The A-Z of SEM: Alphabet of Online Marketing

By Tinuiti Team

We all learned the alphabet when we were five, but I bet no one taught you the SEM alphabet!

Here is a quick reference of the most important terms used in the paid search industry.

Though not exhaustive in the least bit, these are terms any search engine marketer should know like the back of their hand. Feel free to sing along (in your head please).

The ABCs of Paid Search

Adwords – The Big Kahuna of advertising software, and Google’s main source of revenue. Did you know that Google made more than $43 billion from advertising alone in 20121?

Bing Ads – Adwords’s main competitor, Bing Ads provides advertising for the Yahoo! Bing Network, a joint venture formed by the MSN and Yahoo! search engines in 2010 and originally called the Search Alliance2

Cost-Per-Click – One of the main benefits of online advertising over traditional forms of advertising is that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Cost-Per-Click, or CPC, is the amount you pay every time your ad gets a click

Display – Display advertising is that which occurs on the Display Network – a network of millions of websites that partner with a search engine to increase advertisers’ reach. Though ROIs tend to be much lower than search advertising, display advertising can be a vital component of your marketing strategy when combined with a well-executed search initiative

Enhanced Campaigns – Google created a stir in the SEM world when it announced Enhanced Campaigns, under which all mobile, tablet, and desktop targeted campaigns must be combined into one, with different bid adjustments for device and geographic targeting. Were you ready for the July 22 deadline3?

Facebook – Advertising on social networks such as Facebook can add an exciting social component to your marketing strategy, where you can target by likes, interests, and more specific demographics, and create sponsored stories which highlight friends’ activities on your Facebook page. Marketers have just recently begun realizing the power of social networks to drive brand engagement and improve ROI, so expect constant change as this space evolves

Google – The most popular search engine on the World Wide Web. Did you know the word “Google” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb in 20064?

Headline – The first line in your ad text and the first thing searchers see when looking at your ad. Make sure it is highly relevant to the keywords in your adgroup, and be careful not to go over the 25 character limit!

Impressions – Your ad competed in a bid, and it won! Congratulations, you received an impression, meaning that your ad simply showed up on the search results page. The best part about impressions is that they’re completely free; you only pay when someone clicks on the ad

Jacuzzi – After a long day of writing ad copy, you deserve a nice bath

Keywords – The list of search queries that will enable your ad to show. Each adgroup can have up to 5,000 keywords, and multiple matching options for each keyword determine how closely matched to the keyword a user’s search query needs to be to activate your ad

Landing Page – The page of your website that a user is directed to when they click on your ad. Make sure your landing page is highly relevant to your ad and keywords, or your keyword’s quality score will be negatively impacted

Mobile – Did you know that there are 4 billion mobile phones in use worldwide, and mobile internet usage is expected to surpass desktop internet usage by 20145? If you aren’t marketing on mobile already, you better hurry up before your competition leaves you in the dust

Negative Keywords – Negative keywords ensure that your ad does NOT show if a user’s query contains that keyword. Make sure you are frequently checking your search query reports and adding irrelevant queries as negatives, or your Halle Berry fanpage might be unnecessarily spending on people who are just looking for a delicious jar of berry preserves

Organic Search Results – Organic search results are the results listed below the paid search advertisements. They are completely free and ranked solely based on your website’s relevance to a user’s search query, (and they contain no pesticides or added chemicals).  See Elite SEM’s SEO team’s article Top 5 Elements for Launching an SEO Website from Scratch to learn more about organic search!

Product Listing Ads – PLAs launched officially in November 2010, and have been a game-changer for search marketers ever since. With much higher CTRs and Conversion rates than standard text ads, PLAs let a user see your product image, price, and description right on the SERP before they even click on the ad.

Quality Score – The score Google assigns your keyword based on a large number of factors, including past click through rate and keyword, ad, and landing page relevance. Quality score, combined with your max CPC, determines the rank your ad gets on the search engine results page

Remarketing – Remarketing ads target to a list of users who took a specific action on your website. For example, a user added a product to the shopping cart, but didn’t complete the purchase? Not to worry; hit them with a remarketing ad and remind them just how much they want your product!

Sitelinks – Your ad can show up to 6 sitelinks, which are lines of text below your main ad text that link to deeper pages on your website. Push your competition to the second position, and the bottom of your sitelinks is all they’ll see6!

Targeting – Whether by location, device, or demographics, targeting lets you hone in on where you want your ads to show, so you can allocate your spend to the areas where your ads will be most effective

URL Tracking – Adding a tracking tag to your destination URLs will enable you to track the source of any activity on your website back to your PPC account, and is essential if you want to use Google Analytics on your account

Video Ads – Video ads, which appear on the Display network (including YouTube), are a fun and interactive way for consumers to engage with your brand by watching a short video clip featuring content you create. If Antoine Dodson can get famous on YouTube just by imploring people to protect their children and spouse, image what you can do for your brand if someone watches your 30-second video just before they listen to Barack Obama’s rendition of Daft Punk’s newest single7

Web Analytics – Get a much broader view of activity on your website by adding Google Analytics to your account, where you can view detailed statistics about your website’s traffic, conversions, and other important metrics

X-act Match – Ok, so we cheated a little bit on this one, but hopefully you’ll allow for misspellings and other close variants. Exact match keywords only show for queries which match your keyword exactly, so while they may not get as many impressions or clicks, it’s their clickthrough rate that really shines through

Yahoo! – What began in 1994 as a directory of other websites is now the 9th most popular website in the United States8, and combined with Bing is a major player in the game of search advertising networks

Zzzzzzzz – If you’ve made it this far down the list, you’re probably pretty exhausted, so go get a good night’s rest; your ads will get clicks even while you’re sleeping!


Well there you have it folks, the DEFINITIVE, indisputable, Search Engine Marketing Alphabet. Disagree with one of the terms we chose? Furious that your favorite bid management tool didn’t make it on the list? Please share your ideas in the comments section below. Especially if you can come up with something better than ‘Jacuzzi’ or ‘Zzzzzzzz’.



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