Digital marketing: A jargon-free guide to common terms

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“What’s a hashtag?”

“What does SEO stand for?”

“What IS a blog and where does it actually go?”

These are some of the questions that come up when we're out and about running training sessions in topics like writing for the web, SEO and social media.

Sometimes people apologise and preface it by saying, "It's probably a stupid question, but..." However, I always think questions like this are the most valuable because they help clear the fog. Ask away. Digital marketing moves quickly, and it can be difficult to keep up!

So in the spirit of shining a light on it all, we've put together a jargon-free guide to the words and phrases you'll come across when knocking your digital marketing into shape.

Common terms relating to your website

SEO = Search engine optimisation. Strategies, techniques and tactics to increase the quantity and quality of your website visitors.

This could mean you add more keywords to your website copy to match the queries people are putting into search engines like Google or Bing, or make sure you give all images and links a descriptive title. It's anything you do to deliberately make the content on your website more likely to be found.

It’s a big topic, which you can read more about in our post SEO copywriting: Black magic or good karma? 

SERPs = Search engine results pages. They look like this:

Ranking = Where you appear in the search engine results page. The higher the better! (There’s a joke in the Sookio office that the best place to bury a dead body is the second page of the Google search results; nobody's looking there).

Organic search results = Search results that appear because of their relevance to the search terms. In the example above, it is the people who show up on the map and the result at the bottom of the image.

Paid search = Website owners have paid to have their pages display for certain keywords, for example with Google AdWords. These listings show up when someone runs a search with these keywords (see above, the results at the top and to the right).

Keywords = Words and phrases in your web content that make it possible for people to find your site via search engines. The NHS, for example, wants people to find its page on stomach ache, so it includes phrases in the text which it knows people are using when they look for information, like 'stomach ache', 'abdominal pain' and 'stomach cramps'.

Metadata description = Snippets of text that describe a page’s content. They don’t appear on the page itself, but in the search results. 

Rich snippets = These are extra bits of text that appear beneath the search results, adding more information and context.

What does URL stand for? Uniform Resource Locator. But no one ever says that. In simple terms, it's the website address. Like   

What’s an SEO-friendly URL? You can make your website address more appealing to search engines by including the keywords your customers are likely to be using. Like these people:

It's good to include lots of keywords in the full URL too, making it even easier for the search engine to find your content. It also makes for a good user experience because they know they're in the right place:

What’s the difference between a channel and a platform?
We think of channels as the paths through which your messages flow. So you could talk about email marketing, social media and print advertising as the different channels you use to reach your target audience.

Platforms are the systems on which they run. So your social media activity might take place on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, for example.

What is a blog?
A blog is regularly updated content which can either be on its own website or a section on a larger site. Think of it like a series of news stories, but with the opportunity to include more opinion and behind-the-scenes updates. You might write in a more informal, conversational tone, and mix things up by using video and image galleries.

So what's a blog post?
This is an update that appears on your blog. Typically the most recent post is shown first. You’re reading a blog post right now!

But isn’t this a website page?
A page is more static, like an About page or Contact us page. You can of course update these whenever you like, but a blog is created by a continual series of individual posts.

Tags and categories
These help you keep your blog content in good order. Tags are labels that you can add to the post, and the category will group lots of posts under one heading.

For example, if a food blogger reviews a city break in one of their posts, they might tag it ‘Paris’ ‘hotel’ ‘food’ and place it in the category ‘Travel tips’.

Common terms relating to social media

Social media post = an update on social media. Here are some different types.

Tweet = a post on Twitter, of up to 140 characters

Retweet, or RT = you see a tweet you like, and share it with the people following you

Pin = adding an image to a board on Pinterest

Share = typically on Facebook, you click Share and it will be seen by people in your network

Like = common across lots of social media networks, this is a virtual thumbs up. A positive sign that people like your content. Depending on the network, it may be seen by the person’s connections too.

What does hashtag mean?
A hashtag is a word or phrase with # in front of it which groups together messages on a specific topic. In social media terms, it originated on Twitter, but is now used across other platforms too. You can be generous with hashtags on Instagram, but use them sparingly on Facebook, and you don't often see them on LinkedIn.

Hashtags are used in different ways; here are three examples:

Hashtags as shorthand. You’re going to an event and want to post updates about all the interesting things that are happening. However, you don’t want to squeeze the full name into your tweet or you’ll have no room left! This is where the hashtag comes in.

In the example above, visitors to the Wellcome Image Awards 2016 at the Science Museum are encouraged to use #2016WIA in their tweets. This saves them space, and makes it easier to group all related tweets together because everyone is using the same hashtag.

Other examples: #BBCGlasto…a football fan might tweet #COYS rather than Come On You Spurs…you might share an old photo on #TBT (Throwback Thursday).

Hashtags for topic areas. You’re a specialist in #datascience. You’re taking a trip to #Brighton. You want to highlight the #blacklivesmatter campaign or share the #RecipeofTheDay, as Jamie Oliver has done above.

Hashtags for humour, sarcasm or irony. When Twitter started, the founders probably didn't realise that hashtags would be used for less than sensible reasons.

Which is why people add #sorrynotsorry or #wineoclock to their tweets, talk about how they've slipped up and add #nailedit, or post a picture of their trip to McDonald's with #cleaneating in the accompanying text. In the above example, Epicurean San Diego are tagging their massive doughnut with #breakfastofchampions. Because it's funny.

Facebook newsfeed = The continually updating stream of posts from friends and Pages you follow on Facebook. This could be status updates, photos, links to stories and other activity, like games they’re playing on apps in Facebook.

Facebook timeline = This is the space on your profile where you can see your own posts, posts from friends, and updates in which you’ve been tagged.

So what’s the difference between Facebook newsfeed and timeline?
A good way to think about this is that your timeline is all about you, whereas the newsfeed is about everyone else.

Common terms relating to your target audience

Reach = A measurement of the size of audience with whom you are communicating. The more likes, comments and shares you get, the bigger this reach will be. Put some money behind it by boosting the post or paying for advertising, and your reach will be even bigger.

Impressions = the number of times a post is displayed. So you might see the same Facebook post several times in your newsfeed, for example if your friends share it on your timeline too.

What’s the difference between reach and impressions?
Reach is about the number of people, and impressions is about the number of views. You’d expect impressions to be higher than reach because the same person could see the same post several times.

What does engagement mean?
How many people have interacted with your content in some way. This could be the total number of likes, shares, and comments on a post, or how many people have viewed your video, downloaded your whitepaper or listened to your podcast. The more engagement the better.

Conversions = the number of people who achieved a desired result. This could be paying for a product, signing up to your mailing list, booking a demo or completing a form.

Leads = potential conversions. These include anyone who is interested in your product or service, however close to buying it they may be. 

Funnels = The paths that visitors take towards converting. The most common one spoken about is the sales funnel, because, at the end of the day, you want to attract people to your website, and get them to the point where they buy your products and services. Result!

In need of digital marketing support?

It’s impossible to create a totally completely list of common digital marketing terms – please comment below if there is anything we’ve missed! And if you want help in sharpening up your strategy , need some in-house training or helping creating content, do get in touch.