have social bookmarking icons like digg and delicious. Is a good way to gain some traffic before you become popular.

  • Vandelay Design, October 9, 2007

    Thanks for reading, I’m glad you’re finding useful information here. Yes, I think planning ahead is important. Building the site/blog with proper seo elements will mean that you don’t have to constantly make those tweaks.

    I agree, social networking is a great way to get traffic for new blogs. The thing with those icons is that sometimes they get ignored because 1) readers get used to seeing them everywhere and overlook them, and 2) bloggers use way too many icons at once and lessen the value of all of them.

  • Karen Zara, October 9, 2007

    Very well-written article, as usual. By structuring your post around comparisons between SEO and SMO you made things clearer and easier to understand. You’ve also proved that there’s no easy way to reach success; both SEO and SMO are time-consuming and require lots of effort to work.

  • Vandelay Design, October 9, 2007

    Thanks for your comments. Yes, both can be a lot of work, but I think the results are worth the effort.

  • Financial Zone, October 9, 2007

    I think they work together really good.

    When starting a new site you should obviously make it SEO friendly. There really is no problem concentrating on social media at the same time.

    They really do go together. If you hit the first page of Digg and get hundreds/thousands of linkbacks its helping your SEO. =0)

    - Andrew

  • Discount Web Design, October 10, 2007

    It seems that If you do good at SMO the SEO will follow the track.

  • John Lampard, October 10, 2007

    Great article. SEO perhaps has more of long tail effect while SMO produces some short, sharp results (aka traffic spikes).

  • Visa consultant, October 11, 2007

    Hi Vandelay, such a wonderful article you have given for your visitors describing clearly the difference between the SEO and SMO and it work and its use etc., you have made all the clear useful points beautifully in this article.

    well i try both SMO and SEO for my website. the only problem i am finding is “nofollow” in some Social networking sites. do you know any solution to over come it.

  • Vandelay Design, October 11, 2007

    I wouldn’t worry about the no follow tags on social networking sites. Almost all of them use no follow. You may not directly get links from any type of social media sites, but if your content becomes popular it will draw links from other bloggers as a result. So, while they won’t directly give you links, they can indirectly.

  • Cole Haan, October 11, 2007

    Social Media sites like Digg are so populated and its very hard to get your story at the top. I never had any luck getting my story digged to main page (No it was not my website link).
    Example is, I submit a story from CNN News, which is not noticed by anyone, 2 or 3 Diggs. But some time later someone else submits the same story and it shoots up to the main page. Hows that possible ?

  • Vandelay Design, October 11, 2007

    Cole Haan,
    Users that have hundreds of people who have added them as a friend get way more Diggs than newer users. It’s almost impossible to get a story to the top without friends. You need to either find a high profile user to submit a page for you or have a high traffic website if you want to get traffic from Digg without having a lot of friends.

  • Meg, October 13, 2007

    Hi Steven,

    Just catching up on some reading. Great comparison highlighting the pros and cons of SEO and SMO – excellent primer.

  • Vandelay Design, October 13, 2007

    Hi Meg,
    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Mike C, October 13, 2007

    Your bring up good points here. I personally have never heard of SMO at least never heard it called that. I have struggled to do well with SMO aspects and have focused a lot more on SEO. Any ideas on improving SMO?

  • Vandelay Design, October 13, 2007

    If you haven’t used social media very much I would suggest starting with niche sites if possible. It will be easier to draw some targeted traffic that way. Use some of these sites for a while and study what types of content do well. Then write content aimed at the social media audience. Good luck.

  • Internet Marketing Students, October 17, 2007

    This is great advice on internet marketing. There certainly are new ways to online marketing nowadays. There are free traffic sites really work if you know how to work them. Thanks for this!

  • Calligaris, October 20, 2007

    I think both SMO and SEO (recently) makes all business people and webmasters rethink the optimization and marketing strategies and start working on real value added content aiming more for the people then for spiders. In my view – it is a positive trend. The article is great. Thank you.

  • Vandelay Design, October 20, 2007

    I agree. I think the development of social sites has caused more focus on content for readers, which leads to better quality and more creativity.

  • uGuX, November 27, 2007

    Excellent SMO can easily get you some high-quality backlinks — that helps with SEO.

  • Seo Consultant, November 27, 2007

    I have long said that SMM is the new media equivalent of traditional PR. Look at the prevalence and popularity of top ten lists on sites like and compare it to the amount of top ten (or top however many) lists that print publications and tv programs put out. Instead of pitching stories to producers or editors, you’re pitching them directly to the community, but the goal and end result are strikingly similar.

