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Glossary of Digital Marketing Terms

Glossary of Digital Marketing Terms

Let’s be honest. In the world of digital marketing, there is a fair amount of jargon.

Don’t get me wrong, in such a varied, complex and nuanced industry we need a plethora of specialist language to be able to communicate what we mean swiftly and accurately.

However, I have witnessed some marketeers (not at h2o, by the way) using jargon to bamboozle people to make a reasonably straightforward project seem far more complex and therefore expensive.
The prohibitive nature of jargon and technical language can mean that digital marketers don’t have an open and honest discussion about marketing projects, performance or results.

It can also mean that clients don’t have the vocabulary to provide briefs to agencies with sufficient details to fulfil their marketing aims.

Speaking digital marketing-ese to those that don’t mean there is a higher risk of wires getting crossed, expectations to be unfulfilled and frustrations to grow.

Here is a glossary of terms that can hopefully help everybody be on the same page. Better communication can lead to clearer objectives and fewer barriers to desired results.

To avoid this blog being ludicrously long, we’ll be splitting it up to cover a specific aspect of digital marketing. We’ll be beginning with social media marketing.
Without any additional ado, let’s begin.

A/B Split Testing

We all like to think that the message and image we’ve chosen for our digital marketing campaign is perfect and couldn’t possibly be improved. A/B testing is having a different version of the ad with another image or messaging. The variance provides a benchmark to allow you to test your hypothesis about what your audience likes.
A/B testing is fantastic, but it’s vital that marketers run this test for a limited time and then actually study the results to optimise the campaign.
Don’t confuse A/B Split testing with multi-variate testing, which is another digital marketing term that we’ll explore in another blog. Or you could Google it. I suppose.


Hopefully, this is relatively self-explanatory. Click-through-rate (CTR) is the number of people that have ‘seen’ your post divided by the number of people that ‘clicked’ on your ad.
Just be aware that the click in your CTR may not necessarily be a click on the link that you’ve shared and to which you want to drive traffic. It could be a click through to your business social media account or anywhere on the post.

Cost per mille (CPM)

Cost per mille (sometimes known as cost per thousand) refers to the amount of money it costs for you post to be seen 1,000 times. As with CTRs, it’s worth checking whether views are classified as impressions, or reach.

If you are aiming to raise awareness of something, this is likely to be a key metric for you. Additionally, when viewed with your engagement or click-through-rates, it can indicate whether the audience you’re targeting is too broad or narrow, and how effectively your post is resonating.

Dark Post

Dark posts don’t contain morbid content. This term refers to sponsored content that does not appear on your timeline/feed/profile.
Dark posts are different from sponsored organic posts — known as boosted posts, which will appear on your timeline and also for your selected target audience.
Helpfully, each platform has a different term for dark posts; on Twitter, they’re known as ‘promoted-only tweets,’ whereas LinkedIn refers to them as “direct sponsored content.”

Engagement Rate

A post’s engagement rate is similar to click-through-rate, in that it uses the number of people that have ‘seen’ your post. Engagement differs from a click, as it includes comments and other engagements that are not merely clicking on a link or your brand profile.
Typically, a higher engagement rate means your post was more exciting or attention-grabbing (or potentially controversial, remember, not all engagement is good engagement, ask Donald Trump’s Twitter account).


An impression is a term used in paid digital marketing campaigns. It refers to the number of times that an advert has appeared in a newsfeed.
It’s important to note that an impression doesn’t necessarily mean someone has looked at your advert, merely that it has appeared on the audience’s screen.


Reach refers to the number of people that have seen your social media post. It’s more simple to think of reach as the number of individual people that have seen your advert. If one person saw your advert ten times, you would have ten impressions, but a reach of just one.

Relevance score

Relevance score is a metric that is only available on Facebook. It uses a variety of statistics to determine how relevant the post is to your target audience (surprise).
The factors that used to determine this score include, number of likes, engagements, general performance and the number of times the ad has been hidden or reported as unsuitable.
If your score is lower than you’d like, it’s worth reviewing your targeting to make sure that you’re not trying to promote ice to Inuits.


Retargeting is the term that explains why you see adverts on social media for the product or brand whose website you’ve just been perusing.
Retargeting occurs by installing a cookie on your browser after you have visited a website that has a social media tracking tag attached. When you next visit social media, you will be targeted by a retargeting ad that shows the brand or even the product you had just been viewing.
Retargeting is a powerful marketing tool as the audience is ‘warm’ as they are already familiar with the brand or product. As the campaign is separate from any other sponsored campaigns that the brand may be running, you can be more creative with the messaging.

Social listening

Social listening tracks keywords, across social media to provide insights on what users are talking about and how. Brands often use these insights to understand important topics within a specific industry and to track what people are saying about their brand and their competitors.
It’s important to remember that social listening is only useful if there is any discussion about your chosen topic on social media. You can’t listen to conversations that don’t exist.

Social selling

Social selling is, unsurprisingly, using social media to sell things. It is a classic bit of jargon, in that you what both the words mean, but you may not know precisely what social selling entails.
Typically, social selling involves establishing a relationship with the prospect on a personal basis. I’m not talking about tagging each other in memes or anything like that. Instead, it could be connecting with the prospective sale on LinkedIn, maybe sharing a relevant article that they would find useful, commenting on one of their updates. This approach keeps the sales opportunity warm until you feel confident to begin the sales conversation (or invite them to an event where you can talk business).
Social selling can be beneficial to a brand, but is time-consuming and typically conducted on a much smaller, more personal scale.

Vanity metric

You’ve heard the quote:

The same can be said of metrics. They can look extremely positive, but offer no real value or insight into the success of your campaign.

Impressions are a great example of a vanity metric. As we’ve just discovered, they represent the number of times that your advert appeared on someone’s screen.

So being told that you had thousands of them initially sounds good. Lots of brand exposure and potential new customers right?

There is no guarantee that the user saw your beautifully constructed ad (we’re all a bit ad-blind in 2020). So, all an impression in isolation really tells you is that the social media network successfully processed the ad.

Engagement, reach, clicks or increases in followers are typically more valuable metrics to judge the efficacy of a campaign.

So, that’s your lot in this first glossary of digital marketing terms. I hope it’s been useful and can lead to more informed and accurate conversations between marketers and clients.
To my digital marketing colleagues, let’s look forward to more collaborative and productive strategic discussions — and an end to vanity metrics!

Adam Brummitt