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30 Top Digital Marketing Terms You Should Know

July 25th, 2022 | 9 min. read

By Kim Kovelle

Find out exactly how marketing with Zoe Marketing & Communications works in a free guide.
30 Top Digital Marketing Terms You Should Know

Stop me if you've heard this before.

"So, to boost your conversion rates, we'll run a geofenced PPC ad campaign. We'll also put a pixel on your page and do some retargeting — and focus on engagement with social ads."

Say what? If you're new to digital marketing, that might sound bewildering. It sure did to me a few years back. I only knew a "pixel" as a tiny piece of a digital photo, and "geofencing" sounded like a newfangled spin on a sword sport. And when they dropped some CLV, CTR, CRM and CMS on me, I needed help!

Really, all of us here at Zoe Marketing & Communications know that feeling. We're a marketing firm that works with a lot of marketing newcomers. We like to keep things approachable, accessible and simple. That's why we put together this guide to top marketing terms businesses should know. For each of these 30 words and phrases, we'll uncover: 

  • What it means

  • Why it matters

Plus, we'll pop in links to learn more. Because we don't like scrambled and complicated, and we bet you don't, either. So let's boil down those buzzwords.


Download Your Guide to Marketing With Zoe

From the first steps and your role in success to specific services, pricing and success stories, learn all about partnering with Zoe.

A/B testing

These marketing experiments involve two versions of something. It could be email subject lines, ad headlines or even "click here" buttons. Each has different wording or color. The goal is to find out which version resonates better with your audience.

A/B testing is more definitive than "trusting your gut." That said, it's key to change only one variable at a time — and to have a large enough "pool" of people to get beneficial results.

Brand awareness marketing

Also called "branding," this is how well customers (and potential customers!) recognize you by name. It's less about immediate sign-ups and purchases and more about defining who you are as a business. The goal is to build esteem, trust and connection.

When it's successful, people do business with you. It becomes a habit, even a lifestyle. It's the opposite of "conversion/direct response marketing" (see below).

Buyer's journey

This is the "road" someone takes to buying your product or service. After all, unless it's an impulse purchase, it doesn't happen instantly! It involves three main steps:

  1. Awareness: People realize they have a "problem."

  2. Consideration: People start digging for options to solve their problem.

  3. Decision: People pick a business/product/etc. to solve that problem.

The buyer's journey is a mentality shift from old-school "selling." Your goal is to help them through each stage of the journey, to turn them from prospects to buyers.

Note: From here, they shift into the "customer's journey;" see below.

Click-through rates (CTRs)

This term applies to both emails and ads. 

  • Emails: This is the percent of people who clicked at least one link in an email out of the number of emails delivered. Across all industries, it averages about 3%.

  • Ads: In paid digital ads, this is the number of clicks the ad received out of the number of people who saw it (aka, "impressions"). Here, the average is about 2%.

Remember, CTRs are a big ask: People see a link/ad and make an effort to click it. That's why it's a small percent — but a significant clue about what's grabbing eyeballs.

Conversion/direct-response marketing

With this type of marketing, the goal is to get new leads — fast. That could be people signing up for an event, giving their email in form or outright buying something. Immediacy is critical here. This tactic is the opposite of "brand awareness marketing" (see above).

Click here to learn more about getting more conversions with marketing.

Conversion rates

How well did your marketing get people to take a "desired action," as it's called? Whether clicking a link or filling in a form, conversion rates deliver the "success" goods.

Customer journey

Once someone goes through the "buyer's journey" (see above), this process begins. Namely, you're working to "nurture" your clients and keep their business. Tactics can include:

  • Advice/tips centered on your services/products

  • Giveaways

  • Loyalty reward programs

  • Regular newsletters with informative content

  • Social media engagements

  • Surveys

This matters because keeping people coming back is a major marketing strategy.

Customer lifetime value (CLV)

This is how much marketing money it costs to get one customer. You'll need to track some data over a year or so to get here. Once you have your CLV, you can see how many marketing dollars it'll take to hit your revenue goals.

