The Big 3: How SEO, SEM, & SMM Work Together

There are numerous “Big 3s” in business:

  • Television Stations: ABC, NBC, CBS
  • Consulting Firms: McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company
  • Automobile: General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler
  • Tech: Google, Apple, Facebook

Why settle for just one or two when you can have all three?

Let’s go back to 2010 and revisit “The Decision” and LeBron James. James, along with fellow superstars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, was in his athletic prime and facing the most intense free agency in maybe all of sports history.

Many teams throughout the NBA saved money for this specific summer. They hoped, no, prayed to be able to sign LeBron and maybe one other superstar.

One team, the Miami Heat of course, proposed signing all three – what came to be known as “The Big Three.”

Each James, Wade, and Bosh could’ve signed maximum deals and made $50 MILLION more than they did. But they decided it was best to join forces and use the Heat’s salary cap wisely. It paid off. In four seasons, the Heat won two titles and came up just short in the NBA Finals in the other two years.

When it comes to marketing and advertising, the Big 3 traffic drivers are Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and Social Media Marketing (SMM). In order to “win your championship,” you too must use your marketing budget wisely rather than blindly throwing money at all three.

Let’s clear one common misconception up: it’s not SEO vs. SEM or SEO vs. SMM. Just like it wasn’t LeBron vs. Wade or LeBron vs. Bosh. Everyone is on the same team. It’s SEO AND SEM AND SMM. All working together toward the same goal: providing quality content to your customers that gets them further down the sales funnel.

It’s all about finding the right mix. Too many times, we see companies investing resources, time, and money into SEO, SEM, and SMM. That’s great, but it has to be done correctly.


Let’s take a sporting goods store for example. For fun, we’ll call it “Sammy’s Sports.”

Sammy’s Sports does fairly well with 18 locations across three states. It has a loyal following and strong brand recognition. Last year, the company spent $1 million on Google Ads. 70 percent of that was spent on branded search terms (Sammy’s Sports, Sammy’s Sports locations, what time is Sammy’s Sports open?, etc.).

The problem is, however, Sammy’s Sports’ competitors weren’t bidding on those keywords. Sammy was the only ad coming up. Even worse? Sammy’s owned the top five organic search positions for those terms. Stats show that 97 percent of all clicks take place between paid ads and the top three organic positions. That means that Sammy’s would’ve comfortably owned 97 percent of those clicks. Instead, they “wasted” $700,000 on clicks they would’ve gotten anyway! Ouch!  

Prior to launching a paid SEM campaign, companies must understand their organic rankings and set goals. If competitors are bidding on your brand keywords, then you should absolutely include those terms in your plans. You’ll pay less than your competitors since your landing page and ads are more relevant than the competitors’ assets.

On the other hand, don’t be afraid to explore some search conquest tactics of your own. It is extremely difficult to organically outrank your competitors for their branded terms. Instead, find opportunities and competitors who do not bid on their brand. Create some compelling ad copy that portrays why you’re a superior alternative and start “stealing” some of your competitors’ traffic!

Wait, Where Does Social Media Come Into Play?

Sort of like Chris Bosh, social media can sometimes be forgotten due to focusing on other tactics like SEO and SEM (and LeBron and Wade). But, again like Bosh, social media is extremely versatile.

Social media can be an incredible source of referral traffic. There are countless targeting options across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest…you get the idea. You can even remarket to customers who have been on your website.

Think about it: you can set up parameters to target people who have been on certain pages across your website. These people clearly have some interest in your product or service. Sometimes that Facebook post is the extra kick in the rear they need to purchase.

Keywords & Content

Content is still king in the world of marketing and advertising. Say it with us again: content is still king.

Your company might have the greatest product or service in your area, state, country, or even the world (trust us, some companies do believe that). However, potential customers will never find you if you don’t have the right type of content to attract them.

Remember how all three (SEO + SEM + SMM) are supposed to work together? That’s where keywords come into play. Your organic posts shouldn’t be the only content focused on your major click-driving keywords. Did you know that SEM and SMM have indirect impacts on your organic rankings?

While you certainly don’t want the three competing with one another, social media is a great way to build brand authority, increase local rankings, and share valuable content with a targeted audience. Using the right keywords in your SEM plan allows you to bring prospects to your site who could then return organically or via social media. As you create more and more relevant content throughout your website and other marketing platforms like social media, search engines will crawl that content and begin to recognize your company as an industry leader.

Going back to the basketball reference: think of keywords like your game plan. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh all had different roles, but shared the same game plan to achieve their goal of winning. Be sure to incorporate your major keywords throughout your entire “lineup” of tactics.

Remember: it’s all about finding the right mix. It will take some time to figure out the perfect mix of SEO, SEM, and SMM for your business. In fact, that Miami Heat team from 2010? They utilized 15 different starting lineups throughout the season trying to find the right mix. Even as great as they were, the Heat did NOT win the championship in that first season with the Big 3. It took time for the team to gel. Once they found their stride, they went on to win the next two titles. It will take some trial and error, testing, and time for your business to succeed.

Want some help managing your marketing budget? Struggling to find the right mix of marketing and advertising strategies?

Jay Marketing & Communications is here to help! We have a dedicated Media team that will find you opportunities, a focused Creative department that creates enticing content, and an efficient Digital team to execute your strategies.

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