Over 100 Essential Terms for E-commerce Marketing
Why do we need an e-commerce marketing dictionary?
Newcomers to digital marketing are often overwhelmed with the huge amount of jargon and abbreviations that get casually thrown around. Even experienced marketers can occasionally struggle to keep up when it seems like a new term comes out every other day.
That’s why in this article we’re going to compile the most popular terms you need to know, whether you’re just starting out selling online or you’re a veteran looking to up your digital vocabulary.
Bookmark it for future reference if you want (pro-tip, press Control D on Windows) and we’ll try to keep it updated with the latest terms as they come out. Second pro-tip, use Control F if you’re looking for a specific term.
A/B testing aka “Split Testing”, is a marketing tool where we perform a scientific test to compare two different pieces of marketing content to see which works better.
We run two versions, A and B, and change one element to see how it affects the performance of the piece.
For example, you could run two otherwise identical ads with different CTA buttons to see which gets more clicks.
Affiliate marketing is an online marketing model where a person or site is paid to promote another business, usually in exchange for a commission on the sales they help earn.
It lets you turn traffic on your website or blog into income. Many other payment models sprung from the idea of affiliate marketing, like PPC advertising.
Algorithms are math or logic-based processes that can tell computers how to perform certain complex tasks.
They’re important for digital marketing because the biggest search engine, Google, uses an algorithm to rank search results (which can have a huge impact on your business’ success).
Alt-text is the text that’s loaded in place of an image on a web page when it can’t be displayed (for whatever reason). It’s also used by some search engines to determine what an image is (crawlers can’t understand images on their own).
Anchor text is the text displayed “in front of” a link to another web page.
B2B (Business to Business):
B2B is the term for companies whose main customer base are other companies.
A B2B e-commerce business, for example, would be an online store that specialises in selling office supplies to other businesses.
B2C (Business to Consumer) :
B2C is the term for companies whose main customer base are individual consumers rather than organisations or businesses.
B2C e-commerce businesses are the most prevalent kind of online stores, e.g. an online fashion retailer selling to individuals.
Backlinks, or inbound links, are links coming toward your business’ site from anywhere else on the internet.
Backlinks are like references from other sites which tell search engines how reputable and trustworthy your site is, and so are very important for determining your rankings.
Banner ads are a basic form of online advertising where images and/or copy appear on set places on a web page (like at the top, in a sidebar or inside the body of the page).
They’re one of the oldest forms of online advertising but still see some use today because they’re useful for targeting people based on their interests.
E.g. a fishing pole company might run targeted banner ads on a blog about fishing.
Blackhat SEO, or “spamdexing” is the term for unethical SEO practices designed to try and “cheat the system” to boost your page rankings.
It includes things like spamming keywords, trying to hijack the traffic from other pages and disguising what your content really is about.
It’s a very bad idea. If you get caught Google wipes all your site authority, whether it was gained through Blackhat SEO or legitimately.
A blog (“weblog”) is one of the oldest forms of content on the internet.
They started as diary-style entries designed to share your perspective on topics and evolved into a larger medium that encompasses educational and business-related content like this. This is a blog.
A bounce rate is the percentage of users that leave your site without doing what you wanted them to, after clicking on your web page or an online ad.
For example, if someone clicks on your shopping ad but fails to buy anything that’s a “bounce” and they contribute to the bounce rate.
CPA (Cost Per Action):
CPA is a metric for how much each action from an online campaign, e.g. sign-ups or purchases, costs you.
It’s also a pricing model where affiliates charge you a percentage of the revenue they help you generate by boosting your marketing.
CPC (Cost Per Click):
CPC is a form of CPA marketing, where the action is just a click. It’s again both a pricing model and a metric.
As a payment model, CPC works slightly depending on the platform. Generally, you’re charged based on the number of clicks on your campaign. As a metric, it’s the average cost of your campaigns per click you gain from them.
CPI (Cost Per Install):
CPI is CPA where the action is an install of an app or program.
It’s used often in mobile advertising where the goal is to get more users to download your business’ app.
CPL (Cost Per Lead):
CPL is the CPA for generating leads. Some businesses need to generate leads instead of direct online sales for various reasons, and so they need to choose CPL as the action.
CPL is also useful for generating audience lists such as email signups or more followers for your communication platforms.
CPM (Cost Per Thousand):
CPM (the M stands for Mille, meaning thousand) is a pricing model where you’re charged per 1000 clicks or impressions on an advert.
It’s also a metric for these same campaigns describing the average cost you rack up to reach 1000 people.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is the second most common website programming language. It’s used to style and change the formatting of web pages.
