SEM & PPC Glossary 2022
Updated: 04 / 02 / 2023

The ultimate SEM & PPC Glossary

Bruno Díaz Marketing Manager
Bruno Díaz
Marketing Manager
SectorLet's talk about

We define and clarify concepts for our pay per click campaigns

After the stunning success of the SEO Glossary that we launched, we were left with a somewhat bittersweet taste in our mouths, from when you have the feeling that you have worked hard, that the result is very good, but that you can still try harder. As a SEM agency that we are, we have years of experience designing and managing Google Ads campaigns (not in vain we are one of the few Google Partner Premier agencies), but also other SEM platforms such as Linkedin Ads, Twitter Ads or Facebook Ads among others. All of them with different characteristics, but with many elements in common. So we have decided to prepare this glossary of concepts that are normally used in the development and evaluation of SEM campaigns essentially, although first allow us a little clarification about the SEM and PPC concepts, and the scope of this content.

But is this a dictionary of SEM or PPC?

A bit of everything. From the outset, there is a lot of confusion about what each thing is and where its limits are. SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, marketing to optimize our presence in search engines. And PPC stands for Pay Per Click, meaning that we launch ad campaigns in which we pay for each click we get. These concepts have become somewhat obsolete over time, because for example if we run a campaign with Google Ads Display, are we no longer doing SEM because my ads are not going to be seen in search engines? And on the other hand, if I am doing a campaign in which my spending is measured by views or impressions, for example, am I no longer doing PPC? Finally: Social Ads campaigns, by not appearing in search engines, are no longer SEM?

Like practically everything in the world of the Internet, the evolution has been so fast and disorderly that it has surpassed the concepts that explain it. In my opinion, the thing could be in three ways:

  1. SEM and PPC are synonyms and refer to all paid ad campaigns with digital platforms.
  2. PPC refers to all paid ad campaigns, in which there are two main branches, SEM for search engine ads, and Social Ads for ads through social networks. It would be difficult for us here to fit Display or paid campaigns within portals that are not search engines.
  3. A more complex scheme in which SEM, like everything that encompasses search engine marketing, includes SEO and CPC campaigns. Likewise, in this strict case, Display ads or Social Ads, among others, would be left out of SEM.

It has been a very intellectually stimulating exercise, but as for now practically everyone mixes and puts SEM and PPC on the same level, we present this glossary with a little bit of everything.

Is this a Google Ads glossary?

No. The vast majority of concepts that you will find are commonly used and applied in Google Ads, but also in other SEM platforms. We have tried to make an abstraction, with concepts that can be applied to various platforms, and therefore we have avoided concepts that are exclusive to Google Ads, for this, we have other content on our blog about SEM.

Who is this content for?

To whom It May Concern. The concepts are treated in a light and understandable way for everyone and have been written based on our knowledge and experience, without the need to consult sources and other definitions. This makes it possible for this glossary to be useful reading for anyone who is studying digital marketing, who is setting up their first ad campaigns, but it can also be very interesting for business and online store owners, to learn how to read the data of their campaigns and understand the analyzes and proposals made by the SEM agency or the internal department that manages it. Finally, and of course, it is also at the service of veterans of the sector, as a tool for consultation, refreshment or to send to a client.

Here we go:

Index of SEM and PPC terms


Ads: each of the creatives that users will see on the platforms, and whose main function is to attract the attention and click of the desired users. It is always advisable to upload several different models in an ad group, to measure which ones have the best impact.

Ad group: within a campaign, we can make groups of ads that have a thematic relationship (keywords, types of ads, etc.).

 a set of people to whom we are going to target our ads. It is necessary to make a good analysis of who may be interested in our proposal. Digital marketing offers a great opportunity to make small audiences with such specific segmentations that they give us a very good return, in contrast to traditional advertising and the big media.

Attribution model: when a conversion is made, there are different ways to assign the value of this to the different channels and campaigns that the user will have gone through before converting. For example, if I have visited a website because I have seen it on Instagram, later I return through an ad on YouTube, and finally I do a direct search and convert, to whom should that conversion be assigned? For example, with the last click model we would assign it 100% to direct, but it may be more realistic to use a model based on positions or data, which weighs and also recognizes the part that the other channels have contributed to generate that conversion.


Campaign: grouping of ad groups. It has its own budget, and the ad groups inside of it share a common goal.

Campaign budget: in an SEM campaign it is very important to determine how much money is going to be invested, and in what period of time. In practice, most SEM platforms work with a daily campaign budget, so you must distribute the total budget over the days that the ads are actually going to be shown.

