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May 3, 2023

Digital Advertising Terms and Jargon Every Marketer Should Know

From A/B Testing to View-Through, here are the most important and (relatively) jargon-free explanations of the most common digital advertising terms.

Getting started with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising—or any type of digital advertising—can be downright overwhelming. Advertising has its own special lingo and library of acronyms involved, and new tactics and technologies are constantly emerging. That’s why we created this glossary of digital advertising terms to help newcomers learn the lay of the land. 

Having a glossary of digital advertising terms can be a life-saver for marketers. Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

The following (relatively) jargon-free explanations of the most common digital advertising terms will help you navigate the world of online advertising.

A/B Testing: A method used to determine which version of an ad or landing page performs better. A/B tests involve running two versions simultaneously while changing only one element at a time to pinpoint the key variable that drives audience response. Once a winner is identified, it becomes the next control and is compared with another version for further testing and optimization.

Above the Fold: This term originated in print advertising, referring to the top half of a newspaper where the most prominent headlines were placed. In a digital context, it describes the part of a web or landing page that’s visible without scrolling down. To maximize conversions, landing page best practices suggest placing your most important message and CTA above the fold. Keep in mind there’s no standard pixel size for the fold, as it depends on the user’s screen size and resolution.

Account-Based Advertising: One tactic in an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy, account-based advertising displays ads exclusively to specific job titles at your target accounts. For instance, if you want to market a new food packaging product to General Mills, you can target individuals with titles such as Senior Product Manager, Senior Product Marketer, or VP of Product Marketing. This ensures that your ads are only visible to the relevant people at General Mills.

A whiteboard with the word audience written in all caps to illustrate the digital advertising term Ad Audience.
Who’s your audience? It’s one of the first digital advertising terms to think about when planning a campaign. Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

Ad Audience: The overall number of individuals who have either already seen or could potentially see an ad during a specific time period.

Ad Banner: One of the most common forms of digital advertising. These ad units can include static graphics, videos, and/or interactive rich media, and are displayed on web pages or in applications.

Ad Click: The action that occurs when a user interacts with an ad by either clicking on it with their mouse or pressing enter on their keyboard.

Ad Exchange: An online marketplace that enables publishers and advertisers to buy and sell advertising inventory in real-time auctions. Unlike historical methods of buying ad inventory that involved price negotiations for ad placements on specific websites, ad exchanges enable instantaneous bidding for ad space available across the internet.

Ad Impressions: The number of times an ad has been served, regardless of whether the user has actually seen or interacted with the ad in any way. (Also see: Ad Serving)

Ad ID (Advertising ID): A unique string of letters and numbers assigned to a mobile device by its operating system (like Android or iOS). Ad IDs allow advertisers to track and target mobile users with personalized ads based on their behavior and interests while allowing users to limit ad tracking and protect their privacy, as they can choose to reset or disable their advertising ID at any time.

Ad Impressions: The number of times an ad is displayed or shown to a user’s screen, regardless of whether the user has actually seen or interacted with the ad in any way. (Also see: Ad Serving)

Ad Inventory: The total amount of advertising space or impressions a digital publisher can sell. For example, if The Gotham Times averages 1,000 visits to their homepage in any given week, and they have space for two display ads on their homepage, then their potential ad inventory is 2,000 impressions per week.

Ad Network: A vendor that connects advertisers to publishers, typically by aggregating ad inventory across multiple publishers and offering it to advertisers as a single point of contact. 

Ad Serving: The delivery of an ad from a web server to the end user’s device, where the ads are displayed on a browser or an application.

Ad Targeting: The process of displaying ads to a specific group of people based on demographic, geographical, psychographic, or behavioral data.

Ad Units: Specific, standardized spaces on a website or app to place an ad. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a trade association promoting digital ad standards and practices, maintains a set of guidelines for sizing and formatting different types of ad units.

Addressable: The ability to target individual users or devices based on demographic or behavioral data with relevant and personalized ads.

