Written by Jane Serra on Jan 22 , 2020

Stay on top of your marketing game by mastering these must-know industry terms

Here, you’ll find:

  • Definitions for common digital marketing terms
  • Explainers for popular acronyms
  • Examples for using these terms in a sentence

Quick! What’s the ROAS of that last paid search campaign? Did you A/B test it? What was the CTR?

Digital marketing is chock full of jargon and acronyms. Plus, rapid changes in technology cause new terms to show up almost constantly. Even if you’re immersed in the industry, it can be hard to keep up with the latest marketing terms.

We get it. That’s why we compiled this list of terminology every digital marketing pro should know.

HawkSEM: 20 Must-Know Digital Marketing Terms

A high conversion rate is one of the biggest goals of any advertising campaign. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Impressions

Basically, an “impression” is a set of eyeballs on your ad. In digital marketing terms, this means the number of times a user loads a page with your ad on it. It could also mean the number of people who open an email or see a social media post. 

Example: “We got 1,500 impressions in the first hour. Not bad.”

2. CPM

CPM stands for cost per thousand. So, wait, M stands for “thousand” now? M stands for mille, the Latin for 1,000, or you can think of it as the Roman numeral M. This is an advertising model in which you pay a certain amount for every 1,000 impressions.

Example: “I don’t know, that CPM is awfully high.”

3. CPC

CPC, on the other hand, is cost per click. With this model, you pay a certain amount for each user who actually clicks on your ad. Which model is cheaper depends on your goals.

Example: “I set a CPC bid of $0.20 for now.”

4. CTR

Your clickthrough rate (CTR) is the percentage of people who see your ad and click on it. A low clickthrough rate means that your ad may need to be reworked. You calculate it by dividing the number of people who click by the number of people who viewed.

Example: “We got a clickthrough rate of 35%. That’s pretty good.”

5. Conversion rate

Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who see your ad, then go on to buy your product or take the action you classify as a “conversion.” (This could also be something like filling out a form to request a demo or consultation.) 

A high conversion rate is one of the biggest goals of any advertising campaign, and if you have a low conversion rate, it may mean your copy or image needs work.

Example: “Our conversion rate is lousy, so I tweaked the product description.”

6. A/B testing

In marketing terms, A/B testing is when you take two potential ads and run them in tandem to see which one gives you the best results. 

It’s a key element of any digital marketing campaign, and you should try to change only one part of the ad at a time, such as the photo or CTA (more on that term below). Think about when the eye doctor switches in different lenses to work out what prescription you need.

Example: “I’ve been A/B testing for the last month and the ad with the photo of the family is performing better than the photo of the house.”

7. Backlink

A backlink is any link to your site that originates on another website. These are also called inbound links. Having plenty of quality backlinks (which means the site linking to you isn’t spammy) helps your search engine ranking and encourages people to check out your site. 

You should avoid having a lot of low quality backlinks, as this can lower your ranking and quality score. 

Example: “Let’s reach out to see if that popular industry blog will give us a backlink to our latest market research report.”

8. Direct traffic

Direct traffic refers to people who went to your website without being referred by a different site. Meaning, they typed in your URL directly or clicked on a bookmark.

An increase in direct traffic may indicate that an offline advertising project such as handing out flyers at a trade show has been a success. The majority of traffic is not direct.

Example: “Our direct traffic went up this month, so it looks like our giveaways at the conference were a success.”

9. Engagement

Engagement is interaction that your customers have with your content, particularly on social media — it generally includes comments, likes, shares, et cetera. 

High engagement is most often achieved by posting interesting, quality content that your users can easily share. It can also be achieved by creating content that shows the human side of your brand or that features a valuable stat or quote. 

Example: “Our latest team photo got high engagement on Instagram.”

HawkSEM: 20 Must-Know Digital Marketing Terms

Lifetime value or LTV is your best estimate of how much money you can expect to make from an average customer. (Image via Unsplash)

10. CTA

CTA stands for call to action. Everything from your landing page to your ads should have a clear call to action, or a short instruction telling viewers what next action you want them to take. This can also up your CTR. 

