30 Online Marketing Terms Every Business Owner Needs to Know

30 Online Marketing Terms Every Business Owner Needs to Know

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Backlinks, Hashtag, CTA, Tweet, Hootlet. Wait, are we still speaking English here? The rise of online marketing has done more than just change the way we promote our businesses, it’s changed the way we talk about marketing. Along with this new powerful method of sharing our message with the world, come new words and phrases to describe what we are actually doing.

When getting started with SEOInbound, content marketing, and the like, the verbiage used can be one of the most confusing parts. In order to help clear things up, we’ve created a list of 30 commonly used online marketing terms, what they mean, and how they are used. So get your notepad ready, because your online marketing language lesson is now in session!

Alt Tag

The term “ALT tag” is a common shorthand term used to refer to the ALT attribute within the IMG tag. (psu.edu) ALT tags are used to describe the image that is on a page. Search engines can’t see what the image is and have no way of understanding its relationship to the content. The way we help them out is by providing information via the “alt tag.”

Here is an HTML example of how an alt tag should be added:

<img src=”http://yourimage.jpg” alt=”what the image is”>

Adding alt tags to your images will help search engines better understand the relationship of your image to the content around it.


This word has been used so much that it now has its very own place in Webster’s dictionary. It’s important to note that it is the 2nd meaning of the word, not the first. Anyways, an avatar is a small picture that represents a computer user in a game, on the Internet, etc. (MerriamWebster)

Having an Avatar helps make your online profile more human. With so many people online and many of the online accounts being fake, doing all you can to show that you are who you say you are can go a long way in building trust with your audience.


Most users only ever see the client-facing side of a website or web application. But, just like most other things, there is a lot more going on “under the hood.”  Back-end development references a client-server architecture common in e-commerce.  The development includes the server implementation, and how it is stored, and transmitted.  (Wikibooks)

This is where all of your actual website information is stored. Everything from your content to the code that runs each one of your pages. Hiring a person who knows how to keep your backend up and running smoothly can pay off big time for those who are using your site day to day.

Backlinks are one of the most important factors when it comes to having your website rank for your targeted keywords. While the word may sound mysterious, it’s actually pretty straightforward. A backlink is an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website. In other words, it’s a line from one website to another.

While obtaining links is important, how you go about earning links and the credibility of the site you are obtaining a link from are just as important. For more on link-building, check out this article I wrote for Search Engine Land.


Well, I hope you are familiar with this term because you are on a blog right now. 🙂 The official definition of a blog is a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style. (source) Blogs are one of the most powerful tools any online marketer has at their disposal. The key is knowing how to use it.

Blogs were originally used as a sort of online journal but quickly became a powerful way for businesses to connect with and continually educate and add value to the lives of their prospects and clients. If you’re not blogging yet, you really should consider it.


Bounce can actually refer to two separate things when it comes to online marketing. We will cover them both.

First, a bounce from your website represents a visitor who entered your website and then left (“bounced”) rather than continuing to view other pages within the same site (wiki). The bounce rate of your site can be found in your Google Analytics account. For a good idea of what average bounce rates look like across industries, check out this article.

The second way the term bounce is used is in reference to email. When a message bounces, it means that a delivery error has occurred. There are two types of bounced messages, hard and soft. Here is a great and simple explanation from SendGrid

soft bounce means that the email address was valid and the email message reached the recipient’s mail server. However, it bounced back because:

  • The mailbox was full (the user is over their quota)
  • The server was down
  • The message was too large for the recipient’s inbox

hard bounce occurs when the message has been permanently rejected either because:

  • The email address is invalid
  • The email address doesn’t exist

Email is still a very powerful tool but it only works if your message gets to its destination. Furthermore, if your account has too many bounced messages it can result in your future emails going into spam folders rather than your prospect’s or customer’s inbox.


In my years in the industry, this word has caused a lot of confusion. While it may be hard to say, it’s actually pretty simple. Canonical refers to the search engine-friendly URL that you want the search engines to treat as authoritative. In other words, a canonical URL is the URL that you want visitors to see. (Marketing Jive)

Many websites have pages with duplicate or similar enough content that to Google it appears to be a duplication. This can hurt your search ranking and the best way to resolve this is to redirect the duplicate content to the canonical page.

Click-Through Rate

Want to know whether or not your visitors like what they are seeing? Clickthrough Rate can help tell us just that. This is the ratio showing how often people who see your content end up clicking it. (Google) By keeping track of this metric, you can tweak your campaigns and keywords to make sure that your website visitors are interacting with your content and heading toward conversion.

