Online Marketing: Acronyms and Lingo

Now that there are numerous marketing acronyms associated with online marketing, it’s difficult to keep up with all of them. Throw some phrase terminology on top of it all, and it can be absolutely overwhelming. This guide will hopefully help those who are a little behind on the language of the trade.

It’s important to note that not all metrics will be useful for particular types of campaigns. And, few reporting mechanisms incorporate all of the metrics listed here.


CPA – Cost Per Action or Acquisition

CPC – Cost Per Click

The cost of attracting a visitor to your website. To calculate CPC within a CPM model:

CPC=CPM/(CTR x 1000)

If the CPM is $15 ($15 Per 1000 impressions) for a banner ad with a CTR (Click-Through Rate) of 1% (1 click for every 100 times an ad is displayed), the CPC would be $15 / (.01*1000) or $15/10 = $1.50. Each site visitor (click-through) costs $1.50, which is the effective CPC.

This is only one way of calculating CPC, as it applies to several other advertising models, some of which do not operate on a CPM basis. For instance, CPC for a Yahoo! Site Submit Pro campaign would be set by a rate-card price in all likelihood, which does not require calculation. CPC in an auction-based scenario is dependent an advertiser’s bid amount for a specific keyword or phrase, in relation to the bidding of other advertisers for the same keyword or phrase. There are yet more factors in an auction-based CPC, which we won’t cover here.

CPM – Cost Per Impression

The standard for CPM is 1,000 impressions.

CPS – Cost Per Sale

CTR – Click-Through Rate

The percentage of clicks an advertisement receives, measured in relation to impressions or the number of times an ad is shown.

P4P – Pay for Performance

Sometimes Play or Placement is substituted for the word Performance. A reference to auction-based, rate-card or other sliding-cost, ad networks such as Google’s AdWords. The advertiser only pays when a user performs a specified action in relation to the advertisement, such as click on a sponsored ad.

P4P Encompasses:

• CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)

• CPL (Cost Per Lead)

• CPS (Cost Per Sale)

• CPC (Cost Per Click)

PFI – Pay For Inclusion

PI – Paid Inclusion

Same as above. Yahoo! is now the lone purveyor of the Paid Inclusion model, with their Site Submit Pro program.

PFP – Pay For Performance (Play or Placement)
(see P4P)

PPC – Pay Per Click

Advertiser only pays for each click on their ad. This model applies to ad auctions – P4P and Paid Inclusion – PI, as well as shopping engines and other channels.

PPL – Pay Per Lead

Quite similar to PPC, being that a click is essentially a lead.

PPS – Pay Per Sale

A model where an advertiser pays for a sale event, as opposed to a click. This could also be considered Pay For Performance, in the broad sense.

PV – Page View(s)

ROI – Return on Investment

ROAS – Return on Ad Spend

This is usually a measurement expressed as a revenue to spend ratio, for example, the campaign had a ROAS of 6.2. This means that for every dollar spent on the campaign, $6.20 of revenue was generated. This is calculated by multiplying CPC by the total number of clicks, and dividing the transaction total or the total of all sales by that number: Total Sales/CPC*clicks = ROAS.

RON – Run Of Network

ROS – Run Of Site

SEM – Search Engine Marketing

SEO – Search Engine Optimization

SERP – Search Engine Results Page(s)

UV – Unique Visitor(s)


Above the Fold – in reference to ad placement in traditional media, such as newspapers, this defines the top half of a page. On the web, this portion of the page is viewed without scrolling.

Banner – an advertisement sized at 468 X 60 pixels, which is the most common ad size used on the web.
A similar format which is like a banner ad turned on its side is the Vertical Banner at 120 x 240 pixels. The vertical banner is usually displayed in-line with text or on the side of a webpage, whereas a banner is most likely to be displayed at the top of a webpage.

