Digital Advertising

Defining Digital Advertising Terms and Lingo

March 22, 2022 8:00 AM

At Helix House, we use a lot of industry jargon that may not be the common tongue for most. We try to catch ourselves and explain along the way, but sometimes we don’t even notice if we slip up and throw in a CTR, ROI, KPI, or slug into the mix. That’s why we’re compiling a list of digital advertising terms and defining them for you today. This ongoing project will be updated each month. If you have any suggestions, comments, or additions, please let us know!

General Industry Terms

A/B Testing

A/B testing is a common strategy used in digital advertising to see if one variation of an advertisement campaign or landing page is working better than the other. The two campaigns run side-by-side to gather data. This data is analyzed and used to determine which campaign is performing better, meaning which campaign is bringing in more sales for less money. Once a winner is selected, it is then used as the next control and compared with another version to isolate and identify the ad element that causes the audience to respond favorably to the ad. A/B testing is considered “complete” when target key performance indicators are exceeded.


An audience or demographic in digital advertising is your ideal customer base. It’s who you want to market your product/service to and who typically will buy from you. For example, your general audience profile could look like this:

  • Age: 35-65
  • Income: Upper 10% of earners
  • Gender: N/A
  • Career: Business Owners
  • Location: Phoenix, AZ

Your audience will look different depending on which platform you use to run your ads. Facebook, for example, can narrow down your audience even further by listing hobbies and interests.

Bounce Rate

A bounce rate is the rate at which people leave your website/landing page after not interacting with it. The bounce rate expresses such visits as a percentage of the total visitor sessions, within a specific time frameA bounce is when someone loads your page and immediately closes it. For example, say your website was opened 100 times in one day and 75% of visitors leave the page without interacting with it. The bounce rate will then be 75%. This metric determines how successful a page is performing without the need of a heat map, as it is a quick indication if people are impressed (a low bounce rate) or dissatisfied (a high bounce rate) with your website or landing page.


Your brand is who you are. It’s your specific voice (how you speak to your audience on various platforms), your colors, your font, your imagery — it’s what makes you, you. This digital advertising term is hard to define as it is so broad. Chances are, if it’s not your product or service, then it’s part of your brand. A brand is not your products or services. It is what makes your business recognizable online. For example, Doggy Brace’s brand is very subtle — green colors to represent nurturing and healing, with high-quality images of happy pups to convey how easy and comfortable their dog ACL braces are. Their tone is more lighthearted and fun as well. That is their brand, boiled down to the bare minimum.

Brand Awareness

The extent or level to which a potential consumer can recall and identify a particular product or service. The stronger your brand, the more likely you are to build higher brand awareness.For example, you can identify what company is “the golden arches” without much more context. Or if you see an apple on the back of a phone or laptop, you know exactly what brand made that piece of tech. That is brand awareness.

Call to Action (CTA)

A call to action (CTA) is a phrase that calls people to act. It’s the roadmap that helps lead your customers to where you want them to go. It’s the “Call now” and “Sign up today” that you see commonly on ads, websites, landing pages, and more.

Display Advertising

Display advertising is when graphic ads are shown on a web page. The term originated in newspapers, and the principles still apply. Display ads can be graphics, videos, interactive images, and more.


In the most simplest of terms, a keyword is what users search in Google and other search engines. It’s the “best cat food” and “digital advertising near me” queries that people want to know about. Keywords are specifically chosen by advertisers to boost their website’s, blog’s, and ad campaign’s performance. The better you perform using that keyword, the higher your website will rank on Google. In paid search advertising, the position of the ad within the results is determined by bidding. The highest bidder on a keyword usually gets the top position.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

Key performance indicators is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. They’re your goals — you want to hit a certain KPI to know if a campaign is profitable or not.

Landing Page

A landing page is where users are directed to after they click on a display or paid search ad. Landing pages are not your main website. They are built specifically to generate leads and convert them into paying customers.


A lead is a potential customer. In digital advertising, a lead is someone who has given you their contact information, signed up for your services, submitted a form, or called.

