The Truth About Search Engine Marketing vs. Social Media Advertising Exposed!


Search engine marketing (SEM) and social media advertising (SMA) are two of today’s most powerful digital marketing strategies. SEM is an excellent way to get your website and products in front of potential customers quickly, while social media advertising can amplify brand awareness by reaching larger audiences.

However, deciding which is best for your business can be challenging. To help you make the right decision, we’ve broken down the key differences between SEM and SMA, as well as their pros and cons.

Search Engine Marketing vs. Social Media Advertising: Key Differences

1. Goals/Focus

SEM focuses more on paid search campaigns designed to target specific keywords and phrases. Ads can be placed on search engine results pages (SERPs) and other websites, depending on the type of campaign you run. With SEM, your goal is to drive visitors to your website who are already interested in your products or services. The good news is that, unlike SEO which takes as long as 4-6 months, you only need 2-4 weeks to see considerable results from your SEM campaign.

SMA focuses more on brand awareness and getting your message out to as many people as possible. It’s a great way to increase engagement with potential customers, build relationships, and create a loyal following. Please note, however, that it may take up to 90 days to turn a profit with Facebook & Instagram ads.

2. Reach

Periphery's sample of SEM

SEM campaigns can reach large numbers of people quickly and effectively, and it’s easy to see why; Google alone attracts more than 9 billion search queries per day. With a well-optimized Google ads campaign, you can target specific demographics and locations, maximizing the chances of converting searchers into customers.

SMA campaigns have more limited reach but can still be effective. As well as boosting brand awareness, they are suitable for engaging with existing customers and increasing social media followers.

3. Cost

Generally, SEM is less expensive since you only pay when a customer clicks your ad. Nonetheless, the cost varies depending on how competitive your target keywords are. 

Social media advertising can cost you more, thanks to its high competition, but the cost of running campaigns can also add up quickly. It’s essential to consider the return on investment (ROI) before committing to a strategy.

Periphery's sample of SMA

N/B: There are other key differences between social media advertising and search engine marketing. These may include the user intent, types of ad formats available, levels of competition, etc. So be sure to do your research before deciding which strategy is best for your business.

Pros & Cons of SEM vs. SMA

Now that you know the main differences between SEM and SMA, let’s look at the pros and cons of each:

SEM Pros

  • Targeted campaigns lead to better returns
  • Effective for driving website traffic quickly
  • Pay only when someone clicks your ads

SEM Cons

  • Competitive keywords can be expensive
  • You’ll need to adjust campaigns regularly

SMA Pros

  • Excellent for building relationships and engaging with customers
  • Can reach large audiences quickly
  • Low cost of entry compared to other forms of advertising

SMA Cons

  • Low ROI if you don’t have a clear strategy in place
  • Higher costs for highly competitive markets

Which Strategy is Right for Your Business?

The decision between search engine marketing and social media advertising ultimately boils down to your goals and objectives. If you’re looking to increase website traffic and conversions quickly, SEM is the way to go. But if you want to create an engaged customer base and build relationships with potential customers, SMA could be more effective.

In either case, it’s crucial to understand your target audience, set clear campaign goals, and track your progress to get the best results. With the right strategy, you can make the most of both SEM and SMA to drive your business forward.

Periphery Digital Can Help You Develop an Effective Strategy!

At Periphery Digital, we specialize in helping businesses of all sizes get the most out of their digital marketing campaigns. We have a team of experienced professionals who can develop an effective strategy for your business, leveraging both SEM and SMA to maximize your ROI.

And the best part? Whether you want to increase website traffic or build relationships, our experts can help you identify the best approach. We’ll work with you to create campaigns that reach the right people, engage customers, and drive results so you can achieve your goals. Our team will also provide ongoing support and guidance to ensure your efforts are productive and effective over time. Contact us today to learn more!

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