Conversion Rate 

This metric goes a little deeper into your visitor’s actions than just clicking. The conversion rate is the percentage of users who take a desired action. The archetypical example of conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors who buy something on the site. (Nielsen Norman Group) But conversion rates can also refer to how many visitors submitted information on a landing page form.

Across industries, the average landing page conversion rate was 2.35%, yet the top 25% are converting at 5.31% or higher. Ideally, though, you want to break into the top 10% ‚ these are the landing pages with conversion rates of 11.45% or higher. (Search Engine Land)


This acronym stands for call-to-action. A call-to-action (CTA) is an instruction to the audience to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as “call now”, “find out more” or “visit a store today.”

A CTA can be a simple non-demanding request like “choose a color” or “watch this video,” or a much more demanding request. An obvious CTA would be requesting the audience to purchase a product or providing personal details and contact information. (wiki)

CTAs are used to help encourage your visitors to engage with you and share some of their information in exchange for some powerful content. When it comes to creating CTAs, knowing who your buyers are and how they interact is essential.

Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that is continually relevant and stays “fresh” for readers. It gets its name from the evergreen tree which is a symbol for perpetual life throughout all seasons. While doing time-based content is good, today’s news cycle moves so fast that what was relevant yesterday is stale today. That’s why producing content that is relevant over time is key to long-term online marketing success.


GIFs have become a very popular tool in online marketing. People love visuals. Animated GIFs can help make your images more interactive. An animated GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) file is a graphic image on a Web page that moves – for example, a twirling icon or a banner with a hand that waves or letters that magically get larger. (Tech Target)

The key is to make your GIFs look professional. While many use them for humor and other topics, businesses that use GIFs need to be sure that they aren’t trying to be “trendy.” If used wrong, it can damage your online reputation.


The symbol formerly known as the “pound size” was changed forever by a little company called Twitter. A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social networks and microblogging services which makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content. Users create and use hashtags by placing the hash character # in front of a word or unspaced phrase, either in the main text of a message or at the end. (wiki)

When marketing your content on social media, using hashtags can be a great way to insert yourself into a larger conversation. For example, say you want the new piece you just did on a popular new widget to get more exposure. You can post a message to your social channels using hashtags others are using and when searched, your piece will show up in the feed.


Social media is a powerful way to reach a larger number of people across the globe with the stroke of your keyboard and the click of a mouse. Hootsuite has helped millions better manage their social media for free with their online tool. As a result, Hootlet is now a marketing term you need to know. Hootlet is a Chrome Web Browser extension that lets business owners schedule Tweets a day in advance or can help bloggers looking to share interesting content with their followers. Ever been on a page and want to share it with your followers?  This extension lets you do that without ever leaving the page. What a time saver.


Inbound refers to marketing activities that draw users to you, rather than you going out after prospects yourself. As HubSpot puts it, sharing is caring and inbound marketing is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.

There are a number of strategies and tactics that make up Inbound, but they have “attraction” in common. Inbound is a buyer-driven marketing process.


An influencer is a person who has the power to influence another person’s beliefs, actions, or experiences. In the realm of marketing, influencers are individuals that have influence over potential buyers and orient marketing activities around these influencers. (wiki) In online marketing, the goal is for the business not only to connect with influencers but to become an influencer by adding value to the lives of those we interact with.

As we discussed above, links are extremely important to get your content ranked in the search results. The best backlinks are natural ones and that’s where link bait comes in. Link bait is content on your website that other sites link to because they want to, not because you ask them to. (Luna Metrics)

Link bait comes in all shapes and sizes, from blog posts and site pages to helpful resources like eBooks, infographics, videos, and more. The key here is to create content that is helpful to others in your niche and can stand the test of time.

Ok, one more term around links. Why? Because it’s that important. Link building is the art of creating connections with other site owners in your niche that result in backlinks. Here’s what MOZ has to say about link building. There are many techniques for building links, and while they vary in difficulty, SEOs tend to agree that link building is one of the hardest parts of their jobs. Many SEOs spend the majority of their time trying to do it well. For that reason, if you can master the art of building high-quality links, it can truly put you ahead of both other SEOs and your competition.

Meta Description

You know that text underneath a link in the search results that tells you a little bit about the site you are about to click on? That’s the meta description. Meta descriptions help describe your page to search engines and your potential readers. While they no longer have “ranking” value, they are still very important. Having a well-written and accurate meta description can increase the clickthrough rate of your site on the search engines.

If you use a content management system like WordPress or HubSpot, adding meta descriptions is fairly simple. If you are doing things the hard way, you can add a description in your site’s <head> section using this code.