If HTML is the “body” of a website, CSS is the skin covering it to make your site look good.
CTA (Call to Action):
A CTA is a short phrase or button designed to create immediate action from a consumer after they’ve seen your ad or piece of content.
You almost always want to include some form of CTA after any marketing your business puts out to tell consumers what to do next.
CTR is a metric for the number of users who click on your ad versus the number of impressions (views) the ad gets.
If it’s low you might want to look at making your CTA or offer more appealing.
A campaign is a general term for running a group of ads to try and achieve a specific business goal.
You might, for example, want more sales for a specific product. You would then create a promotional campaign aimed at driving up sales by advertising a limited time offer.
A chatbot is a term for a piece of software used to simulate a customer service agent or salesperson on a website. They’re programmed to recognise a basic set of questions your customers have and answer them in real-time.
They’re used to try to save money on personnel and increase engagement, but they can’t completely replace human salespeople or relationship managers (yet).
Cold audiences are audiences that you haven’t engaged with before.
Most platforms allow you to filter your ads so they’re only shown to cold audiences, which is useful for gaining new customers instead of retargeting existing ones.
Content marketing is a marketing strategy based around creating quality content that your consumers want to engage with to generate leads, brand equity or sales. For example, this article is a form of content marketing.
In digital marketing, content refers to the substance of the advertising you’re putting out, or online posts your business is creating in an attempt to add value and draw customers in. It can be anything from text-based blogs to videos and podcasts.
The great thing about online marketing is the variety of multimedia options you can use, and experiment with, to find the perfect match for your business.
A conversion is a term for a consumer who does what you want them to do after seeing your CTA.
They’re a good way of measuring the real success of your campaigns in achieving the goals you set out to meet.
Conversion rate refers to the percentage of people who become conversions compared to the total number of impressions a piece of content generates.
I.e. how many people take action on your ad versus how many see it in total.
Low conversion rates mean you need a stronger offer or CTA to draw consumers in.
Cookies are the term used for the little packets of data that stay behind on your computer after visiting a website.
They’re used to track consumer journeys across and through websites. This lets us determine metrics like conversions and where they originated from.
In marketing, copy refers to the text elements of marketing material from the CTA and description on an ad to full-length blog posts like this one.
Compelling copy is a major part of any successful marketing strategy, which is why many companies consult professional copywriters. At the very least your copy should match the overall message and be free from spelling or grammatical errors.
Crawlers are what we call the parts of search engine algorithms that scan across the entire internet cataloguing every page and how useful it is (and how highly to rank it on their results).
Their job is to tell the search engine what pages are about in terms machines can understand, so it’s important we make our websites crawler friendly to rank highly.
Creative is a marketing term for the supporting elements of advertising desgined to draw people in and push them to take action.
It includes things like images, copy and more.
In marketing, a dashboard is a tool used to visualise key metrics and performance drawn from analytics data. Many companies make software to automatically generate marketing dashboards from data sets. They’re an invaluable tool in making sense of analytics to determine what parts of your strategy are, or aren’t, working.
A database is an ordered set of data that can be understood by computers. In marketing, databases are essential for things like building client lists, understanding consumer behaviour or managing campaigns. Generally, you won’t have to worry about interacting with databases yourself, they go on behind the scenes.
Domain name refers to the human-friendly way of identifying websites. Computers use IP addresses, long strings of numbers, to identify websites but this isn’t very user friendly. To get around this we use domain names which automatically redirect to IP addresses, e.g. www.google.co.za is a domain name.
Domain authority, also informally called Google Juice, is a measure of how much value or reputation a search engine associates with your website overall. Sites with high domain authority rank higher in the results page and can “pass on” some of their authority by linking to other sites.
E-commerce is the general term for buying and selling goods and services online. E-commerce companies specialise in online selling, though increasingly most companies are hybrid e-commerce companies at a minimum. Very few purely physical retailers still exist competitively in the market.
Email marketing refers to using email as a platform to drive marketing objectives. Typically, companies will build mailing lists of interested consumers to engage with via email and forward them relevant offers or information. Emails can be a great tool for directly talking to consumers but risk becoming spam if used too frequently.
In online marketing, engagement refers to the number of people who take some action on viewing your social media posts. This includes things like likes, comments or shares. It’s sometimes used as a metric for campaigns centred around relevant objectives.
Facebook ads are a way for businesses to reach consumers with marketing messages on the Facebook platform. The main types of ads are boosted posts, regular ads and story ads. Facebook ads are great for engaging with a large and broad audience, so work well for B2C businesses whose product has a broad appeal.
