Glossary of Content Marketing Terms


A/B Testing (or Split-Testing)

Split-testing sounds like something you might find in a secret lab dealing with atoms, protons, and neutrons, but it’s actually a simple, methodical way to increase online conversions.

First, create two different versions of a landing page, where landing page 1 features headline A and landing page 2 features headline B. Then, send 50 percent of your traffic to version A, and 50 percent to version B.

Observe which version converts better and declare the winner. Take the winning landing page and test another element, such as with or without a video, different colored “Buy” buttons, or a simple sign-up form versus a complex one.

The elements you can split-test on a page are endless. And profitable. And the whole process, as you’ll probably discover, can become very addictive.

Above the Fold

Above the fold is the portion of a web page visible on the screen without scrolling.

Adaptive Content

The concept of crafting an experience that is tailored to a user’s customer experience, behavior, and desires. The goal is to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.

Affiliate Marketing

Revenue sharing between online advertisers and publishers where payment is based on performance measures — usually in the form of sales, clicks, and/or registrations.


The word agile used in this sense comes from the world of software development and is based on iterative and incremental development.

The idea is you start with something simple, ask for feedback from a small, select audience of users, understand what needs to be improved, and then make those improvements based on feedback.

Repeat the process. This approach differs from traditional manufacturing practices that designed and developed a product until it was “perfect,” and then shared it with the public.


This is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Popular analytics tools used in content marketing include Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and Facebook Insights. The data ranges from categories like customer behavior to acquisitions to conversions.


An autoresponder is a sequence of email marketing messages that get sent to subscribers in the order and frequency that you decide.



Businesses that sell products or services to other businesses. Adobe and GE are examples of B2B companies.


Businesses that sell products or services directly to end-users or consumers. Apple and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream are B2C companies.


Backlinks display other web pages that link to your posts. You typically see backlinks at the end of blog posts or articles.


Publishing content on the web. A “blog” is where the content is published. The word “blog” is a shortened version of “weblog,” which is a mashup of the words “web” and “log.” In the early days of blogging (late 1990s), blogs were diary-like. In the 2000s, blogging matured into a dominate way to publish online, with most businesses sporting a blog.

Bounce Rate

The percentage of visitors who enter your site and then leave (“bounce”) rather than continuing on to view other pages within the same site. Not to be confused with “exit rate,” which is the percentage of visitors to a site who actively click away to a different site from a specific page, after possibly having visited other pages on your site.

Buyer Persona

A detailed report by a business on the makeup of the ideal customer/s. Information in this report includes hopes and fears, typical career choices, hobbies, and common objections to your product or service.

Buying Cycle

The stages a customer passes through on his way to making a purchase with a business. There are at least five stages customers pass through: awareness, consideration, intent, purchase, and repurchase.


Click-Through Rate (CTR)

The number of times someone clicks on a link based upon the number of times it was seen. If 100 people saw the link and 10 people clicked on it, then the CTR would be 10 percent. Commonly mentioned when discussing email marketing.

Content Management System (CMS)

The system a company uses to manage the content of a website. This might be software like Rainmaker Platform or WordPress. A CMS helps publish and manage online content.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the process of creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell. In other words, you educate people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.

Content Shock

The notion that as content marketing becomes more and more popular, we’ll eventually face a “Content Cliff” — a period where content collapses in on itself as audiences max out on their abilities to consume it.


Copywriting is one of the most essential elements of effective online marketing. The art and science of direct-response copywriting involves strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action. Testing is a huge part of copywriting.

Cornerstone Content

Online, cornerstone content is the basic, essential, and indispensable information on your website that answers common questions, solves problems, entertains, educates, or all of the above.

The key is creating compelling content that’s worth linking to and then finding ways to get the word out. A page that hosts cornerstone content helps readers by pulling all of your content about a specific topic together in one place. You’ll often link to your cornerstone pages in your articles and blog posts because they help define common topics you talk about on your website.

Each cornerstone content page is a home for related content. It groups basic, essential, and indispensable information onto one page.

Cornerstone pages let you highlight your most important archived content. They also help you attract links, get subscribers, and increase traffic.

And that’s the goal of every profitable website.

Cost Per Action (CPA)

This is the measure of how much your business pays to convert a prospect into a customer.

