15+ Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Terms

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a very important component of the digital marketing world. It’s not just about SEO and website optimization- it also includes pay per click advertising, social media advertisements, email campaigns, and other tactics. However, there are countless acronyms in this space that can be confusing to people who are new to SEM or digital marketing in general. That’s why I’ve put together a guide of some of the most common terms that you should know as an up and coming marketer.

  • Audience: Your audience is your target market in terms of demographics, location, and interests. The larger or more specific the demographic group you can identify for a given campaign, the better.
  • Bid: The amount you’re willing to pay per click when running an ad on Google Adwords (for example). It’s also called cost per click.
  • Click: The act of clicking on a link to access content or an advertisement in search engine results pages, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, web browsers, etc. In the digital marketing world, clicks are also referred to as impressions or visitors- depending on context. (The number of times that someone has clicked your ad is called “clickthrough rate” which you may have heard about before)
  • Conversion: A conversion occurs when one person does whatever action you want them to do after they view your ads/landing page URL ­‐ for example if we wanted people visiting our website from Google Adwords to sign up for email updates then those who signed up would be considered conversions.
  • Cost: This refers how much you’re spending on a campaign.
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): The total cost of all your marketing efforts divided by the number of conversions or subscribers that resulted from those efforts. CPA can be thought of as how much it costs to acquire one new customer through advertising, while CPC is about what it costs for someone who has already expressed interest in your brand and product to take an action such as clicking on an ad. (Note: This metric shouldn’t include any revenue generated).
  • Cost per click (CPC): How much money you spend every time somebody clicks on your advertisement ­‐ this is also known as “cost-per-click.” In contrast with CPA, which includes anything leading up to conversion, CPC only counts the clicks that lead to conversion.
  • Impressions: The number of times an advertisement is displayed on a website or in search engine results pages without any resulting action (i.e. people clicking the link). This is also known as “clicks” and “visitors.”
  • Keyword: A word, phrase, or keyword that describes what your business does and wants trending online for organic traffic- especially if you’re running ads with Google Adwords. For example, let’s say I’m running an ad campaign for my dog walking company called Wag N’ Walkies; one of my keywords might be “dog lovers,” because it would attract more potential customers who are passionate about pets than something like just using the name of my company alone.
  • Landing page: The destination URL that a person arrives at when clicking on an advertisement. This is usually what the ad was promoting and should be optimized for conversion- meaning it’s well designed, has a clear call to action (or CTA), and offers customers something of value in exchange for their time spent consuming content.
  • Optimization: Increasing the visibility of your company by implementing SEO tactics such as adding relevant keywords throughout your website or social media profiles, publishing useful blog posts with compelling titles, updating site maps, etc. Marketers can also optimize ads through Google Adwords by setting bids based on keyword research to help make sure you’re being seen more often than competing brands who may not have as much extra cash to spend per click.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC): The amount of money you pay for each time somebody clicks on your advertisement, also known as “cost per click.” This is in contrast with CPA which includes anything leading up to conversion and CPC only counts the clicks that lead to conversion; PPC can be used to target people who have already expressed interest in what you’re advertising by clicking on an ad or coming from a website where they’ve been browsing around. It’s important not to confuse this metric with monthly cost per click (CPM) – these metrics are based off different calculations.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Using SEO tactics such as adding relevant keywords throughout your website or social media profiles, publishing useful blog posts with compelling titles, updating site maps, etc. Marketers can also optimize ads through Google Adwords by setting bids based on keyword research to help make sure you’re being seen more often than competing brands who may not have as much extra cash to spend per click.
  • Targeting: Refers broadly to all of the marketing efforts put into reaching a specific audience – this might mean running an ad campaign for Instagram users only if they already match up well with what your business has advertised elsewhere.
  • Website: A website is a collection of web pages, images, videos or other digital assets that are hosted on at least one internet domain. All websites have a home page which usually links to all the content available for browsing.
  • URL: Is the internet address of a website.

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