<meta name=”description” content=”Add your description here.” />


Outbound marketing, also referred to as interruption marketing, is marketing where the messenger is actively seeking the prospect. This is the traditional form of marketing where a company initiates the conversation and sends its message out to an audience. (Wordstream) Some popular forms of outbound marketing are Trade shows, TV commercials, radio commercials, newspaper ads, magazine ads, flyers, brochures, catalogs, cold calls, and email blasts.

While many still use these forms of marketing, their effectiveness is becoming less and less impactful. Mainly because we, the public, have learned to ignore most of these outbound tactics. Another thing that hurts outbound is the ability to track its effectiveness. Since inbound is connected to internet users and the data they provide, we can “prove” ROI much more effectively than say a mailer delivered to 150,000 homes.


When it comes to marketing your business online, the key is knowing who your audience is. Defining your personas is the best way to begin to shape your message around your prospective buyers in a way that will entice them to engage with you.

In user-centered design and marketingpersonas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.[1] Marketers may use personas together with market segmentation, where the qualitative personas are constructed to be representative of specific segments. (wiki)        


Once again we have a common word whose meaning has changed based on the internet. A post refers to a piece of content that was published via a blog, mico-blog, social media site, or any other content platform on the internet. For the most part, “post” is mostly connected to the use of social media, i.e. “post to someone’s wall.” Businesses that know when and where to post can drive a lot of targeted traffic to their websites.


PPC is short for pay-per-click. PPC is an internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which an advertiser pays a publisher (typically a website owner or a network of websites) when the ad is clicked. (wiki)

The most popular PPC platform is Google Adwords, but there are a number of other companies that also offer PPC services. The key when using PPC is to find the right platform, have a list of long-tail keywords, and know your audience. If done incorrectly, you can waste a lot of money and get very poor results.


Schema is an initiative created by Bing, Google, Yahoo, and Yandex to “create and support a common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages.” (wiki) Because the internet is largely open source, anyone can create content, code and the like and share it with the world. The problem is when search engines, which are computers, try to make sense of all this data. Schema is an effort to help standardize the way website pages are set up so that search engines can better understand their content and deliver better results. Learn more at http://schema.org/


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the practice of marketing a site to the major search engines with the hopes of generating organic website traffic. It is a methodology of strategies, techniques, and tactics used to increase the number of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement on the search results page of a search engine.

SEO differs from PPC because the focus is on non-paid traffic. There are a number of strategies and techniques that make up SEO. SEO’s goal is to help ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine in an effort to improve the chances that the site will be found by the search engine.  Not all SEO is created equal. Using “white hat” best practices that webmasters and web content producers follow will help you achieve a better ranking in search engine results without getting penalized.


SERP is short for search engine results page. This is the web page that a search engine returns with the results of its search. The major search engines typically display three kinds of listings on their SERPs. Listings that have been indexed by the search engine’s spider, listings that have been indexed into the search engine’s directory by a human, and listings that are paid to be listed by the search engine. (Webopedia)

Title Tag

A title tag is similar to the meta description but has a lot more value. The title tag is where the website page’s title is located and this has significant weight with the search engines. Here’s what MOZ has to say on the matter. “The title element of a web page is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a page’s content. This element is critical to both user experience and search engine optimization. It creates value in three specific areas: relevancy, browsing, and in the search engine results pages.”

Once again, many of today’s content platforms can help you do this with ease, but just in case you prefer the hard way, here is the code sample.

<head> <title>Example Title</title> </head>


If this word makes you think of a little blue bird you’d be right, just not the kind that’s outside your window. Tweets are messages posted on the Twitter social media service and website: the message may include text, links, photos, or videos. (Dictionary) Tweets are limited to 280 characters which constrain the users to get right to the point.

Tweets are publicly visible by default, but senders can restrict message delivery to just their followers. Users can tweet via the Twitter website, compatible external applications (such as for smartphones), or by Short Message Service (SMS) available in certain countries. (Wiki)

UX Design

UX Design is short for user experience design. UX Design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usabilityaccessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product. In today’s user-driven market, UX Design is becoming more and more essential not only in marketing but in product development as well. UX Design is made up of a number of different elements such as visual design, information architecture, usability, human-computer interaction, and more.


Simply put, a vlog is a blog where video is the primary source of content. Video is increasingly becoming a more powerful marketing tool now that it is so accessible to the masses. One way vlogs have an advantage over traditional blog is that the viewers get to know the creator more personally. Many sites, like the one you are on now, incorporate video posts into their rotation so that they get the best of both worlds.

The internet has done so much more than just change the way we market our businesses, it has changed the way we talk about marketing as well. While we did cover a number of important terms, the truth is, we could have written an entire dictionary of terms that are related to online marketing. If you have any questions about the terms above or have a question about a term that was not covered, please comment below!

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