A glossary of digital marketing, website design, and development terminology. This cheat sheet will assist you in navigating various website marketing, website development, and design terms.
A/B Testing: This is an online marketing testing technique, testing one variable at a time to see which is more effective.
Acquisition: Refers to the point in time when a visitor to a website becomes a qualified lead or customer.
AdWords (defunct as it rebranded to ‘Google Ads’): The pay-per-click (PPC) search engine marketing (SEM) program provided by Google.
Akismet: A widely used application for blogging platforms, such as WordPress, that functions as a filter for trapping link spam, comment spam and other forms of undesirable user-generated content.
ALT Attribute: A line of text used to describe the content associated with a non-text based file, typically an image. A traditionally strong correlation exists between use of keywords in these attributes and high rankings for the pages that contain them.
Anchor Text: The anchor text is the text that the user clicks on for a link. Optimizing these links can help with SEO results.
AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages, an ‘open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all. The project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.’
Application Programming Interface (API): A document interface that allows software applications to interact with other applications. For example the Twitter API.
Attention Economy: ‘digital products are competing for users’ limited attention. The modern economy increasingly revolves around the human attention span and how products capture that attention.’ (NNGroup)
Backlink: A link to one website from another. More backlinks, especially from credible sources, help increase organic SEO rankings.
Blockchain: A blockchain is a digital record of transactions. The name comes from its structure, in which individual records, called blocks, are linked together in a single list, called a chain. Blockchains are used for recording transactions made with cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, and have many other applications.
Blog: An online platform for a person, group or people or a company to publish written content accompanied by images and/or videos.
Blogger: An person who generates content for blogs, either personal or professional.
Bounce Rate: this performance metric is essentially how long people stay on your website before leaving (bouncing). If you have a high bounce rate, that means users are leaving without interacting with your content which may be because your website is taking too long to load or the content you have doesn’t feel relevant to them. Your website’s SEO will be dinged for having a high bounce rate too.
Brand Awareness: The extent or level to which a potential consumer can recall and identify a particular product or service. Increased brand awareness is one of the two customary important goals for a digital advertising campaign (the other being a conversion of some kind).
Breadcrumbs: A navigation trail on a website that allows you to see where the current page is in the hierarchy/structure.
Broken Links: Links to pages which no longer exist or have been moved to a different URL without redirection. These links usually serve pages with the “404 error” message.
Browser: A software program with a graphical interface that people use to navigate all the information available on the internet. Examples include Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.
Cache: Serves static versions of dynamic web pages to reduce server load, bandwidth and increase page speed.
Call to Action (CTA): A phrase included within an ad, or a graphic element such as a button, which invites the audience to take a certain action.
Canonical: The preferred/main page when multiple pages have very similar content. If there are multiple versions of similar pages, the canonical rel tag tells the WebCrawler that the page linked is the definitive version. Each non-canonical page must link to the canonical version with this link.
Captcha: A challenge/response test to reduce spam. Usually asking people to type in the characters they see in an image or solve a simple math problem.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): A web language used to apply styles to web elements such as font size, color, background & alignment.
Categories: Ways to organize content on a site, especially blogs. This can help with SEO results as well by including main keywords in the category titles and URL structure.
Citation: Mention of your business name or address on another web page, with or without a backlink.
Clean Code: All websites are written with code. Clean code just means that the code is streamlined and organized, making it easier for search engines to crawl it.
Click-Thru Rate (CTR): The percentage of people who actually click on a link after seeing it.
Click Type: there are different ways in which a user may click an ad or organic result in search engines. The most commonly known click type is the headline. Within organic search engine results pages (SERPs), there is ‘jump-to’ link that enables users to get to specific pages or sections of a page quicker. With ads, there are Sitelink extensions– which are another form of a click type.
