Jargon! Everything is jargon! At least, that’s what some agencies and self-professed gurus make it seem like. And with terms like SEM, SEO, and PPC all mentioned in the same sentence, basic digital marketing terms can start to feel a bit like a Jenga-sized tower of acronym overload.
In a continual effort to cut through the noise, we’ll leave the list-style blogs of 70+ industry terms alone for now. Instead, we’re going to focus on breaking down the basic digital marketing terms and definitions that matter to you and your business right now. That way you can feel prepared to dive into your marketing data instead of feeling daunted by it.
Was That Really Marketing?
Let’s set the scene: you’re watching television, and a commercial comes on that makes you laugh. After you clean up the popcorn that flew out of your bowl from the raucous laughter that filled the room, you think to yourself: wow, that was good marketing.
Two things are wrong with this scenario. (1), commercials haven’t been good for quite some time, and (2), why would you be watching basic cable when you can stream your favorite shows — it’s the 21st century!
Okay, well, maybe three things are wrong with this scenario. The third being the big one we’re here to address: was that really marketing?
What Marketing Is (& Isn’t)
To a lot of people, brand awareness is marketing. But in reality, it’s just a facet of it, not the whole picture. Marketing is data-driven and conversion-focused.
Far from closing your eyes and throwing darts at a board labeled “possible viral content,” every strategy implemented and piece of content created must be done with consumer data in mind. This includes blogs, paid advertisements, website copy, and yes, even commercials.
With a basic definition of what marketing is and is not out of the way, let’s take a look at the basic marketing definitions and terms that will help you understand how well your marketing strategy is performing.
Digital Marketing Terms 101
A lead refers to potential business for your company — someone who fills out a form, clicks a call button, or requests a quote. It’s not that difficult to showcase vanity metrics (more on that later), but what you want to focus on for your business is getting the right kind of people to fill out a form, click that call button, or request a quote.
The goal is to turn these leads into loyal, returning customers who will fuel your business. Leads are what any good digital marketing strategy is working towards. That’s why it’s important to craft a strategy that creates content targeted at the right people.
One of the ways to make sure you’re targeting the right people is by demographic segmentation. Let’s look at a social ad targeting men and women ages 25-64 as an example of finding opportunities to hone your lead demographics.
After running that ad for a month, you see that men and women in the 55-64 age range have a high cost each time they click, but at just 1%, they’re also the smallest demographic converting.
This is a clear example of a demographic you shouldn’t target. Why? Because they may only be giving you one or two leads per hundred impressions, while the younger demographics are providing more leads and impressions at a lower cost.
Good marketing has to be relevant to the right audience. You don’t want to show your content to people who aren’t interested in seeing it in the first place. There are no Picassos in digital marketing. You can’t just throw a bunch of things around and hope they work.
After discussing leads above, it’s only natural next to touch on conversions. Conversions are the measurable actions that a lead can take, ranging from someone filling out a contact form, calling a sales rep, or purchasing a product or service.
As I mentioned previously, there are such things as vanity metrics (such as post likes and followers), and then there are digital marketing terms that actually drive your business forward. Conversions fall squarely into the latter category. You want to see a monthly report that doesn’t just boast good numbers and engagement with no conversions. It’s better to see a report that actually represents positive activity towards the goals you’re trying to achieve.
In proportion to your marketing budget, revenue is the amount of trackable income generated from the efforts of your business’ marketing strategy. It’s certainly one of the key metrics for any company investing in marketing.
The rise of “revenue marketing” in the past decade has earned marketing a spot at the table as an instrumental entity in increasing revenue. With the advent of highly-introspective programs like Google Analytics, it’s easier than ever to showcase just how effective a quarterly or yearly digital marketing strategy has been in increasing revenue. This means a lot of agencies and marketers that aren’t experts have fallen by the wayside, allowing ones with a solid and integral foundation the room to grow and thrive.
Digital Marketing Tactical Terms
While we promised we wouldn’t bore you with acronym overload, it’s important to touch on the basic digital marketing terms that describe what we, as marketers, do to get your business leads, conversions, and revenue.
SEM stands for search engine marketing and is the umbrella term for everything from organic search efforts, paid search, local SEO, and online profile management like Google My Business.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. This includes the keyword research done for on-page optimization and content creation. It also includes the more technical side of things, like troubleshooting ways for your website to load quicker, which will help its ranking in Google.
In short, it increases both the quantity and quality of your website and social media traffic and seeks to bring exposure to your brand through organic efforts. Making sure your business’ website and online profiles are optimized is a necessity.