Cost Per Click (CPC)

An online advertising model where a company pays for each click instead of paying by the number of impressions. A campaign stops running once the daily budget of clicks is reached.

Cost Per 1,000 Impressions (CPM)

A common measurement used in advertising, CPM is the cost to an advertiser of showing an ad to 1,000 people. Compare to CPC.

Cost Per Sale (CPS)

This is the amount an advertiser has to pay for each sale generated from an advertisement.

Creative Commons Licenses

Free licenses that allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. For example, if you’re a photographer, you can allow others to “distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.”


A means of generating ideas, capital, content, or services by asking for contributions from a large group of people, typically through an online community.


The act of collecting, organizing, and sharing content. This can be done via a blog, social media, or an email newsletter.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM is a set of processes that uses technology to organize, automate, and synchronize customers’ interactions with a company so all departments are on the same page. A CRM manages past, current, and future customers (leads) using technology that automates lead generation and keeps track of where the customer is in the sales cycle so all departments have a clear picture of the customer.


Digital Commerce

Digital commerce is what happens when a buyer gives a seller money for a digital product. The seller could be a single person or company. That’s simple enough.

But what is a digital product? Think software, online training courses, ebooks, streaming media, fonts and graphics, photographs, apps, online casino tokens, desktop wallpapers, video games, and music files.

In other words, non-physical products that exist only in digital form. So, the buying and selling of these products is known as digital commerce.

And the cool thing to keep in mind with a digital product is that once it is created, set up, and proven to sell, it can become, in many ways, a passive, long-term source of profit.

Digital Sharecropping

Digital sharecropping is a term coined by Nicholas Carr to describe a peculiar phenomenon of Web 2.0.: “One of the fundamental economic characteristics of Web 2.0 is the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few.”

In other words, anyone can create content on social media sites like Facebook, but that content effectively belongs to Facebook. In the end, you’re building your business on someone else’s property.

Don’t do that.

Direct Marketing

Marketing efforts directed toward a specific targeted group — direct selling, mail, or catalog — for soliciting a response from the customer.

Direct Response

Promotions that permit or request consumers to directly respond to the advertiser — by mail, telephone, email, or another means of communication.



A digital book is designed to be read on a device like an e-reader, smartphone, laptop, or tablet. It may contain text, images, and links. Ebooks can be downloaded and purchased.

Echo Chamber

When a community repeats, reinforces and amplifies certain ideas, information, or beliefs to the exclusion of competing information, ideas, or beliefs.

Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar is just a fancy term for a publishing schedule. The editorial calendar helps content marketers and organizations plan and coordinate what content will be published, and when. This content can include blog posts, podcasts, email newsletters, and social media updates.


A broad term in the field of using technology to deliver learning and training programs, often with the benefits of anywhere/anytime delivery and personalization.

Email Marketing

Email marketing strikes many as an old-fashioned … sort of like the horse-and-buggy of digital commerce. But that’s simply not the case.

See, effective email marketing begins with you asking your prospect for permission to send relevant and interesting email messages to her inbox. This is important, because everyone checks their inboxes, whereas only a small percentage of people see all of their messages on social media.

Email marketing deepens your relationship with your audience. Each email you send — whether daily or monthly, one-off or through an autoresponder series — carries your distinctive voice, while delivering quality, niche-specific content your prospects need. Effective email marketing builds trust, and that trust helps build your business.


The ability to hold the attention of an audience and persuade the audience to participate in some sort of activity. Engagement might mean getting Twitter followers to reshare your content, comment on a blog post, or answer a quiz on Facebook.

Exit Rate

Unlike the bounce rate where there is only one session (your visitor landed on that page and left on that page), the exit rate calculates how many visitors left on that particular page after multiple sessions elsewhere on your site. Your visitor didn’t land on that page but found his way to that page. And then left. This could indicate a problem with the page content, but it must be evaluated based on the type of content on the page in comparison to the rest of your site’s content.



Online social media network launched in February 2004. Facebook allows users to create a profile and post status updates, images, and videos. Users can also join groups dedicated to a school, company, or neighborhood. As of August 2015, Facebook had more than 1.18 billion active monthly users, making it the world’s largest social network.


Also known as a message board. An online site dedicated to discussing a particular topic. Unlike a chat room where the conversation is built upon short, rapid-fire responses, discussions in a forum are published through a thread often longer than a single-line of text. Conversations are typically archived. In some circumstances, moderators approve each post before they become visible.



