The Ultimate Digital Marketing Glossary: 50 Terms You Need To Know
Most industries have their fair share of jargon, and digital marketing is no exception. From the CTR of your adverts to the bounce rate of your website, there are numerous terms used by marketers that might sound like gobbledegook to the uninitiated.
However, there’s often no substitute for explaining things in plain English. Today, we’re going to look at fifty of the most common words, phrases and acronyms you’re likely to come across in the world of digital marketing - and reveal the meaning behind the neologisms...
A/B testing: The process of creating multiple variants of a page and showing them at random to different website users, to see if the ‘A’ variant or the ‘B’ variant might be more popular with visitors. Sometimes, this is also known as A/B/C/D testing, or ‘split-testing’.
Abandonment rate: The proportion of users who initiated a predefined conversion process, but left the website before completing it. For example, if 10 of the 100 people who started to buy something from your online shop left without submitting their order, your abandonment rate would be 10%.
Algorithm: A set of rules, logic or calculations followed by a computer. In the context of digital marketing, we usually talk about things like ‘the Google algorithm’ or ‘the Facebook algorithm’ when trying to craft content that will be favoured by these automated processes.
Anchor text: The visible text of a hyperlink.
Authority: One of the factors considered by Google when ranking websites on its results pages. A site that has been around for years and is a well-respected source of information (such as Wikipedia) is said to have high authority - and tends to rank very well in search results.
B2B / B2C: These acronyms stand for ‘Business-to-business’ and ‘business-to-consumer’ respectively, and describe the operating model of a commercial organisation - in other words, whether they primarily offer their services to individual end customers, or to other businesses.
Backlinks: Backlinks are all of the links on other websites that point to your page. Collectively, they make up what’s known as your site’s backlink profile.
Black hat / white hat SEO: ‘Black hat’ is a euphemism in many tech fields for unethical practices, and in the world of SEO can include engaging in optimisation practices that contradict Google’s guidelines, fill websites with spam and other ‘quick fixes’ that don’t provide long term results and often result in ranking penalties. By contrast, ‘white hat’ SEO is essentially doing it the good guy way and improving your rankings as a consequence of making your site genuinely more valuable for human users.
Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors who arrive at your website but then leave without accessing any other pages. High bounce rates can indicate a problem with the website’s content or layout - it may be that users find it off-putting, confusing, or uninteresting.
CMS (Content Management System): The system used behind-the-scenes to handle all of a website’s content. For example, Wordpress is an extremely popular CMS used by numerous websites to handle main site pages and blog posts. Other content management systems include the likes of Drupal, Joomla, Concrete5, ExpressionEngine and Magento.
Conversion rate: Simply put, the percentage of your total users who complete whatever process you consider to be a ‘conversion’ (which might be buying a product, successfully submitting a message to your sales team, registering for the site, or whichever outcome you ultimately hope to achieve).
CPA (Cost Per Acquisition): The average cost of a single conversion in a paid ad campaign. If you spent £100 on ads and got 100 signups, your CPA would be £1.
CPC (Cost Per Click): Similar to the above, this is the average cost of each user who clicks your advert in a paid campaign. As not everybody who clicks an ad will necessarily go on to sign up or buy anything, it’s useful to consider these as two separate metrics.
Crawler/bot/spider: A crawler is a program that automatically visits (or crawls) a large number of websites and pages to build an archive of data about them. Googlebot, Google’s own crawler, is perhaps the most famous and seeks to build an index of the entire Internet as best it can. Many other companies have produced their own crawlers to mimic the behaviour of Googlebot or to perform other useful SEO-related functions (such as Moz, Majestic, and Screaming Frog).
CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation): The process of amending a website or page to increase the percentage of users who go on to complete a conversion process.
CTA (Call To Action): A call to action is a short message used on a website or elsewhere that encourages the user to perform a specific action using unambiguous language (“buy now”, “sign up today”, “click here”).
CTR (Click Through Rate): The percentage of people who, having been shown your paid ad, have clicked it.
Featured snippet: The box of information that often appears at the top of a Google search results page - before the actual results - in an attempt to answer the user’s query by extracting a highlighted passage from the top search result. These can be quite important for SEO, and many search optimisation specialists spend a lot of time tweaking pages to try to get Google to use them as its source for a featured snippet.
GDPR: Short for the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR is an EU law that places certain restrictions on the types of personal data that websites can collect about users (and for what reasons). For more information, please see the Wikipedia article on GDPR.
Geo-targeting: The practice of targeting different content to different users based on their geographic location.
Google Ads: Google’s paid advertising network.
Google Analytics: The industry standard for user analytics, Google Analytics allows webmasters to access a very detailed wealth of anonymised information about their site and its users - which pages are the most popular, where traffic has come from, how many visitors are converting, and a great deal more besides.
Google Search Console: Google provides a free tool for allowing webmasters to check up on their site’s search performance and visibility.
Hashtag: On social media, a hashtag is a word or phrase (without spaces) marked with a hash symbol (#). This causes the post to be tagged with that hashtag, and users can search for all of the posts that have been tagged with the same identifier. Thus, tagging your Instagram post with #dog will cause your photo to show up for anybody who is looking at the hashtag feed for pictures of dogs.
