(originally posted in June 2014; updated January 2021)
Everything you need to understand the digital world – from A to Z
A/B Testing – Also known as split testing, A/B testing involves comparison of two versions of a web page or email to see which performs better. A/B tests must be controlled and equal, comparing differences on a single variable at a time (e.g., headline, call to action color, image).
Above the Fold – Derived from the newspaper industry, above the fold in the digital sphere refers to the portion of the site that is immediately visible without scrolling. As screen sizes and resolutions vary drastically, there is no definition for the number of pixels that define the fold. Similarly, “below the fold” refers to items on a webpage visible after initially scrolling. Generally, content “above the fold” receives higher click rates.
AdWords (now called Google Ads) – Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) is Google’s paid advertising service that allows advertisers to bid on keywords in order to have ads appear in Google’s search network. Google has the largest share of the pay per click market, and Bing offers a similar platform for the Yahoo/Bing network called Bing Ads.
App – An app (short for application software) is term for computer software typically designed for a specific task. Typically apps are written for mobile devices. Most users download apps from iTunes or Google Play.
Algorithm – Often referred to in the context of search engines, an algorithm is a mathematical set of rules that is used to rank results based on a specific query. The field of search engine optimization is heavily based on an understanding of top search engines’ algorithms.
Alt Tag / Alt Text – Alt (or alternate) text is text that will be displayed by some browsers when an image can’t be found or loaded. Alt text is scanned by search engines and is also used by screen readers to better understand the images whenever possible. It is a search engine optimization best practice to include a descriptive alt tag for all site images. Alt text is also important for website ADA conformance.
Anchor Text – Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. It is often styled as a different color than non-clickable text, and often styled differently when a visitor has previously clicked on the link. Anchor text helps visitors scan a site for key links, and helps search engines understand the topic of the destination page.
Backlinks – A link from one website to another website is known as a backlink. Also known as inbound links or incoming links, backlinks can be a source of authority if the sites linking to your site have high quality traffic and overall SEO authority. Learn about the do's and don'ts of backlinking.
Behavioral Targeting – Brands and publishers use behavioral targeting in order to display content and ads to users based on the user’s previous behavior such as web browsing history and searches. Behavioral targeting can be used to display ads that are more relevant to the user, thereby increasing the opportunity for conversion. Behavioral data can also be combined with other data to develop a more comprehensive user profile for advertisers. Behavioral targeting is a tactic in content personalization.
Bit.ly – Bit.ly is a URL shortening site for link sharing, owned by Bitly Inc, and is the largest link-sharing and tracking platform on the web. Bit.ly is popular because it helps reduce character lengths of links in character-restricted environments like SMS and social networks, and also provides click tracking. Brands can also purchase custom URL shortening services for more customized branded experiences.
Black Hat SEO – Aggressive SEO strategies and tactics that focus on only on search engines and not the human audience are referred to as black hat search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines frequently release updates to their algorithms to penalize sites using black hat SEO techniques. Some examples of black hat SEO include doorway pages, keyword stuffing, adding unnecessary keywords to page content and invisible text. Learn about SEO best practices >
Breadcrumb Navigation – Text-based navigation within a website subpage is referred to as breadcrumb navigation. Aligned with the directory structure of a site, breadcrumb navigation creates a “trail” of links to orient a user to how that page fits into the overall sitemap. For example, on a site that sells shoes, a page featuring a specific childrens’ Nike sneaker style might have breadcrumb navigation that reads: Home / Shoes / Kids / Athletic / Sneakers.
Bounce Rate – Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors that leave a website site after viewing a single page. Bounce rates vary across sites and can be improved by featuring a trustworthy brand impression, engaging content, relevant links, an intuitive navigation structure and calls to action.
Buyer Personas – Often just referred to as personas, buyer personas represent a real person who is representative of a segment of your audience that you are trying to target. Personas are defined by both quantitative and qualitative characteristics including role/function, problem(s), demographic information, concerns and more as it relates to interacting with your brand online.
Call-to-Action (CTA) – A call to action, or CTA, is a prominent area of the page that encourages a visitor to complete a specific action. For an example, when a visitor is on a bank’s ‘Home Loans’ page, the call to action might be a button on the page that says “Apply For Home Loan” which would bring the visitor to a loan application form.
Click Through Rate (CTR) – A measure of success for a digital advertising campaign is the percentage of users that click on a specified link, known as click through rate (CTR). The higher the percentage, the more successful the ad campaign is at provoking interest. The click through rate is calculated by dividing the number of ad clicks by the number of impressions, queries, or visits the page receives. For example, if there are 10 clicks per 100 impressions, the CTR would equal .10 or 10%. For Google Ads, the average click through rate is 3.17% (source: LocalIQ).