Facebook Business Manager:
The Facebook business manager is the tool where you set up and manage all your Facebook ad campaigns. It includes a lot of built-in features designed to make your advertising campaigns easier and more effective, so it’s a great tool for new online marketers.
Facebook groups are generally communities organised around interests and sharing content. Businesses can set up Facebook Groups under their business page in their relevant industry to become part of the discussion.
Facebook marketplace is an advertising tool similar to classifieds sites like eBay. It doesn’t support direct transactions and is meant for individuals to arrange exchanges via the Facebook platform.
Facebook business pages are a general public-facing space for you to introduce your business and interact with customers. The main difference between pages and groups is pages tend to be around a specific business or person, while groups are about a specific topic.
Facebook posts, or Facebook organic posts, are free content that your business puts out to engage with consumers who follow your page or group. They can optionally become boosted posts to show your post to a broader audience, but this is a paid service.
The Facebook shop is a way to integrate your business’ catalogue directly into Facebook. It allows consumers to purchase products directly via the Facebook platform, unlike the marketplace which is more akin to classifieds. The Facebook shop is similar to an online retail portal, like Amazon.
A Facebook pixel is a piece of code applied to your business’ website to act as an analytics tool which integrates with the Facebook platform. It can help you understand if your Facebook campaigns are working by tracking potential conversions all the way from Facebook through to your website.
A featured snippet is a feature on Google’s search results page where they try to answer common questions in a collapsible drop-down menu. Featured snippets are highly coveted for SEO as they list above the normal search results.
Forums are online communities usually based around interests or topics. Businesses can set up forums for product related support or just to create more community engagement.
Google ads (formerly Google Adwords) is an online advertising platform mainly used to set up SEM campaigns on the Google Search Network. It can also be used to advertise on other websites, apps and videos that are affiliated with the Google Display Network.
Google Analytics is an online analytics tool that tracks and monitors traffic to your website. It tracks things like bounce rates, session durations and traffic sources. This makes it a useful tool in monitoring your website’s overall performance and adjusting areas that need work or playing to its current strengths. It forms part of the overall Google marketing platform.
Google My Business:
Google My Business is a free tool for listing more information about your business on Google’s search results. It displays in a special sidebar to the right of the search results when customers directly search for your business and can include things like customer reviews, directions and contact information.
HTTP is the basic protocol most websites use to communicate with your browser. It’s how the files describing how the website should look get sent to your computer for viewing. HTTPS is just an encrypted form of HTTP, making it more secure. HTTPS should always be used if possible because it aids in your SEO rankings.
A hashtag is a metadata tag used on social media to flag posts as part of certain topics of conversations. They’re used by social media search engines when users are looking for posts on a certain topic.
A header is the topmost section of a web page. The centre is called the body, and the bottom of the page is called the footer.
In online marketing, a heatmap is a visual representation of how users interact with a website. It aggregates and shows where and how users interact with your website, by showing a “thermal image” of the most commonly clicked or viewed areas, so you can optimise its flow towards your desired end goal.
In digital marketing, an impression is a term for any time someone views a piece of advertising material. Different platforms track impressions differently as part of their billing systems but generally, it’s when a user looks at a static image long enough to read it or watches a certain amount of a video.
Influencer marketing refers to the trend of using influential people on social media to market your product. It’s usually done to share brand equity with a branded person who has a high amount of sway over your desired target market.
KPI (Key Performance Indicators):
In digital marketing, KPIs are the key metrics for how we define success in a marketing campaign. They’re typically unique to every business and campaign because every business will have different goals and different strategies for how they go about doing them. Examples include sales, new leads or sign-ups.
Keyword density is the percentage of a page’s content that the desired keywords make up. This is an important consideration for SEO, we want a high enough density to be the most relevant result for a particular keyword but we don’t want to overuse it or we may be penalised for keyword stuffing.
Keyword research is the process of identifying keywords relevant to your business that you can target as part of your SEO strategy. You want to find a balance between keywords with low competition but low relevance to your business, and high relevance but high competition. Good keywords are those with high enough relevance that people will find your business by searching for them and low enough competition that the results aren’t dominated by paid searches.
Keyword stuffing is a blackhat SEO technique whereby you put excessive amounts of keywords on a particular page’s content, metadata or anchor text to try to gain an unfair ranking. Like most blackhat SEO, you are harshly penalised for using this technique and Google is becoming increasingly sophisticated at detecting it, so it’s never a good idea.
Keywords are the ideas or topics your content fall under when a consumer is typing in search terms into a search engine. Most SEO strategies are based around finding and targeting good keywords to make your business rank for relevant searches which can net you more revenue. E.g. a consumer might search “Best Lawnmower”, finding articles or store listings under those keywords.
