Digital Marketing:

The Terms that Every Business Owner Must Know


Succeeding in digital marketing requires you to talk the talk before you can walk.

Digital marketing terms are numerous and often ambiguous. So much so, that as an uninitiated small business-owner you may be intimidated when they come up.

You don’t want to profess ignorance for fear of losing credibility. But nor do you wish to pretend that you know more than you do because you may otherwise commit to an action that you really can’t afford.

Fortunately for you, we have you covered. Here’s a primer of the digital marketing terms that you must know as a small-business owner. If you learn these, not only will you not have to abruptly change the subject when digital marketing comes up or dash from the room unceremoniously. You can actually have a conversation about the potential costs, benefits and opportunities that digital marketing presents for your business.



A/B Testing
Prospective customers can be fickle. Something as seemingly trivial as the subject line for your email or the color combination for your website could draw them in or repel them away.

A/B testing helps you hone your digital marketing by comparing results from slightly different versions of content.

Do you want to know if prospects are more likely to open your emails if you ask a question in a headline than if you promote an offer? With A/B testing, you can take the same email and put a question in the subject line for half and an offer in the subject line for the other half.

Send both groups of emails. Compare the percentages that were opened for each. Adjust your future approach accordingly. (HubSpot explains how to run an a/b test here.)

As a small-business owner, you likely realize the benefits of running your business by the numbers. Analytics help you make decisions.

At the risk of further exposing you to unfamiliar digital marketing terms, analytics provide insight into valuable data like visits, clicks, shares and downloads, which indicate how many prospective customers you reach and how they respond.

Ad Click
Ads are ubiquitous online largely because you can track their performance. Can you honestly say that about the billboard display that you are considering?

An ad click is just that, a click. You can infer for yourself the interest that implies on behalf of the clicker. But at the very least you know that someone clicked through to learn more about your product or service.

In tracking ad clicks, you can tailor your ads to generate more traffic.

Connecting an action to an outcome helps you calculate a return on your investment in digital marketing. Attribution allows you to apportion credit for a new customer to any or each transaction that you had with them, beginning when they became a lead. Whether you want to attribute the acquisition of the new customer to the ad that they first clicked on or the demonstration that closed the sale, attribution connects your cost(s) to your return.

The meaning of “blog” depends on the context.

If a prospect or customer asks: “Does your company have a blog?” You should immediately answer, “Of course. Who doesn’t?”

In this case, “blog” is a noun. It refers to a webpage. And, quite likely, you can truthfully answer that you do have a blog because most company websites include a link to a “blog” page.

However, that same prospect or customer may ask: “Do you blog?” If they do, then you should pause before you answer.

As a verb, “blog” means to share information with visitors, probably through that same page that may not have been updated since it was published with the rest of the site. You know, that same “blog” page whose sole entry after months, or even years, is “Welcome to Our Blog.”

While having “a blog” is important, knowing how “to blog” determines digital marketing success. Consistently publishing content that engages your prospects and customers through “blogging” fuels website traffic, lead generation and sales.

In general, companies that publish 16 posts or more per month generate almost four times as much traffic as business that publish zero tofour posts per month, according to blogging frequency research by HubSpot. Companies with 25 employees or fewer generate twice as many leads when they publish more than 10 posts in a month.

Bottom of the Funnel
Unfortunately, the nature of an alphabetized glossary of digital marketing terms necessitates that we define the “bottom” before we explain said “funnel.”

The “bottom” is the narrowest stage of your sales process, or “funnel.” You fill the “top” of the funnel with prospects who may be interested in your product or service but only a percentage of them make it to the bottom, where they are ready to buy, hopefully from you.

Since you must market to prospects differently at each phase of the funnel, you should ensure that those who reach the bottom understand their problem and want to learn about your solution, perhaps through a demonstration or consultation. Then you can close the sale.

Bounce Rate
Website visitors. You love to see them come. You hate to see them go.

Bounce rate tracks how many visitors click on one web page on your site without going to another. You should strive for a bounce of rate of less than 60 percent if you are a B2B firm, Hinge Marketing recommends in a blog post about top B2B website metrics to monitor using Google Analytics.

A relative of the website bounce rate is your “email bounce rate.” This refers to messages that couldn’t be delivered. You can learn more about how to improve your email bounce rate from MailChimp, Constant Contact or similar email marketing companies.

Buyer’s Journey
Have you ever just stopped at a dealership as you were passing by? And bought the first car you’ve seen? Probably not.

Or maybe you’ve bought the first home you came upon? No? Didn’t think so.

We all follow a process when it comes to purchasing or investing in a product or service. The steps may vary depending on who is buying what. But there generally are clearly delineated phases of at least awareness and consideration before a purchase is made.

