SEM Terminology for the Technologically Challenged

We’ve all been victims of acronym-ology: terms and abbreviations that make complete sense to those who understand them, but sound like gibberish to those who aren’t involved in their particular enterprise. From the inception of the Internet, through the dot-com boom and its inevitable bust, and continuing to this day, the people who actually make things work online routinely make use of terms that are indecipherable to anyone else.

It would be nice if it didn’t have to be this way. But for those who understand these acronyms and abbreviations, they do make work easier and faster. For the rest of us, who may be involved in hiring, managing or contracting with the technicians, it would be helpful to have some sort of English-Technish dictionary.

We’re not professors, reference librarians or professional lexicographers (those who compile or write dictionaries), so we won’t be too formal in the way this information is presented. Our objective is to provide simple definitions of the most important terms related to Search Engine Marketing, in plain English. These terms are presented in bold type throughout this chapter.

Search Engine Marketing (or SEM) as encompassing all the elements involved in using search engines as tools for online marketing.

So, let’s start with Search Engine: Even if you don’t know what a search engine is, you’ve used one. They are, in technical terms, “information retrieval systems” used to locate specific content on the Internet. In simpler terms, they are the websites you visit when you’re looking for something. Numerous search engines have been launched (, Excite, AltaVista, InfoSeek, Dogpile, AllTheWeb, Lycos,, Inktomi, Ask Jeeves), although only a handful really dominate the industry. Most online marketers focus their efforts at achieving higher rankings on these few “major players”: Google, Yahoo Search, and Microsoft’s (formerly MSN Search).

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