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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.
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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. 

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

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is 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.

What is Above the Fold?

Above the fold is a term originating in print advertising that refers 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.

What is Account-Based Advertising?

Account-based advertising is a tactic used in account-based marketing. 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.

What is an Ad Audience?

Ad audience describes the overall number of individuals who have either already seen or could potentially see an ad during a specific time period.

What is a Banner Ad?

A banner ad is 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 as long “banners” on web pages or in applications.

What is an Ad Click?

Ad click describes the action a user takes when they interact with an ad by either clicking on it with their mouse, tapping it on a touchscreen, or pressing enter on their keyboard.

What is an Ad Exchange?

Ad exchange is 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.

What is an Ad ID (Advertising ID)?

An ad ID comprises 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. Users can choose to reset or disable their advertising ID at any time.

What are Ad Impressions?

Ad impressions are a performance metric used in advertising. Each time an ad has been served, regardless of whether the user has actually seen or interacted with the ad in any way, counts as one impression.

What is Ad Inventory?

Ad inventory measures the total amount of advertising space or impressions a digital publisher has available to 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.

What is an Ad Network?

Ad networks connect advertisers to publishers, typically by aggregating ad inventory across multiple publishers and offering it to advertisers as a single point of contact. 

What is an Ad Serving?

An ad serving means the delivery of a single ad from a web server to the end user’s device. Every time the ad is displayed on a browser or application, it has been “served” once. 

What is Ad Targeting?

Ad targeting describes the process of displaying ads to a specific group of people based on demographic, geographical, psychographic, behavioral, or other data. Advertisers “target” their ads based on who they want to reach and who they consider part of their audience or ideal customer profile.

What are Ad Units?

Ad units describe the specific, standardized spaces on a website or app where ads can be placed. 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.

What is Addressable in Advertising?

In advertising, the addressable refers to the ability to target individual users or devices based on demographic or behavioral data with relevant and personalized ads. In other words, can the advertiser address a certain type of user or customer with an ad campaign?

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Understanding digital advertising terms just makes things feel better somehow.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing. Advertisers pay promotional partners to drive a certain amount of traffic to their pages or other owned channels. The commission is usually based on the amount of clicks and/or leads delivered. 

What is Attribution in Marketing?

Attribution describes 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. Popular attribution methods include first touch, last touch, and multi-touch.

What is a Banner Ad?

A banner ad is 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 as long “banners” on web pages or in applications.

What is a Bidding Strategy in Advertising?

In advertising, bidding strategy means the approach an ad buyer takes when deciding how much to pay for ad placements in an auction. Google search ad placements, among others, require a careful bidding strategy. 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 return on investment for the buyer.

What is a Blocklist in Advertising?

A blocklist is a list of websites where an advertiser does not want their ads to appear. Often, brands use blockslists to avoid association with controversial or inappropriate content. Blocklists can also include keywords or products to exclude from campaigns.

What is a Bounce Rate in Advertising?

The percentage of website visitors that only look at one page before navigating away from a website is that site or page’s bounce rate. 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.

What is Brand Awareness?

Brand awareness means the percentage of customers who recognize a particular brand or product by name. Increased brand awareness is a frequent goal and success metric for marketing campaigns, specifically “awareness campaigns.” Brands with high awareness are often more likely to be trusted by customers.

What is a Call to Action in Advertising?

Call to action or CTA refers to the part of the ad or landing page that asks the user to do something. It calls them to act in a certain way. The CTA can be almost anything, but commonly used calls to action include Buy Now, Sign Up, Download, Get Started, and Read More. 

What is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)?

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is 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.

What is a Channel in Advertising?

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.

What is a Click-Through-Rate in Advertising?

The CTR or Click-through Rate measures how often people who are served an ad actually click on it. An ad’s CTR is calculated by dividing the number of clicks an ad received by the number of times it’s been served (i.e., clicks over impressions). 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.

What is a Consent Management Platform (CMP) in Advertising?

Publishers use consent management platforms or CMPs to request, manage, store, and update users’ consent for data processing and privacy purposes. 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, and build trust with the audience.

What is a Conversion in Advertising?

Any action that advertisers want their audience to take can be considered a conversion. The total number of conversions measures the success of a campaign or ad. Common examples of conversions include making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or requesting a demo.

