Anyone who works in digital marketing knows it can be daunting when you’re new and trying to understand the complex vocabulary and acronyms that come with it. On top of learning all of the jargon, the business and its platforms are changing constantly, which means we’re often adding new definitions and terms to our brains. Because of that, I thought it would be helpful to create a quick, simple digital marketing glossary.
Here at Bonfire, we have a talented group of 30+ employees who are experts in just about everything. In my two years at Bonfire, it’s been exciting to see how much the company has grown — not only in size, but in regards to internal hierarchy as well. I thought I would get some help from my colleagues in identifying key terminology within their respective departments to help add to this conversation.
Animated GIF: A graphics interchange format file is a graphic image on a Web page that has movement. Oftentimes these loop either back and forth or repeatedly. GIFs can be illustrated or in live-action video content.
Color: We deal with mostly RGB and CMYK color models. RGB (red, green, and blue) is an additive color model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors. Since this is used digitally, we use it the most. CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) is a subtractive color model that is used in print and is also used to describe the printing process itself.
Gestalt: A combination of elements that when placed together create a perception of a unified whole. For example, when a set of arrows is arranged in a circle pointing outward, it creates an image resembling a sun.
Hanging punctuation: A way of typesetting punctuation to create a perceived solid edge of letters in a left- or right-justified block of text by extending punctuation into the margin.
Infographic: Visual representations conveying data or other information in a comprehensive, aesthetic way that uses key design techniques while telling an overarching story or trend.
Interactive infographic: An infographic with interactive capabilities like form fills or alternating information.
Kerning: The spacing between letters. This spacing can and should be adjusted to ensure readability.
Lookbook or moodboard: This is an arrangement of graphics intended to convey or evoke a particular style or concept that is usually presented to clients. The purpose of this is to eliminate the guesswork and get approval to move forward without significant work up-front. Since we are a digital agency, we utilize online tools to facilitate this (rather than physical bulletin boards with cutout magazine pictures).
Masking: By making parts of an image transparent, we’re able to cut out specific images without removing them from the source material.
Raster (bitmap) graphic: Graphics that cannot be scaled up without becoming pixelated. An example of this would be a photograph (i.e., .jpg, .pdf).
Source files: Graphics are created in design programs and then exported into a flat image. The file used in the design program is called the source file. A designer can use an existing source file to adjust an image or grab something he or she needs from one image to apply to another.
Specs: Usually meaning file size dimensions and/or destinations of the graphic in the appropriate measuring unit (i.e., 1000 x 500 px on Twitter). Our marketing agency primarily deals with digital content so we focus on pixel-based dimensions rather than inches.
Vector graphic: Graphics based on specific paths and points that have definitive x and y values. Essentially vectors can be scaled up and down without a loss of quality. An example of this would be a logo or digital illustration (i.e., .ai, .eps, .png).
Bid: The amount you are willing to pay per action. Some platforms offer automatic bidding, which optimizes your bid to help reach objectives. This limits control over how much you pay for each click, view-through, or other objective. Manual bidding allows you to pick a target maximum bid.
Conversions: Customer-completed actions, such as purchasing or adding items to a cart on an e-commerce website.
Cost per action: The average amount paid for each action people take on ads. What you pay depends on who you target and how many other advertisers are competing to show their ads to your audience. Well-designed ads encourage people to take action. The more actions you receive, the lower your cost per action will be.
Actions: Actions include page likes, app installs, conversions, event responses, and more after someone views your ad (e.g.: Two page likes and two comments is considered four actions).
Ads Manager: Where you create and run ads, target ads, set your budget, see how ads perform, and view a billing summary.
Audience: A group of people who could potentially see your ad.
Audience network: Mobile app publishers who allow Facebook ads to appear in their apps.
Custom Audience: An ad targeting option that lets advertisers find their existing audiences among Facebook users.
Lookalike Audience: A type of audience that’s created by Facebook to help advertisers reach people who are similar to an audience they care about.