Example: “Let’s A/B test our CTAs for this LinkedIn ad — one button should say ‘RSVP here’ and the other should say ‘Sign up now.’”

11. Hashtag

Most social media platforms use hashtags for topic reference. They’re the words or phrases that start with “#” symbol in a social media post. (They tend to be most popular on Twitter and Instagram.) 

In digital marketing terms, you can use hashtags to attract your target audience, especially during a promotion, or to add your thoughts to a topic discussion. Some even use them for industry-specific chats. 

Example: “When you tweet from the tech conference, make sure to use their event-specific hashtag.”

12. LTV

Lifetime value or LTV is your best estimate of how much money you can expect to make from an average customer. Lifetime value is a metric you might use to make sure you’re meeting your leads targets to maximize income. 

As we’ve mentioned before, LTV isn’t just about making a sale — it’s about the overall impact that one sale can have on your business throughout the entire customer relationship.

Example: “This client’s LTV went up after they referred two people who also became clients.”

13. On-page optimization

On-page optimization is the measures you take on your actual website to improve your position on the SERP. This includes things like leveraging keywords, adding descriptions to images and videos, and correctly using meta tags.

Example: “You need to add alt text to that image to improve that blog’s on-page optimization.”

14. Off-page optimization

Unlike on-page optimization, off-page optimization refers to the measures you take to get traffic to your website that are not on the website itself. 

This could include tactics such as link building, sending out a newsletter, or posting regularly in an industry-specific Facebook group.

Example: “Our monthly newsletter seems to have improved our off-page optimization.”

15. Organic traffic

Visitors who show up at your website through online search queries and the like are considered organic traffic. This marketing term refers to any traffic that is not direct, but which you don’t pay for (meaning it doesn’t come from paid ads).

Example: “Our organic traffic went way up after we were retweeted by that well-known speaker with a huge following.”

16. Page view

When a specific page on your website is viewed, that’s considered a page view. This counts refreshes on the same page — your home page, product page, about, are all counted separately. Measuring page view helps you determine what parts of your website are attracting the most traffic.

Example: “This blog has a lot of page views but hasn’t been revamped — let’s see what we can do to update it.”

17. Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the rate at which visitors leave your website after finding their way there. A high bounce rate indicates that a page on your website isn’t as described or isn’t enticing potential customers to stick around or continue to other pages.

Example: “We could add an ROI calculator to improve the bounce rate on our pricing page.”

18. ROAS

Return on ad spend (or ROAS) is the way your return on investment is calculated in marketing. For example, if you have a PPC account, you subtract the PPC cost from PPC revenue, then divide it by PPC cost to get your ROAS. Obviously, a higher ROAS is good, and this metric can often make you feel better about your ad spend.

Example: “We have $1,000 in sales from our last PPC campaign, and because we paid $500 against the PPC click costs, our ROAS is 100%.”

19. SERP

Ah, the SERP. The acronym for “search engine results page,” the SERP is where you go to see info like where you’re ranking (through paid and organic efforts), who’s ranking above and below you, and what ads and snippets are showing up for various keywords.

Example: “Our SERP ranking for ‘event management software’ improved after we published that infographic in Q2.”

20. SEO

SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it refers to the consistent practice of ensuring your website is poised to rank as high as possible on the organic listings of the SERP.

The marketing terms “on-page optimization” and “off-page optimization” fall under the SEO umbrella, since they’re ways you prime your site for maximum organic traffic and reach.

Example: “Good SEO takes time to cultivate, but the results are worth it.”

The takeaway

Of course, these aren’t all of the marketing terms that encompass the world of digital marketing. 

But even as more phrases and acronyms crop up, feeling confident about using these 20 terms will help you hold your own the next time you get deep into an industry chat.

Jane Serra

Jane Serra

Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

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