Cost Per Click (CPC) – Cost Per Click is an internet advertising model where a company pays a specific price to the host of the advertisement each time the advertisement is clicked. Cost per click is calculated by either dividing the cost of the online campaign by the number of clicks it generates, or sometimes is calculated by the amount the amount the advertiser is willing to pay per ad click.
Content Management System – Often known as a CMS, a content management system is what many websites are created on to allow for structured site creation, editing, publishing and overall management. There are many types of content management systems including open source, licensed, proprietary, headless and more. Popular content management systems include, Kentico, Umbraco, Sitefinity, Sitecore and more. Compare the types of CMS's.
Conversion – A conversion is an action, ideally encouraged by one or more calls to action, performed on a website or an ad. Conversions should be tracked thoroughly to understand ROI . For example, an online shoe store wants to convert visitors into sales by having consumers see their advertisement, click on the advertisement, and then complete a purchase. In comparison, an auto insurance website may want to convert visitors into leads when visitors click on an advertisement and submit an insurance quote form.
Copy – Copy refers to any written material, usually created by copywriters. Copy can be written for websites, email marketing, blog posts, social media and offline efforts. Well-written digital copy properly conveys a unique and consistent brand voice, is written in a format that is easily scanned, and naturally infuses researched keywords to align with a company’s search engine optimization goals. Learn more about website copywriting >
CSS – The acronym for Cascading Style Sheets, CSS is a web development language used for styling the look and formatting of HTML documents and pages. By using an external CSS template, it is easy to change the look and feel of page elements, including colors, fonts, headings, links and more.
Editorial Calendar – Editorial calendars are used by businesses to control and schedule the publication of content across multiple distribution channels, for example, social media outlets, emails, blogs, and newspapers. An editorial calendar can help with organizing ideas, scheduling blog posts, creation and distribution of content, tracking promotional events and holidays, and managing posts for social media.
Exit Rate – The percentage of visitors who left a site to go to a different website or exit out of their browser completely is known as the exit rate. Exit rate is calculated by the number of page views that resulted in an exit, divided by the total page views for that page.
Geolocation – The process of localizing a visitor’s location using his or her IP address is known as geolocation. A customer’s location is used to tailor and localize content and ads to their specific geographic area. Geolocation is often used as part of personalization.
Global Navigation – Global navigation is navigation that appears on every page of a website. Global navigation should be obvious to the audience and feature the most important pages and information on the site.
Hits – A site’s hits (also called page hits) are measured by the number of files (e.g., graphics) that are requested from a site. So if someone visits a page with five graphics, that will generate six hits – one for the webpage and five for the graphics. Hits aren’t a valid measure of site traffic. Instead, visitors and page views are much better metrics.
HTML5 – The fifth revision of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is more commonly referred to as HTML5. The major difference in this version is the incorporation of new elements for multimedia use as well as user-friendly applications.
iFrame – An iFrame (short for inline frame) is an element used to include content on your web page from an external source. iFrames are often used for including an advertisement or social media.
Inbound Marketing – Inbound marketing is a type of marketing that is becoming increasingly popular in contrast to traditional “push” marketing. Inbound marketing aims to attract target audiences to a website through engaging, relevant content, search engine optimization, social media, blogs, infographics and other content marketing strategies.
Indexed Pages – Indexed pages are webpages that a search engine has found and stored and therefore can be featured in search results. The index is the number of documents that a search engine spider has found.
Internal Link – An internal website link refers to a link from one page of a website to another page within the same website. Internal links are useful in creating a website’s hierarchy, assisting users in navigating a site as well as supporting SEO.
Infographic – Infographics are visual images that are used to represent information or data in a more visually interesting and comprehendible format. Infographics are often used as part of an inbound marketing strategy and are used to educate and inform audiences, build brand awareness and link to a website for more information.
Keyword – Keywords are terms that are entered into a search engine. Search engines keep track of keyword searches and SEO companies use this data to help guide SEO strategies. SEO companies also try to focus on long-tail keywords. Search engine algorithms prioritize web pages that have high quality content related to keywords used in meta fields.
Landing Page – Landing pages are special destination pages on a website that are designed to focus on conversions. Landing pages typically exclude site navigation, and often include a form or measurable conversion tactic to evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign. It is a digital best practice to develop a landing page as the destination page for a campaign including ads, white paper downloads, event registrations, etc. A multi-page landing page experience is known as a microsite. View landing page best practices >
Lead Generation – Lead generation is the marketing process of creating audience interest in the products and services of a business for potential sales. Common lead generation tactics include direct marketing, inbound marketing, trade shows and more.
