Online Advertising Vocabulary
This page lists words and expressions used to talk about online advertising, that is Internet advertising on websites. Some of this vocabulary is new and applies to online advertising only, but some of it originated from and applies to advertising in other media such as newspapers, billboards and television. Example sentences for most terms are shown in italics.
above the fold: visible at the top of the browser screen, before scrolling down. This expression comes from newspapers. When a newspaper is folded (for example on sale in a shop), only the stories above the fold are visible. Our top leaderboard remains above the fold on desktop and smartphone.
advertisement: a notice or announcement in a public medium (newspaper, magazine, webpage) that promotes a product or service. Can we place an advertisement for our services on your website?
ad, advert: short for advertisement. We should take out an ad in this website next month.
ad blocker, ad blocking: software in visitor’s browser that stops advertisements showing on a webpage. It’s thanks to really bad and aggressive advertising around the web that so many users have installed ad blockers in their browsers.
ad space: the area of a webpage used for displaying ads. This website uses only a small area of each page as ad space.
advertiser: person or company that orders and pays for an advertisement. Who is the advertiser behind this very clever ad?
advertising: the activity or business of producing advertisements; advertisements collectively. Many website are supported entirely by advertising. | Advertising is an important component of marketing.
advertising agency, ad agency: a company in the business of advertising. The agency is a middleman between the advertiser and publisher. The days when all the big ad agencies were on Madison Avenue, New York, are long gone.
advertising campaign, ad campaign: a coordinated series of themed advertisements usually covering a specific product or service over a period of time (days, weeks, months). It may run on a single website or over several websites and other media such as magazines and TV. You’ll need to run an ad campaign over several months to promote your new language school.
advertising network, ad network: a collection of websites that cooperate to sell advertising. There aren’t many ad networks left these days because they’ve all been bought up by the big boys.
advertorial: an advertisement that gives information about a product or service in the style of editorial content. In this case, the advertorial will normally be labelled as “Advertorial” or “Sponsored Content” etc. see content. I never trust a story when it’s labelled Sponsored Content—you just know there’s a hidden agenda there somewhere.
animation, animated gif: moving image in an online advertisement (for example, cartoon effect or flashing lights). Animation is discouraged by many publishers as visitors find it distracting, even though animated ads generally attract higher click-through rates. All GIF files can easily be animated. If we place an ad on your website, do you allow animation?
banner, banner ad: an image ad, originally 468 pixels wide and 60 pixels high (that is, 468×60). The term banner ad (also called display ad) is distinct from text ad, rich media ad and video ad, though these distinctions are becoming increasingly blurred as new technologies evolve. see dimensions. The only advertising they have on their site is a single banner ad at the bottom of each page.
billboard: banner 970×250. see dimensions
branding: the practice of creating “brand awareness” and “brand image” in the viewer’s mind. Unlike text-link ads, banner ads are often used as “branding tools” as they create strong brand awareness even when not clicked on. The idea of branding is thousands of years old—even Julius Caesar’s head on a coin was a kind of branding.
button ad: image ad smaller than 234×60 half banner. see dimensions
click, click-through: a visitor clicking on an ad and being transferred to the advertiser’s website is counted as one click or click-through. If the same visitor clicks again on the same ad in a specific timeframe, that is usually recorded as two “clicks” but one “unique click”. The design of your ad doesn’t really encourage click-throughs but you’ll still get the benefit of branding.
click-through rate (CTR): the percentage of click-throughs to banner views. If 1000 people see a banner and 10 of those people click on it, the banner has a 1% CTR. The calculation is usually averaged out over tens of thousands or even millions of banner views. This is one (basic) measure of how effective an ad is. CTRs vary from site to site and from industry to industry, from as low as 0.1% to as high as 5%. In general, the more targeted the site the higher the CTR. For example, you’d expect an ad for an English language school to get a higher CTR on a language learning site than on a site about football. How can we improve the CTR for this banner? Less than five people in a thousand click through.
content: the information (text, images, audio, video) made available by a website. This is the real subject matter of the website, and is also called “editorial content”. Most sites make a clear distinction between content and advertising. See advertorial. This website is stuffed full of ads; there’s almost no content.
contextual advertising: a way of serving ads based on the content (context, theme) of a webpage. For example, if the webpage talks about “grammar”, then contextual ads for grammar courses or grammar books might display on the same page. I always prefer using contextual ads because people who see them are more likely to be genuinely interested.
conversion, conversion rate: the proportion of visitors who take some action desired by the advertiser or website, for example clicking on an ad or purchasing a product. Your conversion rates will improve if you change the link colour. | Is conversion your main objective?
cookie: a small file sent by a website server to the visitor’s browser, often used to identify and track the visitor, or to show or not show specific ads. I heard that Facebook can snoop on people who are not Facebook users by setting cookies on their browsers.
CPA, cost-per-action: a way of paying for advertising based on a specific action, for example a purchase or registration. Usually with CPA the publisher has to rely on the advertiser to correctly report successful actions.
