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

Cost per thousand impressions (CPM). Paid advertising by which the advertiser is billed based on the number of times an ad is seen by a consumer, regardless of the consumer's subsequent action. Most graphical online advertising, and nearly all offline advertising, is sold on some kind of CPM basis. The M in CPM is Latin for "one-thousand." Related terms: Clickthrough rate, ROI

Domain. The core element in an URL is the domain. Domains end in a suffix such as .com, .net, .gov, .edu, .us, .uk, or one of many other extensions that identify the type of business as well as—in some cases—the geography. Domains were developed in the early years of the Internet as a substitute for IP addresses. A domain is far easier to remember than

Graphical search inventory. Banners and other types of advertising units that can be synchronized to search keywords. Includes pop-ups, browser toolbars, sounds, video, animations and other rich media.

Index. The database that contains a full collection of information that a search engine has collected and deemed relevant. Searchers can query against the index by doing a search. With crawler-based search engines, the index is much more than simply copies of all the Web pages they have found from crawling the Web. The link structures and relationships between sites are included as well. With human-powered directories, the index contains the summaries of all Web sites that have been reviewed and categorized. Related terms: Search engine

Keywords. The method of targeting in search engine marketing is the keyword or search phrase. Keyword phases contain multiple words, or the search term can be a single term. Related terms: Query, Search terms

Landing page. The specific Web page that a visitor ultimately reaches after clicking a search engine listing is the landing page. Marketers attempt to improve conversion rates by testing various landing-page creative—which encompasses the entire user experience, including navigation, layout and copy.

Listings. The textual information that appears on a search engine's results page in response to a search. A listing is typically made up of a headline/title and a description, plus the URL. Related terms: Search engine results page (SERP)

Paid inclusion. Paid inclusion is an advertising program through which Web pages are guaranteed to be included in a search engine's index, in exchange for payment. No guarantee of improved or specific ranking is given. Some sites charge a single annual fee for inclusion, and others charge a fixed cost plus a CPC. Also see XML feeds. Related terms: Cost per click (CPC), Paid inclusion, Paid listings, Pay per click (PPC)

Pay per click (PPC). 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: Cost per click (CPC), Paid inclusion, Paid listings

Paid listings. Listings that search engines sell to advertisers, usually through paid placement or paid inclusion programs. In contrast, organic listings are not sold—at least not by the engines directly—although some SEOs that manipulate rankings may sell their services on a per listing or CPC basis. Related terms: Cost per click (CPC), Paid inclusion, Pay per click (PPC)

Pay for performance. Term popularized by some search engines as a synonym for "pay per click," stressing to advertisers that they are only paying for ads that "perform" in terms of delivering traffic. This approach is opposed to CPM-based ads, which cost money even if they don't generate a click. However, the definition is actually broader and may cover other forms of advertising. Related terms: Cost per click (CPC), Cost per thousand impressions (CPM), Paid inclusion, Pay per click (PPC)

Paid placement. Paid placement is a form of search engine advertising in which listings are guaranteed to appear in response to particular search terms, with higher ranking typically obtained by paying more than other advertisers pay. Paid placement listings are often auctioned off in real time and can be purchased from a portal or a search network. Each keywords and phrase is associated with a cost per click (CPC) fee. Overture and Google are the largest networks, but MSN and other portals sometimes sell paid placement listings directly as well. Portal sponsorships are also a type of paid placement. Related terms: Cost per click (CPC), Cost per thousand impressions (CPM), Paid inclusion, Pay per click (PPC)

Position. The numerical position in a search result. For example: the number-one position for the keyword "travel." Related terms: Rank

Query. The words (or word), phrases and sentences that a searcher enters into a search engine's search box. Used to refer to the terms that search engine marketers use to improve position or buy position. Related terms: Keyword, Search term

Rank. Position of a particular Web page or Web site listing in a specific search engine result. Related terms: Position

Return on investment (ROI). Refers to the percentage of profit or revenue generated from a specific activity. For example, one might measure the ROI of a paid listing campaign by adding up the total amount spent on the campaign (e.g., $200) versus the amount generated from it in revenue (e.g., $1,000). The ROI would then be 500%. Related terms: Conversion rate

Search engine. An Internet-based (generally, Web-based) service that allows searchers to submit queries for information to one or more information databases. The search may be performed against one or more specialized databases, or against all the databases the search engine has access to. Web-based search engines often display results from a paid-listings database, as well as organic listings. Related terms: Search engine marketing (SEM), Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine marketing (SEM). The process and strategy of using search engines results as an advertising vehicle. This may include improving rank in organic listings, purchasing paid listings, or a combination of methods all designed to increase visibility, clicks and, of course, leads and orders. Related terms: Conversion rate, Cost per click (CPC), Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO). The altering of a Web site, Web pages and links to Web sites and Web pages to improve visibility, rank and relevance in the organic, crawler-based listings of search engines.

Search engine results page (SERP). After a user enters a search query, the page that is displayed is called the "search results page." Sometimes it may be called a SERP, which is short for "search engine results page." Related terms: Search terms, Listings

Search terms. The words (or word), phrases and sentences that a searcher enters into a search engine's search box. Used to refer to the terms that search engine marketers use to improve position or buy position. Related terms: Keywords, Query

Search engine marketing professional organization (SEMPO). A nonprofit formed to increase the awareness of, and educate people about, the value of search engine marketing. Related terms: Search engine marketing (SEM)

Shopping search. Shopping search engines are typically specialized search engines that return results by product, and then allow shoppers to sort those results by several parameters, including price. Premium placement can be purchased by retailers and marketers within the results of some shopping search engines. Related terms: Paid inclusion

Submission. The act of submitting a URL for inclusion into a search engine's index. Unless done through paid inclusion, submission generally does not guarantee listing. In addition, submission alone does not help with position improvement.

Submission can be done manually at the major engines, and manual submission is often recommended. However, links from other relevant sites also serve to improve the likelihood of inclusion, as search engine spiders follow links from site to site. Related terms: Paid inclusion, XML feeds

XML feeds. XML is a data format similar to CSV or a spreadsheet. XML feeds are a form of paid inclusion by which a search engine is "fed" information about pages. If a marketer is concerned that the search engine will not be able to crawl a site or get the right information about a page, marketers can pay to have their pages included by submitting an XML document.

The document will have entries representing each page on the client site that the marketer wishes to include. New media types are being introduced into XML feed paid inclusion, including graphics, video, audio, and rich media. Related terms: Paid inclusion, Submission

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