The Digital Marketing Alphabet Soup. What do all these acronyms mean?

Digital Marketing Alphabet Soup

The Digital Marketing Alphabet Soup. What do all these acronyms mean?

There a many acronyms and initialisms that make up the digital marketing alphabet soup. While these terms and phrases are commonly tossed around between marketing professionals, it can be confusing for clients and newbies to keep track of them. Here is a list to help you keep them in order and understand their meanings (feel free to bookmark this post for reference or share it with others):

4 Ps of Marketing

Although this entry is not necessarily an acronym or an initialism, it is part of the digital marketing alphabet soup. The 4 Ps of Marketing are Product, Price, Place, Promotion. Yet, we like to add a few more: Planning, Positioning, Perseverance or Persistence, and of course Profit.


Attention or awareness, interest, desire, action. These are the steps or phases that prospects pass through to become a customer. It is often illustrated as a funnel. This has been updated to include a reverse funnel where current customers help promote the business and become return business.


Business to Business; this is often used to describe a business that provides products and services for other businesses.


Business to Consumer; this is used to describe a business that provides products and services to the consumer, as opposed to other businesses (B2B).


Budget, Authority, Needs, Time. A good salesperson will qualify their lead by trying to identify all four of these elements. If the lead has sufficient levels of all four then they’ll be more likely to close.


Bounce Rate. In SEO (see acronym on this page) a bounce is when the user comes to the page then leaves the website without visiting other pages. This could either indicate that the user was not patient enough or not interested enough with the page or the site to keep exploring OR it could mean that the user found exactly what they were looking for. A bounce rate is the number of users that come and leave divided by the total number of unique visitors. Generally website owners want to reduce their bounce rate. In email marketing a bounce is an undeliverable email. So the bounce rate is the number of undeliverable emails divided by the total number of emails sent.


Customer Acquisition Cost. This is the cost to acquire a new customer. If your average customer spends $100 and $50 is net profit after cost of goods sold, then an acceptable CAC could be $50 or even more when considering the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV or CLTV).


This is an act of legislation that was passed in 2003 which regulates practices in email marketing.


Customer Lifetime Value. This is the value of a customer spanning the life of the customer. It’s higher in businesses that have frequent repeat customers.


Chief Marketing Officer. This is the individual that manages the marketing for corporations. A similar professional who manages marketing for SMBs is often called a marketing manager.


CPA stands for cost per acquisition or cost per action. Cost per acquisition is the cost of acquiring a targeted lead or a new customer. Usually when calculated on automated advertising reports, it’s actually the cost of acquiring the lead since there is no tracking for when the lead becomes a customer (unless it’s through an ecommerce website). For cost per action, the action could be whatever activity you want to track; it could be watching a video, clicking a specific link, scrolling past the fold, or filling out a form.


CPC stands for cost per click and is often used interchangeably with or instead of PPC. It is associated with internet advertising and is the amount for which each user click on the ad costs. It may also be a calculation of what the average click costs according to the click through rate when ads are paid on a CPM basis.


CPM stands for cost per mille. The word “mille” is Latin for one-thousand. It is the cost per one-thousand impressions of an ad. An impression is whenever a user sees the ad.


Customer Relationship Management OR Client Relationship Management. This is an application that salespeople use to track interactions with their leads and schedule follow ups. It usually comes with space to store contact information, take notes on each lead, a calendar and other helpful features.


Conversion Rate Optimization. The process of optimizing your marketing to get more conversions.


Call To Action. All marketing messages should end with a call to action, such as “call now” or “click here”.


Chief Technology Officer. This is a C-level position in a corporporation that handles the technology used by the corporation. They often work closely with the CMO and heads of other departments.


CTR stands for click-through rate. It’s the number of clicks divided by the number of ad impressions.


Cascading Style Sheets. This is a code that is used to build websites. It is used in conjunction with HTML and provides simplified and site-wide coding over HTML-only websites.


Domain Name System. This is the system used by domain registrars that tell the rest of the internet where to go when a domain is visited. For example, when you clicked the link to come to this page your computer browser communicated with the internet and was brought to this site which is hosted on the servers of a hosting provider.


Email Service Provider. Business-level email with features for marketing.


File Transfer Protocol. This is the process of uploading a pre-built website to a web server. An FTP client is used to perform it.