Applying features of game design — like keeping score, competing with others, rules of play — to everyday tasks to make them more fun and engaging.


The social media site Google forgot.



A label created for a microblogging site like Twitter or Instagram that allows users to search content within a narrow topic. For example, users can search #mountains on Instagram to find photographs of mountains. Hashtags can be used with events like #worldcup or #SXSW.


HyperText Markup Language is the standard, universal language used to build every web page online. HTML gives web pages their structure. HTML is used to add paragraphs, headings, and images.


HTML5 is the latest update to HTML, finalized in October 2014. Before that, the last update was in 1997. HTML5 improved the rich media experience online (streaming videos, audio, canvas) while remaining readable to both humans and machines (search engines).



In online advertising, an impression is counted when an ad is fetched from its source and seen by a user. Each impression is counted, whether or not the ad was clicked. Impressions are usually sold per thousand. See CPM.


Infographics are digital posters full of facts, catchy images, and sexy fonts that catch the eyes of just about everyone. And they come in hundreds of varieties.

Infographics combine text and images to communicate interesting facts on a specific topic.

An infographic can be about the 10 commandments of typography … it can be a periodic chart of SEO terms … it can be about Marvel comic book superheroes … or it can be a complicated diagram of different types of beers.

And the infographic is the darling of the content marketing world. For good reason.

Research suggests that publishers who use infographics grow in traffic 12 percent more than those who don’t. This is because an infographic unless it’s completely awful (and they exist), will get a lot more attention than a typical text blog post.

But a good infographic takes time to create. So don’t skimp. Make it beautiful. Your audience will love you for it.


A social media site that allows users to post photos and short videos. Users can also “Like” and reply to other users’ photos. Instagram allows photos and videos to be pushed and shared on other social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr.

Interactive Learning Environment (ILE)

An online environment where people can learn at their own pace. Khan Academy is a free online learning community where video lessons allow people to learn about art history, algebra, or exploring Mars. Features of ILEs typically include progress charts, forums, and social media groups.


Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

A metric is chosen by an organization to help define success. KPIs will differ from business to business (new customer acquisition or customer loyalty) and can even differ from department to department (zero defects, uptime).


A term used to identify the content of a web page. A keyword usually appears in the headline, subheadings, and is repeated throughout the copy. A keyword can be identified within most content management systems. Keywords are used by search engines to help determine the topic of a given web page. This only works for text pages. Search engines cannot search the content of a video or audio file, which is why transcripts are useful when producing those types of media.


Landing Page

A landing page is any page on a website where traffic is sent specifically to prompt a certain action or result. Think of a golf course… a landing page is the putting green that you drive the ball (prospect) to.

Once on the green, the goal is to put the little white ball in the hole in the grass. Likewise, the goal of the copy and design of a landing page is to get the prospect to take your desired action.

The goal could be to sell a product. It could be to get email newsletter sign-ups. It could be to download an ebook. Watch a video. Sign a petition.

The variety of landing page goals is endless, but the important thing to remember is to have one goal per landing page.

One page, one goal. Nothing more.

Lead Generation

The act of generating interest in a company to feed a sales pipeline. Lead generation is a deliberate act by a consumer that exchanges her contact information for a resource from the organization. This could be an email address in exchange for an exclusive report download.

Learning Management System (LMS)

A software program that manages the administration and tracking of an online course. For students, the software allows them to keep track of progress. For the instructor, the software allows them to store and organize results.

Learning Style

A person’s unique approach to learning based on strengths, weaknesses, and preferences.

Link Building

Links are the bridges between content online. Links allow search engines to crawl and discover content on the web. Links are also the online content creators’ currency. The more quality links that point to a particular page, the higher that page will rank in search engines.


A social media network dedicated to the professional community with roughly 380-million active users. Users are encouraged to create profiles around their careers, network with other professionals, companies, schools, and other organizations, and publish content on the site.

Long Tail

The long tail is the portion of a statistical set of data to the right of the x,y axis that represents a narrow, diverse, and low-volume set of data. The data closest to the left represents a high concentration of a few sets of data, thus the most competitive set. A long-tail strategy is to focus on the underrepresented, forgotten, individual sets of data that can equal economic viability if a large set of these narrow, individual, and diverse sets of data can be met.