Paid Search

The placement of ads within search engine results, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Return on investment or return on costs is a ratio between net income and investment. A high ROI means the investment's gains compare favorably to its cost. For example, say you’re investing $1,000 into an ad campaign. That particular campaign brought in $3K in sales. Your ROI is 3:1, which is profitable.

Copywriting Terms

Above the Fold

Above the fold is an old newspaper term that has since bled over into copywriting and design. The more modern way to describe it would be “above the scroll,” meaning it is all of a website’s content that can be seen before you have to scroll.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is sending promotions, discounts, information, and freebies to your client’s emails. Emails are gathered via your website and usually have an exclusive offer attached to them to incentivize users to sign up.


A headline is the larger text on a website that usually precedes paragraphs, graphics, images, or bullet points.


Metadata is the behind-the-scenes SEO data that search engines use to rank pages. This includes the meta title, URL, meta description, alt data in photos and images, and keywords.

Meta Description

The meta description is the little blurb of text you see under search engine results.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines. SEO targets unpaid traffic rather than direct traffic or paid traffic. This is done through metadata and keywords.

SEO Title

SEO or Meta Titles are the results you see in search engines. They are above the meta description and are the clickable text.


A slug is a website’s URL.

Paid Search Terms

Ad Group

Every one of your ads won’t work for every keyword. Keywords and keyword groups are unique; therefore, you will want to create groups of ads for your campaign. These different sets of ads for each keyword group are called ad groups. You also have the option of setting a CPC amount for every ad group you create.


In paid search, you have to bid on keywords. The higher you bid (the higher your ad budget for that keyword), the more likely your ad will appear on Google's front page.

Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

A clickthrough rate is exactly what it sounds like -- the rate at which a user clicks through your website or ads. Your CTR is used to read the performance of your ads, keywords, and free listings. The clickthrough rate is the number of clicks that you get on each ad, divided by the number of times that your ad gets shown. For example, if you received 5 clicks and 100 impressions, your CTR would be 5%.


A conversion is when someone clicks on your ad and buys from you. Your ad converted them into a customer.

Cost Per Acquisition/Action (CPA)

Your cost per acquisition -- also known as cost per action -- is the fee a company will pay for an advertisement that results in a sale. CPA advertising is often used when companies are undertaking affiliate marketing on external websites, blogs, or social media. The performance of your ad dictates the fee, meaning the more people who buy from you using your ad, the lower the CPA will be.

Cost Per Click (CPC)

As an advertiser, you pay every time someone clicks on one of your ads, whether they buy from you or not. This is the cost per click. It is important to drive down the cost per click so you can make the most money every time your ad converts.

Google Ads

Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords pre-2018) are often considered the king of paid search. It's the most used platform, therefore you're likely to get the most customers if you advertise on it. However, don't forget to use Bing and Yahoo as well -- those do churn out conversions at a steady rate. When it comes to Google, though, here's what you need to know:Google Ads  offers PPC/CPC and CPM advertising as well as site targeted banner, text and rich media ads.By using Google Ads, you can show your ads on one or both of Google’s advertising networks:

  • Google Search Network: Encompasses any ads that appear on Google search results pages, including Google Search, Google Shopping, Maps and its various search partners.
  • Google Display Network: Covers any website that partners with Google, and other Google-owned sites such as Gmail and YouTube.

Keyword Group

Groups of similar keywords, separated into their own ad campaign.

Product Listing Ads (PPC)

This is just a fancy way of saying paid search advertising.

Quality Score

An ad's quality score is generated by the search engine based on your CTR, keyword relevance, landing page quality, and previous performance on the search engine results page. The higher your quality score, the more likely your ad will perform better, get a lower CPC, and receive higher conversions.

Design Terms


“Sans” literally means “without”, and a sans serif font does not include any extra stroke at the ends of the letters. Though there are no set rules for when to use a serif or sans serif font.


Script typefaces are fonts or type based upon historical or modern handwriting styles and are more fluid than traditional typefaces. A couple of example script fonts include Alex Brush and, Grand Hotel.


Kerning refers to the space between two specific letters (or other characters: numbers, punctuation, etc.) and the process of adjusting that space improves legibility.

