Call us at 970.744.3340|Login
Oct 23
Online advertising glossary

Online advertising glossary

Ever since the first banner ad emerged in 1994, the digital advertising world exploded with new terminology seemingly going the way of Wall Street with exchanges, DSPs, SSPs—turning this new industry into some sort of obscure alphabet soup. With even more acronyms focused on data, tech, segmentation, movement, attribution, and management, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the confusion of it all—especially if you’re new to digital advertising or the world of ad tech. (We were all there at one point.) Wouldn’t it be nice to have some sort of bookmark-able online advertising glossary to turn to? Well, it’s your lucky day.

Without further ado, here’s your go-to, bookmark-able, online advertising glossary.

#  A  B  C  D  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  P  R  S  T  U  W  Y



404 error: A “file not found” error for a web page that displays when a user attempts to access a URL that has been moved, renamed, or no longer exists.

410 error: A “file deleted” error for a web page that displays when a user attempts to access a URL that has been permanently removed without a redirect. Best for communicating with a search engine that the content is no longer available.

503 error: A “Service Unavailable” error that displays when the server is overloaded or under maintenance. This error implies that the service should become available again at some point.

504 error: A “Gateway Timeout” code that means the server is a gateway or proxy server, and it is not receiving a response from the backend servers within the allowed time period.



Ad exchange: Ad exchanges are technology platforms that facilitate the buying and selling of online media advertising inventory from multiple ad networks. The approach is technology-driven as opposed to the historical method of negotiating price on media inventory.

Ad group: A single set of ads with an associated bid and audience within a campaign. Each campaign is made of ad groups based on product types, target audiences, and targeting methods, like using demographics or remarketing lists.

Ad network: Serves as an intermediary between advertisers and publishers, and aggregates large amounts of advertising inventory from a publisher’s website.

Ad serving: The process or technology associated with delivering, or serving, online advertisements to an end user’s computer by an ad server. The ad server allows different ads to be served in order to target different audience groups.

Ad tag: A small piece of code that defines the ad space where ads display on a website. It includes parameters that describe the inventory advertising campaigns can target, which may in turn display ads in the ad space.

Ad tracking: Methods used to monitor and record when ads are being viewed by visitors to your site.

Advertiser: Someone who manages online advertisements.

Attribution: Measurement of the value of each user interaction that contributes to a conversion within a campaign—allows marketers to more accurately measure the success of a campaign.



Business-to-business (B2B): The exchange of products or services from one business to another business.

Business-to-consumer (B2C): The exchange of products or services from a business directly to a consumer.

Banner ad: A banner ad is a form of advertising that uses a graphic display to advertise for a company or product. Banners can contain images, animations, video, and text.

Behavioral targeting: A targeting tactic that uses a user’s previous web browsing history to display relevant advertisements to them.

Bounce rate: Also known as “abandonment rate,” the bounce rate refers to the percentage of a given page’s visitors who exit without visiting another page on the same site.

Buyer persona: A research-based representation of the ideal buyer for a company. You can transfer these personas to audiences for targeted campaigns.



Category: A descriptive that refers to a subject covered by a website or creative, such as dogs or art. It also refers to a way to organize content on a website, especially blogs.

Click-through rate (CTR): The action of clicking an ad and being taken to another web page via a hyperlink. CTR is calculated by taking the number of clicks your ad has received, divided by the number of times your ad is shown.

Click-through URL: A destination website address that a viewer goes to when they click on an ad.

Conversion: The measure of the number of times that a tracker has been displayed has been successfully linked to a previous creative impression or click.

Contextual targeting: Targeting sites that categorize themselves in a specific area or topic of websites/publishers.

Contextual keyword targeting: A targeting tactic that allows advertisers to target URLs based on the keywords that appear within website pages.

Cookieless targeting: Targeting tactics (such as contextual keyword targeting) that do not require cookie-based data to employ.

Cost-per-acquisition (CPA): Uses algorithms to optimize for cost per action/acquisition. Should represent the target you wish to pay in order to attain a conversion (i.e., purchase, download, form submit, account sign-up, email sign-up, etc).

Cost-per-click (CPC): Cost-per-click means advertisers pay each time a user clicks on the ad. CPC advertising works well when advertisers want visitors to their sites, but it’s a less accurate measurement for advertisers looking to build brand awareness. CPC’s market share has grown each year since its introduction, eclipsing CPM to dominate two-thirds of all online advertising compensation methods.

Cost-per-impression (CPI): Cost per impression (CPI) refers to the cost of internet marketing or email advertising campaigns where advertisers pay each time an ad is displayed. Specifically, it is the cost or expense incurred for marketing potential customers who view the advertisement(s).

Cost-per-thousand (CPM): A marketing term used to denote the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on one web page. The M in CPM stands for “Mille”, derived from the Latin word for 1,000.

Crawler: Sometimes known as a “spider” or “spiderbot,” a crawler is a program that systematically browses the World Wide Web in order to create an index of data. Commonly referred to in digital marketing as the search engine variety, which crawls search results and provides data to search engines to index those pages.

Customer relationship management (CRM): Software that uses data analysis about customers’ history with a company to improve business relationships with customers.

CRM onboarding: An automated feature that allows clients to upload a CRM list to the platform to provide Audience Insights and targetable consumer profiles on both desktop and mobile devices from your CRM data.

Cascading style sheets (CSS): CSS is a standard language used to create an email or web page. (Also see: HTML and Javascript)

Call to action (CTA): A message that motivates a customer to take the desired action.

Click-through rate (CTR): Uses algorithms to optimize for click-through rate. Should represent the target percentage of users you hope to click on your ad, It is defined simply as “the amount spent to get an advertisement clicked.”