Affiliate Marketing: A type of performance-based marketing in which advertisers compensate promotional partners for driving traffic to their products or services, based on clicks and/or sales.

Attribution: The process of identifying which specific marketing efforts led to a conversion. Marketers use different attribution models to assign value to different touch points and calculate ROI. (See also: First Touch, Last Touch, Multi-Touch.)

Bidding strategy: The way a buyer determines how much they’re willing to pay for ad placement in an auction. For example, an advertiser could choose to bid a flat rate, bid based on the expected clickthrough rate, or use past performance data. A successful bidding strategy wins the ad placement while optimizing the ROI for the buyer. 

Blocklist: A list of websites or that an advertiser does not want their ads to appear on, usually when a brand wants to avoid association with controversial or inappropriate content. Blocklists can also include keywords or products to exclude from campaigns.

Bounce Rate: The percentage of website visitors that only look at one page before navigating away from the site. High bounce rates often indicate that visitors aren’t finding what they’re looking for, or that the site or landing page has poor design or usability.

Brand Awareness: The level of consumer recognition or recall for a particular brand or product. In addition to conversions, increased brand awareness is a typical goal and measure of success for marketing campaigns. 

Browser: A software application used to access and display content on the World Wide Web. The most popular web browsers include Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Microsoft’s Edge, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Opera.

Call to Action (CTA): An active invitation included within an ad or on a landing page that guides a user to take a certain action. Commonly used CTAs include Buy Now, Sign Up, Download the Whitepaper, Get Started, and Read More. 

A lock and credit cards resting on a keyboard to illustrate the digital advertising term California Consumer Privacy Act
Protecting privacy is the purpose of CCPA, one of the most frequently searched digital advertising terms. Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): A law that imposes certain obligations around privacy and security on companies that collect personal information from California residents. The law grants California residents the right to know what personal information is being collected, the right to request its deletion, and the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information.

Channel: In digital advertising, channels are specific platforms businesses use to reach their target audience. Digital ad channels include display ads, social media, email, and mobile in-app advertising.

Click-through Rate (CTR): A metric that shows how often people who are served an ad actually click on it. Expressed as a percentage of total impressions, an ad’s CTR is calculated by dividing the number of clicks an ad received by the number of times it’s been served. For example, if an ad received 5 clicks and was shown 1000 times, the CTR is 0.5%. The higher the CTR on an ad, the better it’s performing.

Consent management platform (CMP): A tool publishers use to request, manage, store, and update users’ consent related to data processing and privacy. For users, CMPs usually include an easy interface to control how their data is collected, used, and shared. For publishers, CMPs, enable compliance with privacy regulations and laws. 

Conversion: An action that advertisers want their audience to take. When launching a campaign, advertisers select a specific action or set of actions, and when an audience member takes this action, it’s counted as a conversion. Common examples of conversions include making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or requesting a demo.

Conversion Pixel: A 1×1 image pixel, usually transparent and invisible to users, that is embedded into a web page (such as a thank-you page) and triggered whenever a conversion occurs.

Conversion Rate: A metric that reflects the percentage of users who take a desired action. Conversion rates are calculated by dividing the number of conversions (such as purchases or form fills) by the number of views or visits, then converting to a percentage.

Laptop view of an analytics dashboard
Understanding digital advertising terms like conversion rate is key to success for marketers. Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash

Conversion rate optimization (CRO): The process of improving the percentage of website visitors who complete a desired action, such as filling out a form or making a purchase. CRO is achieved by using tactics like A/B testing and user testing to identify and make changes to messaging, graphics, CTAs, and other elements on a page to improve user experience and increase conversions. 

Conversion Tracking: Monitoring how many conversions have occurred during any specific time period, and analyzing which ads led to the conversions.

Cookie: A small text file that advertisers use to track how visitors interact with a website and remember user behavior and preferences. (See also first-party cookies and third-party cookies.)

