Digital Advertising 101 - Glossary of Terms

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Basic Terms in Digital Advertising and Online Marketing

The FieldTest Team · April 3rd 2019


If you’re new to the world of digital advertising it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Many marketers find themselves turning away from digital ad buying simply because it seems too complicated to comprehend upon first glance. We at FieldTest have made it our goal to make digital ad buying fast, easy, and effective for seasoned advertising professionals as well as marketing newbies. In service of that goal, we’ve created this little glossary of terms to help take some of the mystery out of the ad buying experience.

What follows is a list of explanations of several key terms you may come across in your digital ad buying journey, we hope they will make your first (or hundredth) ad campaign a little more manageable and a lot more valuable!

A/B Testing: A Method for comparing results from two or more different versions of an advertisement. This process is typically used when you have several images and headlines prepared and want to determine which combination resonates best with your audience. Once a winner emerges from A/B testing, you can then use it as a bellwether for all future creatives and continue optimizing towards high performing creative combinations. The ability to easily and effectively  A/B test your ads is a key component of our digital ad platform.

Above The Fold (ATF): A reference to the days of folded print newspapers, Above The Fold means anything seen when a website initially loads, before scrolling down. FieldTest prioritizes Above The Fold placement, meaning your ads created with us will trend towards being displayed proudly in the first moments a viewer lands on a website.

Ad Audience: Often just referred to simply as “Audience”, this means all of the people who will potentially be targeted for your ad. You determine your Ad Audience by selecting one or more key Audience Segments (more about them here)

Ad Network: An Ad Network is a specialized vendor that connects advertisers to the hundreds of ad publishers available. Ad networks act as a single point of contact, helping negotiate supply and demand and making the process of publishing display ads simple and easy.

Ad Serving: The delivery of an ad unit from a web server to the end user’s device, where the ads are displayed on a browser or an application. If a person browsing the web came in contact with your ad, it has been ‘served’ to them.

Ad Targeting: The process of selecting specific audience segments to serve your ads to. Typically ad targeting will be based on past purchases, browsing behavior, geographic location and personal attributes such as age or expressed product interest.

Ad Unit: A size-and-format specification for an ad. There are over 2 dozen ad units to choose from and The Interactive Advertising Bureau has a set of guidelines for sizes here.

Analytics: Analytics is a term for the data (and analysis of the data) that is collected online about a given user’s Internet use and browsing habits. This can be very useful information in determining the appropriate approach to connect with these users. This information is then used to target audiences, understand consumer behavior, improve user experience and optimize  advertising campaigns.

API (Application Programming Interface): An application program interface or API is a code that allows two software programs to communicate with each other.

Attribution: Attribution is all about understanding the steps your customer took to get down the sales funnel. While there are many models to track touchpoints, we firmly believe in a Multi-Touch attribution model (also known as Linear attribution) in which there are several points that push your customer from awareness to purchase. To illustrate this, we developed a conversion stories tab in our platform that allows you to see every interaction your customers had with your ads, from awareness to conversion. When you stick with it over time, you’ll uncover a range of insights that can improve your digital advertising model.

Audience Segment: This is the term used for how you divide your audience into specific groupings, allowing you to create digital ads that speak to people the way they want to be spoken to. Audience segmentation can be a great way to draw in consumers with different interests and goals, allowing you to give people what they want and provide them with an ad they can’t walk away from.

Backup Image: A fallback image for rich media ads. These ensure your ad presence is seen even in the case of poor connection or technical issues with Internet publishers.

Banner Ad: A web banner or banner ad is an advertising image embedded into a web page. They can be a range of sizes and formats, allowing you to create ads that fit your style, needs, and platform locations.

Banner Rotation: Banner rotation is the practice of showing multiple banner advertisements in a single location on a web page. Some call them slides and carousels, and they’ll actively move or change while the user is on the site and when they refresh the screen.

Below The Fold: A nod to the newspaper industry, below the fold is a reference to any content below the initially loaded screen on a website. Users must scroll down in order to see this content.

Bounce Rate: The term bounce rate represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and leave rather without continuing to view other pages within the same site. bounce rate is basically calculated on how much time a visitor spends on your website.

Brand Awareness: The extent or level to which a consumer understands a company and can differentiate it from competitors. It also measures the customer’s ability to recognize brand imagery and associate it with the company’s products and services. Increased brand awareness is one of the two customary important goals for a digital advertising campaign (the other being a conversion of some kind).