In mapping the “Buyer’s Journey” for your typical customer, you can align your marketing to each phase. Providing relevant, engaging content at each phase will help you convert prospects to clients. (Content Marketing Institute suggests ways to model the buyer’s journey for your company here.)

Buyer Persona
If a “Buyer’s Journey” covers the “how,” then a “Buyer Persona” addresses the “who.”

Part fact, part fiction and all relevant, a buyer persona depicts the prospect who will become your customer. It can range from a simple summary of a buyer in terms of essential demographics like age and gender to a more complex portrait that includes details like hobbies and interests.

A buyer persona is most useful when you can picture the semi-fictional buyer in your mind. Then you can visualize the conversations you may have and create the content they would want. (See this Shopify blog post for more on how to build buyer personas for better marketing.)

Providing a prospect with information that will help them grow their business is always a desirable outcome. Getting that prospect to implement that solution through you is even better.

So, while informing and educating prospective customers through digital marketing is laudable. You ultimately want to elicit a response that is actionable.

A call-to-action (CTA) urges a website visitor to act. Examples may include a “read more” text link, “request a demo” button, “download a whitepaper” form or similar offer to engage with you for more information.

Clickthrough Rate (CTR)
Just as a “bounce rate” tells you when someone moves on, the “clickthrough rate” indicates when they move forward. In an email, for example, the CTR shows the percentage of recipients who clicked on the CTA. (We figured that “CTA” was a digital marketing term that you knew by now. Or did you already forget?) For an online ad, the CTR indicates the percentage of impressions that led to clicks.

The mantra, “Content is king,” is exaggerated. Content is vital in digital marketing but it does not supercede critical success factors like strategy and resources.

Creating quality content that resonates with prospects requires research and planning. You also must have an audience eager to consume your content.

Content Marketing
This may be the simplest digital marketing term to define.

“Content” + “Marketing” = “Content Marketing”

That is, you draw visitors to your website by publishing content like blog posts, podcasts and videos. You then turn visitors into leads, leads into prospects and prospects into clients by aligning content with their interests and needs at each stage of their buyer’s journey (there is that term again).

An ebook is an example of the high effort, thought leadership content that you would publish infrequently. Such long-form content sits at the pinnacle of Curata’s Content Marketing Pyramid.

Though an ebook may require extensive research and effort, the payoff can be well worth the investment because visitors to your website will typically exchange at least their email address in return for the content.

You can generate leads by including such an “offer” (yet another digital marketing term that is further explained below) throughout your website. You also can promote your ebook through email and social media, thereby drawing additional website visitors who want to learn more about the content.

Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar is the foundation upon which your content marketing plan is built. It helps you generate and execute ideas, showing you who is creating what content and when.

For example, CoSchedule’s free editorial calendar template breaks planning into worksheets for your annual calendar, content ideas and monthly calendars. In addition to helping you manage your resources, such proactive planning helps you ensure that you are creating content for each buyer persona and buying stage.

Email Marketing
This may be another example of a self-explanatory digital marketing term. You use email to market.

But marketing through email is not so simple. You must gain the trust of recipients by providing them with an acceptable volume of relevant emails. Or else, you risk them unsubscribing.

You also must comply with anti-spam regulations. You cannot simply compile a list of addresses and send messages without the permission of the recipients.

You can gain such permission, and the ensuing trust mentioned above, if you offer a compelling CTA like a white paper about a topic of interest to a website visitor. That visitor will exchange their email address for a download of that white paper if they perceive enough value in your content offer. Then you can continue to market to them via email.

Engagement Rate
You may be talking on social media but is anybody listening?

Engagement rate measures interactions with your posts, such as retweets, shares and likes. You can use this metric to identify the content that resonates most. You also can benchmark for improvement. (HubSpot offers industry benchmarks for social media engagement here.)

Evergreen Content
Like death and taxes some topics will always be around. Evergreen content addresses those topics that will always be relevant to your target audience. For example, evergreen content on budgeting on loans could be of interest to a visitor to a bank’s website, regardless of whether they are visiting today or a year from now.

If you want to reach somebody, you need to know how to reach them. A form helps you collect contact information through your website.

You can gather info like a visitor’s name, company and email address to so that your marketing and sales teams can follow up. But don’t ask for too much too soon. Visitors are reluctant to share too much information too early for fear that they will be bombarded with unwanted emails and phone calls.

Start with the essentials, even just an email address. Then ask for more information as you move that visitor through your sales funnel. They may be more willing to give you their phone number after they download a third piece of content from your site than they would the first, for example.

This digital marketing term has gone mainstream. Hashtags have become short-form for subjects, as in, “Hashtag jobs.”

Technically, it would be “#jobs.” Social media users could then search for posts that contain “#jobs”.

Including trending hashtags in posts can connect you to social media users who are interested in your topic, so much so that they are actively looking for relevant content.

