“C.T.-eh?”: A helpful glossary of marketing terms

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KU communicators are constantly caught in a crossfire of marketing jargon. It’s easy to get confused, and even easier to simply nod and pretend like you know what everyone’s talking about. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. To help, we’ve got this quick glossary of marketing terms that every communicator should know.


A/B Testing

In short: Comparing two versions of a message to see which performs better.

Why it's important: A/B testing helps you to optimize your messaging by learning the most effective ways to communicate to your desired audience. Subject lines, for instance, are a significant factor in driving email open rates and conversions — and they’re easily testable. A typical test might see two emails sent out, pitting one with a personalized subject line (“Robert, we appreciate your donation.”) against another without (“We appreciate your donation.”).


Above the fold

In short: The upper half of a newspaper, web page, or email, typically reserved for prioritized content.

Why it's important: In truth, it’s not. Web design and different screen sizes have all but shattered this once important principle. We interact with information differently, having been trained to scroll down a page. In some cases, constructing a complete above-the-fold experience may even impede your messaging. Of course, you’ll always want to consider immediacy, viewability, and priority in your marketing. It wouldn’t make sense to bury your most important information at the bottom of the page. But when it comes to hard-and-fast rules, it’s all folderol. 


Call to action (CTA)

In short: A call to action is just that: a call for the user or reader to take some sort of action.

Why it's important: Calls to action are all around us, whether we’re aware of it or not. Verb-driven commands — Call now! Learn more! Book today! — are foundational to marketing, and nearly everything that leaves our doors (and hopefully yours) includes at least one.


Click-through rate (CTR)

In short: A click-through rate is the percentage of people who have clicked on a link within a given email.

Why it's important: Is your campaign resonating with your audience? Are you employing the right strategies? These are the kinds of questions your email click-through rates can answer. Along with email open rates, CTRs are important metrics that can tell you what’s working and what needs improvement. To determine your click-through rate, divide the number of clicks you’ve received by the number of emails sent in that campaign, then multiply the result by 100. (That’s the first and only math equation in this glossary, we promise.)


Content management system (CMS)

In short: A content management system is a platform that allows you to create, edit, and publish online content.

Why it's important: A good CMS, like WordPress or Drupal, simplifies the maintenance and content creation of a website, all without complex coding or back-end know-how. Think of it this way: If your website is a finished, bound novel, a CMS is the original Word doc. But like a magic Word doc that allows you to continually update your novel as needed. (Yes, I’m aware this analogy is falling apart.)


Customer relationship management (CRM)

In short: A customer relationship management system is a hub through which you manage transactions and communications with your customer base.

Why it's important: A good CRM is indispensable in higher education, helping you to manage student databases, build and queue emails, process applications and request forms, and more. 


Digital display advertising

In short: You know those boxy, clickable ads that litter the margins of every web page you’ve ever visited? Those are the ones.

Why it's important: Display ads are ubiquitous — and effective in getting your message heard and driving clicks to your site.



In short: Retargeting is a form of online advertising that shows ads to people who have previously visited your website. 

Why it's important: Retargeting operates on the assumption that most folks who visit your site are interested in your brand. Say, for example, a prospective student. By “following” them around the internet with your display ads, you’re able to stay top of mind and tailor your message to a deciding audience. It’s a powerful conversion strategy. 


Search engine optimization (SEO)

In short: The processes by which you can make your website more visible in online search results.

Why it's important: It pays to stay at the top of the Google results page. Unfortunately, search engines rely on complex, ever-shifting algorithms, and keeping up with those to maintain good SEO can quickly become a full-time job. But there are simple ways to make your website search-friendly. Updated, relevant content, text and URL formatting, and metadata can all improve your SEO — and you can get started on them today. Find a good SEO beginner’s guide, freshen up your site, and watch yourself rise to the top. 


Targeted advertising

In short: Targeted advertising is a way to display ads to specific audiences based on demographics or behavior.  (And not to be confused with retargeting.) 

Why it's important: Let’s face it: You aren’t for everyone. But you probably have a good understanding of who you are for. That’s where targeted ads come in. Through targeting, you can maximize your messaging’s efficiency and capture the attention of the individuals you should be speaking to.