Content management system (CMS)

Does your website allow you to create, edit and publish digital content? Then you have a CMS. A few examples include:

  • WordPress (leading the pack)

  • HubSpot

  • Wix

  • Squarespace

  • Blogger

These platforms give you a powerful web presence without needing to know any coding or programming.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

This tech lets you manage all of your interactions with customers — current and potential. A CRM can let you do things like:

  • Create, schedule and monitor emails

  • Manage social media posts

  • Handle live chat and chatbots

  • Send out SMS (text) messages

  • Store customers' and prospects' data

  • Track customers' and prospects' interactions

Some can even manage your website (i.e., CMS). A few examples include Salesforce, HubSpot, Monday Sales and Zendesk. A CRM keeps you connected with customers, streamlines business and boosts profit.

Email marketing

This is a way of direct marketing via email. There are two main types:

  • First-party email marketing: These are your customers whose emails you already have. You can send them newsletters, info on new products/services, promotions, or even reengage with old customers who've fallen off the wagon.

  • Third-party email marketing: You pay a direct-marketing company to reach specific audiences. They have large databases of folks who have "opted in" on other websites. You can send content, product/service info, promotions, etc.

Email marketing yields solid results and is often considered an imperative marketing strategy.


When people take the action you want, that's engagement. Examples include:

  • Clicking/reacting to a social media post

  • Clicking on a digital ad

  • Clicking a link in an email

  • Visiting a web page

This interaction begins to build a relationship between users and your brand.


This is a location-based marketing tactic that relies on people's smartphones. You can serve up ads, emails and other messages to folks who enter a geographic area with set boundaries — even in a specific timeframe — that you choose. It boosts the odds you're reaching an audience near your business or in an area of interest.


This is the number of times your ad or content flashed before someone's eyes. It doesn't matter if they clicked it. It doesn't matter if they saw it one time or 20. Each "flash" is an impression.

Note: Compare this to "reach."

Inbound marketing

This business approach draws in customers with educational content and digital experiences designed to help them. Compare that to the old-school "outbound marketing" methods, which "sell" to people (even if they don't want it). Inbound has three pieces:

  • Attract: Pulling people in with helpful content and establishing your trustworthiness

  • Engage: Offering advice and answers that address their problems (which increases the chances they'll buy from you)

  • Delight: Supporting and empowering your new customers

Inbound marketing works by first building relationships with people and addressing their needs.

Marketing funnel

This includes the stages a customer cycles through before they buy from you:

  • "Top of funnel": Drawing customers with helpful content like blogs, social media posts, how-to videos, ebooks, checklists, webinars, etc.

  • "Middle of funnel": Engaging prospects with email marketing, retargeting, remarketing and targeted social media

  • "Bottom of funnel": Delighting customers more emails and retargeting/marketing, plus live chat/chatbots, loyalty perks, etc.

You need a plan and tactics to guide folks through the "funnel" constantly.

Click here to learn more about marketing tactics to use at each stage of the marketing funnel.

Open rates

This is the percentage of people who received your email and opened it. These range 10%-25%, depending on industry and message. Also, Apple iOS updates are inflating open rates. If someone sees your email in the Apple Mail app, it counts as an open (even if they don't open it).

That said, some CRMs can weed out these users. Also, even with inflated open rates, you'll get a good sense of what resonates with your readers and what doesn't.


A single view of any web page or ad is a pageview. Pageviews aren't unique views. That means one person could visit a page many times, and each of those counts towards the pageview tally.

Pageviews are a great general measurement of website growth. For deeper metrics, hone in on unique users, time spent on page and number of pages visited per session.

Pay-per-click marketing (PPC)

With PPC, you're charged each time one of your digital ads gets a click. The top example is search engine advertising. Through a system like Google Ads, you "bid" for your ad to show up in "sponsored links" when a person looks up a phrase related to your business.

PPC is a powerful way to get to the top of internet searches — and even more effective when you pair it with organic SEO (more on that below).


This is a little piece of javascript code that helps with "retargeting campaigns" (see below). You get pixels from ad platforms like Google Ads or Meta for Business. And you and place them in the behind-the-scenes coding of your website for a specific "action" page you're focused on.

It works like this:

  1. Someone visits a page.

  2. They don't take action (e.g., fill in a form, buy something, etc.).

  3. Thanks to the pixel, their browser gets tagged with a "cookie" — a tiny string of text that says they visited that page.

  4. You can tell ad platforms only to serve retargeted ads to folks with that cookie who didn't take action.

Pixels are little coding workhorses that make retargeting possible.

