Search engine marketing (SEM) glossary for property marketing

Jul 19, 2023

Rainbow alphabet letters with the phrase "SEM glossary" on top

Sure, you know your SEO from your PPC, but do you know your ROI from your ROAS?

Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned property marketer, this SEM glossary is here to help you put a finer point on common search marketing terms.

Better still, it’s specific to the apartment industry, so you know exactly how common terms apply to your business. Read the glossary in its entirety or use the table of contents below to skip to the SEM terminology you’re looking for.

This SEM glossary is also a handy guide for all those people who are marketing adjacent, so please, feel free to share it!

A/B testing

A marketing process in which two or more variants of an email, landing page or ad are shown to users at random. Data is collected to see how each variant performs across multiple metrics. In some cases, that data is used to determine the “winning” variant that will be shown to the remaining users in the test.

Advertising network

An online advertising network or ad network is a provider that connects advertisers to websites that want to host advertisements. Ads are purchased through a single provider and displayed on multiple websites.

Alt text

Alt text is copy that describes images using words, making your website more accessible to people who have a hard time viewing or understanding pictures. Learn how you can use AI to automatically generate alt text for images on RentCafe websites.

The clickable text part of a hyperlink. The text should give visitors and search engines an indication of what will happen or appear when the link is clicked.

Audience

The group of potential customers that you care about most and try to reach with your content, emails and SEM ads. You may have separate prospect and resident audiences.

Authority

A measure of trustworthiness of a website. A website that shares high-quality original content and vetted information is likely to be trusted by searchers, other websites and search engines. This helps it build authority and rise in search rankings.

A link coming from another website to your own website. Backlinks, also known as inbound links, send positive SEO signals because they indicate your site has relevant and helpful content.

Bid

A bid is the amount you’re willing to be charged for a click on your ad. You usually indicate a “not to exceed” amount, so the cost may end up being less than your bid.

Bounce rate

The percentage of website visitors that navigate away from the site after having only viewed the page they originally landed on.

Call to action (CTA)

A call to action makes the next step for the user obvious. Your CTA can be a button, an in-line link, a graphic element or something in the copy.

Click-through rate (CTR)

The percentage of users that click on a specific link or ad, out of all the users who saw that link or ad. Measuring CTR can tell you how well ads or keywords are performing.

Conversion

When a person takes the desired action on your ad, website, social media profile or other marketing source. In the apartment marketing industry, this could be any number of activities that move a prospect further along the leasing journey, including initiating a chat, filling out a guest card, scheduling a tour and starting a lease.

Conversion rate

Calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the total number of interactions. For example, if you had 20 conversions from an ad seen by 2,000 people, your conversion rate would be 1%.

Cost per action (CPA)

An ad model that charges based on an action the user performs as a result of the ad. As the advertiser, you pay a set fee to the publisher based on the number of visitors who take action. Many affiliate programs use the CPA model.

Cost per click (CPC)

An ad model that charges based on the number of times people click on your ad. The CPC is the amount you pay for each click.

Cost per lead

A measurement of the amount of marketing spend it takes to generate a new prospective renter.

Cost per lease

A measurement of the amount of marketing spend it takes to generate a new lease.

Cost per thousand /cost per mille (CPM) 

An ad model that charges advertisers every time an ad is displayed to a user, whether the user clicks on the ad or not. CPM is the amount you pay for every 1,000 impressions, which explains the “M” in the acronym because M is the Roman numeral for 1,000. Many display ads, such as banner ads, are sold by CPM.

Display ads

Ads that take the form of images, videos, or gifs shown to users on websites or apps. Banner ads and leaderboards are two examples of display ads. Display ads can be a wide variety of sizes and run independently or through advertising networks.

Earned media

Any publicity or exposure generated by content you haven’t paid for or created yourself. If you are featured in a news article or blog post (that you didn’t sponsor), that is earned media.

Geofencing

An ad strategy wherein a virtual geographical boundary is created that triggers a marketing action to a mobile device when a user enters or exits that boundary, measured by the user’s Wi-Fi, GPS or cellular data information. 

Geotargeting

An ad strategy that uses location data to reach prospects with messaging appropriate to their locality and user behavior. Explore the differences between geofencing and geotargeting.

Impressions

Impressions are the total number of times users have been shown your content. In PPC advertising, this is the number of times an ad appears on a SERP or in an app.

A link coming from another website to your own website. Inbound links, also known as backlinks, send positive SEO signals because they indicate your site has relevant and helpful content.

Keyword

Keywords are single words or short phrases that users input into search engines when they’re looking for something. Long-tailed keywords are a string of multiple words and may also be referred to as queries.

Landing page

The page a user arrives on after clicking on an ad.

Negative keyword

A type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a particular word or query. Negative keywords are words that you don’t want your brand showing up for. Creating a negative keyword list helps make sure your PPC ad isn’t served to people who are unlikely to act on it, resulting in a more targeted audience and better conversions.    

Pay per click (PPC)

A type of ad named after its payment structure. You pay for each click the ad gets.

Position

The place your website appears on SERPs for a given keyword or query. For example, the first organic listing on a SERP indicates top ranking and is the coveted first position.

Queries

The keywords typed into a search engine.

Remarketing

A PPC ad strategy for audiences who have already engaged with your brand. Remarketing campaigns show your ads to users who have met certain thresholds for engagement on your website. Since this campaign type targets an audience already interested in your brand, remarketing campaigns tend to drive higher conversions. Learn more about remarketing campaigns and other PPC strategies.

Return on ad spend (ROAS)

A marketing metric that displays the amount of income generated by each dollar spent in an ad campaign. A 321:1 ROAS would mean that a campaign generated $321 dollars in revenue for every $1 spent.

Return on investment (ROI)

A metric used to understand the profitability of a marketing strategy. ROI compares how much you paid to how much you earned to evaluate the campaign’s efficiency. You can calculate return on investment using the formula: ROI = net profit / cost of the investment x 100 

Search engine marketing (SEM)

The process of increasing the visibility of a website on search engines. SEM includes search engine optimization (SEO) and search advertising, or paid search.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

The process of optimizing a site and its content for searchers and search engines. SEO helps a site rank for relevant words and phrases. It includes technical and subjective elements that should be continually assessed and adjusted in response to algorithm changes. Learn more about ongoing SEO for property marketing.

Search engine results pages (SERPs)

The pages that display after typing a query into a search engine. Results are ranked in order of relevance and authority.

Search volume

The number of searches for a specific search query in a search engine, such as Google, within a given timeframe. Search volume is estimated and can be subject to seasonal and regional fluctuations.

Slug

The part of the URL that identifies a particular page on a website. It’s after the domain and ideally comprised of keywords separated by dashes. For example, for this post, the URL is https://blog.reachbyrentcafe.com/search-engine-marketing-sem-glossary so the slug is “search-engine-marketing-sem-glossary”. A good slug makes it easy for users and search engines to understand the purpose of the page.

Targeting

Targeting is the process of narrowing your focus to a specific audience. Targeting works like a set of filters to surface your ad based on a variety of factors, which can include geography, time, age, gender or device.

Traffic

The number of visitors to a website.

User experience (UX)

The experience a user has when interacting with your brand online. This could be via a website, ad, social media presence or email. If your UX is easy and straightforward, you’re more likely to positively engage your audience.

We hope this SEM glossary is a helpful resource. If you have any questions about these terms, don’t hesitate to connect with your favorite REACH team member or contact us!

Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives is the manager of marketing content at Yardi. She leads content initiatives for REACH by RentCafe. Writing may be her first love, but data is a close second. Geneva is based in Santa Barbara, California.

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