Demographic: The segmentation of an audience into more specific groups using parameters such as gender, age, ethnicity, annual income, parental status, etc.

Data management platform (DMP): A DMP is a centralized data management platform which: Allows you to create target audiences based on a combination of in-depth first-party and third-party audience data, accurately target campaigns to these audiences across third-party ad networks and exchanges, and measure with accuracy which campaigns performed the best across segments and channels to refine media buys and ad creative over time.

Demand-side platform (DSP): A demand-side platform (DSP) is a system that allows buyers of digital advertising inventory to manage multiple ad exchange and data exchange accounts through one interface. Real-time bidding for displaying online ads takes place within the ad exchanges, and by utilizing a DSP, marketers can manage their bids for the banners and the pricing for the data that they are layering on to target their audiences.



Frame ad (traditional banner): Frame ads were the first form of web banners.[16] The colloquial usage of “banner ads” often refers to traditional frame ads. Website publishers incorporate frame ads by setting aside a particular space on the web page.

Frequency: The number of times a visitor to a website is shown a single ad. Ad servers use cookies to track the impression count of ads served and to prevent any given ad exceeding a set maximum number of permitted views per person.

Frequency capping: Using cookies to track the impression count of ads served and stopped any given ad being shown to a single visitor more than the set number of times.



Graphics Interchange Format (GIF): A lossless format for image files that supports both animated and static images.



HyperText Markup Language (HTML):  The standard language used to create a webpage or email.

HTML5: A type of display ad creative that features animations or interactive elements. (Also see: CSS and JavaScript)



Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB): The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is a standards bureau that evaluates and recommends standards and practices for interactive advertising. The IAB issues compliance seals that verify that companies are compliant with IAB standards and guidelines.

Impressions: An impression is the display of an ad to a user while viewing a web page. A single web page may contain multiple ads. In such cases, a single page view would result in one impression for each ad displayed.

Inventory: The total number of ad views or impressions that a website has to sell over a given period of time (usually, inventory is figured by the month).

IP address targeting: Also known as IP targeting, the process of targeting internet advertising to specific households based on their Internet Protocol address (which is the string of numbers assigned to your internet connection by your Internet Service Provider).



Javascript: An object-oriented computer programming language commonly used to create interactive effects within web browsers. (Also see: CSS and HTML)



Key performance indicator (KPI): Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a method of measurement that evaluates the success of an organization or an activity in which it engages.



Lifestyle: Market segmentation of website traffic or CRM data that provides analytics on trends in online and offline interests, hobbies, affiliations, personalities, and values.

Lookalike audience: Lookalike audiences allow advertisers to target more people who look like their established customers. Uses existing custom audiences or conversion data (conversion pixels) as a “seed” and an audience is built of similar users. It can be used to target people who are similar to sets of customers for acquisition, site registration, purchases, and coupon claims or drive brand awareness.



Pay-per-click (PPC): Pay-per-click is an internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which advertisers pay the publisher (typically a website owner) when the ad is clicked.

Potential reach: Use algorithms to optimize for greatest reach by impression and provides the number of users you could reach with your targeting selection.

Programmatic advertising: The automated process of buying and selling digital ads.

Publisher: The person or entity who owns or hosts a website.

Purchase behavior: Market segmentation of website traffic or CRM data that provides analytics on interest-to-buy, intent-to-buy, and past-purchase trends in online and offline purchases, why they purchase, and where.



Redirect: An instance of redirecting one URL to another.

Retargeting: Also known as “remarketing,” retargeting is a form of online advertising that can help advertisers keep their brand in front of bounced traffic after they leave their website. Retargeting is a cookie-based technology and is enabled once enough cookies are collected on a website to retarget those users.

Return on investment (ROI): Return on investment is “the bottom line” on how successful an ad or campaign was in terms of what the returns (generally sales revenue) were for the money expended (invested).

Real-time bidding (RTB): Real-time bidding refers to the means by which ad inventory is bought and sold on a per-impression basis, via programmatic or instantaneous auctions, similar to financial markets. Instead of bulk buying and inventory-centric buying, RTB mimics stock exchanges and uses computer algorithms to automatically buy and sell ads in real-time. Empirical analysis suggests that RTB encourages the use of per impression context and targets the ads to specific cookies, primarily based upon demographic and behavioral data, and hence dramatically increases the effectiveness of display advertising.



Software as a Service (SaaS): A term used to describe software that you purchase on a recurring basis, rather than as a one-time fee.

Search engine marketing (SEM): Marketing activities that generate website traffic from search engines, like SEO efforts and PPC advertising.

Search engine optimization (SEO): The process of optimizing website content to affect the online visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results.

Search engine results page (SERP): Shows relevant results for a searched word, question, or phrase.

Supply-side platform (SSP): A supply-side platform or sell-side platform (SSP) is a technology platform with the single mission of enabling publishers to manage their advertising impression inventory and maximize revenue from digital media. As such, SSPs offer an efficient, automated, and secure way to tap into the different sources of advertising income that are available, and provide insight into the various revenue streams and audiences.



Target audience: The intended audience or readership of a publication, advertisement, or other messages.



User interface (UI): The visual part of a web page, application, or operating system through which a user interacts with software. Behind the scenes, a UI specialist will design the visual looks, and the front-end developer or engineer will be responsible for the interface running and operating.

User experience (UX): The overall experience of a person using a website or product, often referring to ease of use, design, branding, and function.



Win rate: Measures the number of impressions won out of those bid on.



Yield: Yield is the percentage of clicks vs. impressions on an ad within a specific page.

Have a suggestion of something to add? Let us know! While you’re here, dig into further explanations of the terms and concepts in our  “What is?” series.

About The Author