Confidence Intervals: this concept is useful in making valid design decisions based on quantitative user research data. Entire users are the entire population; we then take a sample, or participants of a study, and find the sample value. For example, this can be 4 minutes to complete a user task. We took the sample because we can’t test the whole population. By presenting a range of values that we’re fairly certain contains the real population value, we are able to gauge how likely it is to get the same value that we would see in the whole population. (NNGroup)
Content Management System (CMS): A computer application that supports and organizes digital content using a simple and user-friendly interface. WordPress is an example of a CMS.
Content: Any text, image, video, audio, app, or other material published on the Internet for audience consumption.
Continual Improvement: often synonymous with continuous improvement, Wikipedia describes this as an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once. Delivery (customer valued) processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness, and flexibility.
Conversion Rate: how many visitors take actions that you want? Conversion rate measures that as a percentage of people who completed the conversion and divided by the total number of users who visited your website or web page. So, you may want people to sign up to your newsletter or subscribe to your blog, or click on a tool you have, all of these are conversations (micro- and macro-conversions). If your conversion rate is low, you might need to improve your marketing tactics or you may be targeting the wrong audience. Most websites have a goal of a high conversion rate because that’s the ultimate metric of a website that’s performing well.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): The process of analyzing data and consumer behavior to optimize conversion rates on websites.
Conversion Tracking: The line of code that allows it to be possible to monitor how many conversions have occurred during any specific time period.
Conversion: A desired action taken by a website visitor, such as making a purchase, registering for an event, subscribing to an e-newsletter, completing a lead generation form, downloading a file, etc.
Cookie: Information stored on a website visitor’s browser. A cookie tracks the visitor’s movement on the website and is used to remember the visitor’s behavior and preferences. These do not transfer across browsers.
Copywriting: The use of words to create compelling text usually used to sell products or capture people’s attention.
Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA): The cost of acquiring one customer. Typically calculated by dividing the total amount spent on an advertising campaign by the number of customers acquired through that campaign.
Cost-Per-Lead (CPL): How much an advertiser pays, on average, for each ad click that results in lead conversion. CPL is calculated by dividing the total amount spent on a campaign by the number of leads generated.
Crawler: An automatic function of some search engines that index a page, and then visit subsequent pages that the initial page links to. As the cycle continues over time, search engine crawlers or “bots”/”spiders” can index a massive number of pages very quickly.
Cryptocurrency: a digital currency in which transactions are verified and records maintained by a decentralized system using cryptography, rather than by a centralized authority. They are often referred to as coins or tokens, as well.
Customer Experience (CX): Customer experience can be seen as a big circle that encompasses the entirety of a customer’s interaction with your business. Customer experience involves every single interaction a customer has with your brand. So, that includes when they engage with your product or service, call up customer service, email someone in your company, and think about your brand in general. More: Customer Experience vs User Experience
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): A type of software that covers a broad set of applications and helps businesses manage customer data and interactions, helps facilitate sales and marketing efforts, assists with customer service, and manages employee and vendor needs. Salesforce and CiviCRM are an example of a CRM software.
Dashboard: Any area of administrative control for operating applications, especially social media settings, blogging software, and user profiles for websites that offer multiple customization options.
Dedicated Hosting: Website hosting that is not shared with anyone else. You have a dedicated server serving only your website without sharing resources with other sites.
Deep Linking: When you create a backlink to an inner page of a website (any page that isn’t the homepage).
Digital Marketing: An umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the internet. This includes mobile phones, paid advertising, social media, blogging, and any other digital medium.
Design Thinking: A human-centered ideology that is supported by an accompanying process. “The design thinking ideology asserts that a hands-on, user-centric approach to problem-solving can lead to innovation, and innovation can lead to differentiation and competitive advantage. This hands-on, user-centric approach is defined by the design thinking process and comprises 6 distinct phases, including Empathy, Definition, Ideation, Prototyping, Testing, and Implementation.” (NNGroup)
Design Sprint: ‘a time-constrained, five-phase process that uses design thinking with the aim of reducing the risk when bringing a new product, service, or a feature to the market.’ For more, see the Design Sprint Kit by Google here.