  • linkbait, December 9, 2007

    I agree with the above poster, however I think one part of SMO everyone is leaving out of the equation is brand management.

  • Rowena Owen, February 18, 2008

    With a website already well ranked can it be improved and sustained by introducing SMO as well as SEO?

  • betting seo, February 27, 2008

    i think intially we need more SMO and Later SEO Will work it self if we optimized the site or blog

  • Fimo, April 5, 2008

    i havn’t hear SMO?

  • ken24, April 9, 2008

    I guess SMO is getting better and better.,because everybody can do it, which means accessible for all users angd good for all web site or blog site owners in promoting their websites..

  • I have found not every site is well suited for SMO, but almost all sites can be a good candidate for SEO.

  • Jayson, June 12, 2008

    Very thorough article. I think they can co-exist too, there are many things that SMO can do that will help out all SEO efforts

  • Chloe Van, November 10, 2008

    SMO should be used as part of your seo campaign its a great way of building links. If you are already implementing good seo and getting steady traffic the high peaks from SMO are an added bonus.

  • Seo Submissions, February 10, 2009

    Articles also play some part in internet marketing. As articles are read by visitors there are more chances for visitors coming to the sites. Articles should be relevant to the theme of the site

  • The Medical Plus, March 17, 2009

    SEO helps to increase your traffic in to rank high in search engines, and social media optimization is great way to attract traffic, social media Optimization its mainly used to get fast traffic to your website…

  • van leasing, June 23, 2009

    Really it is very useful post and I like to read these techniques and also I am trying it and thanks for sharing such type of techniques please keep it sharing.

  • free professional profile, June 30, 2009

    I prefer SEO because the effects benefit my sites for a longer period of time.

  • Nano Infosoft, November 5, 2009

    SEO and SMO are the complement of each other and two best way of site promotion. This the new way of interacting with internet community.

  • Darcy Voutt, November 24, 2009

    Fanstastic post. I agree that SMO is much better from a branding and relationship standpoint. Look at people like Ryan Leslie and Gary Vaynerchuk.

    Thanks for the great post.

  • Mark Carter, December 10, 2009

    Strikes me that SMO is very much a speciality that needs a lot of attention to be done well. You can’t just drop in, make a little bit of effort, and expect much of a reward.

    Hmm, guess that’s pretty much true of SEO in general, only seems even more so with SMO?

  • Iwebhost, May 20, 2010

    we are doing smo for my site, can you tell me the line between spamming the social media and just using it for business benifit.

    we are spending whole 15-20 hrs per day in smo is it spamming the media or not?
    how much hrs we should spend on smo.

    Please let me know

    • Vandelay Website Design, May 21, 2010

      There’s no limit on the number of hours you can spend before it becomes spam. If you’re submitting your own content to social media sites it should be relevant (for example, don’t submit a post on celebrity gossip to a site that focuses on the automotive industry, and always submit content to the right categories). Also, if you are requesting votes from other users you should not be doing so frequently (everybody has a different opinion about what is too much). You should also be voting for other people’s content and genuinely be interested in the community of users.

  • filmini izle, June 7, 2010

    we are spending whole 10 hrs per day in smo is it spamming the media or not?
    how much hrs we should spend on smo.

  • izlebe, June 7, 2010

    Fanstastic post. I agree that SMO is much better from a branding and relationship standpoint. Look at people like Ryan Leslie and Gary Vaynerchuk.

    Thanks for the great post.

  • jack, June 18, 2010

    I thankful to you for providing very important information about seo and smo and now i understood that smo is also important to promot your website.

  • Maria, September 23, 2010

    I think combining them both in your website is a good idea. It will make your website’s traffic increase and at the same time will be popularly known by using SMO if properly done.

  • Aaron, January 27, 2011

    SEO is basically done for you in WordPress, yes you can make it better, but its all about writing good stuff and getting yourself out there.

  • don, April 6, 2011

    Interesting observation @Vandeley Design!!! Came across some useful information from reading your article… but yeah from the little I know of SEO SMO I agree with Maria, having both on websites does increase traffic!!

  • Donovan Crow, April 21, 2011

    Just a quick word to say thanks and this post was very helpful for me.

  • Swift Creations, June 27, 2011

    Thank you for sharing this great post!