Online advertising industry terms
Above the fold: Any area of a web page that can be viewed without visitors having to scroll. Ad space in this area tends to have a higher value than that located elsewhere on the page.
Ad flight: The total length of an advertising campaign.
Ad network: An advertising company that brokers deals between online publishers and advertisers. Bigger ad networks aggregate sites into general categories so that they can offer advertisers targeted markets. Ad networks are responsible for selling and serving the majority of Internet advertising.
Ad server: Normally operated by a third party, an ad server delivers and tracks ads on websites. Ad servers perform a useful role in building trust between advertisers and publishers since the statistics they supply are likely to be free of spin.
Ad space: The area on a web page set aside for the display of ads.
Ad units: These refer to the different types of ads which appear online, including banners, interstitials, pop-ups, skyscrapers and text links.
Advertorial: An advertisement designed to blend in with the appearance and tone of the editorial content it runs alongside.
Affiliate marketing: An advertising system based on the CPA (Cost Per Action) payment method, where websites display advertisers’ banners for free but receive payment when registrations or sales result from click throughs. In its purest form, affiliate marketing simply describes the use of one website to drive traffic to another.
Affinity marketing: This is an umbrella term for any marketing approach that extrapolates possible future purchases from past ones, e.g. Amazon’s customers who bought items like this also bought…’ recommendations.
Agency: A company that provides advertising-related services to their clients.
AIDA: A simple marketing acronym that describes the supposed path to successful selling. The following responses should be provoked in this order:
A = attention
I = interest
D = desire
A = action
Alt text: Alt (short for ‘alternative’) text is HTML code that allows text to be added to a graphic image. This text will be readable by users who have images disabled in settings, or who hover their pointer above a banner. Alt text is frequently used to add emphasis or prompt click-throughs.
Applet: A software component that runs within or in tandem with an independent program, i.e. a web browser. Flash movies and Windows Media Player are both common examples of applets.
ATL: Above the line ads include any which focus on general media such as TV, cinema, radio, print and the Internet.
B2B: Business-to-business trade and advertising involves companies whose main revenue stream derives from their trade with other companies. Examples of a B2B website includes an online marketplace where raw materials are available to buy.
B2C: Business-to-consumer refers to the traditional consumerist model of a company’s chief customers being the general public. B2C websites include book and music stores.
Backbone: The Internet’s backbone consists of many different networks (sometimes called the ‘junk in the trunk’) that carry the majority of online traffic to smaller regional ISPs. Problems with the backbone can result in slower or failed delivery of websites and ads.
Bandwidth: The rate of data that can be processed by an Internet connection. The typical unit of measurement is bps (bits per second) or multiples of bits (i.e. kbps/mbps).
Banner burnout: A slang term referring to a visitor having seen the same banner so many times that they become discouraged from clicking through. Rotating banners is a common method of avoiding banner burnout.
Banner exchange: A banner exchange (also known as a ‘link exchange’) involves a confederation of websites registering with a central service that provides them with HTML code that displays banner advertisements for other members’ sites. The typical ratio, or exchange rate, is 2:1, i.e. every time a member shows another member’s banner twice, that member displays the first member’s banner once.
The advantage of a banner exchange is that sites with similar niche audiences can exponentially increase their audience. A disadvantage is that readers can be tempted away from the site they’re visiting by other members’ banners.
Blind link: A hyperlink which does not clearly indicate – or in some cases actively disguises – where it leads to.
Blind traffic: Traffic generated by blind links and/or Exit Consoles.
BTL: Below the line (BTL) advertising focuses on contacting targeted lists directly by way of direct postal or email.
Button: This can sometimes refer to a form of advertising unit smaller than a banner. When present, buttons are usually situated in narrow columns on the extreme left or right-hand side of a page.
Cache: This is a temporary storage area that houses frequently accessed data and keeps it ready for speedy access. This saves the computer from having to retrieve the information from main memory every time it’s required. In online terms, a cache can store much of a web page’s content instead of requesting all the data from the server again.
Cache busting: The process whereby a random number is added to a banner’s HTML each time the page is reloaded. This results in the server being sent a separate banner request every time and guarantees that the banner is not cached, and therefore that ad impressions remain accurate. Cache bursting is also known as ‘defeating cache’.
Campaign: Refers to an advertising project in its entirety, from conception through creation and buying to tracking and final analysis.
Clicks: The number of click throughs having occurred as a result of a user clicking on a banner and being redirected to an advertiser’s page.
Clickstream: This is the record – logged on a client or on the web server – of what a user clicks on while browsing. Clickstreams are highly important to publishers who want to see the paths people follow through their sites.
Click through: The action of clicking a banner and being taken to another web page via a hyperlink.