Lorem Ipsum

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text used by the design industry. It’s used as placeholder text and has a more-or-less average distribution of letters, making it look like readable English, as opposed to using ‘Add content here, add content here’ within designs when the copy isn’t quite ready


A hex is a six-digit number used in HTML, CSS, and design software applications to represent colors.


A color palette comprises colors that can be utilized for any illustration or design work that represents your brand. The chosen colors should be designed to work harmoniously with each other.

Warm Colors

Warm colors are made with red, orange, yellow and various combinations of these colors. They give a friendly, happy, cozy vibe.

Cool Colors

Cool colors such as blue, green and light purple have the ability to calm and soothe.

Color Theory

Color theories create a logical structure for color. There are three basic categories of color theory: The color wheel, color harmony, and the context of how colors are used. Understanding how to use different colors to convey meaning is an important part of both design and marketing. Here’s a quick guide on how colors affect our brain:


A gradient is a gradual change of colors (such as green turning gradually into blue) or a color fading into transparency. There are two common types of gradients: radial and linear.


A logotype is the name of a company that is designed in a visually unique way for use by that company. Most of the time when people refer to a logo, they’re referring to the brand’s logotype.

Style Guide

A style guide is a set of standards for the design of anything related to your brand, whether it’s a website landing page, business card or printed document. The reason to have a style guide is to ensure complete uniformity in style and formatting wherever the brand is used to ensure no dilution of that brand.


In design, scale refers to the size of an object in relation to another object. Two elements of the same size can be seen as being equal. Whereas elements with a clear variation in size tend to be seen as different.When putting together a design, think about how you can utilize scale to help you illustrate the meaning behind your image. Take the below example; the larger circle appears to be more influential and important than the smaller one. You could even say the smaller circle may be a little timid or shy.

White Space

Whitespace, often known as negative space, refers to the area of a design left blank. It’s the space between graphic elements, images, copy, and anything else on the page. Even though it’s known as white space, it can be any color.An excellent example of white space is the Google homepage. It’s almost filled with whitespace to encourage users to focus on the search bar:


The resolution of an image determines the quality. As a rule of thumb, the higher the resolution, the higher the quality. A high-resolution image will be clear and crisp whereas a low-resolution image will feel a little pixelated and blurry.

UI Design

The “UI” in UI design stands for “user interface.” The user interface is the graphical layout of an application. It consists of the buttons users click on, the text they read, the images, sliders, text entry fields, and all the rest of the items the user interacts with. This includes screen layout, transitions, interface animations and every single micro-interaction. Any sort of visual element, interaction, or animation must all be designed.

UX Design

“UX” stands for “user experience.” A user’s experience of the app is determined by how they interact with it. Is the experience smooth and intuitive or clunky and confusing? Does navigating the app feel logical or does it feel arbitrary? Does interacting with the app give people the sense that they’re efficiently accomplishing the tasks they set out to achieve or does it feel like a struggle? User experience is determined by how easy or difficult it is to interact with the user interface elements that the UI designers have created.

Social Media Terms


Your social media avatar, also known as your profile picture, is a small image that represents you. It can be a real photo of you, a corporate logo, or anything you want your followers to identify as ‘you’ on social media.

Boosted/Promoted Post

A boosted post is a Facebook post (a promoted post is on Twitter) that you put money behind to increase its reach. They’re not ads — they’re normal posts and that you pay to show up on timelines of people who aren’t following you. You can launch them directly from your Facebook Page without using Ads Manager. Like Facebook ads, though, boosted posts allow you to target a specific audience and set an exact boost duration and budget.

Dark Post

A dark post is a targeted social media ad that doesn’t show on the advertiser’s timeline. They only appear in the feeds of target users.

Direct Message (DM)

A Direct Message is a private message between social media users that can only be seen by the sender and the recipient.  

Engagement Rate

Engagement rate tells you how much interaction social media content earns from followers. It is calculated as the percentage of users who engaged with your post of the total number who viewed it. A good engagement rate is usually 1-4%.  


A social media feed is simply the stream content you see from various social media accounts. It is a wall-like layout that displays all your brand’s content from different social media platforms. Think Hootsuite’s layout!


