It’s incredibly intimidating when you start off working in SEO or paid search (or just researching the subject) to get your head round all of the acronyms. This post isn’t meant to be an exhaustive guide, but is supposed to give you a primer on the most commonly encountered terms and what they actually mean. So, here goes:

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation is the art of improving the ability of a website to rank naturally in search engines. Strictly defined it refers only to efforts to target organic or natural search. You will often hear people describe SEO techniques as being “Black Hat” or “White Hat”, depending on the types of techniques being used, but it’s important to understand that “Black Hat” techniques are not (usually) illegal, but rather disapproved of by the search engines, and more likely to attract penalties.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing involves the use of paid advertisements in search; this has some similarities to SEO, as it involves competition for specific keywords in a similar way to organic search, but success here is more a case of your budgeting and bidding strategy (although the quality of content on your site is still important too.)

SERPS – Search Engine Ranking Pages play a vital role in tracking progress within SEO, referring to the results pages that users see in response to a web search. The ranking of your site on these pages can have a tremendous impact on the number of users viewing your content, and as such increasing these rankings is the most important way of seeing the outcome of SEO work.

PR – Page-Rank is the algorithm used by Google (the most popular search engine) for determining how a site will rank for a given search. It incorporates a large number of ranking factors, and is likely very context specific. Understanding how Page-Rank works is a very important goal within the Search marketing industry, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so over time, as the complexity of the algorithm increases.

PPC – Pay Per Click refers to one way of paying for directly placed search results, where the advertiser pays a sum each time a user “clicks through” to his site. The term is occasionally used more generally to refer to SEM as a whole, but this is not a correct use of the term.

CPI – Cost per Impression is an alternative advertising scheme in which the user’s pays each time that their ad is displayed. This is often done on the basis of…

CPM – Cost per thousand, this term often causes confusion, as people assume that it refers to a million impressions, not a thousand. The term draws upon the old Roman numeral for a thousand, and refers to the practice of paying a specific amount per thousand impressions.

URL – Uniform Resource Locator the address of a website, or piece of content within that site. URL’s are very import in SEO, both directly as an onsite ranking factor, and indirectly, as any web marketer will spend a lot of time finding and viewing content online.

About the Author
Christina Jones is a freelance Marketing Writer, with a vast knowledge of online marketing, and SEO. She has also recently started writing about marketing principles such as Display and Affiliate Marketing practices.

2 Responses to “CPM is how many?” – The beginner’s guide to SEO and web advertising acronyms

  1. billy @ seo says:

    thank you for the list of terms and their definition. i appreciated it well. i would also like to add SMO – social media optimization .

  2. I thought SEO and SEM were the same thing. I’m still not really sure what the difference is. Is SEM like Competitive link building?

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