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
  • The benefits of knowing these digital marketing terms

Quick! What’s the ROAS of that last SEM 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 on the regular. As a result, it can be hard to keep up with the latest marketing terms, even if you’re immersed in the industry.

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

HawkSEM: 26 Must-Know Digital Marketing Terms

Generally, a high conversion rate is one of the top goals of an advertising campaign. (Image via Unsplash)

1. A/B testing

In marketing terms, A/B testing is when you run two ads that are the same except for one element, such as a photo or headline. You run them in tandem to see which one gives you the best results. (Think about when the eye doctor switches in different lenses to work out what prescription you need.)

With A/B tests, you should only be changing one part of the ad at a time. That way, you know the test is isolated and accurate. 

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

2. 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) can boost your search engine ranking and encourage 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 (more on that term below). 

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

3. 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, isn’t enticing visitors to stick around, or doesn’t lead them to continue to other pages.

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

4. CPC

CPC is the acronym for cost per click. With this bidding model, you pay a certain amount for each user who actually clicks on your ad. 

Which model is cheaper (CPC vs. CPM) will depend on your goals.

Example: “The average CPC on Amazon generally ranges from $0.02 to $3.”

5. CPM

CPM stands for cost per thousand. Yes, in this case, M stands for “thousand.” That’s because the M stands for mille, which is Latin for 1,000. You can also 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: “We managed to reduce our Facebook ad CPM by changing the bid type and broadening our audience.”

6. CTA

CTA stands for call to action. Everything from your landing page to your ads should have a clear call to action. This could look like a page headline or an eye-catching button with a short snippet of text on it like “Subscribe now” or “learn more.”

A CTA provides a short instruction telling viewers what next action you want them to take.

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.’”

7. CTR

Your clickthrough rate (CTR) is the percentage of people who see your ad and click on it.

A low clickthrough rate may be an indication that your ad needs to be reworked. You can calculate CTR by dividing the number of people who click your ad by the number of people who viewed it.

Example: “We were able to increase the clickthrough rate (CTR) to 30% by switching the ad copy from a statement to a question.”

8. Conversion rate

Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who see your ad, then take the action you consider a “conversion.” (This could be classified as something like purchasing a product, filling out a form, or requesting a consultation.) 

Generally, a high conversion rate is one of the top goals of an advertising campaign. If you have a low conversion rate, it may mean your copy or image needs work.

Example: “We’ve got a great CTR but our conversion rate is lousy, so I tweaked the product description.”

9. Direct traffic

Direct traffic refers to people who went to your website without being referred by a different site (which would be considered indirect traffic). Meaning, they typed in your URL directly or clicked on a saved bookmark.

An increase in direct traffic may indicate that an offline advertising project, such as a podcast commercial for your business, has been a success. For most websites, 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.”

10. Engagement

Engagement is how your customers interact with you. On social media, this includes actions such as comments, likes, reposts, and shares. More generally, anytime a customer clicks on an ad or gives your company proven attention in some way, they’re engaging with you. 

High organic engagement is most often achieved by posting interesting, quality content that your users can easily share.

Example: “Our latest team photo got a ton of engagement on Instagram. Maybe we should post more social content highlighting our employees.”

11. Hashtag

Most social media platforms use hashtags to hyperlink a certain word or phrase so you can easily click on it to find other posts related to that term. 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, but can be used on Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn as well. 

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: “Feel free to tweet your questions with the #Hawk2021 conference hashtag and our panelists may answer them live!”

12. Impressions

An “impression” is a quantifiable view that you receive on something like an ad. In digital marketing, this could be the number of people who see a particular tweet from your brand’s account or the number of times a user loads a page with your ad on it.

As Investopedia points out, impressions are also sometimes referred to as an “ad view” and are important if you’re paying for an ad on a per-impression basis.

Example: “It looks like our tweet promoting the upcoming webinar got the most impressions last month.”

HawkSEM: 26 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)

13. Keywords

In digital marketing, keywords are the words and phrases your audience uses when searching online for something relevant to your business. These could be related to your products, services, or your brand name itself.

