SEM, SEF, SERP, SEO, SEA, SMM Meanings and Other SEO Glossary

SEO Glossary
SEO Glossary

The following search-marketing glossary highlights common acronyms often used by the search marketing community.

Search Engine (SE)

A search engine is a website through which users can search internet content. To do this, users enter the desired search term into the search field. The search engine then looks through its index for relevant websites and displays them in the form of a list. The search engine’s internal evaluation algorithm determines which position a website will get in the search results. Google, Bing and Yahoo are examples of popular search engines.


SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.The process of making a site and its content highly relevant for both search engines and searchers. SEO includes technical tasks to make it easier for search engines to find and index a site for the appropriate keywords, as well as marketing-focused tasks to make a site more appealing to users. Successful search marketing helps a site gain top positioning for relevant words and phrases.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing

SEM is using search engines, like Google or Bing, to market products and services. If your SEM is effective than a potential client or customer will find your website when he types in the keywords that you have decided are your most important ones. SEM consists of SEO and SEA, and is always based upon a SEF website. Extra SEM is generated by SMM.

So search engine marketing is in fact a combination of factors that will be explained below.

Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)

The page searchers see after they’ve entered their query into the search box. This page lists several Web pages related to the searcher’s query, sorted by relevance. Increasingly, search engines are returning blended search results, which include images, videos, and results from specialty databases on their SERPs.

Search Advertising

Also called Paid Search. An advertiser bids for the chance to have their ad display when a user searches for a given keyword. These are usually text ads, which are displayed above or to the right of the algorithmic (organic) search results. Most search ads are sold by the PPC model, where the advertiser pays only when the user clicks on the ad or text link.

SEA: Search Engine Advertising

SEA is also called PPC = Pay Per Click. These are the advertisements you pay for at Google, also called Google Adwords. This way you can be on top of the SERP (in the paid section ofcourse) in a very short time, depending on how much you want to pay for an advertisement click. You only pay if a visitor visits your site by clicking on the advert. Facebook and other social networks also have paid adverts that are referred to as PPC (Pay Per Click).


Search Engine Positioning. An older, now obsolete, way to indicate SEO.
The above glossary should clarify common misunderstandings of search engine marketing acronyms.

SEF: Search Engine Friendly

The main search engines, like Google, uses robots to crawl your site to see what information is on it. To make it as easy and attractive as possible for these robots to crawl your site it needs to be Search Engine Friendly. This means that the structure (or foundation) of the site is built in such a way that a robot can easily (fast!) and effectively crawl your site and take the information from is.
This is a technical aspect of your site that needs to be considered in the development phase of the website. So if you are thinking about having a new website developed than you should discuss its SEF beforehand.

SMM: Social Media Marketing

SMM refers to the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Social Media Marketing programs aim at creating content on social media that readers think interesting, funny or important enough to share with their own social network. It is also referred to as electronic word of mouth.

Link Building

The process of getting quality Web sites to link to your Web site, in order to improve search engine rankings. Link building techniques can include buying links, reciprocal linking, or entering barter arrangements.


Pay per click. Refers to the sponsored advertisements which appear in search engine results. The advertiser pays when a user clicks on an ad to visit the site described in the ad. In Google, ~20% of clicks are on sponsored results, known as AdWords.

Offpage Optimization

Offpage optimization refers to all the measures that can be taken outside of the actual website in order to improve its position in search rankings. These are measures that help create as many high-quality backlinks (incoming links) as possible.

Onpage Optimization

Onpage optimization (AKA on-page SEO) refers to all measures that can be taken directly within the website in order to improve its position in the search rankings. Examples of this include measures to optimize the content or improve the meta description and title tags. Conversely, off-page SEO refers to links and other signals.


A word or phrase entered into a search engine in an effort to get the search engine to return matching and relevant results. Many Web sites offer advertising targeted by keywords, so an ad will only show when a specific keyword is entered.


A search engine spider is a program that crawls the Web, visiting Web pages to collect information to add to or update a search engine’s index. The major search engines on the Web all have such a program, which is also known as a “crawler” or a “bot.”

Meta Tags

Information placed in the HTML header of a Web page, providing information that is not visible to browsers, but can be used in varying degrees by search engines to index a page. Common meta tags used in search engine marketing are title, description, and keyword tags.

Quality Score

A score assigned by search engines that is calculated by measuring an ad’s click-through rate, analyzing the relevance of the landing page, and considering other factors used to determine the quality of a site and reward those of higher quality with top placement and lower bid requirements. Some factors that make up a quality score are historical keyword performance, the quality of an ad’s landing page, and other undisclosed attributes. All of the major search engines now use some form of quality score in their search ad algorithm.

No-follow Attributes

Links can be provided in HTML code together with a no-follow attribute. This attribute ensures that search engines cannot follow the link and therefore:

The link will not be classed as a backlink for the linked website
If no-follow backlinks are used exclusively, the linked website will not be included in the index

No-follow backlinks will not improve a website’s position in the search rankings. Nevertheless, they are necessary. They ensure that search engines perceive a site’s link building structure to be ‘natural’. In addition, no-follow backlinks contribute to visitors of other websites being forwarded to your site.


Backlinks are incoming links that refer to all links from other websites referencing the website in question. Search engines interpret a link to a website (backlink) as a recommendation for it and are geared towards providing search results from other such authoritative recommendations. The more authoritative you are on your topic, the more recommendations you will receive. In some industries, the more backlinks a website has and the better those links are, the further up the referring domain will appear in the search results. An example of strong backlinks would be links from topically relevant websites.

Website Structure

A website’s structure refers to how the website is set up, i.e. how the individual subpages are linked to one another. It is particularly important that crawlers can find all subpages quickly and easily when websites have a large number of subpages. For this reason, a website’s homepage needs to have links to the most important subpages.

Files such as sitemap.xml and robots.txt also help the crawler do its job in this regard.

Inbound link

An inbound link is an hyperlink to a particular Web page from an outside site, bringing traffic to that Web page. Inbound links are an important element that most search engine algorithms use to measure the popularity of a Web page.

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