Design Systems: ‘also known as ‘pattern libraries’ or ‘component libraries’—promote quality, consistent UX design across products; and expedite the work of designers, developers, and anyone else working on a website, application, or any digital design.’ Read more about design systems.
Disavow: The Google Disavow tool that allows you to tell Google which backlinks it should ignore when calculating your site’s ranking.
DNS: Stands alternately for “Domain Name Service,” “Domain Name Server,” and “Domain Name System.” The DNS is a name service that allows letters (and numbers) that constitute domain names to be used to identify computers instead of numerical IP addresses.
DNS lookup time: a performance measurement that measures the time it takes for your domain name to be translated into an IP address. Many hosts provide their own DNS servers but they aren’t always that fast. If your lookup time is above 100ms, you might want to invest in a third-party DNS service.
DoFollow: A backlink that can be followed by search engine spiders/crawlers/bots.
Domain Name: A unique name made up of letters, numbers, dashes, and periods to identify a website such as www.keymedium.com
E-commerce: Electronic commerce is the buying or selling of products/services on the internet.
External Link: A link on a web page that points to a web page on a different site/domain name.
Funnel: When you guide web users through a predefined funnel that usually has multiple calls to action. For example visit website > buy product > buy upsell > join newsletter is a “funnel.”
F-Shaped Pattern of Reading on the Web: ‘Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.’ More here.
Geo-Targeting: The practice of search engines displaying results dependant on your location.
Google Analytics: A free, browser-based tool that allows users to track many different statistics concerning an owned website. It is also linked with Google Adwords and allows the opportunity to better track conversions and consumer behavior.
Google Trends: A tool that shows search density by keyword. It can show the keyword popularity in comparison to others, as well as popularity over a given amount of time.
Header Tags: These page elements represent different levels of headings in HTML. From the largest (H1) to the smallest (H6), these define the titles/headings and sub-headings of web copy. For SEO and reader benefits, headers should contain keywords wherever possible. Also known as “h-tags.”
HTML: Hypertext markup language (HTML) refers to the text-based language which is used to create websites.
Hyperlink: Known as “link” for short, a hyperlink is a word or phrase which is clickable and takes the visitor to another web page. This page can be within the same site or on a completely different site.
Impression: When a user views an online advertisement or web page. This can be referred to as a web page visit as well.
Inbound Link: A link from another website directed to yours, also known as a “backlink.”
Index: The actual collection of data and websites obtained by a search engine, also known as “search index.”
Inverted-pyramid writing style: a type of writing style in which an article starts with the most important information. (NNGroup)
IP Address: This series of numbers and periods represents the unique numeric address for each Internet user.
Java: Java is a powerful programming language that is independent of platforms, meaning it can run on multiple computers and operating systems.
Keyword Density: The percentage of a keyword that appears on a page in comparison to the rest of the text. If you have 100 words but 3 of those are your target keyword: you would have a 3% keyword density. You typically don’t want a keyword density higher than 2.5%.
Keyword Research: The process of researching words and phrases to determine their search volumes, commercial intent, and level of competition in search engines. And keyword strategy is about the decisions you make on the basis of that keyword research. Keyword research is important because it will make clear which search terms your audience uses. If you are optimizing for words people don’t use, you’ll never reach your audience.
Keyword Stuffing: When a keyword phrase is used excessively throughout a web page to falsely increase keyword density. This is not encouraged nor is it a best practice.
Keyword: A word or phrase relevant to your line of business that you want to optimize your website and web pages to appear in search results when people are looking for content related to those words.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI): A quantifiable measure used to evaluate the success of an organization, employee, etc. in meeting objectives for performance.
Landing Page: A web page a user lands on. This is commonly from clicking on an online advertisement or a link.
Lead: A potential customer. In digital advertising, a lead is someone who has given you their contact information, often by signing up for a newsletter or filling out a form to download gated content.
