Digital marketing fundamentals: SEO vs PPC vs SMM

The marketing industry loves an acronym. Unfortunately, this can be confusing for people who don’t make a living from advertising. B2B, SEM, CMO, CPC; the list of abbreviations is as endless as it is confusing.

Nevertheless, all business owners and operators need a basic understanding of marketing if they want their organisations to grow. So to help you make sense of it all, today we’ll be looking at three of the most common types of digital marketing; what they are, how they work, and the services that Semalt offers for each.

SEO: Organically increase your website traffic

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It is a set of strategies and techniques designed to increase the chances of a website appearing in search engine results; more specifically near the top for certain keywords and phrases. It is designed to attract customers organically, rather than through paid advertisements.

Let’s say you own a London car washing business. If someone in London is trying to find a car wash and Googles ‘car wash London’, good SEO will get your company listed on the first page, and the best SEO will get you to the number one spot.

How does SEO work?

Search engines have things they call ‘crawlers’ or ‘bots’ which go out into the World Wide Web to collect every piece of relevant information, which is then analysed and indexed. When a person types keywords into the search bar, the search engine then uses a clever algorithm to spit out the most relevant results possible.

All search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc.) keep the details of their algorithms secret, so no one knows exactly what each search engine is looking for when deciding how to rank results. There are a few overarching rules that apply, however. A website with good search engine optimisation will:
  • Be designed to make it easy for search engine crawlers/bots to find the relevant information.
  • Feature quality information, rather than confusing, copied, doubled-up or irrelevant content.
  • Show itself to be trustworthy. One way trustworthiness can be demonstrated is through the amount of backlinks a website has – if other websites are linking to your site’s content, a search engine will see you as a reputable source.
So those are the rules that you need to play by, but how do you actually achieve good SEO?

How Semalt performs SEO

Through our AutoSEO and FullSEO products, at Semalt we use a wide variety of strategies to optimise your site for search engines. These techniques can be grouped into four main categories.


  • We look to understand and identify the best keywords and phrases for your business – the ones that will target and attract the largest and most relevant audience possible.
  • We analyse the structure and keyword distribution of your website to understand how well it aligns with search engine optimisation best practices.
  • We select the pages that will be the most effective for SEO marketing purposes.
  • We gather information on competitor websites to understand how they work and how we can get you ranking higher.

Website optimisation

  • We use our analysis to form a plan to optimise the internals of your website.
  • Using our earlier keyword analysis we create meta and alt tags to assist crawlers and bots with their information collection.
  • We enhance and enrich your website’s HTML code, placing added and enhanced attributes where necessary.
  • We edit .htaccess and robots.txt files to ensure that your website displays correctly in search engines.
  • We generate a sitemap file to enable complete indexing of your webpages.

Link building

  • We analyse what’s called your ‘link juice’ – the search engine value that is passed from one page or site to another through links.
  • We improve webpage quality by removing unhelpful or unnecessary links.
  • We compile a list of more relevant and effective links and identify the best places to put them.
  • We create the niche-specific link juice necessary to reach the top spot on Google. We integrate quality links into unique content related to your industry.
  • We remove broken links and address any Error 404 messages.

Why use SEO?

Over half of all web traffic comes from organic searches. By failing to optimise your website for search engines, you’ll be missing out on over half of your potential customers.

Search engine optimisation also grants you access to people who actually want what you sell – you don’t have to convince someone they need your product or service because they’re already looking for it! In this way, it can be one of the most effective marketing strategies available, as long as it’s done right.

PPC: Laser-target potential customers

What is PPC?

PPC stands for pay per click. This form of digital marketing is also about gaining visibility on search engines, although this time, rather than optimising your website to organically achieve a high ranking, you simply pay for top spot.

PPC advertisements are the links at the top (above-the-fold) of a search engine results page that have a small [Ad] label next to them. There are typically four on Google desktop searches and three on mobile. They are referred to as pay per click because an advertiser is only charged if a user actually clicks on a link.

