For several years, search engine optimization (SEO) has been the focus of internet marketers but lately a new player has come on the scene. That new player is social media or what is referred to as social media optimization (SMO). While SEO and SMO are related in some ways, they are not the same thing. SEO concerns itself primarily with ranking within the index databases of the various search engines while SMO is more focused on getting the word out among an assortment of network user groups. SMO has become extremely popular for marketers but does this mean that SEO is dead? What does it mean for a company’s SEO investment? As long as there are search engines, SEO will not go away. However, you will probably see that SEO and SMO will work together more in the future and that businesses will leverage the strengths of each.

Your current SEO investment is not wasted. You actually want the best of both worlds when it comes to marketing on the internet. Not everyone has a profile on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Some just don’t have the time and still use the first avenue for finding something on the web: the search engine. Others don’t use social networks because of restrictions at their workplace or they just think it is silly. The bottom line is that there is still a significant web population that will prefer to utilize the search engines over social networking sites.

SMO is based upon the opinions of others whereas SEO is not. This is the main feature that makes it different from SEO. For example, when you perform a query in a search engine, you get back results related to the keywords that you entered. You get a mixture of results—both related and unrelated. That’s why SEO concerns itself with getting your business ranked within the first 1 or 2 pages of a search engine result. On the other hand, with social networking sites like Twitter, Myspace, Facebook and Linkedin, you build an audience of those with relative interest in your business area. It is much like the traditional word-of-mouth exchange craved by businesses throughout the years and even before the internet.

Social media is focused on peer groups but your peers may not be your customers. Have you ever tried to sell something to friends and family? Usually, they are happy for you but buy out of obligation or smile and pass. While social media may bring in link traffic, it may have a lower sales conversion rate. Your peers in your social network will be interested in your product but may only buy once if they buy at all. On the other hand, SEO concerns itself with ranking your site so anyone will find you if using the right search keywords.

As long as “Google” is a buzzword in the English language, people will still use it. Google is the name of one of the most popular search engines in the world today. It is so popular that English speakers actually use it as a verb. Instead of saying they will search for something, they actually say they will “Google” something on the internet. With this word ingrained in our language, the art of “Googling” is not going to die out any time soon.

Authority will remain important in SEO. However, authority can be built using SMO. Authority is a term used to describe a website that is both trusted and relevant in the niche it is built around. Search engines like Google give weight to a site’s authority when determining how to rank it.

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