Link Building: The process of increasing the number of links to your website. It may involve generating more interesting or newsworthy content, creating a blog, asking clients to link, plus many other techniques. It is good for SEO to build both a high quantity of links to a website, preferably from credible sources.
Listings: A website’s presence in a search engine or directory, and is not necessarily indicative of its search engine positioning.
Lookalike Audience: An group of people who are similar to your existing customers which helps improve your conversion rates. You can use Lookalike Audiences when running online digital marketing campaigns.
Macro conversions: Macro conversions, again, are what they sound. These are the conversions where people have completed the purchase: they bought that dress for their night out. (Then they may have tagged you in their Instagram photo.) However, macro conversions aren’t only purchases. They can be people submitting lead forms or completing registration forms to attend an event.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): a lead who has indicated an interest in what a brand has to offer based on marketing efforts or is otherwise more likely to become a customer than other leads.
Meta Description: The description of a web page that appears in search engine results pages.
Meta Title: The title of a web page usually seen in the browser’s taskbar or in search engine result pages.
Microsite: A microsite is a small website. These are typically used for promotional purposes for a new product launch, event, special initiative, etc. They can also be set up to be a series of dedicated landing pages for advertising campaigns.
Micro conversion: A micro conversion is just as it sounds: it’s a small step or action a user (potential customer or past customer) takes to buying your product or service.
Mobile Search: Any internet search conducted via a mobile device.
Mobile-First: A design principle used to structure and develop websites for mobile. It is slightly different than mobile-friendly in that it goes beyond simply being responsive. It is responsive by default, however, mobile-first websites incentivize content creators and web developers to show the most relevant, useful content first, and as quickly as possible. This ensures the best experience possible. Mobile-first also has performance implications, which calls for using the most optimized code possible and fast loading for the best user experience possible.
NoFollow: A tag that can be added to links telling search engines not to follow them or give them any weight when calculating rankings. Any paid or affiliate link should have the nofollow tag.
NoIndex: A tag used to tell search engines not to index the current page.
Off-Page SEO: Search engine optimization techniques that are applied without making changes to your website– such as link building or increasing social signals.
On-Page SEO: Search engine optimization techniques that are applied by making changes to the website.
Organic Link: A backlink to your website that is created naturally by another webmaster.
Organic Search Results: Also known as “natural” search results. These are search engine results that have not been paid for but instead generated by content and SEO efforts. These results are generated by search engine algorithms.
Outbound Link: A link on a web page that points to a web page on a different site/domain name.
Page Rank: A Google-based metric that determines how authoritative a site or web page is based on the incoming backlinks.
Page Title: The title of a web page.
PHP: A programming language also known as Hypertext Preprocessor and is usually used to serve dynamic content and interactions with databases.
Plugin: A file or bit of code that can be easily installed to add new functionality to a website or content management system.
Position: Same as “page rank” in reference to search engine listings.
Progressive Web Apps (PWA): are user experiences that have the reach of the web, and are reliable, fast, and engaging. This new level of quality allows Progressive Web Apps to earn a place on the user’s home screen, exactly like traditional apps (but without the marketplace or Play store).
Query: The term(s) entered into a search engine or search bar on a website by a user.
Redirect: A link redirecting a user to a new landing page. This is common if the URLs on a website change and traffic need to be redirected.
Research Reliability: the probability of getting the same number, if running the same study twice. This can be operationalized based on these probabilities.
Research Validity: do findings translate in the real world? This is tougher to operationalize but can happen once a business decision is made based on a research recommendation by analyzing if it moves the needle (based on ROI).
Return on Investment (ROI): ROI is the percentage of profit from a given marketing initiative.
Request for Proposal (RFP): “A request for proposal is a document that solicits proposal, often made through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement of a commodity, service, or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit business proposals.” Generally, government, nonprofits, and enterprises will issue RFPs and then will go through an evaluation process. (Wikipedia)
Robot: Also known as “bot.” See “crawler.”