Google Analytics. This is Google’s website traffic tracking application.


Hyper-text Markup Language. This is the most basic code or language for building websites and is as old as the internet itself. While the website may be written in this code it takes a browser (like Firefox) to interpret it. This revolutionary technology allowed linking between web pages.


This is an updated version of HTML which includes advanced coding for features like animation and video.


Instant Messaging. This could be the text messaging equivalent of social media platforms like facebook, or a stand alone messaging system.

IP/IP Address

IP could stand for Intellectual Property or Internet Protocol. Intellectual property includes copyrights, patents and trademarks. Internet Protocol is the system that devices follow when connected to the internet. An IP address identifies each device.


Key Performance Indicators. In sales this may be the number of cold calls, number of contacts, number of pitches and number of closes. In social media it would be things like the number of “likes”, comments and shares. In SEO/PPC it would be things like impressions, clicks, click through rate, bounce rate, etc.


PPC stands for pay per click, as in pay per click advertising. Advertising is available on search engines, many social media networks, video and other ad networks on the internet. There are generally three types of ads: text ads (which have only text and appear in search engines results pages), display ads (which have graphics and text), and video ads. See also CPC.


PR stands for public relations or press release. Even before the advent of the internet, public relations was an effective way to promote brands and business through free (or earned) media. Since organic search engine results and social media are types of free (or earned) media, these are considered to be modern PR channels. While these are a bit more technical in nature compared to news media predecessors in newspaper, radio and TV, the concept of building relationships and providing information to a targeted audience still applies with internet marketing.


Page View. The number of page views tells you how many times the page was visited.

QR Code

QR stands for Quick Response. A QR code is a type of bar code that is most often used with the camera on a mobile device. Once the mobile device scans the code they’re brought to a web link, so a QR code is a way to bring the revolutionary internet feature of hyperlinking to printed products and materials presented offline.


Return On Investment. “It’s not what you pay, it’s what you make.”


Return on marketing investment. This is similar to ROI but it specifically looks at marketing activities.


Really Simple Syndication. This allows blog posts to be displayed on other websites besides the blog itself. See our RSS feed.


Software as a service. This is usually a web application that charges a one-time or monthly fee and the service is automated.


Search Engine Marketing. Some (correctly) interpret this to mean both SEO and PPC. Others use it interchangeably with just PPC (see other acronyms on this page). This is due to the history of the phrase and the evolution of search engines. Initially search engines didn’t have ad space so there wasn’t a profession that managed advertising on search engines. When advertising became a mainstay of search engines the marketers who performed this service needed a name for themselves. Those who do search engine optimization were already called “search engine optimizers” so those who started managing ads called themselves “search engine marketers”.

(PSM or SEA)

Since Mirex Marketing is an advocate of using the word “marketing” as a blanket term, it’s proposed that one of two possible acronyms be created for paid search advertising (and added to the alphabet soup): PSM or SEA. PSM could stand for Paid Search Marketing or Paid Search Marketer or Paid Search Manager. SEA could stand for Search Engine Advertising or Search Engine Advertiser.


Search Engine Optimization or Search Engine Optimizer. Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting a website or domain to appear and rank higher on search engine results pages. The SEO (search engine optimizer) is the professional who performs this service.


SERPs stands for search engine results pages. It’s the page of results that you see after searching for any particular keyword or key phrase on search engines.


Small to medium sized business. There are all kinds of definitions for this. By one definition a business can still be small up to 100 employees, although most small businesses have less than 5.


SMM stands for social media marketing. Some interpret this to mean all activities performed on social media that are used to promote your business. However, the trend of using the phrase “search engine marketers” to refer to advertising professionals has carried over to social media professionals as well. So some use this to refer to social media advertising only.


Since marketing is a blanket term, we suggest that these two accronyms be added to the soup. SMO would stand for Social Media Optimization and SMA would stand for Social Media Advertising.


SMS stands for short message service. It’s another way of saying text messaging.


UI stands for user interface, and UX stands for user experience. They are both part of web design and development but are often expanded to include any interaction between a user and an entity, such as a customer with a business. UX is more encompassing since the interface is part of the experience. Web development is also divided into “front end” and “back end” development. When a development company does both they are called “full stack” development.


World Wide Web, this often precedes a domain name (, but in most cases it can be left out (


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