Click: a magical moment in which a user has been interested in your ad, and decides to know more about your proposal. It is essential to ensure that we are capturing quality clicks and that when they access our website or wherever we want to take them, they find exactly what meets their expectations.

Conversion: user action that adds value to our company. It is important to decide in any digital marketing campaign what actions we want the user to do, measure them well, and assign them a value. A conversion can be an online sale but also a form, a click on a call or WhatsApp button, as well as an event registration.

Conversion rate: the relationship between the clicks obtained, and the conversions generated by those clicks. The conversion rate is something that we must follow very closely in SEM campaigns, although you must bear in mind that it is not explained solely by the campaign as the landing page, on the other side, will be decisive and sometimes the SEM technician does not control it or have an impact.

Copy: this concept refers to the texts used in the ads. Each word must be very well thought out, and it is always advisable to launch campaigns with several possibilities of copies. It will be the user who will tell us which ones they like the most, and thus mark the way forward.

CPA: cost per acquisition. With this optimization model, we intend to define how much we should invest in an ad campaign to obtain a client, or a lead (depending on the configuration).

CPC: cost per click. In this optimization model, the cost of the campaign is consumed based on the fact that every time someone clicks on your ad, the platform charges that cost.

CPM: In this type of campaign, normally Display or similar formats, the cost of the campaign is valued based on the cost of each thousand impressions. If a campaign costs €100 and 100,000 people have seen it, then the CPM is €1. It would be branding campaigns.

CSS: price comparison services. They are search engines or portals that offer users an aggregator of sellers who sell the product that the user is looking for online. The best known is Google Shopping, but there are many more comparators in which your products can be placed. Normally it is paid by published product, PPC, or even by a percentage of sales.

CTR: relationship between the impressions an ad has had, and the clicks it has received. The more CTR, it will mean that the ad has been relevant to my audience.


Display: ads in image format, static or with movements, which are placed on websites and platforms that have agreements with the advertiser. The most powerful Display network is that of Google, but it is not the only one.


Events and goals: user actions that we want to measure in order to obtain information about the quality of the lead and their experience on the page. Examples of events would be knowing how many users have clicked on a certain button or link, or in a complex multi-step form, how many users go through each stage.


Facebook Ads: it is, at the moment, the second most important SEM platform by volume of advertisers and investment. Working from the Facebook Business Manager, we can launch campaigns for Facebook and Instagram. With good targeting and creatives, it is a very powerful tool. If we cannot segment our audience well, a beautiful waste of time and money.

Fee: commission corresponding to the fees of an agency or SEM professional for the creation, management, and monitoring of campaigns. There are agencies that apply an initial setup fee and others that only bill the monthly monitoring fee, as well as agencies that bill at a variable percentage depending on the investment, or with a fixed fee.

Feed: file normally in txt or xml format that allows us to send all the data about the products of our online store to external platforms in a light way so that they process this information, and are able to extract it for their external platforms or tools. In SEM campaigns, it is likely that you will have to generate feeds for Google Merchants, aggregators and comparators, Facebook, Amazon, among others.


Google Tag Manager: Google code wrapper. It allows us, in a single script on our website, to place different Analytics tracking codes and other measurement tools, verification codes or tracking pixels from SEM platforms, as well as events and much more. A delight for those who want to measure well and do not have great programming knowledge.

Google Ads: Google's advertising platform, formerly known as Google Adwords. From there you can create and monitor Google ad campaigns, which were initially text but now there are many different formats: Display, Discover, YouTube, Gmail, etc.

Google Adsense: it is the flip side of the Google Advertiser Network. Web pages are registered on this platform that give advertising space on their site so that Google advertisers can advertise on it. It is one of the most common ways of monetizing web pages.

Google Partner: a program that allows SEM agencies to accredit themselves to Google as capable of carrying out Google Ads campaigns with guarantees. The agency must demonstrate that it has significant volumes of active investment accounts and that its technicians have passed knowledge tests on PPC and the tool in general, among other conditions. There is a second level, called Premier Partner, for agencies that have very powerful standards, such as La Teva Web. Most SEM platforms have a partnership program.

Google Skillshop: is Google Academy, formerly called Google Academies. On this platform, SEM technicians have dozens of training courses at their disposal. Specialists link their profiles in Skillshop with the agency account, so that they are taken into account for the partner program.


Impressions: number of times an advertisement of ours has appeared on the screen of a device. It should not be confused with views of an ad, since it can be printed but the user has not seen it.


KPI: in any digital marketing campaign, we must establish with clients a series of metrics that we are going to measure, which will indicate if the performance (there is the P for Performance) of the campaign is being adequate.