Pixel: Tracks actions people take after viewing your Facebook ad across all devices. Pixel is added to the pages of your website where conversions happen, such as the checkout page, so you’ll see who converts as a result of Facebook ads. Pixel continues to monitor actions people take after clicking your ad. You are able to see which device they view the ad on and ultimately which device they convert from.
Power Editor: An ad management system within Facebook.
Lead Generation Card: Allows you to capture a name, email, and username within a Tweet.
Promoted Accounts: Pay for your account to be pushed to users’ timelines and sidebar under “Who to follow.” Measured by the number of clicks on a Promoted Account.
Promoted Tweets: Push your content into more user timelines. Measured by number of clicks on the URL, profile, account, hashtags, and likes.
Promoted Trend: Promote a hashtag trend on the right sidebar of Twitter Timeline. Measured by the number of clicks on the Promoted Tweet, link, or hashtag connected to the Promoted Trend.
Promoted Moments: Moments authored by a brand and featured in the Moments guide.
User Fatigue: Limits the number of times a user will see the same component of a promoted campaign.
Promoted Pins: Pins that resemble regular pins that are pushed to more user feeds. Native to users’ Pinterest feeds, they look the same as organic pins. Promoted Pins can be purchased for awareness, engagement, and traffic goals.
Average time on site: This is a great metric for measuring performance of blogs. Low time on site can indicate boring content and potential issues with your website loading correctly.
Bounce Rate: An essential metric showing the percentage of people landing on your website and leaving right away (bouncing away, so to speak). A high bounce rate (over 60 percent) is generally a sign of errors on specific pages of your website or disinterest in your overall site/content.
Clicks: Shows if people are clicking on what you are promoting, generally for links, newsletters, and websites.
CTR (click-through rate): Clicks (or impressions) measure rate at which people click on links in your social copy. This is important because it measures the success of online advertising and whether it’s engaging enough.
Engagement Rate: Shows the percent of your audience viewing your post and engaging with it. Ideal for seeing what content resonates with your audience. ENG Rate = (Engagement + Clicks)/Impressions.
Impressions: Total number of times a post has been seen on platform. People may leave impressions on posts more than once. If you’re seeing higher-than-average impressions for a post, it’s possible that an influencer has shared your content with their followers.
Social media engagement: This term is most commonly associated with likes, shares, or comments on a post. Measurement is used to determine what posts attract your audience’s attention and develop insights to help you understand your audience’s interests.
Unique visitors or users: Number of unique people coming to your site. This is great for gauging traffic of individuals on your site during specific time ranges.
Ad extensions: Improve ad visibility and can be added manually or automated. Think of it as “extending” your text ads. Examples of ad extensions include Sitelink Extensions, Location Extensions, and Review Extensions.
Ad groups: For each campaign there are relevant ad groups, and the number between each campaign can vary. Ad groups are made up of 10-20 keywords that will trigger your ads. Each ad group has about 2-3 ads. It’s important to not go overboard with these, as this will stretch your budget and results could suffer.
Average position: This shows you where each of your paid keywords are ranking. For keywords with a position less than four, you will want to make sure your max CPC is equal to or greater than the estimated first-page bid or top-page bid. Another insider tip: Be sure you check your quality score! Quality score is how much Google likes you and how relevant your paid keyword is to your ads and landing page. The higher your quality score the lower your keywords will cost. If you have a low-quality score you may still have a low position even though you’re bidding above the top-page bid.
Bid strategy: Depending on the platform, bid strategy options will differ. The bid strategy you choose depends on what your end goals are. Common automated bids strategies include Enhanced CPC, Target CPA, and Maximize Clicks. You can also choose the Manual CPC option to manually adjust bids accordingly.
Campaigns: Think keywords, ad groups, and ads. Typically you’ll have a few campaigns that surround broader themes. You can organize your campaigns by deciding how you want to divide your budget. Other settings on a campaign level include where your ads show, devices, locations, bid strategy, and delivery method.
Keywords: These are very important and dictate how your ads will be triggered. For each keyword there is an estimated first-page bid and estimated top-page bid. This tells you how much you need to bid in order to rank high for your keywords. Each keyword also has a quality score.