Cost per Acquisition (CPA): The cost of acquiring one customer. CPA is typically calculated by dividing the total amount spent on an advertising campaign by the number of customers acquired through that campaign.

Cost per Click (CPC): How much an advertiser pays, on average, for each ad click. CPC is calculated by dividing the total amount spent on a campaign by the number of clicks generated.

Cost per Completed View (CPCV): A pricing model that determines how much an advertiser pays when a video ad is viewed to completion. As opposed to paying per impression, the CPCV model only charges the advertiser when a viewer watches the entire ad. 

Cost per Lead (CPL): How much an advertiser pays, on average, for each ad click that results in a lead conversion. CPL is calculated by dividing the total amount spent on a campaign by the number of leads generated.

Cost per Mille (CPM)/Cost per Thousand: How much it costs to serve 1,000 ad impressions. CPM is used as a standard measure for buying display ads. (Fun fact, mille means “thousand” in Latin.) 

Cross-Device Targeting: A strategy that enables advertisers to reach the same buyer with targeted ads across multiple devices, such as tablet, desktop, or smartphone. 

Contextual Targeting: A digital ad strategy that involves displaying ads to users based on the content of the webpage they’re currently viewing (as opposed to user data). For example, an airline would place an ad on a travel article while a flour brand would advertise on a baking site.

Demand-Side Platform (DSP): A technology platform that allows advertisers to buy ad space across multiple ad exchanges, ad networks, and other sources through a single interface. DSPs use automation to target specific users and optimize campaigns based on user data.

Direct Response (DR): A digital advertising term describing a campaign or ad specifically created to encourage audiences to take immediate action.

Display Advertising: A digital advertising format where graphic ads are shown on a web page. The term originated in newspapers, and the principles still apply. Display ads can be graphics, videos, interactive images (a quiz or a game), and expandable (Also see: Expandable Banner).

Email Advertising: Clickable banner ads, sponsored articles, and links that appear within emails and e-newsletters. 

Expandable Banner: Banners that increase in size when a user hovers over them.

First-party cookies: Small data files, or cookies, that are created and controlled by a website to store user preferences, log-in status, and other settings. (See also Cookies and Third-party Cookies.)

First-touch: An attribution model that gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the first touchpoint in a user’s journey. 

Frequency Capping: The practice of setting a limit on the number of times an ad should be shown to a consumer within a specific timeframe (such as a week or month). 

Laptop screen showing a map to illustrate the digital advertising term "geographic targeting"
Some users and platforms may disable geographic targeting, but it can still be a useful strategy for ad buys. Photo by Edgar on Unsplash

Geographic Targeting: Selecting an audience for a campaign based on zip codes, designated marketing area (DMA), cities, states, and countries.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation): The European Union’s landmark 2018 privacy act that protects its citizens by regulating how companies collect and process their personal data (even if the company isn’t based in the EU). 

Identity Graph (ID Graph): A database that connects different signals associated with a single user or device across multiple platforms, including cookies, device IDs, social media accounts, and email addresses. 

In-Stream Video Ads: Video ads played before, during, or after the video content the publisher is delivering to the consumer.

Interstitial Ads: Ads that appear as a user navigates between two different web pages, usually displayed as a full-screen pop-up ad. For example, when a user navigates to a mobile website, that brand might offer an interstitial ad for their mobile app.

Keyword: A specific word or phrase that advertisers select to trigger and include paid search ads or contextual ads. (Hint: every digital marketing term in this article is a potential keyword). In search advertising, the highest bidder on a keyword usually gets the top position.

Landing Page: A standalone web page users reach after they click on a link within an email, display ad, paid search, or other conversion path. 

Last-touch/Last click: An attribution model that gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint in a user’s journey. 

Lead: A potential customer. In digital advertising, a lead is an individual who gives you their contact information by signing up for a newsletter or filling out a form. 