The landing page is the first page consumers see when they’re redirected to your website after clicking on an online ad. They’re a crucial part of a conversion or lead-based strategy because they represent the “make or break” point of the transaction. You want your landing page to be engaging and encourage users to take action, but also simple enough that they can easily find what they’re supposed to do.
Lead forms are online forms designed to capture a consumer’s information to form a new lead for your business to pursue. Most online marketing platforms come with ways to include built-in lead forms, but they can also be created through your website. Lead forms can be longer to encourage higher quality but less frequent leads or shorter to encourage more (but lower quality) leads.
Lead quality refers to how likely any given lead is to become a conversion for your business. High-quality leads are people who are willing to convert and buy your product or service right away with minimal persuasion. Low-quality leads are people who are still farther up in the purchase funnel and not yet fully ready to commit.
Leads are the general term for potential customers you find through your digital marketing efforts. In situations where creating, direct online sales are impossible or unfeasible, generating leads should be your priority instead. Once you have the leads you can direct these consumers into existing sales processes to turn them into conversions.
LinkedIn Campaign Manager:
Campaign Manager is LinkedIn’s ad campaign management tool. It’s similar to Facebook Business Manager in that it has a variety of built-in tools to help manage and assess the performance of your campaigns. Like most of LinkedIn, it’s more geared towards targeting professionals and thus sees higher success in B2B markets, though some B2C markets can also work on the platform.
LinkedIn Message Ads:
LinkedIn message ads are an ad format where you can send messages to users directly through their LinkedIn inbox. They’re great for creating personalised messages for your campaigns targeted at highly specific kinds of people. For more information see this article.
LinkedIn Sponsored Posts:
LinkedIn sponsored posts are an ad format where you can either share an existing post on your page with a broader audience or create a post that’s only shown to your desired audience. They’re great for creating more ad-centric messages or sharing your content with a broader audience.
A link, or hyperlink, is how the different web pages on the internet are connected. Links are important for SEO purposes as inbound links are a big factor in determining domain authority. Links are also essential in ensuring your website gets seen, you should have links to your site on all the other platforms you’re a part of as a business.
Long-tail keywords refer to highly specific keywords targeting consumers near the end of the purchase funnel. They’re so named because if you graph out keyword searches, the amount of individual searches for these keywords declines but purchase intent increases. Finding the right long-tail keywords is an integral part of keyword research.
Lookalike audiences are a tool on many online ad platforms where you can automatically generate a larger audience based on people with similar interests or demographics to an existing audience you have, such as current customers. They’re useful for expanding your target market without having to manually try and determine who to target.
A meta description is the summary of a web page’s content you see underneath the title of the page on the SERP. They’re important for convincing people to click on your links, and so indirectly can have a strong impact on SEO. As a result, they should be succinct and tell people exactly what’s on your web pages.
Meta tags are descriptors in a web page’s code to tell search engines what your page is about. They include things like the meta description and title of the web page.
In digital marketing, mobile advertising is the general term for trying to reach consumers on their smartphones or portable smart devices. There’s a huge incentive to make all online marketing mobile-friendly at the very least, as many consumers primarily engage with the internet over their phones.
Opt-in Email Marketing:
Organic search refers to the amount of traffic to your website generated by consumers clicking on your organic search results. I.e., not the traffic you get from SEM. SEO is generally geared towards boosting your organic search.
Outbound links are those going from your website to other pages on the internet. They don’t directly impact your SEO strategy but can be a good tool for link building by encouraging reciprocation with other businesses.
PPC (Pay Per Click):
PPC is an online advertising model where you pay based on the number of clicks on your ad content. SEM is one of the most popular applications for PPC marketing, where the paid search results at the top of the page are usually on a PPC model.
PPL (Pay Per Lead):
PPL is like PPC but focused on affiliate marketing for leads. Usually, with a specific site or group of sites, a business will pay another organisation to help them generate leads based on a commission on the value of the leads they acquire.
Page authority is like domain authority but for individual pages on a website. The sum of the different pages makes up the domain authority, but they are not all equal. Websites can have individual pages with very high authority (and rankings) but lower overall domain authority.
Paid search is a form of online marketing where businesses pay to list at the top of a SERP. They can be incredibly valuable as an alternative to SEO for driving search traffic, with the disadvantage being that SEO is generally free and easier to maintain long term.
Podcasts are a form of audio or mixed medium content, usually in the form of a series of discussions around certain topics. Businesses can use podcasts as part of their content strategy where they can add value in creating a variety of content for people to engage with.