CPC, cost-per-click: a way of paying for advertising based on the number of clicks an ad receives. They purchased 1000 clicks at a CPC of $0.45 so it cost them $450.
CPL, cost-per-lead: a way of paying for advertising based on the number of qualifying leads generated (a qualifying lead is a visitor who has a real potential to become a customer). If we go the CPL route, how much would you charge for each lead?
CPM, cost-per-mille: a way of paying for advertising based on the number of times an ad is shown. In CPM, the “M” comes from the Latin word “mille” for thousand. CPM actually means “cost per thousand impressions”. A price of $15 CPM means that the advertiser will pay $15 for every 1000 times the ad is shown (impressions). So if the advertiser orders 100,000 impressions at $7 CPM the price will be $700. I booked 50,000 impressions at $10 CPM and paid the $500 in advance.
creative: the actual banner graphic, for example a .PNG or .JPG file. As soon as we get the creative we can start running your ad.
demographic: a particular sector of internet users, for example as defined by age, gender, location or spending power. Online advertising works well with a young demographic.
dimensions: refers to the size or measurements of a banner or ad space, which are always given in pixels as width x height (that is, width always comes first). The dimensions of the original and most basic banner are 468 pixels wide x 60 pixels high (468×60). Note that people sometimes say “tall” instead of high. The dimensions must not exceed 500 pixels wide x 300 pixels high.
Some typical banner sizes:
(Remember that width always comes before height. So 88×31 means 88 pixels wide x 31 pixels high.)
- button 88×31
- button 120×90
- half banner 234×60
- mobile 320×50
- large mobile 320×100
- banner 468×60
- leaderboard 728×90
- large leaderboard 970×90
- billboard 970×250
- vertical banner 120×240
- skyscraper 120×600
- wide skyscraper 160×600
- half page 300×600
- portrait 300×1050
- square button 125×125
- small rectangle 180×150
- small square 200×200
- square 250×250
- medium rectangle 300×250
- large rectangle 336×280
display ad: see banner ad
editorial: see content
filename: see image file
filesize: size of a graphic file, usually measured in KB or kilobytes. Sometimes called “weight”. We accept banners with a filesize up to 60KB. If the weight is over that, the banner will take too long to load 0n slow connections.
geotarget: target by geographical location such as country or city. see target
graphic: refers to image. If you send us the graphics, let’s say your logo and one or two photos, we’ll design a new ad for you.
image file: the file of a photo, illustration or banner ad, usually in one of these formats: .gif, .png, .jpg, html5. see creative. We can’t open your image file logo.png. It may be corrupted.
frequency cap: a restriction on the number of times a specific visitor is shown a specific advertisement. For example, an ad may be “capped” to show to each unique visitor a maximum of 5 times in 15 minutes or 10 times in 24 hours. Don’t be surprised if your banner doesn’t come up more than five times because it’s capped at 5 impressions per hour.
height: see width
hit: delivery of one file one time to a browser by a web server. This can be any kind of file such as an .html page or a .png image. This fuzzy term is becoming increasingly meaningless as other, more precise expressions such as views, pageviews and impressions are now used. People used to say stuff like they had 5 million hits a month but if each of their pages had nine pictures on it then in reality they only had maybe half-a-million pageviews.
house ad: a self-promotional ad that a website runs on its own pages to put unsold inventory to use. You could run our newsletter signup as a house ad if you’ve got spare inventory.
IAB, Interactive Advertising Bureau: a business organization for the online advertising industry. It conducts research, develops industry standards and provides legal support for its members. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York.
impression, banner view: a single instance of an online ad being displayed. Similar to but not always identical to “page view”. For our next campaign I’ve booked 100,000 impressions for the skyscraper and 50,000 for the rectangle. Do you think that’s enough?
interstitial: an ad that loads between two content pages. Interstitials that take too long to load are not considered user-friendly.
inventory, advertising inventory: refers to the amount of ad space a publisher has available to sell to advertisers. Do we have any spare inventory next month? I’d like to run some house ads promoting our summer deals.
KB, kilobyte; see filesize
leaderboard: see dimensions
marketing: the action of promoting a company and its products or services, including market research, public relations and advertising. It should be noted that advertising and marketing are not the same thing—advertising is simply a part of marketing. Advertising is an important component of an effective marketing strategy.
media buyer: usually working for an ad agency, a media buyer buys ad space from publishers after negotiating price and placement. A good media buyer does extensive research to identify the ideal demographic for any given campaign.
native advertising: a form of advertising that attempts to match the form and function of the page on which it appears. See content/advertorial. Some people consider native advertising to be unethical.
pageview, page impression: delivery of one html page to the browser. A distinction may be made between “pageviews” and “unique pageviews” under which multiple pageviews of a specific page by a specific visitor are counted once only. Overall, the website has 3,000,000 pageviews per month, and this particular page has about 10,000 pageviews, of which 7000 are unique.
