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A Beginners’ Search Engine Marketing Glossary

Every business wants to be found online. Many businesses wouldn’t be able to turn a profit without making a name for themselves over the internet. Those with even a passing interest in online visibility have probably come across the term “search engine marketing” before. Search Engine Marketing or “SEM” covers a number of interrelated topics…

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Every business wants to be found online. Many businesses wouldn’t be able to turn a profit without making a name for themselves over the internet.

Those with even a passing interest in online visibility have probably come across the term “search engine marketing” before. Search Engine Marketing or “SEM” covers a number of interrelated topics around search presence and visibility which each come with their own puzzling lingo and acronyms. But first, let’s define SEM as a concept…

What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM?)

SEM is all about improving your visibility in search. SEM is sometimes used interchangeably with paid online advertising, when actually it also covers topics like SEO, keyword research, and local search visibility. Basically, if it relates to getting seen in search results, chances are it falls under the SEM umbrella.

So now we’re clearer on the concept of Search Engine Marketing, let’s jump on in to the definitions!

Search Engine Marketing Glossary

The Basics


Keywords are core words and phrases that define crucial topics within your website or content, and can be thought of as short phrases that sum up what you do. Some examples of keywords that might be useful to us here at Yell are “digital marketing”, “free business listing”, “social media management”, and “online reputation management”.

Local Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation is the practice of optimising your site and its content in order to appear prominently in search. Local SEO is the practice of aiming your search visibility efforts towards those looking for services in your local area; for example, if you’re a hairdresser based in Central Birmingham, you may want to target those who use search terms like “hairdressers birmingham”. This can be achieved through things like business listings and location-oriented keywords. Some amount of local SEO is essential for companies who depend heavily on foot traffic like shops or eateries.

Organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Organic SEO is the kind of search optimisation you achieve from unpaid “earned” means like creating attractive and engaging titles and meta descriptions across your website, using keywords strategically throughout your site’s copy, creating high quality content (like blogs), and backlinking from other sites. Regular search results without the “Ad” icon are organic search results.

Paid Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Paid SEO is the practice of using paid means to appear prominently in search, generally through PPC advertising. Paid results show in search with an “Ad” icon. Paid methods are good for maintaining a subtle presence in search or for generating a quick injection of interest but unpaid, organic SEO often provides a more affordable, lasting, and valuable payoff in the long run.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

This is a model of advertising where organisations pay a fee every time someone clicks on their ad. PPC ads are usually distributed via search engines or social media. It’s the opposite of organic or “earned” search or social visibility.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

This is the page that displays your results (both paid and organic) after you initiate a search on a search engine.

Search Term

This is a word or phrase entered into a search engine in order to find relevant content on the web.

Web Search Engine

Often simply called a “search engine”. This is an online tool that helps users find content on the world wide web that is relevant to a given search term. Google and Bing are examples of web search engines.

The Nitty-Gritty


A bid is the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for each click on an ad in a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign.

Bing Ads

This is the PPC advertising platform associated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Ads placed through Bing Ads can appear on Bing search results pages and those of Bing partners such as Yahoo and AOL.


Most PPC advertising outlets allow you to set a daily, weekly, or monthly budget. Your budget is where you specify how much you’re willing to spend on that campaign during a given amount of time.


In the context of pay-per-click advertising, a campaign is a group of adverts that generally share a desired budget, location, and campaign type.

Campaign Types

You can run a number of different types of PPC campaigns. The easiest is a simple search campaign which appears as a text-only ad alongside regular search results, but you can also run display banner ads that display as an image on relevant websites, or video campaigns that show before, during, or after video content on sites like YouTube.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

This is a percentage that expresses the ratio of people who clicked on a given search result or campaign compared to the total amount of people who were shown the ad or result (called “impressions”).

Cost Per Click (CPC)

This is the final amount charged to you for every click your pay-per-click ad receives.

Google Ads

Formerly known as Google AdWords, this is the pay-per-click advertising platform associated with Google search. When you create an ad through Google Ads, it can appear on Google search results pages and also those of Google’s partners.

Google My Business

This is Google’s own free business listing platform. Companies can list their name, address, contact details, services, share images, and request reviews through the platform; all of which can appear in the business’s knowledge panel if it happens to show in search.

Sidenote: Don’t forget Yell in your business listing endeavours – Google also looks at other reputable listing sites to corroborate the information it provides in the knowledge panel!


Impressions are counted every time your site appears as a search result or your ad appears to a user. If your ad shows up 100 times, that’s 100 impressions, regardless of how many of those instances turned into clicks.

Keyword Research

This is the practice of identifying relevant and popular words and phrases that people search for when looking for the things that you offer. The aim here is to incorporate popular keywords into your own content and ad campaigns to help you show in search for those terms. Keyword research can also involve looking at how frequently each keyword gets searched and how your competitors are using keywords.

Knowledge Panel (or “Knowledge Graph”)

When searching Google for a specific business or seeking a local provider, Google may show the details of a specific business in the “knowledge panel” which appears to the right of regular search results on desktop or above the results on mobile (desktop version shown below in red).

Pre-Roll, Mid-Roll, or Post-Roll Video Ads

These are video advertisements that play before (Pre-Roll), during (Mid-Roll), or after (Post-Roll) video content on video sharing platforms such as YouTube.

So now it’s over to you. What Search Engine Marketing concepts do you puzzle over time and time again? Are there any head-scratching definitions that you feel we’ve missed out here? Please share your thoughts down in the comments!

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