Understanding the Language of Digital Marketing

Adam Richards
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Are you properly leveraging your SEO strategy to produce optimal SEM results through your PPC, CPC, CPM, PPI and CPA marketing strategies? Do you have any idea what any of that means? If you don't, don't worry -- digital marketing is one of the most acronym-happy industries there is, and it takes some study to catch up with it all. Today's post will help you to make some sense out of the alphabet soup.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Search engine optimization is the art and science of both getting search engines to accurately understand what your page is about and also convincing them to rank you as highly in their results as possible. Digital marketing expert, Rand Fishkin describes Search Engine Optimization in the following way, “SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.” Since Google processes the vast majority of all search traffic in the world, that's where these efforts are primarily targeted.

In the old days, one could vault to the top of search rankings through nefarious techniques such as "keyword stuffing," which involved repeating your desired search term over and over regardless of whatever else might be on the page. Google quickly realized that this would destroy their search business model, of course, so they've gradually introduced countermeasures to ensure that their algorithm picks out relevant and high-quality pages for the top results for each term.

SEO is still possible, however, but today it's more a case of proper formatting and ensuring you have relevant, useful content throughout your site.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

SEM is an umbrella term that covers the entire world of "paid search", or the various ways in which advertising ties into search results. The terms listed below are all part and parcel of SEM.

It differs from SEO in that SEO focuses on the initial contact with your customer as they find you organically through one of the various search engines; SEM consists of paid advertising that appears alongside these natural search results, such as the listings with the green "Ad" block next to them that you see at the bottom of Google search results.

PPC (Pay Per Click)

Andrew Medal is a digital strategist who suggests that every advertising professional should be aware of PPC. The best visual example of PPC ads is Google AdSense, which you've undoubtedly seen in use at a number of websites (if you haven't had direct experience with the program already). These ads often display as sidebars, or horizontal bars at some point in a page, and may contain anything from text to video. When someone clicks on one of these ads, the site hosting the ad receives a small commission. Conversely, when you purchase ads of this nature, you usually bid on a relevant search term (or set of terms) you'd like to have your business connected to.

As Jason Kulpa, CEO and Founder of Underground Elephant points out, “One of the largest advantages of online marketing when compared to other marketing platforms is how easily we can measure success. From impressions to clicks to conversions, all the data is available for analysis and campaign optimization.” Pay per click advertising is a great model because it only charges the advertiser when someone interacts with their advertisement.

PSM (Professional Services Marketing)

This is an emerging field that specifically encompasses the marketing efforts of professional fields that previously didn't really have to market themselves much, or at least didn't think much about marketing themselves online. These days physicians, lawyers, engineers, architects and similar elite white-collar occupations are finding that they need to both maintain a web presence and also engage in active marketing efforts to bring in customers; these marketing efforts tie into all the other techniques discussed in this post.

CPC (Cost Per Click)

If you purchase PPC ads, CPC is simply the price you pay for each click. If you bid on this price, however, individual clicks may end up costing you less than your maximum bid. There are a number of factors that go into what each individual click ends up costing you, but that's a pretty big topic best addressed in detail in its own post.

CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions)

An alternate form of advertisement is one that pays not for each click, but simply for each time it is delivered to a viewer regardless of whether they take action or not. In these cases, you're dealing with a CPM ad, and you'll pay a certain price for every 1,000 impressions delivered. PPI (pay per impression) is a somewhat interchangeable term, but CPM is more commonly used as the price is almost always set per thousand impressions.

Though the world of digital marketing can be confusing, learning the basic jargon is important, as it's key to driving traffic to your site and choosing the best possible marketing strategies.

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