Lookalike Audience: A target audience that shares similar demographics, interests, behaviors, or other attributes with your existing customer base. Advertisers can target lookalike audiences on digital advertising platforms, including Facebook and LinkedIn, with the goal of reaching people who are likely to be interested in their products or services. 

Lookback Window: A specific timeframe (hours, days, weeks, or months) advertisers set and use for conversion attribution or other time-sensitive reporting or goals. 

Mobile Advertiser ID (MAID): A unique identifier assigned to a mobile device by its operating system (like Android or iOS). Advertisers use MAIDs to track and target mobile users with personalized ads, but users can choose to reset and clear their mobile advertising data at any time. 

Multi-channel attribution: An attribution model that weighs each touchpoint along a buyer’s journey, across channels and devices. 

Native Advertising: A paid ad that matches the form of its surrounding user experience and content, such as a sponsored magazine article or a social media post. Native ads are intended to feel seamless, organic, and valuable, rather than sticking out as a blatant advertisement. 

Overlay: A decreasingly utilized digital ad format that “floats” over a webpage, video, or app content. 

Paid Search: Ads that appear within search engine results pages, based on targeted keywords included in the search queries.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC): A pricing model where advertisers pay vendors or publishers based on the number of clicks received in a campaign. PPC is the most common model of paid search advertising. 

Personally Identifiable Information (PII): A legal term for any data that can be used to distinguish the real-world identity of a user, including (but not limited to) names, addresses, ID numbers, phone numbers, and birthdates.

Pop Ads: Pop-up and pop-under ads are ads that open in a new browser window, either “over” or “under” the current window. Pop-up ads in particular are typically viewed as annoying and a poor user experience, and many browsers block them by default. 

Programmatic Advertising: A method of buying ad space that uses automation and AI to enable marketers to target an audience, set a budget, place real-time bids, and purchase advertising from a publisher. Programmatic advertising uses data to make decisions about which ads to buy in real-time, which improves efficiencies and increases the effectiveness of the ads. (See also, Ad Exchange.) 

Reach: The total number of people who see your message. 

Real-time bidding (RTB): A method of buying and selling ad impressions in real-time auctions through programmatic platforms. RTB takes place in milliseconds, on an impression-by-impression basis, with the goal of increasing ad buying efficiency and using real-time data to decide which ad to show to which user. 

Retargeting/Remarketing: Serving ads to people who have previously visited your website.

Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS): This metric shows how much revenue is generated for every dollar of ad spend, and is expressed as a ratio (such as 2:1). 

Rich Media: Unlike static banner ads, this type of advertising incorporates advanced features such as video, audio, or interactive quizzes and games to improve engagement and provide an immersive experience. 

iPhone home screen showing social media icons to illustrate the digital advertising term "social advertising"
Mastering social advertising will require staying current on the latest digital advertising terms. Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

Social Advertising: Running paid ads on online social networking platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. 

Third-party Cookies: Small data files, or cookies, that are set by domains other than the one the user is currently visiting. Often used for tracking and advertising purposes, third-party cookies are being increasingly restricted by government regulations and tech platforms to protect user privacy. (See also Cookies and First-party Cookies.)

View-Through: An attribution metric used to reflect the number of times a user views an ad without clicking, but later converts. View-throughs are a way to track the effectiveness of an ad that may have influenced a customer’s decision, even if they didn’t directly interact with that ad. View-through windows typically define the number of days after viewing an ad that the consumer’s relevant actions within that time period can be attributed to the ad. 

Walled Gardens: Platforms that collect and control their own consumer data and protect it from third parties, such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google. For advertisers, walled gardens offer the ability to target users based on that valuable data, but provide limited visibility into their ad campaigns and specific results.

Use This List of Digital Advertising Terms to Improve Your Campaigns

Hopefully this glossary of digital advertising terms cuts through the jargon and provides useful definitions of common concepts to help you plan, build, and execute your demand generation campaigns.

Curious how you can drive more engagement from your prospects and customers throughout the buying cycle? Check out our ebook for a step-by-step guide.