Pop-ups are the term for the types of online ads that create a separate window layered on top of your browser. They’re less popular today as they’re seen as more intrusive than other forms of online advertising, but they can still be useful for some strategies.
The purchase funnel can be thought of as the overall process whereby you attract new customers to your business, from the point they’re first aware of you to the point they become a paying customer. Marketing strategies target consumers at various stages of the purchase funnel depending on their goal. Higher up strategies typically target brand awareness and relationship building where lower down strategies target direct sales from people who are ready to convert.
ROI (Return On Investment):
In digital marketing, ROI is the simple metric for how much you spend on online ads versus how much your ads get net you in sales. It’s important to always manage your ROI to ensure you’re not wasting money. Generally, more spend on a good strategy will get you more sales but only up to a point of diminishing returns.
Remarketing refers to targeting existing consumers with your marketing strategy. This can be to keep them engaged with your business to facilitate future purchases, or to cross-promote different products your business offers they may be interested in.
Responsive design refers to the practice of making sure your desktop website scales properly to mobile devices with smaller, and often vertical, screens. It’s an integral principle for mobile marketing. Most new web platforms come with some responsive design features built-in, but it’s still important to manage.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing):
SEM refers to using search engines as a medium for online advertising. The most popular kind of search advertising is paying to display your business’ web pages above other results on the SERP for selected keywords. Search engines can be a great tool at all stages of the purchase funnel, especially using long-tail keywords to target consumers with high purchase intent.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation):
SEO refers to the practice of trying to increase your website’s rankings in the SERP. Generally, SEO strategies are focused on creating quality content and collaborations with other sites to create more organic traffic to your site and increase its domain authority.
SERP (Search Engine Results Page):
A SERP is the page displayed when you type in a query into a search engine and view the results. Google’s SERP is based on their algorithm and a large part of SEO is trying to understand why Google’s algorithm ranks websites highly and optimising your strategy around that.
Shopify is a service that allows you to easily create and manage an e-commerce website. You pay a subscription based on the number of features you want, and they have a variety of built-in tools meant to easily create and manage an e-commerce store without any web development knowledge. Unlike WordPress, Shopify’s software is proprietary and as such you’re more reliant on them to add or adjust features.
Social Media Advertising:
Social media advertising is the practice of using social media as a marketing platform for your business. Social media can be a great tool for online marketing because of the ability to precisely target consumers and it’s massive reach. Not sure which platform to use? See this article.
Spam is the colloquial term for sending large amounts of unsolicited communication to consumers. You never want to spam consumers because it may harm your brand image or cause them to unfollow you. You should always consider how much communication you’re sending consumers overall, to make sure your marketing messages are met with anticipation and not frustration.
A target market, simply, refers to your business’ ideal group of consumers. These are the people most interested in your service and whose needs you are most able to meet with your offering. Digital marketing campaigns should always consider their intended target market so that you can match the medium and message to their recipients.
In digital marketing titles or title tags, are the elements of a web page that appear on top of the meta description on the SERP and as the title of the page itself. They’re important for SEO to tell web pages what your page is about, and to entice users to click on your result when they’re searching relevant keywords.
UI (User Interface):
UI refers to the front-facing part of a website or app that your consumers interact with. Having a good UI is integral to the conversion process because you don’t want to lose consumers once they’re on your site near the end of the purchase funnel.
A URL is the domain name of a particular website. They’re important to us because custom URLs can help identify a page’s content to search engines as well as people. Use custom URLs where possible instead of machine-generated ones that may be strings of random letters and numbers.
UX (User Experience):
UX mainly refers to the practice of trying to optimise your business’ UI to eliminate friction and maximise the number of conversions coming through your website. It also encompasses the overall experience and emotions you want consumers to feel when they’re interacting with your business. Moden UX strategies can encompass the entire purchase funnel and how you interact with your customers during it.
Video ads are the term for using online video content to market to your customers. Most social media platforms now have video components and ways to advertise within them, the most popular method being in-stream ads. In-stream ads are the ads that play in between or during video content you watch.
A web browser is a piece of software used to access the internet by fetching data from web servers and displaying them to people. They’re important to us because there are many different browsers and they all work somewhat differently. This means an important aspect of UI design is ensuring your website and online content displays properly on all the major web browsers.
WordPress is an open-source platform for creating and hosting websites. It’s incredibly popular because it’s free to use, but you can pay to access premium themes (prebuilt website templates you can use) and supports many plugins (pieces of code to expand the functionality of your site).
YouTube advertising refers to using YouTube as a platform for advertising your business. It’s the most popular form of video advertising because YouTube is the biggest video platform today. Since they share a parent company, YouTube ads can be managed through the Google Ads platform.