Click-through rate: The click-through rate or CTR refers to the percentage of impressions that results in a click through. E.g. if a banner was clicked on 87 times after being shown 1000 times, it would have a CTR or click-through rate of .087 or 8.7% (87/1000 = 0.087×100 = 8.7).
Console: A no-user action popup window that appears when a visitor leaves a website. Also known as an ‘exit console’.
Contextual advertising: Also known as content-targeted advertising, contextual advertising is tailored to suit the specific content or theme of a website, e.g. movie ads on a film review website.
Conversion rate: The percentage of visitors to a website who sign up for advertised offers or buy advertised products. Proven high conversion ratios (via web analytics) add value to a website’s inventory.
Cost Per Action: Sometimes also known as Pay Per Action or PPA, CPA is an online advertising payment pricing model whereby advertisers pay for each specific action connected with the ad (i.e. purchases, registration, etc.). Some advertisers consider this the optimal model for online advertising, as a fee is only paid when the ad has proved successful. As a rough guide, CPA charges can range between $1-$25 per action.
Costs Per Action include:
Cost Per Day: This payment model entails advertisers paying on a daily basis for their ads to be displayed on a particular website.
Cost Per Lead: Sometimes also known as Pay Per Lead (PPL) or Cost Per Inquiry (CPI), CPL is a payment model determined by the number of website visitors who clicked on a particular ad. Prices range, on average, from $1-$10.
Cost Per Sale: CPS, also known as revenue sharing, permits advertisers to pay only when a visitor who has clicked through on one of their ads then goes on to generate a sale. Prices for CPS deals tend to range from $1-$25.
Cost Per Transaction: A CPT deal makes payment dependent on a visitor generating a transaction (this is usually a sale, making CPT identical to CPS).
Cost Per Targeted Thousand Impressions: CPTM (‘M’ standing for ‘Mille’) is identical to CPM, but refers exclusively to campaigns which have been specifically targeted.
Cost Per Click: This term refers to an amount of money paid by advertisers for each click through on their ad. Prices can range from 1-50 cents per click through.
Cost Per Thousand: CPM denotes the figure advertisers will pay publishers per thousand impressions (the ‘M’ in this case deriving from ‘Mille’, the Latin word for ‘thousand’) of an ad. The average range of prices is between $1 to $50.
Creative: The technology which creates any kind of online advertising material (i.e. GIF, JPEG, HTML, Flash, Java etc.).
Defaults: Ad networks use this term to describe the ads served to fill unsold inventory space. These usually include lower-paying, non-paying or community service ads. Members of larger ad networks are usually offered a choice of defaults should they fail to sell all of their inventory.
Defeating cache: see cache bursting.
eCPM: Effective Cost Per Mille tells a publisher what he or she would have received if they sold advertising inventory on a CPM basis.
Earnings Per Click: EPC is calculated by dividing total click-through earnings by number of clicks.
Earnings Per Visitor: EPV is calculated by dividing total visitor earnings by number of visitors.
Exclusivity: This refers to an advertiser requesting that their ad not be shown in rotation. This normally results in a higher fee for the publisher, as it reduces the number of ads they could otherwise show.
Exit exchange: Two or more sites which display exit consoles (see consoles) showing other sites.
Exit traffic: Traffic generated by a surfer clicking on a popup or popunder exit console.
Extramercial: This term refers to banner ads positioned in the far-right column of web pages.
Flash: This software plugin provides browsers with the capability to play multimedia files. Rich media ads often require Flash to be installed.
Forced click: A click through that is activated without a visitor giving their consent.
Frequency capping: This describes the process of using cookies to track the impression count of ads served, and stop any given ad being shown to a single visitor more than the set number of times.
GIF: A Graphical Interchange Format is a bitmap image format the usage of which is widespread throughout the World Wide Web. The majority of banner ads are created in a GIF format. GIFs can be used to create animated banner images, which tend to achieve higher click-through rates than static banners.
Hit: A hit refers to any request a web server receives for pages and/or files (audio, visual etc.). A web page featuring 7 graphical elements will create 8 hits in total (one for the page, plus one for each of the graphical elements). Hits are used chiefly to monitor the load of traffic on a particular server. They are of little use to advertisers.
House ads: These are ads that promote the host website’s features and services. They are a way publishers can fill up unsold inventory.
HTML: HyperText Markup Language is the dominant programming language for web pages. It allows text-based information to denote not only content, but also the structure of that content (i.e. paragraphs, links, headings, etc.).
Hyperlink: A hyperlink is HTML code that directs – via a click – a browser to another web page. The vast majority of ads contain embedded hyperlinks that take visitors to the advertiser’s web page.
