Understanding the ABCs of Search Marketing

Jan 15 2015


MANY MARKETERS and business owners obsess over Google’s zoo of updates like Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. There was even a lower-profile Pigeon update that largely affected local search results.

When Google announces changes that affect search results, people scurry to make changes that “comply” with Google’s new rules. But we’ve found that a lot of companies that try to stay on top of the latest algorithm updates lack a basic understanding of the language of search marketing.

You can’t fully grasp the more advanced nuances of search without understanding the foundation. That would be like taking a college level calculus class before you learn basic arithmetic.

Here is a general overview of the basic terminology you should know about search marketing before developing your marketing plan.

Search Engine: A search engine is a program that searches the internet, databases and/or documents for specific keywords and topics based on a user’s desired search criteria. Although any website can have a built-in search engine, the term is most commonly used to describe services like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Keyword. A keyword is word or phrase entered by a user into a search engine, which uses the keyword to produce relevant results. While stuffing your content with as many keywords as possible used to be the ticket to the top of search rankings, this practice can cause a website to be penalized. We’ll discuss proper use of keywords in a future post.

SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving free or organic search results to generate traffic to a website or web page. In other words, SEO involves a number of tactics that help you rank higher on the major search engines without paying for it.

SEM: Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process of generating traffic to a website or web page by purchasing ads on search engines to ensure a high search ranking. Essentially, SEM is paid and SEO is free. Both fall under the umbrella of search marketing.

There are three general payment models for SEM:

  • PPC: Pay-per-click (PPC) is a model in which the advertiser pays a certain fee each time a search ad is clicked. You basically pay for each visit to your website.
  • CPC: Cost-per-click (CPC) is the amount an advertiser pays to a search engine based on the number of clicks on an ad. For example, if an ad with a CPC of $1 is clicked 20 times, the total cost is $20.
  • CPM: Most search engines use a PPC or CPC model, but some still sell advertising on a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) basis. For example, if you pay a CPM of $1 and your ad is seen 3,000 times, the cost is $3. Again, this model is based on how many times your ad is seen, not clicked

There are dozens of search marketing tactics and tools that can be used as part of a search marketing strategy, but understanding this basic terminology will help you get started.

One Important Fact to Keep in Mind about Search Marketing

It’s important to optimize your website, blog posts and social channels for search. You should at least familiarize yourself with paid SEM options. You should pay attention to but not obsess over Google updates.

Just remember that the only 100 percent algorithm-proof search marketing strategy is creating content that your audience will find relevant, valuable and helpful. Develop content with search engines in mind, but focus on your audience first.

This not only helps with your search ranking, but it gives you a better chance of converting searchers into customers.



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