If you’re just getting your feet wet in paid promotion or online advertising, you might find yourself immersed in a whole new language. There are hundreds of new terms to learn in the broad world of online marketing, so today we’re going to focus on the ones small business owners trying paid promotion for the first time are most likely to encounter. We’ll focus on the major ad resource networks, like Google, Bing, and Facebook, and the terms associate with running campaigns there.

First, some acronyms:

PPC: Pay Per Click
This term describes a cost structure used by many common advertising networks in which the advertiser only pays when their ad is actually acted on. This helps advertisers manage their budgets successfully.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing
Although this term technically does refer to both paid search engine advertising as well as organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO), most in the industry use SEM interchangeably with “paid search”. These are the ads the show up above and beside organic search results on sites like Google.

CPC: Cost Per Click
This is the rate at which you are charged for the clicks on your ads. This will vary by search engine, network, or platform, and is usually based on the top price or bid you enter that you’re willing to pay for each click, and is affected by the other top competitors.

CTR: Click Through Rate
This can be found be dividing the number of impressions by the number of clicks. Or, the rate at which the people who saw your ad actually clicked on it. If you have a high click through rate, you know you’ve got an effective ad. If the rate is low, you might want to reassess the copy, imagery, and subject of your ad, as well as the audience to which you are serving it.

CPM: Cost Per (1000) Impression(s)
As opposed to Cost Per Click, this pay structure measure refers to the cost you pay per every 1000 impressions (views) your ad gets.

CPL/CPA: Cost Per Lead/Cost Per Acquisition
Depending on the goal of your campaign, you may measure either of these things. If your goal is to obtain leads (customer contact information that you can use in the future) that would count as an ‘acquisition’ for you. However if your goal is to get people to purchase something, you’d only be counting the actual acquisition.

And now, some common terms:

Display Advertising:
In the online sense of the term, this refers to advertisements that appear throughout the web (social media sites, other websites) and usually include copy, a graphic, and link to a website.

Content Network Advertising:
This type of paid search serves ads or links to ads within the content that a user is viewing – not on a specific search engine or social media site. Advertisers may choose specific sites where they’d like their ad to appear, or they can do contextual advertising where search engines display their ads alongside content containing selected keywords.

Destination URL/Landing Page:
This is the link that your ad directs people to when they click on it. This can be a website’s homepage, a particular page or article on a site, a social media profile, or a landing page that was created specifically for the ad in question to direct to. This is a good way to control the analytics of a certain ad – if the only traffic to that page is coming from an ad, it’s easy to get insights about those visitors and the success of the campaign.

Conversion:
Depending on the goals of your campaign, a conversion can mean many different things. If your goal was to get someone to visit a landing page and fill out a form, your ‘conversion’ is counted when that email address is captured. If your goal is to have someone purchase a product from your web store, the conversion won’t be counted until they check out.

Impressions:
The number of times that your advertisement is seen by the selected audience. This does not require that they click to be counted, only that it’s served up to them.

Campaign Reach:
The number of unique viewers who saw your advertisement (usually used by Facebook).

Frequency:
The number of times that your ad appeared to a member of the targeted audience.

Facebook Ads:
These can take a number of forms, showing up in the user’s news feed, or down the right hand side of their browser, or in their mobile news feed. They often link to the advertiser’s Facebook page, but can certainly have a destination URL that is a website or landing page as well.

Facebook Sponsored Story:
Because this can be a little confusing, we’ll go directly with Facebook’s definition: “Sponsored stories are messages coming from friends about them engaging with a Page, app or event that a business, organization or individual has paid to highlight so there’s a better chance people see them.” Basically, an advertiser pays Facebook to highlight a user’s action regarding their company to that user’s family and friends.

Custom Audience:
A relatively new option on Facebook, this ad strategy allows you to upload a list of email addresses you have collected in your database to Facebook and serve ads to the people on that list who have Facebook profiles. This is a great way to target your most engaged potential customers.

This glossary of online marketing terms is by no means exhaustive. These are the terms that you’ll encounter most when you are first starting out, and will see most frequently as you start participating in paid promotions. If you’d like to see a more extensive list that includes some advanced and more technical terms about online marketing in general, this is a pretty good one.

What are some terms that you’ve run across in the past that you need some help understanding? Or if you’ve become a paid search expert on your own, feel free to share some wisdom below!

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