Browser: A web browser is a graphic interface that provides you with access to the Internet. It receives information from other parts of the world wide web, displaying it on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device. Browser examples include Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.

Call to Action (CTA): Usually abbreviated as a CTA, this is an icon, image, or line of text that prompts people to take action – usually by clicking on the link and opening a new window or tab on your web browser. By creating CTAs, you help entice visitors to take action and interact with your content, products, and services.

Click: In digital advertising terms, a click is counted whenever someone clicks or taps on your ad – on both web and mobile browsers. The click is also one of the most measurable mediums and metrics in digital advertising.

CTR (Click Through Rate): Click through rate measures what percentage of website visitors clicked on a digital ad they are served while visiting a website. CTR is calculated by dividing the number of clicks an ad received by the number of times it’s been served (or shown on the site), then converting that into a percentage. For example, if an ad received 5 clicks and was shown 1000 times, the CTR is 0.5%. The higher the CTR on an ad, the better it’s performing.

Click Tracker: A click tracker is a tagged landing page URL which helps to track the number of clicks on your digital ads – including text links, links in emails, and any form of an ad that’s clickable. With a Click Tracker, you can easily evaluate the success of your ads.

Close Button: A small button on a digital ad that allows the viewer to close your ad - usually identified by an “X” in one of the corners. These buttons are required on all domestic ad campaigns running in U.S. markets.

Companion Ads: A companion ad is a display ad (or banner ad) that’s displayed near or around a video ad on websites like YouTube. These ad units stay visible after the pre-, mid-, and post-roll media has played, allowing the advertiser a way to stay on the visitors mind without disrupting their video experience.

Contextual Targeting: Contextual targeting is a form of advertising in which the ad’s content is relevant to the website’s content. Examples of contextual advertising might include ads for hair care products on the Vogue website or banner ads for ski resorts on REI’s website.

Conversion: When a customer completes an action that you've defined as valuable, like filling out a form, opening an email, subscribing to a newsletter, or buying something from your website. These customer actions are called conversions.

Conversion Pixel: A conversion pixel is a JavaScript code for an ads manager like Facebook Ads. It’s a 1×1 image pixel placed on a web page (like a “thank you” page) that is triggered whenever a conversion occurs. A Conversion Pixel tracks the actions of users on your website and allows you to better understand your audience, managing what worked and what didn’t.

Cookie: This is small piece of data sent from the website to the user’s computer, allowing websites a reliable way to store browsing history and remember the visitor’s information, behavior, and preferences. Note: this information does not transfer across browsers.

Copy: Text in an ad or text written to be delivered audibly. Styles of copy for digital ads  include headlines, sub-headlines, taglines, and call-to-action (CTA).

CPA (Cost Per Acquisition): Cost per acquisition, known as CPA, is the cost an advertiser pays for every occurrence of a specified acquisition. Examples include a sale, a click, or a form submission like a newsletter. With this metric, you get a better idea of what your business pays in order to attain a conversion.

CPC (Cost Per Click): Cost per click, or CPC, refers to the price you pay for every click in your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaigns. CPC is a way for website publishers to bill advertisers based on the amount of times a visitor clicks on a digital ad.

CPL (Cost Per Lead): CPL is a digital advertising pricing model, which the advertiser pays for an explicit sign-up (or lead) from an interested consumer. Instead of paying for a sale or click, advertisers pay for a customer lead.

CPM (Cost Per Thousand): Also known as cost per mille, this is the cost an advertiser pays for of one thousand impressions (clicks or views) on an ad unit. This is a commonly used metric in advertisement.

DMP (Data Management Platform): A DMP is a platform that allows you to collect and analyze large sets of audience data from a range of sources. With a DMP, you’ll gain new insights about your customer behavior and effectively implement better data-driven marketing campaigns.

DSP (Demand Side Platform): Demand Side Platform is an automated system where agencies, media buyers, and advertisers go to buy digital ad inventory - which usually takes place through bids and real-time auctions.

Exchange: An exchange is marketplace that allows Internet publishers, marketers, and advertisers to buy and sell advertising inventory in real-time auctions. With an ad exchange, an auction is conducted with the help of an algorithm in real-time, providing instantaneous bidding that allows publishers to get optimal prices for their ad space.

Frequency: Frequency is the average number of times an ad is shown to the same consumer during a specific time period. Because multiple users can often use the Internet from the same device, frequency is calculated based on the number of times an ad shows up on a particular device’s browser (both mobile and web).