Black Hat – a reference to “illegal” or “unsanctioned” SEO tactics, which seek to deliberately trick search engine spiders into poorly indexing a page or determining inappropriately a page’s rightful placement in search results. “Spamming of search results” or “Spamdexing” is another term which means much the same thing as Black Hat SEO.

Cookie – a small text file that is deposited on your computer. It identifies the computer during subsequent visits to the same web site.

Half Page Ad – an advertisement sized at 300 X 600 pixels.

Impression – the display of a single creative to a consumer on a website, also called an ad or page impression. A single page view can have more than one impression if there is more than one advertising location on the page, or if dynamic ad rotation is used.

Interstitial – advertising creative placed in-between the origin website and the destination website, either physically or in time (also called a pop-up window). The interstitial is analogous to the advertising inserts in the Sunday paper that usually go straight to the trash. Newer concepts called superstitials or metastitials attempt to be more acceptable to consumers by being less intrusive, subtle and more interesting with the use of rich media components such as video.

Inventory – the ad space available for sale on a website. Ad inventory is determined by the number of ads on a page, the number of pages containing ad space and an estimate of future page views. Also called ad avail.

Leaderboard – an advertisement sized at 728 X 90 pixels, which usually gets premium placement at the top of a web page and is often considered a premium size.

Media Buyer / Media Planner
– an individual working directly for an advertiser, or for an advertising agency, charged with the responsibility of purchasing advertising space. An interactive media buyer makes online ad space purchases, sometimes through an ad network.

– any standardized measurement used for comparison purposes. Online advertising metrics include Click-through Ratio and Unique Page Views.

Rate Card
– a presentation of the current rates to buy and sell advertising space on an ad network.

– a metric that estimates, for a given reporting period, the Unique Visitors to a website or network of websites, as a percentage of all Unique Visitors considered accessible to that website or network of sites. This is the percent of the audience “reached”.


Remnant Space or Inventory – website ad space that is relatively undesirable and is often resold to a third party to be filled with low dollar advertising. Online remnant space is analogous to 3 AM television air time.

Rich Media
– a general term used to describe advances in online creative that take advantage of enhanced sensory features such as animation, audio and video. Rich media takes many different digital file forms. The serving of rich media creative can require more bandwidth and software modifications for older systems. Rich media creative will become more useful as user bandwidth increases.

Skyscraper – an advertisement sized at 120 X 600 pixels, which usually gets side-of-the-page placement and is often considered a premium size, but not quite as much as a Leaderboard. A similar format size is the 160 X 600, refered to as the Wide Skyscraper.

Tracking Pixel
– a method used to track post-click actions. A small piece of HTML code is placed within the advertiser’s action or transaction confirmation page. This causes a clear, single pixel GIF image (1 pixel X 1 pixel) to make a request to a server, which counts the request as a user action. Javascript can also be employed to insert values in to various parameters, which call also be sent to a server, which will log the values, for instance, the total of a transaction, or the number of items purchased.

Tracking URL
– a web address that contains additional tracking parameters which allow the destination site to identify the origin of a click. A click, for example, might come from an organic search result or a paid ad. A URL without tracking parameters might look like this:, while a URL with tracking parameters might look like this:

Unique Visitor and User Session
– a unique IP address visiting a website for the first time in a specified period. Unique visitor is more often associated with long periods of time, such as a 30-90 days. User Session is more often associated with shorter periods of time, such as 30 minutes – 2 hours. Both are valuable traffic metrics. Frequency control in ad campaigns is a function of unique visitor and user session parameters.

Viral Marketing
– the use of a network, such as a referral or affiliate program, to grow a user base in a manner similar to the spread of a virus. This term was first used to refer to Hotmail’s viral growth, prompted by including a message at the bottom of every email and a link to the hotmail site. Good viral marketing campaigns have extraordinary ROI.

White Hat – a reference to “legal” or “sanctioned” SEO tactics, which do not seek to deliberately trick search engine spiders into poorly indexing a page or determining a page’s appropriate placement in search results.