Long-Tail Keywords – A favorite of search engine optimization companies, long-tail keywords are keyword phrases that are longer and less common, but represent an opportunity for ranking for companies with smaller budgets and/or high search engine competition. Keywords are more specific when isolated, however when combined, account for more search engine volume than the most popular, general keywords.
Marketing Automation – Marketing automation technology is designed for marketing professionals to allow marketing on multiple channels effectively by automating repetitive functions. When combined with inbound marketing, a marketing automation platform can be helpful for content management, SEO, and social media monitoring. Popular marketing automation platforms include Eloqua, HubSpot, Marketo and Pardot.
Meta tags – Meta tags (often just referred to as tags) are a snippet of HTML code in a web page header that tells search engines and browsers information about the page. Meta tags are one of many important elements search engine algorithms factor into search engine rankings.
Meta Description – A meta description is a type of meta tag that displays in search results under the link (title tag). Its purpose is to describe the contents of the page to the searcher. Though meta descriptions aren’t used by search engines to determine ranking, they are important for helping users decide whether the link is relevant to their search needs. View SEO best practices for businesses >
Newsfeed – Appropriately named, a newsfeed is a feed of timely headlines and summaries that are published on a website and linked back to its original content. Newsfeeds can be helpful when a user wants all the sources of his or her interests on one page versus vising multiple websites. The term newsfeed has most recently been associated with social media properties like Facebook.
Off-Page Optimization – A term related to search engine optimization, off-page optimization refers to uncontrollable factors that affect webpage ranking on natural search results. Google’s constantly changing algorithms and the amount of links on external webpages that link to your site are off page optimization examples.
On-page Optimization – Controllable factors that have an effect on the ranking a website through natural searches are referred to on-page optimization. HTML codes, keyword-inclusive title tags, meta descriptions, headers, and keyword optimization if all done correctly, are ways to increase the ranking of webpages.
Owned Media – Owned media refers to the content or web property that is unique to the brand in which the brand has complete control over. For example, blogs, social media sites, and a company website are all extensions of a brand and can be used to execute campaigns and promote content.
Paid Media – In contrast to owned media, paid media refers to the channels a brand pays for to leverage content and produce sales and/or leads such as sponsorships, paid searches, and advertisements.
Page Rank – Page rank is a link analysis algorithm that Google uses to measure the relative importance of a webpage, on a scale of zero to ten. Google uses the number of quality links to a site, in addition to internal links from page to page in a site, to draw conclusions about a site’s page rank. As search algorithms evolve, the quality of a link is much more important than the quantity of links so only links that are earned are recommended as part of a white-hat SEO strategy.
Page Views – Page views refer to the amount of times a user views a page of a site by clicking on a site URL link and therefore making a request to load the webpage. Page views are a great measure of site engagement.
Pay Per Click (PPC) – Often complementing SEO, pay per click is an advertising model in which a company places an ad and pays each time a visitor clicks on the link. Google AdWords has the majority of the pay per click market, but Bing Ads is also a contender for those with additional budget. Get tips on improving your pay per click campaigns.
Personalization – Website personalization is a growing trend and involves tailoring a website based on characteristics of a visitor’s behavior or preferences. The goal of personalization is to create a more customized experience for users so they have a higher likelihood of conversion, With personalization, personas are setup to define specific user groups, for examples visitors from a specific website, visitors that have previously visited a page, or visitors that have previously taken a specific action. Several of the latest content management systems offer content personalization as an enhancement, but there are also several third parties that offer this functionality.
Promoted Tweets – Promoted tweets are tweets that an individual or brand promotes or sponsors in order to reach a market larger than their existing followers. These tweets are labeled as “promoted” and their purpose is to drive traffic to a landing page or bring attention to promotions.
Prototype – A website prototype is a fully functioning, HTML model of select website pages to evaluate a design, identify enhancements and optimize overall website integrity before building fully in a Content Management System (CMS).
QR Code – A QR code, short for quick response code, provides audiences with easy access to a brand’s website via a smartphone’s camera and QR code app. QR codes are used on-site or in-store to drive awareness to products and services and may contain discounts or coupons available for immediate redemption. Brands using QR codes should direct visitors to mobile or responsive sites.
Redirect – A redirect is a URL that automatically takes a visitor to a different URL. When a page is sunset, a redirect should be setup to direct traffic to a replacement page to avoid a 404 error. Additionally, when a site is redesigned, it’s critical that redirects be in place to direct old site URLs to new site URLs. More about URL redirects.
Referrer – A website that links to your website is known in analytics as a referrer. In most analytics platforms, specific types of referring sites, like search engines, are grouped separately. Most analytics platforms allow for some custom tracking of referral URLs to suit a business’s specific needs.