Keywords: in the search campaigns, concepts, or groups of words to which we target our ads. The key to a good search campaign is to choose the keywords well and their concordance. They can also be used to create audiences (people who have searched for such a concept).

Keyword Planner: tool within Google Ads with which you can search for new words for your ads. It gives you information about the volume of monthly searches, a prediction of the intention it will have in the future, and its price per click both for the top and the bottom of the page.


Landing page: the page where the user will arrive after clicking on an SEM campaign. We can carry out a perfect ad campaign and attract thousands of qualified users to our website, but if the landing page does not meet expectations, all that work will be useless.

Learning phase: most SEM campaigns need a few days to start working properly, and to learn from the reactions of our audience to make adjustments. During the first days it will indicate that it is in the learning phase. For the campaigns that have this first phase, it is not advisable that they be too short in exposure, as they would need a few weeks to work optimally.

Lookalike: In SEM platforms we have configurators to guide the audience of a campaign, defining aspects such as age, gender, or Internet habits. Once we have a well-worked and optimized audience, it is interesting to look for other population groups that are similar, in order to expand our audience.


MCC: client portfolio manager. SEM tools usually provide agencies with platforms from which they can manage all their clients' ad accounts, without having to log in from each client's account. In this way, the actions that each one can do are clear, the client retains ownership of the account and will have the facility to change agencies at any time, and the payments of the advertisements will be transparent and without the possibility of applying abusive commissions.


Negative keywords: in some SEM tools such as Google Ads or Amazon Ads, for certain campaigns we can define not only what campaigns we want to bid on, but also what concepts we want to block. In this way we will not appear for searches far from our business objective, and concentrate our budget on what really interests us.


Performance: concept used to describe the performance of a campaign. Our assessment in this regard will depend on the KPIs and objectives set, but broadly speaking, a PPC campaign performs well when it has a good rate of impressions and clicks, the budget is consumed reasonably, and the expected conversions are arriving.

Píxel: script that PPC platforms provide to their advertisers. By inserting this HTML code on the web page, the SEM platform can know the activity of that user who has gone through our campaigns, once they land on the web. Is recommended to use them in a measured way, as they overload the code and often have incompatibilities.

Prospecting: campaigns that are intended to find new audiences that do not know our brand and have not interacted with us. It is usually a concept that is used for Display or Social Ads campaigns, through which we want to show our content to users who have certain tastes or users consumers of certain brands whose target interests us.


Remarketing: advertising campaigns that aim to re-impact, draw attention to a user who has previously visited our website, and whose cookie we have saved. We can make differentiations of marketing audiences, for example, separating those who have already bought from us from those who have not, or based on what they have done on our website, demographic aspects, etc.

ROAS: return rate of an SEM campaign. It gives us a relationship between our investment and the earnings that the campaign has reported. To obtain it, it is essential that all conversions have an associated monetary value. If the ROAS is less than 1 we are losing money with that campaign, and from 1 the relationship is positive.

ROI: this concept refers to the return on investment of a campaign. In order to calculate it, we need to know not only the expenses of the campaign or the fees of the SEM agency, but also the net profit generated by the campaigns. If we know it, then we can obtain the ROI percentage in the following way: income - product or service cost / SEM campaign expense.


Search terms:for search campaigns, they are the queries that have been written in the search engine to get our ad. If we use an exact keyword match, the search terms will be exactly the active keywords. If we use broad match terms, you'll see people coming to your ads from a wide variety of searches, and some of them may not interest you, in which case you'll need to incorporate them as negative words.

Smart campaigns:
most SEM platforms still have classic campaigns where the creator has full control of the creatives, keywords, and more. However, they have been coexisting with Smart campaigns for a long time, in which the creator can configure some aspects of the campaigns, but the rest is left to automation and machine learning, according to which the algorithm can adjust keywords, audiences, CPCs and even budgets. They have the virtue of giving their creators very little work and taking advantage of artificial intelligence. On the contrary, they are very opaque campaigns, and if they have performance problems we will not be able to know what is happening or how to solve it. Then you may want to go back to manual campaigns, if they haven't been taken out yet.


Transaction: is a type of conversion, which corresponds to an online purchase through a website, online store, or other platform.


UTM: link tracking tags. Through its use, we incorporate parameters to the URL of an ad, which will allow us to have exact data on which channel that click, campaign, keyword or whatever we want comes from.

Bruno Díaz Marketing Manager
About the author
Bruno Díaz — Marketing Manager
Professional with a long career as a communication and digital marketing consultant, specializing in SEO, SEM and web projects. As Marketing Manager of the agency, I coordinate a great team of digital marketing technicians of which I am very proud.

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