A Short Guide to Digital Marketing Acronyms & Lingo

February 17, 2021
Tory Gray
Tory Gray

Originally posted 5/1/2012. Lightly edited for republishing in 2020.

Digital marketers tend to throw a lot of acronyms around, and sometimes we forget that everyone else doesn't necessarily know (or care!) what they mean. It's because they mean so much to us, and there are so many nuances within the field, that we like to be specific about how we define ourselves to others. 

Therefore, I'm going to attempt to break down the different roles we play and the acronyms/lingo we use to describe them. And so we shall begin! 

Digital Channel Lingo

SEO - Stands for “search engine optimization,” and relates to the art and science of trying to rank a website in organic search results. Sometimes, however, people will refer to an "SEO" and mean all of the following roles. Confusing, huh? 

SEM / PPC / Paid Search - Stands for “search engine marketing” and “pay-per-click” marketing and advertising. These cover a related (or sometimes the same) concept, both of which refer to online advertising. “Pay-per-click” refers specifically to search engine paid advertising on search result pages, most often Google AdWords and Microsoft Ads. 

SEM is a bigger umbrella of paid online advertising, including display ads, remarketing (also called retargeting). There are many (many) online ad networks out there, big and small, that may be included as well. However, this generally does NOT include paid advertising on any social channels. This is an example of a “performance marketing” channel.

Performance Marketing - Implies the management of a paid advertising platform, usually search (Google Ads) or social (usually Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.) It specifically does not include organic channels, like organic social or organic search.

Social Media / SMM / SMO - Social media marketing and optimization, respectively. They both refer to using social media sites for marketing purposes, whether they are paid (Facebook for Business) or free (posting to Twitter). 

It encompasses the process of setting up social networking accounts to work together, as well as building your website in a way that functions optimally when users share your content on websites like Facebook & Pinterest, using formats like OpenGraph and Rich Pins markup. 

Paid Social - An example of a “performance marketing channel,” paid social marketers ensure your business is found through paid advertising on social media channels, using common advertising and display marketing tactics, while - hopefully - closely managing your advertising spend.

Digital Titles Lingo

Community Manager - Closely related to social media marketing (SMM), a Community Manager is usually in charge of creating buzz around one or more social "communities" or networks, be it Yelp, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, or some combination thereof. 

Copywriting & Content Writers - Because search engines value quality content, we do too. An SEO copywriter is a copywriter with SEO keyword research and implementation skills. They write compelling content that includes the keywords that you are trying to rank your website for, so you stand a better chance of ranking for it. 

Inbound Marketer - A much more broad term, inbound marketing generally includes many marketing tactics (not just the online ones) in an attempt to drive traffic to a website. This can include SEO, PPC, going to events, public relations (real-life PR and the online variety) and more. 

Link Builder - Link building is hard to do, and though it's a large part of SEO, many search engine optimizers don't offer this as a service directly. They will use a variety of means to garner quality, related links for a website (we hope). These guys are tricky because the results they can get can be pretty phenomenal. 

Or they could do nothing for you. 

Or they could get you kicked off of Google. 

So, buyer beware. 

Affiliate Marketer - Much like the title might suggest, an “affiliate marketer” runs affiliate programs. Affiliate programs enable website owners to use copy and advertisements for products and services of different companies and get a commission for either the traffic, sales or leads they send their way. 

Email Marketer - Likely another intuitively named role, these marketers use email to get users to your website, buy something, or... do something else you want them to do. It also includes growing the email list to increase the reach of the email campaign. This often involves a large amount of testing over time & strategic user flow setup to improve the rate of return on an ongoing basis. 

Analytics Manager - This person spends all day looking at, analyzing, reporting and making decisions based on the data they gather from an analytics program like Google Analytics, Omniture, etc. 

Conversion Optimizer - If you want more sales and/or leads, you want someone that can do this. A conversion optimizer is intimately familiar with conversion best practices, or how and why users do what they do on websites. They use that information, along with data from a/b and multivariate tests to try and get users to do more of what you want them to do once they are on your website. That can be buying something, buying more things, buying more quickly, giving you better leads, etc. 

Public Relations (PR) - An SEO public relations professional is an asset that's hard to find. That's because SEO's don't typically have the media connections PR pros do, and PR pro's generally don't understand the complexities of SEO - probably because they're busy maintaining their media connections. 