Retargeting – Retargeting is a cookie-based technology that tracks the web browsing of visitors who have previously visited a website, and entices them to revisit the site through numerous methods. There are 5 types of retargeting: site retargeting, search retargeting, social retargeting, email retargeting and dynamic retargeting. Explore the types of retargeting further >
Responsive Web Design (RWD) – Responsive design is a web development approach that optimizes a single set of web files for optimal viewing on any device or device orientation. Unlike mobile sites, responsive websites typically offer a full website experience, thereby decreasing the mobile bounce rate and increasing visitor engagement.
Return on Investment (ROI) – ROI is a quantifiable performance measure that evaluates the efficiency of marketing strategies and campaigns to determine which marketing investments are valuable and which need reevaluation.
Retweet – The act of reposting an individual or brand’s tweet to share the content with all of your followers is called retweeting. A retweet is what helps brands expand their content visibility and ultimately their followers.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Marketing a website by search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search listings to gain online traffic and increase the visibility of the webpage on search engines is known as search engine marketing.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Strategies and techniques that are used to increase a site’s non-paid rankings and website traffic are referred to as search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is a continually evolving science dictated by changing search engine algorithms, but several important factors include site content, site architecture, meta tags and more. Search engine optimization is one component of search engine marketing.
Social Advertising – Advertising on social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook is referred to as social advertising. Social advertising aims to gain website traffic or brand awareness for a brand, and tactics include sponsored posts, stories or promoted links or trends.
Social Targeting – Social targeting involves using social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, and targeting techniques like geo-targeting, to specifically target advertisements to a certain market. Social targeting aims to increase the effectiveness and relevance of the ad.
Spider – A spider is search engine software program that systematically browses the internet, copying and indexing all the information on the webpages it visits. Google spider is called “Googlebot.”
Sponsored Story – A sponsored story is a sponsored ad that appears on someone’s Facebook timeline when a person’s “friend” likes a brand or business’s Facebook page. The brand will appear to have been promoted to you by a friend, although the company that sponsored this ad has paid for this function.
Sponsored Posts – Paying social media channels (e.g., Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) to extend the reach of your posts to a larger target market is known as a sponsored posts, promoted posts, or sponsored updates. Because of the rapid decline of organic posts, sponsored posts are becoming a more necessary social media marketing approach.
Title tag – A title tag is a type of meta data that is used by search engines to categorize results by title. Title tags are a very important element in SEO. Well-written, descriptive title tags that include at least one targeted keyword will rank higher in search results.
Unique Page Views – Each time a unique visitor loads one of your pages it is tracked as a unique page view in web analytics. If there are repeated visits on the same webpage by the same person, it is counted as only one unique page view.
Unique Visitors – In web analytics, unique visitors are measured as visitors to visit a site more than once during a specific time period. Unique visitors are counted only once, based on their IP address, no matter how many times they visit the site during their time period.
Visitors – Visitors are any web user who visits a website within a specified period of time. In web analytics, visitors are broken down into unique visitors and repeat visitors, based on upon whether or not they have visited a website from that IP address previously. Visitors are different from hits and page views, which are measured by the number of files that are requested from a site.
Wiki – A wiki is a page or collection of internet or intranet pages on that can easily be edited by the site’s visitors. The most popular wiki site is Wikipedia, one of the most popular sites on the internet with over 33 million pages.
Wireframe – A website wireframe is visualization tool that is used when creating a web site. Separating the design elements for a subsequent design phase, wireframes aim to present proposed functions, structure and content approaches for a website. Typical wireframe elements include the site header, footer, navigation sidebars, promotional areas, headings, content text and image placeholders.
XML Sitemap – An XML sitemap is used by search engines to identify all the pages that exist on that website. An XML sitemap contains a list of all URLs on your site and is dynamically updated by some content management systems, like Kentico and Umbraco, and must be manually re-run with other content management systems. Standard format for a an xml sitemap file is sitemap.xml.
301 Redirect – A 301 redirect is a web server function where an old URL can be redirected to a new URL. This is also known as a “permanent redirect” indicating that the resource/URL has been moved permanently. It is important for SEO to setup 301 redirects when a page has been redesigned and URLs have permanently changed.
302 Redirect – In contrast to a 301 redirect, a 302 redirect is a “temporary redirect” that informs search engines and visitors that the URL has moved to a different location, but will eventually return to the original URL.
404 Not Found – The most commonly known server error, a 404 error is a message from a server that it can’t find your requested URL. It is a digital best practice to create a custom 404 (error) page to alleviate visitor frustration and quickly get them to an alternate page.