Impressions: This refers to the number of times a banner ad has been shown to users. It should be noted that caching and page load errors can lead to inaccurate impression counts.
Interactive Advertising Bureau: The IAB is the foremost representative organization for online advertisers. It was formed in 1996 and is based in New York City.
Incentivized click: A click through inspired by an ad offering a reward. It’s worth noting that incentivized clicks can spike click-through rates without leading to an increase in actual sales.
Intermercial: A composite term derived from ‘interactive’ and ‘commercial’, an intermercial is a short video ad played to website visitors between leaving one page and the loading of the next.
Interstitial: These are ads that load between web pages without being activated by a request (see also superstitials).
Inventory: This term refers to the amount of ad space available on a website. To calculate an accurate inventory figure the number of possible page impressions in a certain timeframe should be taken into account, as well as the number of zones available for ads to be shown per page.
Island position: An ad embedded within editorial content, with no ads bordering it.
Java: A programming language enabling developers to build software on one platform that will be able to run on any Java virtual machine.
JPEG: Standing for Joint Photographic Experts Group, a JPEG is a compression method for the displaying of photographic images on web pages.
Keyword: Highly important in terms of search engine positioning, keywords refer to words or phrases that will result in a site being returned within the results for a particular search. Many sites’ advertising strategies are based on keyword targeting, which means that a specific banner will only be displayed when certain words are entered.
Keyword density: This is the measurement of how frequently certain words appear on selected web pages. It is important to get the balance right: too high an occurrence of a certain word can result in pages being classified as spam. Too low, and the page will not be indexed as being relevant to that keyword search.
Landing page: The web page displayed by a browser when an ad has been clicked on.
Log file: A web server’s record of its activity, including page requests and load errors.
Make goods: Payments made by a publisher to an advertiser as recompense for not hitting pre-arranged targets for impressions, or for high numbers of load errors.
Max loop size: The number of times a single animated graphic is permitted to repeat its loop.
Max time length: The length of time an animated graphic takes to perform one complete loop.
MI: Stands for monthly impressions.
Monetization: The methods by which a service or resource generate income.
Monthly rental rate: MRR is the rate at which an agreed-upon number of impressions in a month are sold at.
Niche: A section of the market tailored to users/consumers with a specific interest. Also referred to as a ‘target market’.
Non remnant: This term refers to inventory sold directly by the publisher to an advertiser. Remnant inventory is sold by a third party (e.g. Google AdSense).
Opt in: The process by which a user agrees to receiving messages from a company. Opt in messages, therefore, cannot be considered as spam.
Opt out: The process by which a user elects to stop receiving messages from a company. If a user continues to receive messages after opting out these messages can be considered to be spam.
Page view: A page view is what is displayed each time a browser requests a web page. One page view might register as multiple hits on the server (see hits), as pages can contain more than one element (e.g. several banners). Page views don’t take browsers set to disable images into account, which makes them of little use to advertisers as a way of gauging the success of a campaign.
Pay per impression: See CPM.
Pay per sale: See CPS, CPA, CPT.
Pixel: A contraction of ‘picture element’, a pixel refers to a single point in a graphic. Ad units are typically measured in pixels, for example the default 468×60-sized banner.
Plugin: A software program installed and used by a web browser.
Pop under: An ad which displays in a smaller browser window behind the page being viewed. These ads usually cost more because they have high visibility but are considered less intrusive than popups. Also known as ‘pop behinds’.
Popup: Ads which automatically display in a second browser window above the page being viewed. They tend to cost more than regular banner ads, but can be counter-productive due to visitors finding them invasive and/or annoying.
Preemptable: This kind of ad can be swapped by the publisher for another, higher value ad.
Rank: This refers to a website’s position when it is listed by a search engine. Advertisers study rankings to determine a website’s performance, and thus the value of its inventory.
Rate card: Publishers compile rate cards to list prices for advertising on their site(s). Larger sites usually give rates on a CPM basis. Technical details regarding banner size and positioning may also be included. It is important to understand that the “rate card” is like a sticker price on a new automobile and is negotiable. Professional media buyers never pay rate card prices for their advertising.
Reach: This refers to the number of unique visitors to a site across the length of the reporting period. Sometimes called ‘unduplicated audience’.
Referring page: The web page a visitor was viewing before clicking on a hyperlink and arriving at the current page.
Registration: The process by which a website’s visitors enter details (name/age/address etc.) to gain full access. Registration can enable ads to be targeted with greater accuracy, as well as allowing the tracking of individuals as they move around the site.
Remnant space: Inventory that remains unsold until a discount or ad-network solution is applied.
Retargeting or Remarketing:More information is available here about retargeting or remarketing as it is sometimes called, but basically it involves being able to show your advertisements again to a prospect even when he leaves your site and visits other sites.