Programmatic marketing

This refers to using software to buy digital advertising. Typically, these are "display ads" — designed ads with text/images that link to a URL — served to a specific audience.

Thanks to algorithms, programmatic is efficient and high-performing. Little wonder it's one of the most popular advertising tools available today.


This is the total number of people who saw your ad or content. Think of this as the number of unique individuals whose eyes grazed your message.

Note: Compare this to "impressions."


When you've got prospects' email addresses, you can remarket to them. That means sending email campaigns to folks you've already connected with. Since you'll need to create a list to email, it's also called list-based marketing. The big benefit is that you're better able to tailor your message than with "retargeting" (see next term).


This tactic serves paid digital ads to people who visited your website but didn't take action (buying something, filling a form, etc.). So you "target" them again — multiple times a day, even — with ads that pop up when they're browsing elsewhere online (Google, specific websites, social media sites, etc.).

With retargeting, the user isn't giving up any information. It's browser-based, thanks to a "pixel" (scroll up a bit for that). So it's more general than remarketing (see above).

Retargeting is potent for its repetition, which helps your brand stick in people's minds.

Click here to learn more about retargeting campaigns.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process of earning web traffic "organically" — so, without paying for it (see "SEM" for more on that). It involves:

  • Making sure search engines can index your site (aka "technical SEO")

  • Having excellent content that answers people's questions

  • Optimizing your content for keywords

  • Ensuring your page loading speed is fast and user experience is smooth

  • Finessing page titles, URLs, descriptions and snippets

SEO is a bit of art and science — and it takes time. But the payoff, of course, is to show up as high as possible in those search engine results!

Search engine marketing (SEM)

SEM uses paid methods to appear in search engine results (unlike "SEO," which is organic). It centers on keywords and pay-per-click marketing or PPC. This involves using search platforms — most often Google Ads Search — to pinpoint your audience and serve them:

  • Text ads (which pop up at the top of Google searches)

  • Shopping or "product listing" ads

  • Gmail ads (which appear in email inboxes)

  • YouTube ads (these show up in search results)

While SEO can be slow, SEM delivers those clicks much more quickly. But it's worth noting that SEO and SEM in tandem drive the best results.

Social media marketing

This is using social media platforms to engage with your audience. Whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok or YouTube, there are two approaches:

  • Organic: A steady cadence of scheduled regular posts/videos/Stories/Reels/etc.

  • Paid: Ads that promote strategic posts/videos/Stories/Reels/etc.

The mission is to build your brand, send folks to your website, create a community and, of course, drive sales.

Sponsored content articles (aka branded content)

These paid articles let you share your expertise and establish yourself as a leader in your industry. The key is writing about topics that help address problems people have. You're building trust over time through a series of "spon con" articles. And you're increasing the odds customers will choose you when they're ready to decide.

Click here to learn more about sponsored content articles.

UTM codes or parameters

UTM codes are strings of text added to the end of any clickable link to your website from somewhere else (emails, websites, social media, etc.). From there, analytics tools (e.g., Google Analytics) process that code and help you identify key traffic sources.

If a campaign excels, you'll know exactly where that traffic came from with UTMs.

Click here to learn more about UTM codes and why they matter for marketing campaigns.

Value proposition

This short statement captures why folks should pick your products or services. It should communicate the solutions and value you deliver — not describe what you sell. Value props are strong, short and clear. They're a powerful tool for telling customers what they can expect

How can I learn more about marketing?

Marketing is complex and ever-evolving. And it's packed with terms thrown around with gusto. Now, you have a stronger sense of what 30 of those words and phrases mean — and why they matter. The logical next step is to keep learning!

We've sprinkled links throughout this blog to learn more about certain concepts. Here at Zoe Marketing & Communications, we're passionate about marketing education. These extra articles shed even more light on core marketing concepts:

Remember, we all start as marketing newbies. Keep reading, digging and educating yourself to make the best marketing choices for your business.


Download Your Guide to Marketing With Zoe

From the first steps and your role in success to specific services, pricing and success stories, learn all about partnering with Zoe.

Kim Kovelle

As Zoe Marketing & Communications’ content manager, Kim Kovelle brings nearly 20 years of writing and editing experience in metro Detroit. She has strong roots in community journalism and a knack for making complicated topics make more sense.