Frequency Capping: Frequency capping sets a limit on the numbers of times an ad or campaign gets shown to a consumer (within a specific time frame). While frequency can create conversions, too many appearances of an ad can often irritate users. Hence, the reason for frequency capping.

Geographic Targeting: Often referred to as geotargeting, this is the process of selecting an audience for a campaign based on zip codes, designated marketing area (DMA), cities, states, and countries. An example would be an ad for a 4x4 truck showing up in more mountainous regions of the country.

Hot Spot: A “hot spot” is the area of an ad unit that triggers an action or event when the user rolls their cursor over that spot. One of the most popular actions is a banner ad expanding to a larger format video or image of the advertisement.

Impression: This term refers to when a digital ad is viewed once by a website visitor, or gets displayed on the webpage. Whether the ad is clicked is not taken into account when tracking the number of impressions.

In-Stream Video Ads: These types of video ads are injected into video content on websites like YouTube. They can play before, during, or after the streaming video content the user is watching. In terms of effectiveness, ads shown “mid-roll” often perform the best, having higher completion rates and more audience engagement.

Interstitial Ads: Unlike banner ads, native ads, and pop-ups, these interactive ads cover the browser with a full-screen advertisement. They are designed to appear between two different content pages, often in between activities or game levels. For mobile marketing, it’s best to avoid using an interstitial as a pop-up that blocks initial access. Users can easily click or tap the add to visit the destination, or tap an “x” in the corner to quickly close the ad and continue what they were doing.

Inventory: This term refers to the amount of ad space available for publishers to sell to advertisers. Ad inventory is available on a range of platforms, including mobile, website, app, and video. Ad inventory can vary based on the number of impressions that advertisers can get from a particular spacing and positioning of the ad (like above the fold vs. below the fold).

IP Address: An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a unique number assigned to your devices by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Think of this like a home address, an identifier that allows your device(s) to connect to the internet. Note that your IP address can change as you move to different networks (from work, to home, to the cafe, to mom’s house).

IO (Insertion Order): This is the final step of setting up your ad process. An IO is a written agreement between the advertiser and publisher to run you campaign for the specified amount of time and ad impressions.

Keyword: This is a specific word or phrase chosen by digital advertisers to trigger the appearance of their ads within a person’s search results. When a user types that word or phrase, the advertisers ad will appear at the top (or near the top) of their search options. In search engine advertising, the position of the ad within the results is determined by bidding, with the highest bidder usually getting the top position in the search.

KPI (Key Performance Indicator): Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measurable identifying metrics that show the effectiveness of your campaigns across all your marketing channels. With KPIs, you can see your progress (usually on a dashboard) and make necessary adjustments to hit your business goals.

Landing Page: The standalone web page users are directed to after they click on a display ad or paid search ad. These pages usually provide the visitor with a more in-depth analysis of the services offered in the digital ads, and it’s often the first place to convert a sale or lead.

Lead:  Also known as a potential customer. A lead is someone who gives your their contact information by signing up for a newsletter or filling out some kind of form to download more content. This information can include email, phone, and social media handles.

Lookalike Audience: Since most businesses know the demographic and interests of their current customers, a Lookalike Audience helps grow their business by targeting people with similar interests to the existing customers. This can dramatically improve conversion rates and boost your advertising without blowing your budget. You can use Lookalike Audiences when running online display, Facebook, mobile display or just about any other kind of digital marketing campaign.

MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area): These are geographical regions with a relatively high population density at its core (more than 50,000 people). MSAs usually have close economic ties throughout the area.

Native Advertising: A native ad is any type of paid advertising that is indistinguishable in form from the channel presenting it. This is an excellent way to get consumer engagement as it often blends into the content the user is looking at (like a Land Rover ad slipped into a channel filled with auto news).

Overlay: This is a type of ad that floats over webpage content, graphics, or videos. Overlays cannot be blocked by ad-blocking software, which means your advertising content gets more views (and a higher possibility of clicks). Video ad overlays can often be extremely effective for advertisers, as they’re usually small and mildly obtrusive on the platform.

Paid Search: The placement of ads within search engine results that are relevant to a user’s query and keywords. When you use paid search, your ad gets near the top of the search listings and in front of more customer’s faces, which usually leads to more clicks and leads.

Pay per Click (PPC): This is a pricing model where advertisers pay vendors or publishers based on the number of clicks received on the digital ads. The most common form of PPC is paid search ads.