In order to combine the two, an SEO PR pro needs to have both the connections and the technical (and content creation) know-how; not just how to be compelling to a reporter, but also how to be compelling to a search engine. 

Account Manager - An SEO Account Manager either: 

1.) Coordinates projects or client accounts and does actual Internet marketing work 


2.) Handles the account/project management coordination and assigns tasks to other, internal Internet marketing folks to complete them. 

Quality Assurance (QA) Specialist- Somebody has to check all that content and make sure we spelled "superfragilisticexpialidocious" correctly! And double-check to see if Analytics code was properly implemented, and people can buy things on your site...  the list goes on. An SEO QA, or “quality assurance” specialist, is the one who makes sure this happens smoothly and nobody sees our silly mistakes. 

CMO - “Chief Marketing Officer” - the head of all marketing within an organization.

Growth Marketing Manager / Growth Hacker  - Someone in charge of multiple digital (or IRL) channels which are aimed at growing business results.


Analysts vs. Specialists vs. Managers, VPs & Directors vs. Ninjas vs. Rock Stars vs. Everything Else 

These kinds of qualifiers can tell you more about the role that a person is playing in their organization, from the seniority of their position to the culture of the company. However, these titles can mean different things across different organizations.

Digital Methods (Strategies & Tactics) Lingo

Online Lead Generation - Lead generation combines sales knowledge, usability, best practices, testing and strategy to increase the number of leads a business gets from a website. 

Usability - Traditionally considered a web design role, usability is becoming more and more important to Internet marketing in general. Without a website that's easy to use, users just won't do what you want them to do - as often as you want them to do it. A usability expert will use best practices in combination with testing - user, a/b and multivariate testing - to improve how a visitor interacts with your website. 

Local Optimization - A local optimizer specializes in the geographically targeted aspect of SEO and online marketing. This entails increasing website traffic and sales/leads from local listings like Google My Business (GMB), map websites like Google Maps or Apple Maps and Mapquest, review sites like Yelp, Angie's List, HomeAdvisor, and directories like or 

Mobile Optimization - This is a person that lives & breathes their smartphone (and/or tablet) - and what happens on them from a marketing perspective. It can include a mobile website, a responsive website, mobile applications (like those games you download on your iPhone or Android,) AMP pages and any other methods in which people engage with your brand in a digital - but non-desktop - manner. Because mobile searches are often about local services and destinations, this job often involves elements of local optimization. 

CPC - Generally this stands for “Cost-per-Click”, but occasionally it can also stand for “Cost-per-Conversion.”

CTR - This one’s short and sweet: “Click-Through-Rate.” What percent of the time - when a thing (usually a search listing, social post, or advertisement,) is seen, is it actually clicked on?

CTA - “Call To Action” - what are you asking people to do?

CPA - “Cost Per Action” or “Cost Per Acquisition”

LTV / eLTV - “Life Time Value” and “Estimated Life Time Value.” Refers to the value of a particular customer or segment of customers. For example, you could compare the LTV of customers from different channels, to better understand what value you are getting from one vs. the other.

SERP - “Search Engine Results Pages”; when you search for something on Google, the SERPs are the results that return.

CR - Conversion Rate. What percent of people that start (any action that you care about) vs. how many finish?

B2B, B2C - “Business-to-Business” and “Business-to-Consumer”, this term relates to who a business sells its products or services to.

UX / UI - “User Experience” and “User Interface”

Digital Marketing Strategy - An Internet marketer in this role focuses on bringing all the separate tactics together in a cohesive manner, sometimes in combination with off-line activities, in order to accomplish the goals of the project. They must understand the puzzle, where all the pieces fit and help the digital marketing team put them all together. 

Hopefully, I have shed some light on some cryptic terms and helped you to understand some of the nuances of our industry. I believe I covered the important ones but if there is something I left out, please let us know in the comments below this entry. 

If you have questions about how I can help you develop a home-run digital marketing strategy or SEO strategy, please contact us.

This content was originally written by me at Fusionbox, during my time there, which ran from Aug 2010 – May 2012. Given that they no longer offer digital marketing services, they were nice enough to let me re-purpose this content. They’ve been “lightly updated” for accuracy, given the time lag between the original posting date and today. You can check out their custom web development services on, and my digital marketing services here.

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