Agency > Definition – SEO terms > SEM = SEO + SEA + SMO


Understanding search engine marketing (SEM)

SEO, SEA, SMO, SEM. You see these acronyms regularly on the internet, but do you know what they actually mean? The information available on the subject is often incomplete, too numerous, and contributes to the confusion surrounding these terms.

The development of an effective SEM strategy enables a site to gain positions in the SERP and appear among the top results of search engines. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert on the web, a SEO or SEA expert, if you’re looking to increase your visibility, it’s in your interest to have a good understanding of these web marketing concepts.

The agency can help you see things more clearly.

What is SEO?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is nothing more than ‘natural’ search engine optimization. In other words, all the techniques used to improve a website’s ranking in search engines such as Google. SEO is based on three pillars: technique, content and popularity.

  1. My onsite technique (intuitive tree structure, correct tagging, clean URLs, responsive design, user experience, etc.) ;
  2. The content (rich vocabulary, logical content, keywords, semantic cocoon, internal linking, references to reliable sources, etc.);
  3. Off-site referencing (backlinks, social network shares, brand awareness, etc.).

This is what the site is all about and what is offered directly to Internet users. Good content is exhaustive, unique and original. Lastly, popularity concerns the references made by third-party sites to another website. To illustrate, good content is likely to be picked up by other websites and shared. This is a strong indicator of popularity and therefore of quality for a search engine. A site that obtains a lot of relevant incoming links will be perceived as a quality site.

Mastering SEO is no easy task. It requires experience and appropriate training.

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What is SEA?

SEA (for Search Engine Advertising) defines what is commonly known as “paid” referencing. In reality, it concerns advertising placed on a search engine. Google is the best example of this with its famous Google Ads advertising network. You will notice that for certain queries, so-called sponsored results (“ads”) appear on the search engine. These are purchased advertising spaces. In the case of Google Ads, for example, keywords are purchased by auction.

It is a particularly interesting marketing tool for e-commerce sites. Unlike natural search, paid search has an immediate impact on your site’s visibility. However, it is important to understand that the traffic obtained through SEA disappears when the campaign ends. It is not a long-term investment.

What is SMO?

SMO stands for Social Media Optimization. It refers to all activities aimed at developing a company’s visibility through social media. YouTube and Google + are now indispensable in a search strategy.

It’s not uncommon to see YouTube videos appearing in search results, and we shouldn’t forget that YouTube itself is the second-largest search engine in the world in terms of search volume.

The same applies to Google+ which, as well as personalising SERPs according to the user profile logged in, offers a number of options linked to visibility on results pages: Rich Snippet enterprise, Authorship thumbnail, Google+ Local listing, etc.

Other social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Viadeo and Dailymotion, on the other hand, have a more relative importance that is difficult to assess.


SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing.

It is a global term that covers all the techniques used to improve the visibility of an entity (site, company, person, etc.) on search engines.

SEM is a set of web marketing techniques. This marketing ecosystem can be summarized as follows: SEO + SEA + SMO = SEM.

Now you’re wondering what to choose between SEO, SEA and SMO? All three have their own potential, but above all they complement each other!

SEM is an integral part of a global SEO strategy, because it is the most effective way of acquiring traffic and leads.

Good to know: The best is the enemy of the good! Beware of over-optimisation. It’s important to find the right balance so as not to get the opposite effect and find yourself penalized by the algorithms. Since 2011 and its Penguin and Panda updates, Google has been penalizing sites that optimize their content to the detriment of quality or that abuse backlinks.

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