Top Ten Online Marketing Related Acronyms Explained

by Kimberlie Hutson

If you’re new to online marketing or you’ve just employed the services of an agency to look after it for you, you’re probably more than a little confused by the language they seem to use. In fact you’re probably feeling like you need to speak fluent ‘internet geek’ just to understand the reports they send over. This should help; it’s the top ten most common acronyms that will fly around any online marketing agency office on a daily basis and what they mean in plain English.


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is probably one of the more obvious ones you’re going to hear. The overriding purpose of SEO is to improve your websites visibility in the organic search engine results pages. This means if you sell green widgets, you’ll want your website to be as close to the top position as possible when someone searches in the search engines for the phrase green widgets. All the major search engines are split into organic and paid results, the organic results will be on the left hand side and this is what SEO concentrates on. The art/science behind SEO is far more complex than I’m going to go into here but suffice to say there are many different factors that impact these results and they can be very time consuming, sometimes taking months before real results start to kick in.


PPC stands for Pay Per Click and is most commonly associated with Adwords (at least in Google). These are the results that appear in the paid results in the right hand side (and often the top few results on the left hand side) under the heading ‘Ads’. The results from PPC will often be much quicker and the premise is that you only pay whenever anyone actually clicks on your ads. You tell the search engine how much you’re prepared to pay for each click and if you’re prepared to pay more than anyone else your ad will appear in the top position, if the person who appears directly underneath you is willing to pay almost the same amount you’re more likely to have to pay that amount you said you were prepared to but if the next person under you is only prepared to pay significantly less than you you’ll only have to pay just above their bid for your ad to appear. As with SEO there are much more complex factors that are taken into consideration but this is only a brief explanation.


SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and can encompass just about anything that involves publicising your website on the internet. It will usually include things like SEO and PPC as well as other factors like social media (so thing like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube etc). Online PR could also fall under this heading.


HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language and this literally is a whole new language to learn. This is the standard language behind most websites and what the search engines read when they look at/crawl your site. The language itself is made up of hundreds of tags which sit round all the content on your website and tell the search engines exactly what’s in that content. Each tag opens with a angle bracket and the tag closes with an angle bracket followed by a forward slash and another end bracket (i.e. < h 1 > Important page title goes here < / h 1 > ). The easiest way to see this is to go to any website and view the page source by hitting ctrl+u on your keyboard.


CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet and dictates the way the HTML code looks and is presented. The language of CSS can be applied to any XML document but is most commonly seen with HTML pages. CSS helps define things like the layout (i.e. if you’re using tables or paragraph breaks) as well as things like the colour being used on site and the types of fonts being used.


XML stands for Extensible Markup Language and you’ve probably already noticed this one if you spend much time on a computer. This language is more generic and is one that’s read by your computer. If you use Microsoft Excel and you save a document you might notice the file extension (the drop down box marked ‘save as type’ under the ‘file name’ box) will usually save as XML by default. When it comes to the world of online marketing you’re probably being told you need an XML sitemap, this simply means having a map of all the content on your site in the preferred format specifically for the search engines to read.


A CRM is a Customer Relationship Manager and these are simply designed to help you manage useful business information. The most common Customer Relationship Management tools are SAP and Oracle and they’re great at making sure your sales team can see what revenues have increased and if the marketing team has recently run a campaign to boost any of these products or services. You can also identify things like loyal customers (so you could maybe offer them a discount on their next purchase) and where your business might be losing money.


A CMS is a Content Management System and will most commonly be used to manage the content of your website. A popular example of a CMS would be Joomla or WordPress and they allow you to access a private admin area where you can create new pages for your website or edit or delete existing pages. If you’ve employed the services of a web design agency they might have used a standard CMS or even an open source (free) one, like the two mentioned above. Or they might have created you your own custom built CMS which might be more expensive but it means it would be tailor made for your needs.


SERP’s stands for Search Engine Results Pages and you’re most likely to hear your SEO telling you you’re at position x in the SERP’s. A standard search engine will return around ten results on each page and this can include things like video content, latest news results, shopping results and standard web sites. Normally saying your site is at position 35 in the SERP’s would mean you website is appearing around the middle of page 4. Ideally you want to appear as close to position one as possible.


URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and the easiest example of this is your website address, so would be your URL. It states exactly where your content is located on the internet. Every page on every website will have a unique URL and like snowflakes no two URL’s are ever the same (if they are you’re creating duplicate content which is a whole other issue).

OK, that’s pretty much it. There are of course plenty of other acronyms and lots of other marketing jargon you might want to get your head around but this should be enough to at least help you translate the basics of the online marketing industry.

Kim works on the SEO for Real Asset Management who sell fixed assets software solutions.