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Stumped by marketing lingo, but afraid to ask for help? We figured what better way to follow up our last post, devoted to the most beneficial marketing tools and websites for small businesses, than with an informative guide to some of the most commonly used online marketing terms.

Marketing boasts an ever-expanding vocabulary; one that is constantly evolving, and that includes a seemingly endless amount of confusing acronyms. While the following list of definitions only scratches the surface, we thought that by compiling the most commonly used terms it might help you to demystify online marketing.

Impression: An “Impression,” quite simply, is one view or display of an online advertisement. Most advertising metrics report the total “impressions” per ad, which essentially amounts to the number of times your ad was served by a search engine when people entered keywords about your business.

CPM: A metric or pricing model for measuring the “Cost Per Impression” (or potential viewer) of an ad on a web site or page. Campaigns based on a “CPM” are typically a better fit for large, global brands whose potential audience for their products is much wider than that of a local business’s. Even with effective targeting, impression-based marketing campaigns are often seen by the wrong audience, resulting in wasted dollars for small businesses.

CPC: Or “Cost Per Click,” is the amount that search engines charge advertisers for every click that directs the searcher to the advertiser’s web site. The “CPC” is often referring to the total cost for each click registered.

CPA: An acronym for “Cost Per Acquisition,” or the total cost of each sale or conversion from the beginning of a marketing campaign to its completion. The CPA online marketing pricing model makes sense for a lot of small businesses, as it ensures that you’re only paying when your ad results in a customer acquisition.

SEO: An acronym for “Search Engine Optimization,” or the process of developing a web site’s code or content to improve the site’s visibility within search engines. A small business can improve their SEO by selecting targeted keywords or phrases for their site, which in turn ensures that the web site receives a favorable return when people use those words in a search engine.

Content Marketing: A term describing a campaign that involves the sharing of content or thought leadership in order to engage and drive consumer action. Custom newsletters, blogs and webcasts are all forms of content marketing, designed to improve customer retention and persuade consumer decision-making.

Inbound Marketing: Refers to a marketing model or strategy whose sales performance relies on the creation of useful information to attract customers. For example, the approach that Dharmesh Shah, Co-founder of HubSpot, has taken in utilizing a blog to publish relevant information about startups, is an excellent example of inbound marketing that all small businesses can benefit from.

And finally, perhaps the most inexpensive form of online marketing for small businesses, Viral Marketing. This, of course, is the trend that encourages or facilitates people to pass along a marketing message (sometimes in extremely successful fashion). As detailed in our previous post, small businesses can utilize many different innovative online content tools to achieve this phenomenon, such as Signpost, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

We hope that this list provides you with a helpful snapshot of the terms that are commonly thrown around in today’s world of online marketing. The cost structure of such a campaign can vary extensively based on the platform, so remember to adequately assess your options and the respective costs associated with the process of acquiring new customers.

Best of luck!