Get Our Free Beginner's Guide to Digital Marketing
This free guide is chock-full of pointers and resources that will show you EXACTLY how to dive into the world of digital marketing.
Consider an average salary of $40,363 for junior positions (and $63,502 for mid-level roles) and the 30 percent job growth rate between 2011 and 2016, and you’ll get why digital marketing is the ideal industry if you’re seeking a lucrative position with a ton of growth opportunity.
But, like most tech and tech-adjacent fields, it also comes with its own arcane language. Trying to figure out what digital marketers are talking about might seem impenetrable from the outside, but guess what? You’re about to become an insider.
We’ve put together a dictionary of the most critical digital marketing terms (along with links to even more digital marketing info), so you’ll have a leg up as you start your own path into the industry. Use these common terms to talk the talk in your next (or first!) marketing job interview.
And, when you’re ready to match you newfound marketing term knowhow with the skills it takes to work as a digital marketer, consider signing up for our Skillcrush Digital Marketing Blueprint.
This online course is designed to be completed in just 3 months by spending only an hour a day on the materials, and it covers all the skills you’ll need to break into the world of digital marketing.
Table of Contents
A/B Testing is the process of testing two versions—i.e. ”Version A” and “Version B”—of digital content with a target audience to learn which one the audience prefers. When it comes to digital content, this preference is usually measured by conversion rate—the number of visitors to a website or app who take a desired action during their visit (things like signing up for an email list, purchasing a product or service, or subscribing for a paid membership).
Affiliate marketing is a strategy where businesses reward individual “affiliates” (people or organizations outside the business) for bringing in new customers or visitors through ads or content on the affiliate’s website. Affiliates receive payments or product discounts based on the number of customers they generate.
These are exceptionally common on personal or lifestyle sites, where you might notice that the product recommended has a link with a bunch of additional stuff tracked on. That means that if you buy the product, the blog or site that lead you there will make some percentage of that sale.
If you’ve spent any time online, you probably already have an idea of what a blog is. Merriam Webster defines it broadly as:
“a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer.”
But in the world of digital marketing, blogs are a lot more than just personal sites. In fact, company blogs and blog posts are at the heart of content marketing and lead generation. Quality blog content that’s relevant to your customer base and written per best SEO (search engine optimization) practices makes your site “findable” by consumers on Google and other search engines—and keeps them on your site once they’ve found you.
A few stats on blogs, per marketing software company Hubspot:
- Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5 times more traffic than companies that published zero to four monthly posts.
- Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5 times more leads than companies that published zero to four monthly posts.
- 43% of B2B marketers say blogging is their most important type of content. (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a website who leave the website quickly without really looking at it. Most often this refers to the algorithm used by Google Analytics and is calculated in percentages. Sites aim to keep this number low—they want you to spend time on the page but also to bounce from page to page on their site—and so they’ll try to keep content as engaging and relevant to you as possible.
In digital marketing terms, the buyer’s journey is the trajectory of a consumer’s movement from product awareness, to engagement with a product, to finally deciding to make a purchase. Digital marketers need to understand how to “attract, engage, and delight” consumers (as the marketing platform Hubspot puts it) in order to carry them from the “I don’t know anything about this brand or product” stage to “I’m all in.”
Call to Action (CTA)
A call to action is the text, banner, form, or image on a web page (or email) asking a visitor to literally take an action—read more content, join an email list, sign up for a webinar, buy a product, etc. CTAs are marketing tools that convert web users into leads for businesses.
Click Through Rate (CTR)
The click through rate is the percentage of users who click on links in web pages or marketing emails. CTR is significant because it measures how many users are actively engaging with linked content on a site.
Conducting a competitive analysis means identifying your competitors and analyzing their businesses with a fine tooth comb. This lets you learn from their successes and mistakes, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and find gaps in the market that other businesses aren’t covering.
Once you understand similarities and differences between your business and competitors in your field, you’ll learn how to occupy the best market niche for your company and attract your own target audience.
The core steps of a competitive analysis include:
- Identifying competitors—which business are truly direct competitors and represent a threat to your market share?
- Choosing parameters—decide which parts of a competitor’s business should be studied comparatively with your own. This can include core products, pricing structures, websites, blogs, social media presence, etc.
- Tracking and sharing—the results of your analysis should be tracked through a simple spreadsheet, which you can transfer to a slide deck and share internally with your company or client.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
CRO is a marketing system for raising the percentage of website visitors who convert to paying customers. CRO methods usually involve encouraging users to take specific actions on the website, such as filling out a web form, signing up for a trial, or joining an email list.
Content marketing describes the process of creating and distributing content used for digital marketing campaigns. This includes things like:
Content strategy is the planning and implementation of digital content—in other words, an overarching content strategy guides a content marketer’s campaigns. It’s a content marketing team’s “master plan” to make their content work toward a uniform and cohesive end.