A follower is a user who has subscribed to view your posts. Your posts will automatically populate their feeds. The number of followers of an organization or brand is a key metric of how the audience on social media is engaging with the brand.  


A unique public username on social media accounts is a handle; on Twitter, a handle refers to the username followed by an @ symbol.  


A hashtag (#) is a word or phrase preceded by a ‘#’ sign used to connect posts on social media to other posts on the same subject or a #Trending topic. They are a great way to make it easier for users to search for posts related to specific topics.


Impressions are the number of times your content has been shown on the feeds of social media users. A viewer doesn’t need to engage with a post in order for it to be counted as an impression.


Share refers to how many times a piece of content has been reposted on social media. It allows you to repost someone else’s content on your feedback (and attributes it back to the original poster). Shareable content or content that is useful, entertaining, and inspiring is more likely to get shared by users on social media. On Twitter, a “share” is known as a retweet.


A social media story is a collection of images and short videos that can be shared with other users. A story disappears after 24 hours, making them ephemeral. Marketers use the storytelling aspect of social media to tell stories about brands, products, or services.

SEO Terms

Alt Attribute

An alt attribute, otherwise known as alt text, is HTML code that provides information used by search engines and screen readers to understand the contents of an image. It’s another opportunity to place your keyword in the article without it being too forward-facing.

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the clickable word or words of a link. For example, this is anchor text.


The combination of signals search engines use to assess websites and webpages for the purposes of ranking.


Backlinks are links on third-party sites that point back to your website. For example, a link in this blog that doesn’t point back to Helix House, such as this one, is a backlink! This is also known as an inbound link.

Branded Keyword

A branded keyword is simply a keyword that matches your business’s name, or employees’ names. Some examples of our branded keywords are Helix House, Nathan Rea, Casey Watts, and Cody Eastlick.

Broken Link

A broken link is a link that leads to a 404 not found. Typically, a link becomes broken when:

  • A website goes offline.
  • A web page is removed without implementing a redirect.
  • The destination URL is changed without implementing a redirect.


A technology that temporarily stores web content, such as images, to reduce future page loading times.

Canonical URL

An HTML code element that specifies a preferred website URL, when multiple URLs have the same or similar content, to reduce duplicate content.


Crawling is something done behind the scenes by a third-party website. It’s the process of gathering information from public webpages to update, add, and organize web pages in a search engine’s index.

Domain Authority

Your website’s domain authority is its overall strength that’s built up overtime. The higher your domain authority, the easier it will be to rank a new page or blog on Google’s first page. It’s usually portrayed in a scale of 0-100.

Hidden Text

An older SEO practice that involves any text that can’t be seen by a user that is intended to manipulate search rankings by loading web pages with content-rich keywords and copy. Nowadays, Google tends to disregard hidden text when it looks to rank a newer page.


The Hypertext Transfer Protocol is how data is transferred from a computer server to a web browser.


Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure uses a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt data transferred between a website and web browser. HTTPS is a minor Google ranking factor.


An index is the database search engines use to store and retrieve information gathered during the crawling process.


Indexability is how easily a search engine bot can understand and add a webpage to its index.


A lead is a potential customer who may or may not be interested in your product or service. A lead willingly shares their email address (and usually other personal or contact information) in exchange for something they deem of value from the website, such as a discount code, newsletter, or free promotion.

Noindex Tag

A meta tag that tells search engines not to index a specific webpage in its index.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is anything SEO-related that happens off of your website, such as backlink generation, social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, and more.

On-Page SEO

These activities all take place within a website. These are things like keywords, metadata and alt text, https links, and more.


Page rank is how well you rank on Google. It is based on how many incoming/backlinks your page has.

Page Speed

The amount of time it takes for a webpage to completely load. Page speed is a ranking factor.


A list of pages on a website. There are two types of sitemaps:

  • HTML: This type of sitemap, typically organized by topics, helps site users navigate a website.
  • XML: This type of sitemap provides crawlers with a list of webpages on a website.

Split Testing

Split testing, also known as A/B Testing, is where you test two web pages or landing pages against each other to see which performs the best. This blog of digital advertising termsis an ongoing project and will be continued to be updated with various industry-based and service-based terms. Last updated: March 22, 2021.