What is a Conversion Pixel?

Advertisers use conversion pixels, tiny 1×1 images invisible to users to embed code that triggers whenever a conversion takes place on a certain web page.

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Make sure you have a full understanding of digital advertising terminology before trying your next campaign.

What is Conversion Rate?

Conversion rate is an advertising metric equal to the percentage of users who convert. 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.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

When advertisers work to improve the percentage of website visitors who convert, they are practicing conversion rate optimization. Tactics such as A/B testing, messaging adjustments, user testing, updating graphics, and trying new CTAs are all examples of conversion rate optimization. 

What is Conversion Tracking? 

Conversion tracking means monitoring how many conversions have occurred during any specific time period, and analyzing which ads converted most.

A cookie is a small script 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.)

What is Cost Per Acquisition?

Your cost per acquisition is how much it costs in advertising dollars to acquire a single customer. Marketers calculate CPA by dividing the total amount spent on an advertising campaign by the number of new customers acquired through that campaign.

What is Cost Per Click Advertising?

CPC advertising, or cost per click, charges advertisers for each time a user clicks on a placed ad. The CPC rate is calculated by dividing the total amount spent on a campaign by the number of clicks generated.

What is Cost Per Completed View Advertising?

Cost per completed view (CPCV) is a pricing model for video advertising that charges an advertiser only when a viewer watches the whole ad. 

What is Cost Per Lead Advertising?

CPL or cost per lead advertising is a pricing model for ads that charges advertisers only for the clicks that result in a conversion. CPL is calculated by dividing the total amount spent on a campaign by the number of leads generated.

What is Cost Per Mille Advertising?

Cost per mille (aka Cost per thousand) is a pricing model based on charging for every 1,000 ad impressions. CPM is used as a standard measure for buying display ads. Mille comes from Latin, and means “thousand.”

What is Cross-Device Targeting?

Cross-device targeting allows advertisers to reach the same buyer with targeted ads across multiple devices, i.e., from tablet to desktop to smartphone. 

What is Contextual Targeting?

Contextual targeting means ads are displayed to users based on the content of the webpages they view. For example, an airline placing an ad on a travel article or a software company advertising on a startup community’s website. 

What is a Demand-Side Platform?

A demand-side platform (or DSP) is a 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.

What is Direct Response in Advertising?

Direct response (DR) in digital advertising refers to campaigns or ads specifically created to encourage audiences to take immediate action. The term is often used in B2B, where marketing works with leads for a long period of time through a transaction.

What is Display Advertising?

Display advertising means graphic ads shown on web pages. Display ads originated in the newspaper industry, and are decreasingly popular due to the prevalence of ad blocking technology and consumers’ tendency to ignore them. 

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This group of coworkers is absolutely winning the game based on their understanding of digital advertising terms.

What is an Expandable Banner in Advertising?

An expandable banner is a banner ad that increases in size when a user hovers over it.

What are First-Party Cookies?

First-party cookies are cookies placed and owned by the same website a user intentionally visits. They can be used to store user preferences, log-in status, and other settings, in addition to their use in ad targeting and marketing. 

What is First-Touch Attribution?

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

What is Frequency Capping? 

Frequency capping is the practice of setting a limit on the number of times an ad can be shown to a consumer within a specific timeframe (e.g., a week or month). 

What is Geographic Targeting?

Geographic targeting involves selecting an audience for a campaign based on geographic filters like zip codes, designated marketing areas (DMA), cities, states, and countries.

What is GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)?

In 2018, the European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, a landmark privacy act that regulates how companies may collect and process customers’ personal data. Since it can apply to companies that aren’t based in the EU, its impact on advertising has been extensive. Among other things, it governs the use of web cookies and email marketing.

What is an Identity Graph?

An identity graph or ID Graph connects different signals associated with a single user or device across multiple platforms, including cookies, device IDs, social media accounts, and email addresses. 

What are In-Stream Ads?

In-stream ads are any video ads that play before, during, or after online streaming video content.

What are Interstitial Ads?

Interstitial ads appear when 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.

What is a Keyword?

A keyword is a specific word or phrase that advertisers in paid search or contextual ads use for targeting. Users who search a specific keyword will see ads before their organic search results that pertain to the specific keyword. In search advertising, advertisers bid against each other to get top position for coveted keyword placements. 