Organic refers to content that isn’t paid. Blog writing and unpaid social media posts fall under this category. For instance, if you found this blog by searching “basic digital marketing terms,” you can thank organic marketing for that. Unpaid practices take longer to show results, but they’re essential for building authority and trust with an audience and pointing them back to your services.
Paid marketing encompasses things like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and any medium which allows you to assign a budget to your efforts. You’ll see the acronym “PPC” get thrown around a lot when people are talking about paid advertising, which stands for pay-per-click.
Paid advertising can reach a wider audience much quicker than organic can, and it’s used as a way to drive people to organic content like websites and landing pages.
One of the benefits of email marketing is the opportunity it offers you to stay engaged with your established audience. Email newsletters are a great way to do this, as they help you stay top of mind with an audience that has interacted with you before (either as a customer or simply by signing up for future updates).
Email Marketing Automation
Email marketing automation is another term you’ll hear used a lot. And while “automation” may make you think of robots and AI, it’s actually a crucial part of many marketing strategies.
For example, if you’ve ever gotten a “welcome” email after subscribing to an email list, you’ve seen email automation in practice.
It’s a great way to ensure your business stays in contact consistently, so emails that are follow-ups or reminders don’t slip through the cracks. Plus, can even use automation to segment your audience, learn about their interests, and only send them content they’re interested in.
Other Basic Marketing Terms to Know
Now that we’ve discussed the basic digital marketing terms that impact the performance of your marketing strategy, let’s look at other ones you’ll hear used often.
While it sounds like a really cool nickname, and it is (sort-of), KPIs (key performance indicators) are what help you measure your progress against an objective. What you set as your KPIs is up to you, but you generally want to stay away from creating goals that are lagging indicators.
What’s a lagging indicator? For instance, wanting to make “x” amount in profit by the end of the year is a lagging indicator. Instead, try setting a goal of increasing leads by 5% through boosting your paid advertising efforts. This is a leading indicator because it has a strong potential of leading you toward your objective by charting the path for you to embark on.
Traffic refers to the number of visitors to your website or social media profiles. This can be a really important metric to understand, especially when seeking to build brand awareness.
In a platform like Google Analytics, you can also track where your traffic is coming from. This is another really important thing to know as it allows you to gauge how your paid and organic strategies are performing. When analyzing traffic, you can typically view different segments like:
- Audience (demographics like age, gender, etc.)
- Acquisition (whether your traffic is coming from organic, paid, or direct searches)
Vanity metrics refer to things like followers, comments, likes, and even impressions. Think of it like this: vanity metrics are the beach muscles of the digital marketing world. They look good, but like a gym-bro who’s never stepped up to a squat rack, all that machismo is built on a shaky foundation.
If impressions and likes aren’t (ultimately) followed by leads and conversions, all those big numbers aren’t doing you much good.
So, I Shouldn’t Care About These Metrics At All?
Not so fast. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these “vanity metrics”. But a lot of clicks and no conversions means you’re spending money that isn’t leading to an ROI (return on investment). A lot of people seeing your ad may mean you’ve got your targeting down but ad copy that doesn’t convert.
Remember, you don’t just want a lot of people to see your content. You want a lot of the right people to see it. A good approach is to take all of the ethereal metrics and boil them down to real-world goals you can track.
The question you need to ask yourself is “what do I want out of my marketing strategy?” Is it more foot traffic in stores? More people filling out that contact form? Answer these questions, and the strategy will fall into place. Great marketing gets people involved in your service, products, and brand — not just impressed by good graphics or a clever turn-of-phrase.
Why You Should Know the Basics
Knowing basic digital marketing terms will help you feel confident you’re putting your dollars to work. It’s easy to mystify the process of digital marketing, with all the behind-the-scenes keyword research, optimizing, backlinking, and talk of algorithm updates.
And the truth is, when looking to enhance your marketing strategy, you should absolutely partner with a team of experts knowledgeable at what they do. It’s a rapidly evolving landscape, and someone great at what they did a decade ago could end up hurting your online presence now. (Keyword stuffing, anyone?)
A poor digital marketing strategy built off a lack of mastering the basics will cost you time and money. In other words, acing digital marketing terms 101 isn’t a prerequisite “class” for the meat of digital marketing, it is the meat of digital marketing.
Let the Knowledge Fuel You
Taking steps to educate yourself on the basic marketing definitions and terms that will impact your day-to-day won’t just help you sleep better at night, it will also help you know what you should look for when assessing marketing strategies and agencies.
At first, this can be scary. Since it’s easy to feel like you’re succeeding when you don’t have any concrete goals, it’s often enticing to stay in the fog. But don’t let failure scare you. Instead, allow it to urge you to form relationships with like-minded people that can help you market your passion in ways you couldn’t on your own.