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): a lead who is a prospective customer that is ready to talk to a sales team. Typically, this lead has expressed enough interest in your product or service, that they’re ready to move into your sales process.
Search Engine Algorithm: A unique formula that search engines use to determine the significance of a web page. Many factors are taken into consideration in an algorithm, such as the relevance of the content on the web page, backlinks, how well the web page is optimized, its credibility, etc. Each search engine has its own algorithm and they constantly change and update.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM): Using search engines to market to your target audience either through search engine optimization or paid search campaigns.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Optimizing your website and strategy to gain higher rankings in the organic search engine results.
Search Engine Results Page (SERP): The page of results you see after conducting a search in a search engine such as Google.
Search Engine: A website that allows users to search the internet for specific information by entering keywords.
Search Term: The precise word or phrase(s) entered into a search engine by a user (also called a “query”).
SEO Best Practices: A series of techniques used to best optimize content and websites. There are a handful of tactics used that are considered to be “best practices.”
Semantic Web: a proposed development of the World Wide Web in which data in web pages is structured and tagged in such a way that it can be read directly by computers. The term refers to the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3)’s vision of the Web of linked data. Semantic Web technologies enable people to create data stores on the Web, build vocabularies, and write rules for handling data. Linked data are empowered by technologies such as RDF, SPARQL, OWL, and SKOS. More from W3C here.
Shared Hosting: Website hosting that is shared with other websites. The server resources are shared equally between the users which is fine for smaller sites.
Share of Voice: an analysis of which websites rank most often for a given set of keywords in organic search. More on share of voice.
Site Audit: Conducting a full review or analysis of a site to meet a variety of goals. Such as ensuring a smooth user experience by checking for broken links or an in-depth SEO audit to identify onsite SEO problems.
Site Speed: How fast a website loads: the faster it loads the better!
Sitemap: A page that links to all other pages on the site allowing spiders to easily find all of the pages on your website.
Spider: A bot or piece of software that is used to crawl the internet and index data.
Style Sheet: A design template used for defining the layout of multiple pages within a website, most commonly seen in the form of “CSS” (cascading style sheets).
Tag: A keyword (often in a string) that is attached to a blog post or media file. Tags help organize content so it’s easier for a user to find.
Target Audience: A group of people that will be interested in your product/service/blog: eg my target audience is internet marketers and small business owners.
Third-party resources: this can be a performance metric where examples of third-party tracking are using tracking analytics, remarketing pixels, social widgets, and ads/advertisements. Many of these tools are installed because (not great) website creators don’t want to create everything from scratch so they add content that isn’t new, which slows down your website. Make sure this isn’t happening to you by using website speed tools.
Time on site: a performance measurement like bounce rate, this metric measures how long a user stays on your domain. If they look at another page, that time is measured, but if they click on another domain the timer stops. It’s measured as a sampled average across all pages with user activity not a literal timer per user.
Time to first byte: TTFB, a performance measurement, is the time between when your visitor clicks “go” to your website’s response back to the browser. If that delivery speed is too slow and titles take too long to appear, users may question how legitimate the website is. The byte time is the delivery speed from the website’s original server to the viewer’s ISP.
Time to start render: a performance measurement where the render time is the time between a request and the content being displayed. Users will only be engaged if that speed is right and they can interact quickly. Even if your website is “fast enough” perceived speed sometimes matters more. You might want to look at your website’s “Speed Index,” which measures how long it takes “above the fold” content to render.
Title Tag: A form of meta-data used by search engines to categorize web pages by title. Search engine algorithms traditionally value title tags to determine/categorize page content.
Traffic: How many people visit your website.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL): This string of letters and numbers separated by periods and slashes is unique for every web page.
Unique Visitor: A visitor to a website that is only counted once in a given time period despite the possibility of having made multiple visits (or sessions). This metric is determined by users’ cookies.