Match type: Each keyword has a match type. Using different match types can help you control which searches will trigger your ads. A general rule of thumb is the broader your match type, the more traffic potential your keyword has. The narrower your match type, the more relevant your keyword is to the search intent.
Programmatic advertising: The process of targeting specific audiences and demographics in order to automate the decision-making process. Programmatic advertising is best served when you know your audience and have a strategy set up to best target them.
Search terms report: Report in AdWords and Bing that allows you to see what terms trigger your ads. Use the search terms report to find high-converting keywords to add as exact match. This will lower CPC. You can also use the search term reports to find high-cost, low-converting keywords, which you can add as negative keywords.
301 redirect: An HTTP status code meaning “moved permanently.” It occurs when a site visitor tries to access a Web page that is no longer live or never existed. For example, if there’s an error in the URL or an old page was bookmarked, the visitor is automatically redirected or served a new, corresponding Web page. It’s an SEO best practice to employ 301 redirects so the robots can index the new page, thereby providing excellent user experience and passing on 90 to 99 percent of link juice (power or equity). 301s are commonly used during website redesigns.
Algorithm: Or “algo” for short, meaning a set of rules for computer programs. Google’s search algorithm relies on over 200 signals to determine which search results to return for a query, while Bing has admitted to a 1,000 signals. Google can test and release up to 100 algo updates daily. Smaller updates are not named. Larger, Google algo updates worth knowing include:
- RankBrain (October 2015) – Google announced machine learning has been a part of its core algorithm for months, perhaps since spring 2015. RankBrain is a part of Hummingbird and is the third most important ranking signal. It’s an artificial intelligence (AI) system designed to handle complex, long-tail, and unique search queries that have never been searched for before.
- Mobile Update (April 2015) – Sites and Web pages that do not pass Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test don’t rank as high as those that do. Additionally, those that are optimized for mobile devices display “mobile-friendly” in search results.
- Pigeon (July 2014) – The focus is on local search results, and ensuring they’re as relevant as possible.
- Hummingbird (September 2013) – Introduced the concept of semantic search, in which context and whole queries are taken into account rather than individual words. Basically allowing the machines (robots) to better understand everyday, conversational language.
- Penguin (September–October 2016) – Google rolled out the long-awaited Penguin 4.0 algorithm at the end of September and into early October. This update is different from previous Penguin releases since it’s a part of Google’s core algorithm and updates in real time. It’s less of a penalty update, and instead weights spammy backlinks differently. It’s more granular and accurate.
- Panda (February 2011) – The emphasis is on rich, quality content. Sites with thin, poor content are penalized heavily. Google continues to roll out Panda updates.
Backlink: Also known as an external link or inbound link. It’s a link to your site from any other site. The quantity and quality of your backlinks are extremely important, as they are a Google ranking factor.
Domain authority (DA): A metric coined by Moz, an inbound marketing software company. A site’s authority is reflective of the site’s overall health, history, and trust by search engines. It is calculated based on multiple factors, with an emphasis on a site’s backlink profile. Moz’s DA runs on a scale from 1 through 100. A new site will have a DA of 1, while Amazon and Facebook have a DA of 100.
Local SEO: One of the many different types of SEO, local SEO is increasingly important to incorporate into your search strategy because of the rise in mobile usage. Local SEO best practices are effective for brick-and-mortar businesses and those offering national or international services. It encompasses brand visibility, reputation, and accuracy in business citations or listings across the web. At the core of local SEO is consistent usage of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). Doing so provides a positive user experience and improves your local rankings.
Machine learning: Computers have the ability to learn without being programmed or told to do so. Machine learning is the type of AI being used in Google’s RankBrain algorithm.
Meta description: A short, one to two sentence summary of a web page’s content. It’s not visible on the page or blog post; rather it’s an HTML tag. Meta descriptions do appear in search engine results (SERPs) under the blue link. They’re extremely important to on-page SEO and the user experience (UX). In 130–155 characters, they should entice a searcher to click on your result. Avoid duplicate meta descriptions, as they’re a missed opportunity and hurt UX. If no meta description exists, Google will pull from the page’s copy and create one. There’s also a chance that even if you have a well-optimized meta description, Google could rewrite it to better meet the searcher’s intent.
