Search engine marketing—advertising what you sell through search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN Search, AOL and Ask Jeeves—is the hot new niche of the marketing world. That's because search engine visitors are all looking for something specific, including the information, products or services that your business might provide.

That's why search engines are among the most direct and powerful marketing media available today, and search engine marketing is one of the best avenues available for creating new client or customer conversions.

If you're new to search marketing and need to learn the lingo, or are already search-savvy and would like to brush up, you'll find the Paid-Search Glossary extremely helpful. It has the essential phrases you need to understand the search marketing articles and resources you'll find here on MarketingProfs, or anywhere else, for that matter.

Algorithm. A formula and set of rules that a search engine uses to rank the individual pages and sites contained within its index, in response to a particular query. Search engines keep most of their formulas or algorithms private due to the economic incentive for Web site owners and consultants to manipulate the algorithm for undue gain ("spamming the search engine"). In addition, the algorithm is the search engine's "secret sauce," and the competition might steal the formula and try to improve upon it for a competitive advantage. Related terms: Rank

Contextual link inventory. Some search engines that sell paid search ads have expanded their offerings to include "contextual inventory" that is keyword-targeted. Contextual—or content—inventory is generated when listings are displayed on pages of Web sites. The search engines or networks selling the contextual inventory match the pages of the site to specific keywords and phrases.

Often, this matching method is validated by measuring the number of times a viewer clicks on the displayed ad, under the theory that browsers will click on well-targeted ads and ignore poorly targeted ads. Related terms: Graphical search inventory

Conversion rate. The percentage of visitors to a Web site that take a positive action that a marketer would count as a "conversion." Conversion events include (but are not limited to) a sale or a request to receive more information. Related terms: Clickthrough rate, ROI

Cost per click (CPC). Simply, an advertising system where an advertiser pays an agreed amount for each click delivered to his or her site from a link or listing keyed to a specific search term, area of a site or even a banner. Related terms: Clickthrough rate, ROI

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Abe Mezrich is a marketing associate at Did-It Search Marketing (