Market Profile

A summary of the characteristics of a market, including information of typical purchasers and competitors, and often general information on the economy and retailing patterns of an area.

Market Research

The systematic gathering, recording, analyzing, and use of data relating to the transfer and sale of goods and services from producer to consumer.

Market Segmentation

To divide a market by a strategy directed at gaining a major portion of sales to a subgroup in a category, rather than a more limited share of purchases by all category users.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation refers to software used by people and companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing workflows by automating tasks.

In other words, it performs some manual marketing tasks for you. Night or day. Rain or shine.

Here’s an example of how it works. Imagine someone downloads one of your ebooks. Marketing automation software will capture the contact information from the form, segment the lead based upon the information it gathered, and then send out an appropriate series of emails for that person over a prescribed time.

That is marketing automation in a nutshell.

Membership Site

A membership site is a private website that’s protected by a password that offers exclusive content and training and (often) the ability for members to interact with one another.

The cool thing is these members may pay you a recurring monthly fee, if you charge a premium to become a member.

You’ve probably come across sites like these before — just like Authority, Copyblogger’s content marketing training and networking community.

So if you’re an expert in something, and want to go beyond just blogging, creating a membership site can leverage your time significantly — and, if done right, can become a very sustainable digital business.


A piece of content spreading online from user to user and changing along the way. Grumpy Cat and Numa Numa dance were two popular memes.

Mobile Marketing

Any advertising or promotional messages that appear on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.


The combination of different media — including text, graphics, audio, video, and animation — in one program. The article “Snow Fall” by John Branch in The New York Times uses multimedia to tell the story of the avalanche at Tunnel Creek.


Native Advertising

Native advertising is paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations. Think Captain Morgan’s campaign on BuzzFeed, in general, and their 15 Things You Didn’t Know About 15 Captains, Commanders And Conquerors article, in particular.


Newsjacking is the idea that when an event is breaking, either in the general news cycle or in the industry that you’re in or in the local market that you serve, that if you are very, very clever and very, very fast, and get something into the market that journalists are looking for in order to write their stories, you can become a part of those news stories.



The element of a sales page that defines what customers will get if they make a purchase. The offer can include a free trial (“free 14-day trial), deadline (“get 12 for the price of 6 if you order by midnight”), and/or guarantee (“30-day money-back guarantee”).

Off-page Optimization

A set of techniques that aren’t performed directly on your website but can help your website gain visibility in search engines and build authority. Techniques include guest blogging, posting in forums, building a community on social sites, and link building.

On-page Optimization

A set of techniques performed directly on a website to improve visibility in search engines. These techniques optimize aspects of your website such as title tags, content, and URLs.

Owned Media

This is media controlled by a brand. Includes a website, blog, and social media accounts. While owned media takes time to scale, in the long run it provides more control over communication, distribution, and cost.



Google’s PageRank algorithm attempts to judge the relevancy of a page by asking two questions:

How many links point to a particular web page?

How valuable are those links?

In practice, the theory is this: when you have two identical pages on a specific topic, the one with the most links pointing to that page should rank higher in the search engines. However, the quality of those links matters a lot.

A page with 10 high-quality links could potentially outrank a page with 100 low-quality links. In other words, PageRank rewards keyword-rich content that attracts high-quality incoming links.

Page Views

Measures the number of pages that have been viewed. This is different from a “hit” because to be considered a page view, a web user clicks on a link that then translates to one request to load an HTML page file on a website. A hit measures the number of files on the page that are loaded. A page may have multiple hits due to images, ads, headers, widgets, and so on.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

An advertising model where businesses pay search engines or publishers to host an ad that sends traffic to their websites. Every time that ad is clicked, the business is charged a fee depending upon the popularity of that particular term.

Permission Marketing

The notion was popularized by Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketing. It refers to the idea that if businesses want to succeed, they need to earn the privilege of selling to their customers. In the past, businesses would interrupt potential customers with commercials, door-to-door sales visits, telemarketer calls, and junk mail. These days, customers can easily ignore marketing messages they don’t want to see.


A podcast is audio content you can listen to on demand. This American Life is a podcast. The incredibly popular crime-investigation show Serial is a podcast.