SERPs: An acronym for search engine result pages. Search results are a list of results returned by a search engine when a user searches for a keyword or keyword query.
Short click versus long click: User engagement metrics and ranking factors. A short click is when a searcher selects a link and returns to SERPs quickly. A long click occurs when a searcher selects a link and stays on the site for a period of time. By doing so, the user sends a satisfaction signal to search engines. These engagement signals are not to be confused with pogo sticking and bounce rates.
AI: Artificial intelligence is more common and integrated throughout social media than ever before. Things like news feed algorithms, chatbots, facial recognition, predicting hashtags, personalized advertising, trending topics, and identifying fake news are some of the popular social features that use machine learning in some way. In today’s world, AI is thriving as an efficient way to recognize patterns and sort through large clusters of user-generated information without spending too much manpower on data analysis.
AR: Augmented reality (AR) continues to evolve as the next frontier in social media. Unlike virtual reality (VR) which takes users inside a completely different setting, AR integrates users’ current surroundings into a hybrid immersive experience of both virtual and actual reality. AR doesn’t require additional equipment or VR headsets, so brands are using augmented technology more than virtual because it’s more accessible to a larger audience. From Pokémon Go to Google Translate, AR will continue to thrive in social media marketing’s near future.
Boost: A paid boost is a way to turn a regular Facebook post into an advertising unit. You can pay to boost a normal post in people’s newsfeeds to attain engagement. Facebook gives you choices of who will see your post based on demographics, current fans of the page, and more.
Content calendar: Scheduling and preparing content to post in advance is incredibly important. Creating content, and having approval processes in place is crucial, as it helps prevent mistakes in social media management. If content is reviewed by multiple people, there is a better chance of avoiding unintentional, offensive, or upsetting reactions. Scheduling content in advance also ensures you always have exciting and engaging content to promote.
Content creation: The process of putting together material to publish for your brand. This can include blog copy, social media posts, images, and videos. Content creation is a large part of community management. When the content is good, more engagement can occur.
Content scheduling: Scheduling in the outside world often relates to your calendar, business meetings, and coffee dates. In community management, it relates to useful practice of scheduling tweets and Facebook posts to publish on a given date/time. You can schedule posts on many social platforms, and this lets your brand have a vital presence online without needing someone to post content 24/7.
DM: Direct messaging, a feature that has expanded throughout the major players of social media recently. What primarily has been a text-specific private messaging function has grown into so much more. Apps like Facebook and Instagram now encourage users to direct message each other through an array of visual methods like stickers, gifs, and augmented video filters.
Engagement: On social media, the total number of likes, comments, views, or shares a post receives. This changes for every platform, as Twitter also garners retweets. Engagement is a way to measure the success of a post or ad, as people only engage with content they appreciate or enjoy.
Feeds: Where information is fed to you, or in other words, your social media account’s personalized list of content and updates.
Memes: Images captioned with bright, bold text — typically in a humorous way — remain as one of the most notorious items of communication people prefer to use.
Social influencer: Someone who has a loyal following on social media. Influencers are trusted by their followers and usually specialize their content in a particular field. Influencer outreach is becoming more prominent, as social media solidifies itself as a regular part of daily life and individual communication. Since fans trust their influencers’ opinions, paying influencers to try your product and share their thoughts online is a great way to gain traction with your target demographic.
Social listening: This involves monitoring your fans online to find out what’s important to them. It can take the form of tracking trending topics and using platforms such as Hootsuite, Spredfast, and Sysomos. Once you know what your audience talks about online, you can better deliver relevant content to them. This can be useful around big events, like the Super Bowl or holidays, or simply day-to-day trending hashtags. If you can engage your users on hot topics, they may become loyal to your brand.