Usability Evaluation: “Usability testing and other UX evaluation methods can be divided into two major categories: formative evaluation and summative evaluation. Both have their place, but at different stages in the design lifecycle, and they have different characteristics, for example in the number of test participants needed for a good study.” (NNGroup)
Usability Evaluation, Formative: tells you what aspects of your design work or don’t work, and why. One such type is heuristic reviews, cognitive walkthroughs, and the most common one being usability testing– which is carried out throughout the design process– we create tasks for users to complete through the design, ask them to think out loud, and we observe the user’s behavior and explore when they struggle or make an error. The idea is to understand what specifically is working or not working, and why. Five users are typically enough for a test. By learning about what doesn’t work in our design, we can go back and rework that aspect to improve the experience. Formative Evaluation is used throughout the design process, supporting iteration to a better product overall. Use this during the early parts of the design process and employ it frequently. (NNGroup)
Usability Evaluation, Summative: tells you overall how usable your design is compared to your competitors or to a given benchmark. This is normally carried out when you have a complete design or a shipped product. Again, users perform tasks with your product, normally unassisted like they would in real life, and then they grade the experience on a pre-defined scale against pre-defined criteria, which could include things like satisfaction, ease of use, Net Promoter Score, and so on. A Summative Evaluation will tell you how usable or satisfying the experience is. It can be performed at various points through the product life cycle. It will help you and your team with how your iterations compare. In order to get reliable ratings, you need a large representative sample. This takes time if the product isn’t live. It isn’t helpful if you want to learn quickly to improve design..but it is useful if you want to see, overall, how your product compares to its competitors or to your previous iterations. Use when you can obtain a large representative sample, your product is complete, and you want to know how it is performing generally. (NNGroup)
User Experience: encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services, and its products. (NNGroup)
Visit: The number of people that reached your website.
The Vortex: a user-behavior pattern that describes the phenomenon whereby a user takes a single intentional interaction which is then proceeded by a ‘series of unplanned interactions that create a sense of being “pulled” deeper into the digital space’.
Web crawler: (Sometimes called a bot, robot, or spider) Search engines work by indexing all available web pages and scoring them based on a number of factors to gauge their trustworthiness or popularity.
Webmaster Tools: Usually meaning Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools you can get additional information about your website’s status in the search engines.
Website weight (measured in bytes): this performance measurement is the overall weight of your website. The more your website weighs (in bytes), the longer it will take to load. Reduce the weight by reducing image sizes, removing widgets that aren’t necessary, and implement minification or concatenation plugins.
Webmaster: The owner and/or administrator of a website.
WordPress: An open source CMS which is used for blog and website publication. This is one of the most widely used content management systems in use online and powers over 25% of the top 10 million websites in the world. WordPress is a versatile, easy-to-use content management system that is free to use. It also has a huge ecosystem of community-developed plugins to add and extend functionality out-of-the-box, as well as eliminates vendor-lock-in.
World Wide Web (WWW): Invented by Sir Tim Berners Lee in 1989 and commonly known as the Web. He wrote the first web browser in 1990 at CERN, which was made available to the public in August 1991. It wasn’t until 1993-94 that the Web was adopted by the general public when websites for general use became available. The Web is an information system on the internet that allows documents to be connected to other documents by hypertext links, enabling the user to search for information by moving from one document to another.
Ali Jaffar has been building dazzling websites and creating amazing online experiences for over a decade. His mastery of the latest innovations in web development results in world-class website experiences set apart by show-stopping style and seamless functionality. A highly sought-after consultant, Google Analytics qualified individual, and fifty-time award-winning web development guru, Ali lends his talents to build and bolster digital experiences for a wide array of clients, with a keen focus on web design for nonprofit organizations. When Ali’s not helping his clients grow or providing pro bono services via his Coding For Causes program, you can find him doing yoga, walking his dog, exploring beautiful open spaces, enjoying a nice bike ride, or writing pieces about technology and the world on Huge Thinking.