Request: When a browser attempts to retrieve a page, or any of the elements within a page, from an internet server, it is said to be making a request.
Request for proposal: An RFP refers to an advertiser looking to arrange an agreement with a publisher.
Request for quotation: An RFQ refers to an advertiser looking to arrange a price for placing ads on a publisher’s website.
Revenue sharing: See CPS.
Rich media: Ad technology that features more refined images or flash as well as audio and/or video in the ad. Rich media ads frequently allow visitors to interact with a banner without leaving the page on which it appears (e.g. film ads that expand and play a trailer on the host page).
Return on investment: This process determines whether an ad campaign’s profits have been less or greater than its costs. An accurate ROI can be difficult to gauge, depending on the campaign’s specific goals.
Run of category: ROC refers to ads that will appear anywhere within a specific category on a site or ad network.
Run of network: RON refers to ads that will appear anywhere on any page of any site that is part of a specific ad network. Such untargeted advertising is the cheapest to purchase.
Run of site: ROS refers to ads that will appear anywhere on a website.
Rotation: A banner in rotation on a page will not be the sole banner shown when that page is reloaded. Some advertisers might request that their banner not be rotated (see exclusivity).
SEM: Stands for Search Engine Marketing, and is the process of promoting websites by way of a search engine. It has evolved to mean the paid placement side, as opposed to SEO, which is trying to optimize your site to get “free” traffic in what are called the “organic rankings”
SEO: Search Engine Optimization is a method of promoting a website by way of search engine results. Also known as ‘positioning’.
Session: This refers to a series of page requests being made by a visitor without 30 minutes inactivity between any of them. Despite being completely arbitrary, 30 minutes is the accepted length of time as agreed upon by advertisers and publishers. A session can also be referred to as a ‘visit’.
Shockwave: A multimedia software plugin used in some rich media ads.
Skyscraper: An area of inventory much taller than it is wide.
Spam: Umbrella term covering any unsolicited emails containing advertising messages. Spamming is illegal in some territories, and is always considered bad netiquette.
Spider: This is a software program that follows links on the World Wide Web. Most spiders are those used by search engines, which index web pages according to relevance. A fault of spiders from an advertising perspective is that they follow banner links, thus leading to an inflated click-through count.
Splash Page: A special entrance page to a website. Splash pages are useful for banners offering competitions and other special offers the advertiser does not want to put on their site’s main page. Also known as a ‘jump page’.
Sponsorship: A method by way of which an advertiser sponsors a section of a website. As a sales technique sponsorship works best when the web page is relevant to the advertiser’s products and/or services.
SSI: A ‘Server Side Include’ allows the inclusion of variable values into a web page. SSIs are useful if a page features lots of files containing a common HTML code fragment (i.e. banner ads), because it enables code to be written or modified once without the need to individually change the common code.
Standards: A set of voluntary standards created by the IAB for online ad sizes, dimensions and names.
Statistics: The records kept by ad serving software when an ad it has served is clicked on. These stats may be recorded as total impressions or click throughs, or in alternative, more detailed forms, e.g. geographical location, o/s etc.
Sticky: This term denotes a website wherein the average length of stay is longer than normal. A gambling site is an example of a sticky site, whereas link sites sit at the opposite end of the stickiness spectrum.
Superstitials: These are rich media ads that download in the background and only launch a browser window when this procedure is complete. Attractive to advertisers as they facilitate larger, more interactive ads, and don’t have the irritation factor associated with popups and interstitials.
Targeted: This term refers to ads that are aimed at a specific section of a website’s audience, or at a niche website that only has a very specific audience.
Text links: Often coloured blue and underlined, these are text objects that double as hyperlinks connected to other web pages. Can be used in newsletters and email as well as on web pages.
Trap door: A banner type that leads to a page which does not let visitors return to the page the banner featured on.
Unique users/visitors: This term refers to a site’s total number of users/visitors over a certain length of time. For an accurate figure to be arrived at, each user must login with a unique username to access the site.
Up sell: A technique by which additional offers are made to a customer in between committing to a sale and completing their transaction.
USP: A unique selling proposition is what differentiates goods and services from their competitors.
Valid hits: This refers to the number of click throughs performed by real users, as opposed to search engine spiders or server errors.
Visit: see session.
Volume discount: A price discount offered to advertisers who commit to a decided-upon number of page impressions at a certain price.
Web analytics: The study of online behaviour. Off-site web analytics is general, Internet-wide analysis; on-site analytics is the study of visitor behaviour on specific sites.
Webmercial: See intermercial.
We want to thank the folks at openx.org that make both an enterprise level ad server and a free open source adserver (formerly phpadsnew)) for this great list of definitions.
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