How does PPC work?

How PPC works depends on which search engine you choose, but seeing as though Google holds a 92% market share, let’s focus on their product, AdWords. Google uses a bidding system for its PPC content. As an advertiser, you’ll be asked to tell Google your maximum spend for a certain keyword. This information, combined with an ad’s ‘quality score’, is used to decide which ad features on which search.

PPC ads are exactly that: ads. Because you’re paying good money you have far greater control over these ads than you do over SEO strategies. You can pick exactly what text, links and info you want to include, whether or not to display images, and the sort of user you want to target.

How Semalt can help with PPC marketing

At Semalt we offer a broad range of PPC marketing services. Whether you need assistance with understanding your market, creating ads, managing campaigns or analysing results, our team of experts can help to make PPC a valuable tool in your marketing arsenal.

Why use PPC marketing?

There are a number of perks that come with PPC advertising, particularly when compared to SEO:
  • Guaranteed exposure: Provided you create a quality ad and put in an appropriate maximum bid, you can be sure that your brand will be placed right at the top of the Google search results.
  • Targeted marketing: You can choose exactly who sees your ad by customising keyword, timing, geography, device and audience search history parameters.
  • Budget control: With PPC you can nominate exactly how much you want to spend, and you’ll know the returns you can expect from your investment.
  • Instant results: Unlike SEO, PPC delivers results as soon as you begin a campaign.
  • Unbeatable agility: Is your ad ineffective? Not a problem. PPC ads can be tweaked on the run, and your campaign will get better as you learn more.

SMM: Create a brand story and find an audience

What is SMM?

SMM stands for social media marketing. This is a diverse and far-reaching segment of digital marketing that has exploded over the last 10 years, and will only become more important into the future.

SMM covers the advertising, both paid and organic, that a brand uses to promote itself on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

How does SMM work?

SMM can be attacked in two very different ways. You can use social media to build a brand and audience through your own profiles, or, like PPC, you can pay to get in front of users’ eyeballs immediately. Because paid SMM is quite similar to PPC, we’ll instead focus on organically building a brand and audience.

Social media gives brands an incredible opportunity to engage with their audiences and to develop a personality. By posting content and interacting with other users you can tell a story about your company – its attitudes, its beliefs and its reason for being. In this way SMM isn’t about directly selling yourself, your products or your services – it’s instead about building trust and familiarity with potential customers. Like SEO, it’s a long-term marketing play. 

Which Semalt services include SMM?

At Semalt we offer a broad range of SMM services. Whether you need assistance with understanding or developing your brand identity, creating content, managing your profiles or analysing the results of your efforts, our team of experts can help to make your social media presence something that establishes and strengthens your brand and helps to draw new customers in.

Why use SMM marketing?

SMM offers a few unique benefits that other forms of marketing don’t, including:
  • Visually attractive advertising: Social media is great for companies who pride themselves on visuals. Platforms like Instagram prioritise beauty over direct selling.
  • Fewer rules: As the owner of your own profile, and without the requirement to directly sell to your audience, you can post almost anything you want! It’s wise to post things that your audience will find valuable, however, whether in terms of entertainment or education.
  • The opportunity to tell a story: What is your brand? A lot of owners are unable to describe the essence of their company, but knowing who you are, helps you to better advertise to your audience. Social media allows an organisation to explore and develop its identity.
  • Effective when done right: If you do SMM well, you can enjoy a steady stream of new customers without needing to invest much money at all. Rather than relying on paid advertisements, your profiles do the hard work for you!
While the fundamentals of SEO, PPC and SMM might be able to be covered in a 1500 word blog, in reality, there is so much more to each discipline than we can say here. Thankfully the experts are just a click away.

At Semalt we have years of experience in developing industry-leading marketing strategies for companies just like yours. Contact us today to find out how we could help you!