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You Speak SEM? 38 Digital Marketing Acronyms - Do You Know Them All?


You know by now that digital marketing and student recruitment go hand-in-hand. And as those industry tech terms and acronyms get thrown around at meetings, it helps to be in the know. Here's a useful primer to keep you in the loop when everyone starts talking alphabet soup.

In late 2014, Forbes released an article highlighting the predictions for digital marketing in 2015. They predicted a rise in the importance of content, the interconnectedness of marketing channels, the use of mobile marketing and the acceptance of data-driven, targeted campaigns.

In early 2015, We Are Social published a report that studied the digital habits of more than 240 countries. The report indicates that 3 billion+ people are active Internet users. This is a 42% penetration of the global population and it is growing. Internet users with active social media accounts tally up to 2.1 billion.

The digital marketing age is here and changing all the time.

In this growing and changing marketing climate it can be hard to keep up with all of the digital marketing terms, especially those connected to social media. Your prospective students live in this digital world. Do you think they know more of these acronyms than you do? Probably.

Below we share 38 of the most important digital marketing acronyms, or, DMAs, for marketing strategies in the digital age—are you speaking this language?

1. CMS (Content Management System)

Web applications designed to help users create, edit and manage websites.

2. COS (Content Optimization System)

Describes Content Management Systems (CMS) optimized to deliver the most personalized web experience possible to customers.

3. CPA (Cost-per-Action also known as CPC or Cost-per-Click)

Describes Internet advertising in which the advertiser pays for each action someone takes. This can include clicks, impressions, form submissions, etc.

4. CPL (Cost-per-Lead)

The amount of marketing costs necessary to acquire a lead.

5. CR (Conversion Rate)

This is the percentage of people who complete the desired action on a webpage. For example, if a webpage offers a contact form the CR would describe the percentage of visitors who filled out the contact form. 

6. CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

These software programs allow companies to keep track of their interactions with existing and potential customers. They may keep track of things like contact information or email conversations in order to keep customer information in one place and ensure that it is easily accessible.

7. CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)

This is the process of using design techniques, optimizing principles and testing to improve websites. CRO can be used for web pages, landing pages, social media pages and other sites used for marketing.

8. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

The language used to describe design and presentation of web pages.

9. CTA (Call-to-Action)

This link encourages visitors to take a desired action on a website. Examples include “click here” buttons, hyperlinked texts, and images that connect to landing pages.

10. CTR (Click-through Rate)

The percentage of visitors that advance (click-through) from one page to another on a website.

11. DM (Direct Mail or Direct Message)

DM may mean “direct mail” which is the delivery of advertising content to inboxes or it can mean “direct message” which is the form of messaging used between on Twitter.

12. FF (Follow Friday)

This is an important Twitter hastag for marketers (#FF or #FollowFriday). It is used on Fridays when Twitter users tweet Twitter handles that might be interesting to their followers.

13. FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

The standard used to transfer computer files from one host to another over the Internet.

14. GA (Google Analytics)

A Google service that generates statistics that marketing workers can use to get to know their audience and track their customers. It makes visual assessments of visitors’ interactions with webpages.

15. HTML (HyperText Markup Language)

Language used to create web pages. There are many other coding languages other than HTML.

16. HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

The foundation of data communication on the World Wide Web.

17. KPI (Key Performance Indicator)

This is a measurement, which companies use to determine the success of an employee or an activity. KPI can be used to track progress toward marketing goals. Webpage views and blog traffic are KPIs.

18. MT (Modified Tweet – see RT)

A MT is a re-posting of another Twitter user’s tweet that has been modified. This can mean adding additional information to the previous tweet.

19. NPS (Net Promoter Score)

This is the degree to which people would recommend a business to others. It is determined by a survey and is important for identifying ways to improve. It can be calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who would not recommend a certain business from the percentage of customers who would.

20. PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor)

General-purpose programming language used for web development.

21. PM (Personal Message)

A PM is a message that is sent via Facebook (FB), and is private.

22. PPC (Pay-per-Click)

PPC ads direct traffic to the advertiser’s website. Advertisers pay a certain amount every time their ad is clicked; the money spent on getting these advertisements clicked is PPC. It is important for assessing paid advertising campaigns.

23. PV (Page View)

This is a request to load a webpage on the Internet. Knowing the number can help marketers analyze changes on the website and determine whether they generate more or less traffic.

24. QR Code (Quick Response barcode)

This is a marketing technique in which scannable barcodes are used to connect online and offline marketing. People can use smartphone apps to scan QR barcodes and be directed to websites via their device. This is much more widely used in China today than the US. 

25. ROI (Return on Investment)

The benefit of the investor resulting from an investment of a resource, such as time or money—what are you getting out of what you are putting in?

26. RSS (Rich Site Summary)

RSS feeds publish information that is frequently updated. Publishers syndicate data automatically, like blog posts or news stories. Signing up for a websites RSS will enable a user’s browser to monitor the site and give updates.

27. RT (Retweet)

This is a re-post of a tweet originally posted by another Twitter user. “Please RT” can be used if a Twitter user wants their followers to retweet a post.

28. SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

Internet marketing that promotes websites by increasing visibility in search engine results pages.

29. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO techniques are used to help websites rank higher in search results. SEO can help websites become more visible by using title tags, keywords, image tags, inbound links and so on.

30. SMM (Social Media Marketing)

This is marketing in which social media is used to generate website traffic or gain more attention through social media.

31. SMO (Social Media Optimization)

Social Media Marketing (SMM) that is improved to increase interest in a company, brand, etc.

32. SLA (Service Level Agreement)

Describes an agreement between a marketing team and sales team that is used to align strategies. The agreement defines the expectations each side has for the other.

33. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer, or TLS- Transport Layer Security)

Establishes an encrypted link to share sensitive information, such as login credentials, on a web server, browser or email server.

34. UGC (User-Generated Content)

This includes blog posts, videos, photos and so on that are created by the users of a site or social media platform

35. UV (Unique Visitor)

An individual visitor to a website who is counted only once. This is used to determine the number of visitors rather than the number of visits. For example, if one visitor goes to a certain site 10 times the site visits may be listed as 10 but the UV is 1.

36. UX (User Experience)

This is the unique overall experience each customer has with a business. It starts with the discovery of the entity and is present through the subsequent interactions. This term is most often associated with a user's experience with a website or mobile app but extends beyond just the digital experience.

37. WOM (Word-of-Mouth or WOMM - Word of Mouth Marketing)

This is inexpensive advertising that involves information passing directly from person to person.

38. XML (Extensible Markup Language)

Language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents that is readable by both humans and machines.

There are many, many DMAs that are important for digital marketing, and the more you know, the better you will be at implementing digital marketing practices and communicating with your team and the prospective students who are natives in this field.

What do you see missing from this list? Which terms/acronyms are important to you?