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Digital Marketing

Key Terms for Google Ads (SEM)

Google Ads: Glossary for SEM

This guide will help you navigate the jargon in the world of Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

You might be new to SEM or even have some experience but still find yourself trying to keep up with all the terminology within the SEM space. This article will serve as a reference to get familiarized with commonly used terms in SEM.

SEM Glossary

  • SERP - this stands for the Search Engine Results Page which consists of the search results that the search engine shows after the user hits enter on their search

  • PPC - pay-per-click, another name for Search Engine Marketing as in this type of marketing you pay based for every click you get

  • SEO vs SEM - Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing your website in order to improve your rank in the organic search results of Google and cannot be paid for. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to the paid marketing done on search engines to allow businesses to pay to show up for certain keywords.

  • Keyword Research - one of the first steps of setting up a successful paid search campaign is doing the right keyword research to know which keywords you should be investing in and what types of keywords you should be adding to your account. To learn how to master keywords, see our article on Mastering Keyword Strategy

  • Avg. Position - the slot in the paid search results that your ad is showing up in, on average. Generally, you want to be in the highest slot which means you’ll want the lowest average position. If you were in the top spot all the time you would have an average position of 1, the second spot would be 2, etc.

  • Ad Rank - a combination of various factors including Quality Score and Max CPC that determine your position in the paid search results. See our article on the Basics of PPC to learn more about Ad Rank

  • Quality Score - this is the rating that Google assigns to you at the keyword-level that represents the overall quality of your marketing for that keyword. There are three main factors that play into Quality Score

    • Expected CTR - you’re expected click-through rate is the click-through rate that Google expects to see for your ad, generally based on historical data, after accounting for which position you were in. The higher your expected CTR is the better.

    • Ad Relevance - how relevant your ad copy and advertisement as a whole is to the search. The more relevant you are the better.

    • Landing Page Experience - based on the performance of your ads once the user has clicked on your ad. If you take the user to a relevant landing page and they are able to find what they are looking for, you will score highly on this.

  • Max. CPC - your maximum CPC is basically your bid for any given keyword or your the maximum you are willing to pay for a click on your ad

  • Avg. CPC - your average CPC is backward-looking metric telling you on average, in the past, how much you paid per click on your ad for any given keyword

  • Impressions - how many times a keyword was searched and your ad showed up somewhere on the page. Note, you might not be showing up every time for any given keyword so don’t confuse impressions with the overall search volume.

  • CTR - click-through rate is calculated as the number of clicks your ad received divided by the number of times your ad showed up (impressions)

  • Conversion - the action you are looking for the user to take. This can be set up in your Ads account to track conversion actions from your advertisements on your website. 

  • Conversion Rate - the percentage of time that a user that clicks on your ad completes the conversion action

Learn More

Learn more about digital marketing and Google Ads in our related courses: