Digital Marketing Terms: The Free Beginners Guide

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When I just started my career in the digital marketing world I was lost. It seemed like years before I could fully grasp what people meant when they refer to such terms such as UX/UI, Social Media, SEO, SEM, Analytics, and Remarketing. It was difficult for me to gain knowledge about this industry because I had to first discover that these terms existed before I could locate the right resources to discover more.

Fear no more, because this post is about breaking down that barrier to make it as easy as possible to understand what all of these acronyms mean. This post is about providing awareness to different areas of digital marketing and attaching valuable free or low cost resources to learn more.

Social Media

Social Media – is any site that allows people to communicate, network, and build relationships.

Examples: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Weibo, WeChat, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Renren, Quora, or any online message forums/communities/boards is considered social media.

Social media is more important than ever for a business. I would say that having a social media account is just as important as having a small business website. 1 in 2 people in the world who have access to the internet is on social media. Do you want to be where potential customers are? If the answer is yes, you better have a dedicated social media account.

Further Reading: Social Media: The Free Beginner’s Guide from Moz – Excellent beginners guide to learn how to use social media professionally.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO – is the optimization of a website and its content; to rank favorably in search engines to increase visibility and attract relevant traffic.

Examples: Imagine that I run a bicycle website. If I search in Google for the word “red bikes,” I want my website to show up on page one of the search results. I accomplished this by doing smart SEO on my website.

I consider SEO more art than science simply because no proclaimed “SEO Expert” can truly understand 100% how search engines work. The best SEO professionals out there can drive boat loads of customers for businesses online but it requires a proactive approach. To be good at SEO, you must have a pulse on the ever changing search algorithms, an empathetic perspective to test theories and identify trends, and a strong technical aptitude to push boundaries.

Further Reading: SEO: The Free Beginner’s Guide from Moz – One of the most frustrating things for a beginner is not knowing where to start. This guide explains SEO step by step and helps you get a better picture of where to go next.


Web Analytics/Business Analytics – is the measuring and analyzing of data collected to better understand and optimize consumer behavior on a website or business.

Example: The bounce rate on my homepage is 85%. This could mean that the layout or the content on the homepage is highly irrelevant to my visitors and are instantly leaving.

Analytics arms businesses with the ability to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. Analytics shows you how to best focus your efforts for maximum return on your investment. Having the right tools and people dedicated to analytics can lead to big increase in cost savings, business growth, customer acquisition, and operating efficiency.

Further Reading: Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik – I’ve recommended this site on numerous occasions because it is that good. This is the single resource that I relied on to understand the subject. It is a difficult read for a beginner, but if you commit yourself to read an article a day from this website it will open your eyes so big.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

SEM –  means digital paid advertising, displayed in search engine result pages (aka SERPs) or banner ads on websites (aka display ads).

Example: Search for “bikes” in Google and the very first result is a paid placement from SEM efforts. Google displays paid advertising at the top of search results or on the side. They can be identified if the results have the words “Ads” or “Sponsored” next to them. 

A good SEM specialist is able to specifically quantify that if you spend X amount of dollars in SEM you’ll be able to earn Y amount. X is always be less than Y with an effective SEM strategy. A poor SEM strategy, or a person without the know how will be spending more dollars than they are able to drive customers to make a purchase through search advertising.

Further Reading: Growing Your Business with Adwords – I found this excellent PDF from the Google Adwords Community. It explains the best practice to setup a SEM strategy and how to run your first campaign. SEM requires a lot of analysis and fine tuning before you are able to generate positive results. Knowledge, patience, and practice is virtue.


Remarketing – is a marketing strategy in which you target messages or ads to people whom have previously visited your website or other business property.

A simple example of remarketing is email newsletters. Remarketing allows a business to keep existing and potential customers top of mind. For example, a marathon runner subscribes to a newsletter on an online community looking for tips and interesting articles. Every week the online community emails the marathon runner a digest of the top most viewed articles reminding the customer to return to the site, building trust and loyalty.

Further Reading: How to Send Email Campaigns the Right Way – This is an article I wrote awhile back. Tips to send your emails correctly and to get them coming back!


User Experience / User Interface – is the ease of usability of a website or product.

A bad user experience can lead customers to never return to your website. Users generally have a very short attention span on the internet. First impressions, ease of navigation, and use is extremely important in the online world. There is a lot involved in making your website user-friendly. Designing for desktop/mobile, font size, language, navigation layout, colors, and images all play a vital role.

Further Reading: – Part of making sure your website or mobile site works properly is to conduct user testing. Getting feedback from people allows you to spot critical problems and alleviate bottlenecks. I’ve used this site many times because of its low cost and almost instantaneous feedback from users.

Web Development

Web/Mobile Development – is the work involved to create a website or mobile site.

It is easier than ever to create a website. The internet provides us with endless amount of free resources to learn how to make one. Even if you’re not interested in learning code, there are options for the startup business owner to get one up and running using simple templates. With that said, if your vision is more ambitious, I do highly recommend building ontop of a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress.

Further Reading: How to Create a Powerful Website in 30 Minutes – I really like WordPress because it is easy to setup and allows you to future proof your digital growth. WordPress is the most popular CMS platform on the internet and there is plenty of support if you run into problems.


Now it is your turn. How has this article helped you in your education about digital marketing? Would you like to see items get added? Let me know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Digital Marketing Terms: The Free Beginners Guide

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