Stories: Shared images and videos presented in a slideshow timeline format that disappear after 24 hours. Major social networks like Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp have all adopted this feature within the past year. Through constant innovation of this feature’s capabilities, the competition between social media companies to attract more daily active users is fierce.
Trending topics: A topic is trending on a social platform when it has been flagged as gaining popularity. An algorithm determines what topics are currently popular, rather than historically popular. Trends can be tailored by your location, interests, and who you follow. You can also view and search national or global trending topics and hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Viral: This is when a piece of content or an event becomes extremely popular online. When something “goes viral” it gets shared thousands of times, and can become a part of pop culture. And example of this is the black and blue dress vs. white and gold dress conundrum. There’s no way of knowing if content will go viral, so striving to create virality isn’t typically possible. You can create content with users in mind, to make sure they enjoy what your brand is putting out. (But seriously, it was blue and black, right?)
Boomerangs: It’s a gif, it’s a vine, no … it’s a boomerang! The Boomerang app (developed by Instagram) allows users to take a burst of photos and stitch them together into a high-quality mini video that plays forward and backward.
Lenses:Using facial recognition software, users can morph any face into a variety of animations and effects. Swipe through the different lenses on the bottom of your device’s screen; focus the camera on the face you want to contort; and then tap and hold on the face until a lens appears. You can even swap faces with someone else!
Filters: After you take a snap, swipe right or left on the preview screen to add filters, such as coloring, current time, local weather, speed overlays, and many more.
Geofilters: Geofilters are Snapchat’s location-specific filters. To access Geofilters, enable location services on your device. If you’re attending a Portland Timbers game, for example, a filter of Providence Park will appear whenever you take a snap near that area.
Stories: Stories are snaps you post to your very own “story” of your account, which is visible to you and all of your friends for up to 24 hours.
A/B testing: Whether it’s testing a landing page, ad creative, or other elements, A/B testing is a systemic approach to figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Remember to test only one element at time (such as copy or an image) and ensure you have a clear level of success to determine a winner.
Content strategy: Good content should be at the heart of any digital marketing campaign. While the content solves the who and what, the strategy encompasses the when, where, and how. To be successful, both the content development and strategy must work together.
Dark social: Unattributed social traffic that often ends up as direct traffic in Google Analytics. Using UTM codes will help to mitigate this issue, especially among forwarded or shared links.
Featured snippets: Within a Google search engine results page (SERP), a featured snippet is an organic summary/response to a user’s query, often shown below ads, but above the top organic ranking. These featured snippets come in a variety of forms, but are referred to by Moz as “position zero.” This means you’ll rank above the #1 organic ranking if your content is optimized properly.
Influencer outreach: A strategic initiative to reach out and form partnerships with individuals or companies that can influence your key demographics through their digital audiences.
Keyword discovery: The process in which keywords are researched to determine the most valuable keywords for both your company and your marketing goals. Keywords will be ranked according to their relevancy, popularity, and difficulty.
SEO: We prefer to think of this as “Search Experience Optimization” rather than “Search Engine Optimization.” As Google and other search engines get smarter, the goal of SEO is to optimize websites and content to match the intended user experience.
SEM: Search engine marketing. Quite simply this is the backbone of digital advertising, running the gamut from Google AdWords to retargeting and display ads.
Landing pages: While it could refer to any website page a visitor “lands on,” our practical definition is a website page specifically designed for a visitor to land on. This page is optimized for a specific purpose, whether it is lead generation, form fill, or dedicated content.
Marketing personas: Marketing personas aren’t just a generalized narrative of your target customer. They should serve as living, actionable documents to focus, test, and measure your marketing effectiveness.
Programmatic advertising: The opposite of media buying. This form of advertising is characterized by “self-serve” digital ads that include specified targeting dimensions as well as the ability for real-time bidding and adjustments. Examples include social advertising on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, display advertising such as Google AdWords, and video advertising on platforms such as YouTube.
We hope our glossary is an ongoing resource for clients and digital marketers alike. What other terms do you think are useful to know? Comment below!
(Updated on May 10, 2017)