Examples of content strategy include:
Content testing is a clear way to gauge how content performances and build an overall content strategy moving forward. This testing looks similar to what you might see in the user experience (UX) research field, with one of the simplest and most effective ways to test content being A/B testing, defined earlier in this list.
Digital marketing includes any and all online strategies used to sell products and services (whether you’re targeting potential audiences via computer, iPad, or app).
Some of the hallmarks of digital marketing include:
- Customizing an audience from a global population—digital audiences can be reached anywhere around the world, meaning digital marketers can fine tune their audiences using demographics that best fit their marketing campaign.
- Audience interaction—unlike more passive traditional marketing (e.g. a television viewer watching a commercial), digital marketers are able to interact directly with their audience through forums like website comment sections, social media accounts, and interactive quizzes.
- Using multiple delivery channels based on audience needs and preferences—dynamic web content lets digital marketers connect with an audience through a range of delivery channels (including YouTube videos, Instagram posts, blog articles, and marketing emails)
- Online marketing events—similar to conferences and conventions in traditional marketing, digital marketers host online events like webinars, product demonstrations, and courses, which can often be attended “live” or viewed afterward on demand.
Digital Marketing Jobs
Common digital marketing job titles include:
- Content strategist—digital marketers who specialize in creating and implementing content strategy ($72,742/year)
- Content marketing manager—content marketing specialists who oversee the creation and distribution of digital marketing content ($81,087/year)
- SEO specialist—SEO experts who help business implement best SEO practices to their online content ($54,088/year)
- Social media manager—digital marketers who create and manage social media content and accounts ($50,489/year)
- Paid ads manager—digital marketers in charge of creating and implementing paid ad campaigns ($47,079/year)
Digital Marketing Tools
There’s an endless parade of software and application tools that are useful for digital marketers—many of which are free to use. You can read our list of 50+ free marketing tools here, but in the meantime, these are the general categories that most digital marketing tools fall under:
- Email marketing tools—services and apps used for sending emails, managing email lists, and optimizing email sends
- SEO marketing tools—programs for tracking SEO performance, researching keywords, and executing best SEO practices on your website
- Content marketing tools—software and apps used for planning, optimizing, and writing content
- Social media marketing tools—tools for scheduling social media posts, building links, and creating social media visuals
Email marketing is the process of using of emails and email-centered marketing campaigns to nurture leads and advertise products and services. What does that mean?
- Lead nurture emails are used to keep leads (people on your email list) interested in your brand and to communicate brand value (e.g. a newsletter with links to relevant, helpful articles on your blog).
- Sales emails are used to funnel leads toward current purchase opportunities.
Both nurture and sales emails are sent to email addresses that are collected through CTA’s on landing pages and blog posts—things like giveaway and webinar signups, signups for free guides and ebooks, etc. Email marketing is a direct way of tailoring a message and sending it to an audience that has shown interest in your brand.
Inbound marketing is a term first coined by Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan. Today, Hubspot defines inbound marketing as:
“[a method of] creating valuable experiences that have a positive impact on people and your business [by attracting] prospects and customers to your website and blog through relevant and helpful content.”
The inbound model illustrates why digital marketing content is more than static advertisements asking customers to buy. The potential customer searching Google for cars isn’t looking for car advertisements, they’re looking for useful articles about “the best cars of 2019,” or “how to get a good deal when shopping for new cars.”
Keywords are words or phrases commonly used in search engines to look for online content. Keyword research is a powerful internet marketing tool, since web advertising and website search engine placement can be optimized to match high traffic keywords, making it more likely that Googlers will end up on your site.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
KPIs (key performance indicators) are quantitative benchmarks used to track how much progress you’re making towards your marketing goals. To put it simply, a KPI is a metric you aim to hit to guarantee your project or department is on track, growing, and adding to the company’s bottom line.
The best KPIs follow the SMART framework, a system often used in management consulting. KPIs should be:
For example, let’s say you want to get more website traffic. To make this KPI smart, you’d break it down like this:
I want more people to visit our website and become customers (relevant), so this month (time-bound), I want to boost our organic search traffic (specific) from 70,000 visitors per month to 80,000 visitors per month (measurable), which I’ll do primarily through link-building and improved keyword ranking (achievable).
A landing page is an individual web page used to promote specific marketing or advertising campaigns. When a company executes an online event to drive traffic, leads, or sales, customers are funneled to this page, where the event’s vital details and CTA (Call to Action) are posted. Landing pages are designed to encourage visitors to follow the CTA—sign up for a webinar or giveaway, purchase a sale item, etc.
Link Building / Backlinking
Link building, sometimes informally called “backlinking” or “backlinks”, is the process of getting external websites (websites other than your own) to link back to your content. In other words, if you’ve written a blog post on “digital marketing terms” and another site links to it from an article of their own, you’ve just engaged in link building.
“If you get high-quality links to your website, it will help you rank better and get more traffic.”