What is a Landing Page?

A landing page is any standalone web page that users reach after clicking an ad. The goal of the landing page is to persuade the user to convert via the CTA, i.e., take the advertisers’ desired action.

What is Last Touch Attribution?

The last-touch or last click attribution model gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint in a user’s journey.

What is a Lead?

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

What is a Lookalike Audience? 

A lookalike audience describes a target audience that shares demographics, interests, behaviors, or other attributes with your existing customer base. Advertisers can target lookalike audiences on digital advertising platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.  

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When potential customers click on your digital ads, they are taking a first step to a relationship with your brand.

What is a Lookback Window?

The lookback window is the specific timeframe advertisers set to attribute conversions or other reporting back to a campaign. The window can be expressed in hours, days, weeks, or months.  

What is a Mobile Advertiser ID?

A mobile advertiser ID or MAID is 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. Users can choose to reset and clear their mobile advertising data at any time. 

What is Multi-Channel or Multi-Touch Attribution?

Multi-touch attribution is an attribution model that weighs each touchpoint along a buyer’s journey, across channels and devices. Often, these models assign various weights to certain actions within the buyer’s journey.  

What is Native Advertising?

Native advertising refers to a paid ad designed to appear indistinguishable from other content in the advertising channel. Native advertisers try to match the form and user experience of content on the website or channel. Examples include a sponsored magazine article or a paid social media post. Native ads are intended to feel seamless and valuable, rather than sticking out as a blatant advertisement. However, in many cases, advertisers are required to include language within the native ad that specifies the content is for advertising purposes. 

What is an Overlay in Advertising?

An is a decreasingly utilized digital ad format that “floats” over a webpage, video, or app content. 

What is Paid Search? 

Paid search is an ad format where ads appear within search engine results pages (SERPs) based on targeted keywords included in the search queries. Paid search ads are designed to look similar to organic search results. 

What is Pay-Per-Click Advertising?

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is an advertising pricing model. Advertisers pay vendors or publishers based on the number of clicks received on each ad. PPC is the most common model of paid search advertising, largely due to its widespread use by Google. 

What is Personally Identifiable Information?

In privacy terms, personally identifiable information or PII is a legal term describing any personal data that can be used to distinguish the real-world identity of an online user. PII can  include names, addresses, ID numbers, phone numbers, and birthdates, among other data.

What is a Pop-Up Ad?

A pop-up ad is any ad that opens in a new browser window. Pop-up ads are typically viewed as annoying and a poor user experience. More widespread in the early days of digital advertising, today many browsers block pop-ups by default. 

What is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic advertising is 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, with the goal of improving the efficiency of the ad buying process and the effectiveness of the ads themselves. 

What is Reach?

Reach is the total number of people who see your ad.

What is Real-Time Bidding?

Real-time bidding (or RTB) is an ad sales method that involves purchasing 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. 

What is Retargeting?

Retargeting, sometimes remarketing, is the process of serving ads to people who have previously interacted with your content but not made a purchase. 

What is Rich Media Advertising?

Rich media advertising incorporates interactive features such as video, audio, or interactive quizzes and games to improve engagement and provide an immersive experience, all in hopes of getting users to click. 

What are Third-Party Cookies?

Third-party cookies are cookies set up on a website or other channel that track back to a different owner than the owner of the website hosting the cookie. For instance, when you are logged into a social networking site and visit another website, the social networking site may be placing third-party cookies on the site. Often used for advertising purposes, third-party cookies are being increasingly restricted by government regulations and tech platforms to protect user privacy. 

What is a View-Through Rate?

View-through rate is an attribution metric used to measure the number of times a user who later converts views an ad without clicking. 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 it. View-through windows typically define the number of days after viewing an ad that the viewer took action attributed to the ad.

What is a Walled Garden?

In advertising, walled garden describes a platform that collects and controls user data and keeps it hidden from third parties. Examples of walled gardens in advertising include Facebook, Amazon, and Google. For advertisers, walled gardens offer the ability to target users based on the platform’s proprietary data. However, they provide limited visibility into the results of specific ads and campaigns.

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 using marketing automation? Check out our ebook for a step-by-step guide.

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