PMP (Private Marketplace): A Private Marketplace, also known as a PMP, is an invite-only marketplace where a top-tier publisher (or group of publishers) offer their “exclusive”  ad inventory to a selected group of advertising buyers.

Polite (File) Load: Polite loading delays withhold the loading of ad creative (usually images) until the publisher’s content has finished loading on the webpage.

Pop-up: Pop-up ads are shown to users in a new browser window that loads on top of the current webpage they’re viewing. Pop-ups are operated by script (e.g., Javascript), which means they can be blocked by a wide variety software. Pop-ups often disrupt the user experience, which can sometimes lead to customer dissatisfaction.

Pop-under: While pop-up ads appear on top of a webpage, a pop-under loads underneath (of behind) the current webpage you’re viewing. Many see pop-under ads as less intrusive than a pop-up because visitors don’t see it until they’ve closed their current browser.

Programmatic Media Buying: Basically, Programmatic Media Buying (or PMB) is the use of automated technology for more efficient media buying. Using data insights and algorithms, PMB ensures that advertisers are reaching the right audience, at the right time, in precisely the right place.

Ranking: Ranking is the position of the pay-per-click (PPC) ad within a search engine’s results. In order to get a higher rank, advertisers often have to pay a higher bid amount in order to stay in their position of relevance to the user’s search.

Reach: Reach is the number of people who see your marketing message (at least once) during a campaign, or the total amount of people exposed to your messaging.  

Referring URL: A referring URL is the address of a webpage where someone clicked on your ad, thus sending traffic to you. Basically, it’s the site a person was on right before they got to your website. All FieldTest ads require a referring URL.

Results Page: This is the page that appears after you enter a term or phrase into a search engine (like Google). Also known as SERPs, this page is important to digital marketers because it’s where ads appear based on the keywords in a user’s search query.

Retargeting/Remarketing: Retargeting serves online ads or display ads to people who have previously visited your website . Remarketing, on the other hand, is a way of re-engaging customers with your products and services, usually via email campaigns. Both retargeting and remarketing help create conversions with people interested in your brand.

RTB (Real-time Bidding): Real-time bidding is the buying and selling of online ad impressions through real-time auctions, occurring almost instantaneously or in the time it takes a webpage to load. This cost of digital ad impressions is determined in real-time based on what buyers are willing to pay for the space.

Rich Media: Rich media is a term used for ads with advanced features like streaming video, audio, animation, or video games. Rich media ads are a great way to amplify your marketing message and get users to interact with your content.

Roll-Over: Often referred to as mouse-over, the roll-over is a type of online advertisement that remains static until the user’s cursor touches the image and brings it to life. This activation often increases the size of the ad or plays a video for the user.

RON (Run of Network): Run of Network advertising is a form of digital marketing in which an ad will appear on any page of any site within a specific ad network. Since there’s no targeting involved with the ad buy, RON is often the least type of digital advertisement.

ROS (Run of site): A Run Of Site (ROS) is an internet advertising term that means a portion of an online advertising campaign targets every page within a given website. This is a great advertising strategy if all the pages of a website relate to the advertising campaign message.

Social Advertising: The creation and implementation of paid advertisements on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin. Social advertising often relies heavily on user data and behavior, providing advertisers a more calculated way to target the audience most excited about their product.

Terms & Conditions: Terms & conditions are a legally binding agreement between your company and the users visiting your website. They often include special arrangements, provisions, requirements, regulations, and standards, all of which help inform the user about the rules they must follow in order to use your website or mobile app. While not required by law, it’s highly recommended you have terms & conditions listed on your website.

UGC (User Generated Content): User-generated content (UGC) is also know as user-created content (UCG). Basically, it’s any form of content that’s been created and posted by users of online platforms like social media and wiki pages. Many content marketers are incorporating more UGC into their campaigns, as it has many benefits for online advertisers.

User Initiation: In digital marketing, user initiation is the term used for ads that require the user to take an action that brings the ad to life. This can include clicking, scrolling, or simply rolling over an ad.

Viewable Impression: A viewable impression is a term used by online marketers to define the performance metrics of ads that were actually viewable when served. In other words, it’s a metric that helps advertisers understand whether their Internet ads had a chance to be seen or not.

View Through: The view through measures a user’s behavior after they’ve been served an ad, tracking their post-impression responses. Google recommends online advertisers track their view-through conversions, as this provides helpful insights into your ad placement and its correlation to conversions (whether people click on the ad or not).

Garrett Griebel