Inbound Marketing
As you have probably guessed, “inbound” marketing is the opposite of “outbound” marketing. Think pull vs. push.

With inbound marketing, you draw website visitors by creating and distributing content that businesses and individuals are seeking. With outbound marketing, like a tradeshow or TV commercial, you approach customers instead of pulling them to you.

A keyword is similar to a hashtag in that it is a searchable term that you can use to generate website visits. Optimizing content for “long-tail keywords” helps you target visitors with more specificity.

For example, “management consulting” may be an appropriate keyword for your website. But “management consulting firms for small businesses” will help you better attract a company that you know would benefit from your services. You also will probably be more likely to rank on the first page of search results if you use a more specific term like the latter than if you were to focus on a general keyword like the former. (Moz offers a primer for keyword research.)

Landing Page
If visitors are your goal, then a landing page is their destination. A landing page that has been search-engine-optimized for a keyword will draw visitors seeking related information. It also will offer visitors an opportunity to request additional content via a form. This is how you convert visitors into leads. Once you have their contact information, you can market to them throughout their buyer’s journey. Creating landing pages for each stage of that journey can be particularly effective.

Lead Nurturing
Just as there is a process for converting visitors to leads via means like landing pages, so too is there a process for converting leads into customers. The latter is called lead nurturing. Each step leads to the next until your lead becomes a customer.

Marketing Automation
Wouldn’t it be great if you could set your marketing and forget about? Well, you can, sort of.

Marketing automation software lets you associate an action with each step of your lead nurturing process. You can determine which email to send to whom and when. The software will then do it for you.

Middle of the Funnel
You must have seen this coming by now. You can’t have a top and a bottom to the funnel without having a middle.

The middle of the funnel refers to that stage between when a visitor realizes that they have a problem and the point when they choose you to solve it.

Mobile Optimization
More web searches are done on mobile devices than on desktop computers. Mobile optimization helps you harness this activity. You can improve a website visitor’s experience by designing your website based on how they will view and interact with your site on their mobile device.

Meta Description
Your meta description can convince a prospective visitor to click-through to your website when it is listed among search results. It is the summary that they see.

Organic Traffic
Organic traffic is generated naturally, meaning that a visitor didn’t come to your website through after clicking an ad that you bought. Strong content boosts organic traffic.

This is the content asset that a visitor gets when they complete a form. Common offers include whitepapers, ebooks and webinars.

Pay-per-Click (PPC)
Paid traffic refers to visitors who come to your site by clicking on one of your ads. Pay-per-click tells you how much each click costs. PPC costs vary based on factors like keyword competitiveness. The more traffic a keyword has, the more expensive an ad will be.

Qualified lead
When is a lead not a lead? When it’s not a qualified lead.

A qualified lead refers to a lead that can use your product or service and has demonstrated a willingness to do so.

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) may mean that they have visited more than one web page or downloaded more than one form. If they are sales qualified lead (SQL), they have likely taken one or more actions that demonstrate a commitment to purchasing, like requesting a demonstration or consultation.

Defining MQLs and SQLs is key to converting a lead into a client because it ensures that there is consistency in who handles leads and how.

Search Engine Optimization
The top listing in Google’s organic search results gets 33 percent of the traffic, according to a Search Engine Watch article about a Chitika study on search traffic. Search engine optimization (SEO) increases your chances of ranking at or near the top. It incorporates such factors as keywords, inbound links and site structure.

Social media
Search Engine Land defines “social media marketing” as “the process of gaining traffic or attention through social media sites.”

Social media sites are constantly evolving but there are some constants that business-to-business companies should use for marketing, including LinkedIn and Twitter. These sites allow you to share credible content with users who want better ways to run their businesses.

Top of the Funnel
This is where it all begins. As soon as a visitor provides you with contact information, they become a lead. They may or may not precisely know what their problem is at this point. But they know that they have a problem.

Your top-of-the-funnel content should align with the start of the buying process. Address broad topics that might help a website visitor determine that they have a problem.

Don’t try to sell a lead in this initial stage either. Just move them to the middle-of-the-funnel. Then they can start contemplating solutions to their problem.

Topical Content
Whereas evergreen content’s is sustainable and steady, topical content’s allure is fleeting but powerful.

Current events beget topical content. Attract website visitors by tapping the latest trends or dissecting the deepest topics.

Unique Visitor

A “unique visitor” refers to a person who visited your website within a defined period, such as a day or a month. They are treated as a single “visitor,” even if they visit a dozen web pages.

You could visit the home page for your website 100 times during a day. That doesn’t mean you’re any more likely to buy from yourself than a single visit from another business.


Digital marketing terms can be confusing. Don’t pretend you know what you’re talking about when you don’t.

Learn these essential digital marketing terms first. Then expand your vocabulary. You will become more proficient at marketing as you do.
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