PPC, pay-per-click: online advertising payment model in which payment is based on click-throughs. see CPC
PPL, pay-per-lead: online advertising payment model in which payment is based solely on qualifying leads. see CPL
pixel: a unit of measure to describe screen sizes and ad sizes, among other elements on a screen. I can offer you a 300 pixel by 250 pixel rectangular banner for next month.
placement: refers to the placing and position of an ad on a webpage. We really want above the fold placements only.
pop-up ad: an ad that displays in a new browser window, sometimes smaller than the existing window, and often unrequested. Fairly bad practice. These damn pop-up ads are the reason I got an ad blocker in the first place!
pop-under ad: an ad that displays in a new browser window behind the current browser window. Sneaky. Unethical. Bad practice. As far as I’m concerned, publishers and advertisers who use pop-under ads are the scum of the earth.
publisher: the owner of a website (or magazine, newspaper etc). In exchange for placing ads on their website, publishers accept money from advertisers. The publisher of this website also publishes a couple of paper magazines.
rate card: document from a publisher giving prices for various ad placement options. Also called “media kit”. I’m interested in advertising on your site so could you please send me your latest rate card.
rectangle: see dimensions
rep firm, ad rep firm: ad sales representative specializing in single-site sales for publishers. I’m looking for a rep firm that could represent our website and increase our ad sales.
responsive ad: an ad that responds to the size and layout of the device it is viewed on, and thus changes its size and shape to better fit the screen space available. see html5 ad. I always think responsive ads look kind of generic—they have to be a jack-of-all-trades.
rich media, rich media ad: an ad that includes advanced features like video, audio or other elements that encourage viewers to interact and engage with the content. see text ad, display ad. I think rich media ads look great, but they can also be a bit slow downloading.
roadblock, roadblocking: a technique where all ad placements on a single webpage display the same ad or ad campaign (that is, for the same advertiser and product). This new client doesn’t want any of her competitors’ ads showing up next to hers, so we’ll need to do some roadblocking.
rotate, ad rotation: when ads display “in rotation” they “rotate” with other ads, so in simple terms any given ad in any given ad placement will be displayed again after all other ads have been displayed following each page load. Our ad is rotating around the whole site so you might see it on any page, but you won’t see it on every page load.
run-of-category, ROC: refers to displaying an ad throughout an entire category of a site, typically in rotation. Run-of-category is more targeted than run-of-site and therefore usually costs more. If you’d just like your ad to show on our sports pages, that would be at the run-of-category rate.
run-of-site, ROS: refers to displaying an ad throughout an entire site, typically in rotation. Run-of-site is less targeted than run-of-category and therefore usually costs less. You could save some money by going run-of-site but then your ad would be less targeted—it would come up on all pages in rotation.
search retargeting: a technique that uses a site visitor’s search history as a basis for the ads that the visitor will see. When you get ads following you round the web, that’s often the result of search retargeting. Feels creepy.
self-serve advertising: ads that can be purchased online without the help of a sales representative. Some websites let you buy ads online in their self-serve advertising section.
serve, server: the server is a specialized internet computer (and software) that stores the website and “serves” its pages when requested by a visitor’s browser. There’s nothing magical about a server—it’s just a specialized computer designed to dish up hundreds or thousands of pages simultaneously.
skyscraper: a banner 120×600. see dimensions
sponsor: an advertiser who enters into a deeper or longer partnership with a publisher. Also verb. I’d be interested in sponsoring your whole grammar section for the next year, if you could let us run exclusive ads and have our logo on every page.
sponsorship: advertising based on a deeper association and integration between an advertiser and publisher. It’s a website about their village so they’re looking for sponsorship from local businesses.
surround session: a website visit during which the visitor receives ads from one single advertiser throughout the entire visit. Have you got the technology to give us a surround session? We really need to drive this campaign home.
target: aim online ads at specific users or demographics, for example by geography (country, city), language, platform (computer, smartphone) etc. Can we target just those users in South America who speak Spanish? see geotarget
text ad, text-link ad: an ad that consists of text only, with a link to the advertiser’s page. see image ad, rich media ad, video ad. Text-link ads aren’t really used for branding but for for getting clicks.
traffic: the volume of visits and visitors to a website, typically measured in terms of visitor sessions and pageviews. Our traffic is increasing every year.
trick banner: a (fake) banner ad that tricks visitors into clicking, typically by imitating an operating system message or warning. Best to keep off any dodgy website that has those horrible trick banners telling you you’ve got a virus or trying to get you to download useless stuff.
underdelivery: delivery of fewer clicks, impressions or conversions than contracted for over a specified time period. I got them to agree that they’ll make it up to us if there’s any underdelivery. In fact they’ll give us double the amount they underdeliver.
unique visitors: a measure of visitors to a website that attempts to count multiple visits from the same visitor over a specific time period once only. According to their stats they have a million visitors per month, but half of them are repeats so really they only have 500,000 unique visitors per month.
vertical banner: banner 120×240. see dimensions
video ad: an ad using a video instead of image or text. Video ads that start playing automatically when the page loads are highly discouraged as visitors find them disruptive. I was on my laptop in the library yesterday and went to one page where this annoying video ad started blaring out music as soon as it loaded.
website traffic: see traffic
weight: see filesize
width: see dimensions