Conduct keyword research to see which terms your audience uses most often. Leveraging keywords helps you create content that attracts leads, ads that get seen by the right people, and campaigns that get clicks. 

Example: “Not only are we ranking on page 1 for that keyword, but our content appears in the featured snippet, too.”

14. KPIs

KPI stands for key performance indicator. A KPI is a way to track your journey to a marketing goal through a “measurable value tied to specific objectives of a marketing campaign,” as Alexa explains.

KPIs are often used to show how a certain campaign or initiative is performing or progressing.

Example: “Let’s make cost per lead one of our KPIs for this new campaign.”

15. Lifetime value

Also called customer lifetime value, CLV, or LTV, lifetime value is your best estimate of how much money you can expect to make from an average customer. 

Calculating lifetime value helps illustrate the overall impact that one sale can have on your business throughout the entire customer relationship, rather than only focusing on the value of the sale itself.

Example: “This client’s LTV went up after they signed on for another year and referred two people who also became clients.”

16. Off-page SEO

Off-page search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the measures you take to get organic traffic to your website that are not on the website itself. 

Tactics that fall under the category of off-page SEO include link building, sending out a newsletter, or posting regularly in an industry-specific Facebook group.

Example: “Let’s change all of our social media handles to just our company name to better align our off-page SEO.”

17. On-page SEO

On-page SEO is the measures you take on your actual website to improve your position on the search engine results page (SERP). 

This includes 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 SEO.”

18. Organic traffic

Visitors who arrive at your website through online search queries and the like are considered organic traffic

In marketing terms, this refers to any traffic that is not direct, but which you don’t pay for. (Meaning, the traffic 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.”

19. 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, and “About” page 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 make a plan to update it.”

20. Quality score

Quality Score is Google’s standard of measurement to estimate the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. As the search engine explains, “higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.”

Your landing page experience, expected CTR, and relevance of your ads all factor into your brand’s Quality Score.

Example: “Let’s disavow the backlink from that shady website — we don’t want it to negatively affect our Quality Score.”

21. ROAS

Return on ad spend (or ROAS) is the way your return on investment is calculated for your paid marketing efforts. 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, the higher your ROAS is, the better.

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%.”

22. Search engine

A search engine is a type of software system that allows people to more easily search online. It takes a user’s query and, in milliseconds, scans through the seemingly infinite reaches of the internet to serve the searcher the most relevant and helpful search results in the form of organic results and relevant ads. 

Example: “While Yahoo was the top search engine decades back, Google has been firmly at the #1 spot for years now.”

23. SEO

The marketing term SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It refers to the consistent practice of ensuring your website and overall online presence are poised to rank as high as possible on the organic listings of the search engine results page.

SEO is often broken out into three segments: on-page and off-page (as mentioned above), along with technical SEO, which refers to elements like your site’s navigation and structured data.

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

24. SERP

Ah, the SERP. As an acronym for “search engine results page,” it’s where you go to see info like where you’re ranking (through paid and organic efforts) in places like Google and Bing. 

This is also where you can see what sites and companies are 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.”

25. Staging site

When you’re making updates to your website or completing a full redesign, it’s recommended that you use a staging site. This is basically a clone of your existing website, which you can use to test out any new features or additions before pushing them live onto your actual website.

Using a staging site lets you test, troubleshoot, and fix any issues that arise before they hit your actual website, so you don’t risk having a site visitor see a wonky web page or broken links. 

Example: “Let’s test the new ROI calculator on the staging site, then push it live next week if we don’t run into any issues.”

26. Target audience

Whether you’re brainstorming blog posts, building new campaigns, or refreshing your ad copy, your target audience (also referred to as your ideal client persona) should always be in mind. This is the group of people who could benefit from what your company offers.

You always want to be speaking to your target audience through your paid and organic efforts to increase sales and grow your reach.

Example: “I think a how-to video showing all the ways to use our newest product would really resonate with our target audience.”

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 terms can help you hold your own the next time you get pinged about a campaign’s CTR or want to talk best practices with other marketing pros. 

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