You can read more about the details in Moz’s article on the subject here (and, by the way, that’s an example of link building).
Marketing automation describes the use of software or online services (like Hubspot, MailChimp, and Act-on) to automate repetitive marketing tasks like emails, customer relationship management, social media posts, and analytics. Marketing Automation programs allow marketers to input specific criteria for the tasks in question and that data is interpreted and executed by the program.
Multichannel marketing uses a variety of of communication platforms (website banner ads, Facebook ads, marketing emails, a blog) to interact with potential customers. This approach allows users to choose which channel they want to use to interact with your product and increases options for converting impressions into customers.
While some website traffic, leads, and customers will come through “unpaid” sources (basically legwork and site engineering done by digital marketers), it’s also possible to generate traffic through paid ads. Paid ads bypasses the “sweat equity” of doing things like SEO and social media marketing by hand, ensuring that your marketing content will jump to the head of the line—but, like the name suggests, it will cost you.
In some cases the cost is worth it, while in other cases it’s more cost-effective to take a DIY digital marketing approach. It really depends on the specifics of a business’ size, goals, needs, etc. Paid ads typically include two main categories:
- Social Media Ads—Social media ads are distributed to users on social media networks based on trackable online behavior like online group memberships, age and social demographics, social media “likes,” browser history, etc.
- Display Ads—These are generally banner ads displayed on websites or apps and composed of text, images, video, and/or audio content. Display ads can be targeted similarly to social media ads based on the same kind of trackable behavior metrics.
Pillar pages are a blog post or landing page that superserves a topic. For instance, a pillar page about digital marketing should cover ALL THE THINGS digital marketing—but at a surface level. Each subtopic covered will then link to other site content that tackles the subtopic in detail.
By aggregating content in a cluster (the aim of a pillar page), Google can recognize that all of these articles are related to the same general topic, giving a site increased authority on the topic and improving the ranking for each individual article.
Meanwhile, pillar pages themselves become a way of funneling an audience from a general topic of interest and into subtopics that meet their specific needs (increasing time spent on site, which is a win for digital marketing).
A sales funnel is a digital marketing model where potential customers are led through a series of events or actions that can be mapped out in the shape of funnel.
The broadest level at the top of the funnel involves drawing users to your website, after which they move down the funnel where they’re offered services or resources if they sign up for your email list, until eventually they move to the bottom of the funnel and become a paying customer.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO (search engine optimization) is the digital marketing practice of optimizing a website so it’s more likely to show up in unpaid search results (e.g. it’s one of the first sites to appear when you “Google” a related topic).
SEO is done through using algorithms based on specific search engine’s behaviors, analyzing the keywords typed into search engines, and researching which search engines are popular with particular demographics.
Then, you align the format of your content (including things like making sure headings have extra searchable terms) to give yourself the best shot at moving up in search engines’ rankings.
Be careful, though: going too far has consequences. “Stuffing” your content with keywords will get you dinged on Google’s rankings, so don’t let the goal of SEO overtake producing authentic, value-rich content.
Social Media Marketing
Like blogs, social media plays a big part in digital marketing. Most actual lead generation and customer conversion takes place on blogs and website landing pages, but social media marketing serves as an amplification of lead generation efforts.
A well-crafted Instagram story or Facebook post that spotlights a blog article you’re trying to promote will bring additional traffic to your site and article, giving a bump to your search rankings, which will then bring more traffic to your site.
Site audits are exactly what they sound like—systematic reviews of your website’s performance in terms of benchmarks like search ranking, traffic numbers, time users spend on each page, external links viewers are using to get to your site, links visitors are clicking once they get to your site, etc.
When you track, collect, and record this data, you establish a clear, numbers-driven sense of your site’s performance. This allows you to implement site changes, additions, and improvements from a strategic vantage point.
A style guide is a document with guidelines for making marketing content conform to a brand’s look and voice. In terms of visual content, this includes things like:
- color palettes
- font sets
When it comes to written or scripted content, style guides cover details like:
- voice and tone
- preferred terms
- standard conventions for capitalization, punctuation, attribution, etc.
Since style guides are designed to appeal to a company or client’s particular market niche, they help present a consistent look, tone, and message that an audience can recognize and trust across an entire digital platform.
Traffic is the total amount of users who visit a website. Overall traffic is then broken down into specific types of visits—like unique visitors and total clicks.
Get Our Free Beginner's Guide to Digital Marketing
This free guide is chock-full of pointers and resources that will show you EXACTLY how to dive into the world of digital marketing.
Scott Morris is Skillcrush's staff writer and content producer. Like all the members of Skillcrush's team, he works remotely (in his case from Napa, CA). He believes that content that's worth reading (and that your audience can find!) creates brands that people follow. He's experienced writing on topics including jobs and technology, digital marketing, career pivots, gender equity, parenting, and popular culture. Before starting his career as a writer and content marketer, he spent 10 years as a full-time parent to his daughters Veronica and Athena.