Digital Marketing Key Terms

To get started with a career in digital marketing, it is important that you first understand digital marketing key terms used within the industry.  Like learning any foreign language, you will need to familiarize yourself with these terms and immerse yourself with their application in various settings.

We have put together a list of some of the most important terms, common mistakes, and acronyms to help you learn the language of professional marketers.

Essential digital marketing key terms to get started


SEM = Search Engine Marketing

SEO = Search Engine Optimization

These are two very different terms in the world of digital marketing.  SEM refers to running ads within a search engine platform like Google, Yahoo or Bing.  These would be the ads you see at the top or right side of the search results page.  Companies pay a lot of money to be at the top of those results based on the keywords of your search.

SEO refers to a series of steps that optimize your website to be better understood and ranked for search engine results.  You are optimizing for the search engines, not marketing within them.  SEO involves organizing your content properly, adding important metadata like titles and descriptions, and managing images among many other steps.

SEM vs SEO Digital Marketing key terms


PPC = Pay per Click

CPC = Cost per Click

These two terms are interchangeable in the language of marketing and both refer to paid search advertising.  To measure your marketing in terms of PPC or CPC means that you are setting up ads to be clicked on based on keywords, locations, or demographics.  There are a wide variety of kinds of PPC or CPC ads you can run, but the basic idea all boils down to one concept: if the user clicks your ad, you will be charged for it.  You can setup many variables about how your ad is shown and where, but if they click you pay.

What is a SERP?

SERP = Search Engine Results Page

When you type in keywords into your favorite search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing, then you will get dozens (if not more) of pages in results to choose through.  The goal of every search engine is to deliver the most relevant content for you, based on the keywords you provided, and at the top of the search engine results.  The SERP is simply just the pages in which you are seeing as a result of the words you entered.  As a company, you always want to strive to be at the top of page 1 of any SERP.

Digital Marketing SERP

What does Bounce Rate mean?

According to, Bounce Rate is summarized as “a metric that measures the percentage of people who land on your website and do completely nothing on the page they entered.” 

When you invest so much time and money into getting people to your website, you want them to stay as long as possible.  The more relevant your content, the longer they will stay on your page and read what you have to offer.  Even better, the user clicks on some other call to action on your site, and follows the funnel path that you want them to get in touch with you or buy your product. 

The Bounce Rate is a measurable value that tells you the percent of users who leave the site after viewing just one page.  This tells you that these users got to your landing page, but did not find it useful enough to continue to click around the site.  Google Analytics does a great job of breaking down the Bounce Rate against other useful data points so you can learn from your users and possibly find issues with specific landing pages.


ROI = Return on Investment

KPI = Key Performance Indicators

Although they sound somewhat similar by their acronym, these are two very different concepts in the world of digital marketing.  ROI is a measure of how much return you are getting on your investment.  For example, if you are spending $1000 on paid search ads,  and you sell $5000 worth of products, then you can measure your ROI as $4000 earned from your $1000 investment.

Key Terms for Digital Marketing

Meanwhile, KPIs are various performance indicators that will help you to measure your digital marketing success rates.  There are some standard industry KPIs like conversion rate and open rate for emails, but each business may have their own custom set of KPIs, such as landing on a specific web page or number of page views, to understand their customers that much more.  If you know your KPIs before you begin designing your digital marketing campaigns, it will help you to make informed business decisions as you choose your keywords, write your ad copy, and more.


With each definition, you understand more digital marketing key terms that will help you speak the language more fluently.  Imagine going to a foreign country when you barely speak the language and spending time with fluent natives.  The more you are immersed and in the language every day, the more you will pick up on the nuances of how to speak and understand it.  The same is true for digital marketing key terms, their application in various use cases, and the way it is used in the real world.

If you would like to learn more about digital marketing training or need custom digital marketing help to get your campaigns off the ground, DWC offers various classes and certifications to help you get started.  Talk to a student advisor to learn more.

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