Impression: Every time your paid ad is shown to a user, this is called an impression. However, this doesn’t concern how many times it has been clicked - only how many times it has been displayed. Therefore, an ad with high impressions but a low click-through rate (CTR) may need to be rewritten or redesigned to be more appealing (as people are seeing it, but not clicking on it).
Indexing: When Google collects data about a website for its list, it is said to have indexed the page.
Keywords: Keywords are the most important words and phrases that describe the content of your page and what users will type into Google when searching for your topic. Keyword research is using various tools to identify which keywords are the most important for optimisation of the site.
Keyword stuffing: The outdated SEO practice of padding out a webpage with repetitive and redundant search engine keywords. It’s a terrible idea - in fact, we wrote a whole thing about why you shouldn’t do it...
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators): In essence, a KPI can be whatever benchmark you decide is a good way to tell that your marketing efforts are actually working. It could be that you want to see an increase in traffic or conversions, a reduction of bounce rate, an increase in the number of returning visitors, or any other metric of your choosing.
Landing page: A landing page is a page on your site that users arrive at from search results or an advert. A common SEO practise is to identify which pages on your site are key landing pages and clearly define them as such for Google’s crawler.
Link building: The process of getting links to your website from others. This might be achieved via guest posting, leveraging pre-existing professional relationships, requesting link insertions, or any of a number of other techniques.
Local search: Google will often serve different results to different users based on their geographic location - somebody searching for ‘Italian restaurants’ from a computer in London won’t see the same results as a user from Glasgow. Thus, many businesses find it essential to optimise their site for good visibility in local search results.
Long-tail keyword: Whereas we might imagine that most keywords are short, single-word items (such as ‘toys’), long-tail keywords are longer phrases that are much more specific (‘barbie doll clothes and accessories’). These search terms are often easier to rank for than generic keywords, and crafty keyword research looking for these sorts of phrases can sometimes yield good SEO results.
Meta-data: Encompassing meta-titles, meta-descriptions, and (to a much lesser extent) meta-keywords, meta-data is information stored in the header tag of a web page that contains data about the page for search crawlers to use. The contents of these tags can often make a notable difference to a website’s SEO performance, and are often the first port of call when seeking to improve the Google presence of a page that doesn’t rank very well.
NoIndex: Noindex is an attribute that can be added to a website’s header tag which asks Googlebot to not add the page to its index. This should be thought of as more of a suggestion than a hardline command, but Google’s crawler tends to respect the directive more often than not.
Organic traffic: Visitors who find your site from a search engine results page, as opposed to a direct link from another site, a social platform, or a paid advert.
PPC (Pay Per Click): A type of paid marketing, where you pay only when a user clicks your advert.
Rankings: The order in which websites are returned on a search engine’s results page.
Remarketing / retargeting: This is the practice of targeting advertising towards people who have already demonstrated an interest in your business. For example, this might be users who have previously visited your website or interacted with you on social media.
Rich snippet: Whereas a normal snippet is the short excerpt of a web page that Google displays with each listing on its results pages, a rich snippet has additional features (which might include imagery, review stars, the preparation time of a recipe, or any of a number of other additions).
Robots.txt: A file that can be used to recommend to Google’s crawler that it should index or ignore different areas of your website. Googlebot will always look for this file in the root directory of your site (eg., yoursite.com/robots.txt).
Schema: Schema markup is a special kind of HTML that can be used to explain the structure of your content to Google. For example, you might want to make it very clear to Googlebot that what you’ve written might be a postal address, medical information, or a movie review - and by using the right type of schema markup (as described on schema.org) you can make sure the search crawler understands what it’s seeing.
Search query: The word or phrase used by a user looking for something on a search engine.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): The process of making improvements to a website to increase its presence in search results. This can involve on-site factors such as changing the meta-data or improving the content, or off-site and holistic factors such as seeking to better the site’s backlink profile and overall authority.
SERP (Search Engine Results Page): The page of results that a search engine presents in response to a user’s query.
Sitemap: A sitemap is a list of all of the pages on a website. This can either be a publicly visible HTML sitemap for the use of human visitors, or an XML sitemap used to help Googlebot find its way around.
Tracking pixel: A small chunk of code that can be added to your website to collect data for a particular service (eg. a Facebook tracking pixel to keep track of Facebook users who end up on your page). Sometimes this code may incorporate a literal ‘pixel’ in the form of a 1x1 image file, but not always.
USP (Unique Selling Point): The thing that differentiates your business, service, offering, or website from that of others. For many marketing projects, identifying your USP is the foundation of knowing what messaging to put on your site and in your ad campaigns.
UX (User Experience): User experience design is concerned with making sure a page is intuitive and pleasant to use. If a website has a high bounce rate, improvements to UX may be the solution - and if users are confused or frustrated, they are unlikely to stick around.
The field of digital marketing does come with a lot of complicated jargon, but it needn’t be an ongoing mystery for newcomers.
By bookmarking our handy reference guide, you can return to this page in the future as a refresher if you should happen to encounter a buzzword you don’t recognise - and by staying abreast of the industry lingo, you can make sure you’re always part of the conversation.