influencer, social media marketing, smm, seo, search engine optimisation, google,

The difference between SEO and SMM

Yes, we’re all affiliate partners or managers here, so you don’t need a definition explained. But it will only take a second. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation is the act of designing your content or website so it ranks higher in Google search results. Social media marketing, or SMM, is posting content on a branded social media profile in order to market to a following audience.

Simple, right? We can all go home now?

No. We know you know the difference in definition and concept, but there is far more to it than that. Below, we have a list of pointers that show the deeper differences between the two ideas and how you can implement them in your affiliate marketing programs. Take a look at our guide for tweaking content to suit SEO or SMM.

Audience psychology

The biggest difference between the two is why a browser would stumble across your content. Someone who lands on your website via Google has gone there with intent. They are looking for something and Google has presented them with what they’re after. They’re not browsing and seeing what appears. They want a watch; Google has shown them countless watches.

On the other hand, if someone is on social media, they’re usually making the general demand of “entertain me”, and they expect the algorithm to do the heavy lifting on presenting them with things that will entertain them. They’ve got no plan, no particular place to be, they’re just “mindlessly scrolling”.

So, this shifts the intent of your content from “answering a question” as Google’s SEO system demands, to catching the attention of a user on social media. Information versus entertainment.

Content topics

Along the same lines, another difference in the underlying point of this content is the expectations. Users who are searching on Google are looking for answers to questions: they have an expectation. On the other hand, when browsing through social media looking for something to catch their eye, the best idea is to be unexpected. Searching on Google is usually applying your analytical side, with intent, whereas browsing on social media is about interest and tipping emotions.


This is reflected in the content. Typically, blog posts on brand websites are text-focused. Sure, you can mix things up with some photos and videos, but the foundation of the piece is usually written. This aids SEO for one thing but it’s also easy to find your answers that way. A quick scan, or even a CTRL+F later and you’ve got what you were looking for. Whereas, especially lately, social media platforms are increasingly media focused. Entire platforms were built around photos like Instagram and Pinterest, rather than text, and since the lockdown, they’ve expanded into short-form video content.

As mentioned, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but there is a clear winner on one over the other depending on if you’re focusing on SEO or SMM.


This clear difference between “intent/information” versus “boredom/entertainment” informs all other aspects of your content, including who you partner with. For example, if you are writing blog posts for the sake of Google, and Google only rewards the most informative content, you’re going to want to feature quotes and input from experts in what you’re writing about. On the other hand, social media influencers have “social media” right in their name. They will know how to catch roaming eyes in a fun and creative way.

Of course, there is some overlap. Influencers can be experts in their given field and vice versa. It’s a concept that is becoming far more common nowadays.

Upper limits

However, the problem with answering a question with SEO is that only a finite number of people are looking for the answer you have to give. There is a finite demand and you’re not likely to exceed it. On the other hand, social media content has the chance to go viral and can keep going viral if you’re lucky.

If you are interested in more affiliate and social media marketing insights, take a look at our blog for all the latest news and advice. Or for a more personalised approach, book a free call with a member of our team.

Or, for the very best advice from industry peers, register to join us for our ELEVATE Summit in July. Elevate aims to bring you the latest affiliate, performance, and partner marketing insights from across the globe and it’s all available to stream from our website.

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