In fact, you can think of a podcast as portable content. Once you’ve downloaded the episode, you can listen to your favorite shows anytime, anywhere — as long as you have a smart device like a phone or tablet.

Some podcasts follow an interview format, like Marc Maron’s WTF. The podcast Stuff You Should Know uses a stable or rotating panel of experts to discuss different topics. Some are sheer entertainment, like The Truth, which is essentially a movie for your ears. And then there are monologues like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History.

Rainmaker Digital has an entire network of podcasts around the themes of digital business and marketing. You can find all our shows at Rainmaker FM.

Unlike reading a blog post or watching a video, podcasts are the only truly mobile medium. You can listen to them while walking, driving, or lying down with your eyes closed.

Private Label Rights (PLR)

Private label rights give others permission to rebrand and sell products, such as software, articles, and ebooks. Sometimes the rights allow people to change the product and claim it as their own, and sometimes the product can be distributed as is with proper attribution to the creator.

Product Differentiation

Developing unique product differences with the intent to influence demand. It’s related to positioning, which is the consumer perception of a product or service as compared to its competition.


Responsive Web Design

A web design approach where the designer builds a website or website theme to fit any device — from a desktop to a smartphone — so that the user experience is fluid and seamless and there is little adjustment in scrolling, panning, or resizing. This includes the use of flexible images and fluid, proportion-based grids.


Also known as remarketing, retargeting is a form of online advertising that keeps your brand front and center with bounced traffic. Retargeting works by dropping a cookie (a small, non-obtrusive piece of code that won’t slow down your site) into the web browser to identify that user as a previous visitor. When that visitor then browses the web, that cookie notifies the retargeting ad network when to load relevant ads about the company. This increases conversions as visitors are constantly kept in front of your product.

Return On Investment (ROI)

The most common profitability ratio that measures the profit of an investment based on the cost of that investment.


Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

The practice of marketing a business through paid online advertising. These ads appear on the search engine results pages of Google or Bing. Businesses pay for these ads based upon keywords. An effective way to advertise since a business’s ads are shown to motivated buyers in response to a keyword query (for example, “how to change a baby’s diaper” triggers an ad about diapers).

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” or “natural” search results generated by search engines.

Google and Bing are the biggest search engines, and they use algorithms to examine the content on a page to decide what the page is about. Then based upon more than 200 factors, they decide how relevant that page is to certain keywords.

The job of a search engine like Google is to find content that matches your query — the basic question you are asking, like:

How far is the earth from the sun?

Who is the lead singer of Led Zeppelin?

What is a freemason?

Those questions contain keywords. The more your content matches those questions, the better the experience for the user. When you make people happy, you make Google happy.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

The page of links that a search engine delivers in response to a keyword query. Each search engine entry usually consists of a headline link, a brief description of the content, words bolded that match the keyword query, and the website URL.

Social Media

A broad term that refers to any technology that enables people to communicate, exchange ideas, publish content, play games, network, or bookmark online. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are examples of popular social media sites.


See A/B Testing above.

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

An individual who exhibits the highest level of expertise in performing a specialized job, task, or skill. Think of him or her as a knowledge expert.


Target Market

A group of individuals who collectively make up the intended recipients of a marketer’s message or product. Products can have more than one specific target market. The process of dividing an audience into small, more relevant target markets is called “segmentation.”

Top of the Funnel

A reference to any touchpoint that begins a customer’s interaction with a company. This could be a prospect “Liking” a Facebook Business Page or signing up to receive an email newsletter.


Unique Page Views

A subset of “page views” that measures individual visitors who have viewed a website’s pages. This metric gives you an indication of how many people are looking at your website.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

In essence, a Unique Selling Proposition is something that you offer customers or clients that your competitors do not offer. It’s the “remarkable benefit.”

In the late 1970s, FedEx effectively branded itself as the fastest, most reliable shipping service with its “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” tagline.

That was the remarkable benefit no other company could claim.

And once you identify that unique element for your business, you’ll know exactly what the theme of your content marketing should be, because that will become the big story of your business.



The phenomenon of a piece of content becoming very popular through shares on social networks. See the entry on Memes. Content that goes viral is usually shared on one site or social network, gets immensely popular, and then spreads to other social networks and even big publishers.


People who visit your website.



A small application that adds content like Search, Categories, or Tag Cloud to your website. Usually sits in the right or left column of a website.

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