Online advertising terminology
Even if you are the wonder of
Madison Avenue and have purchased every other form of advertising,
you are probably going to have a bunch of questions about
What is the difference between a
hit, a visit, and a unique visitor? Unscrupulous companies
will often try to use such terms interchangeably to hide their true
traffic count and make themselves look competitive with other
more-traveled and popular sites.
Fortunately, there are generally
accepted standards that allow advertisers to make some direct
comparisons, but only if they know the difference between some of
While it is hard to independently
determine exact numbers of viewers and page hits, an online tool
exists that helps people determine ranking order between sites from
the most popular to the least. Check out Alexa,
free for the public to use. By typing in a domain name (e.g.
seniormag.com), you can get relative rankings between sites.
Don't let some of the high numbers
fool you. While Yahoo is and probably always will be #1, there
are 10's of millions of sites and Alexa ranks most of them.
Remember that a site that is even in the top 100,000 is a pretty
popular site and in the top 1% in the world. If that site
draws traffic primarily from the U.S., and your company is a U.S.
company, that's even better. If it is a site for a specific
niche like SeniorMag, a ranking in the top 100,000 is really good.
For Web advertising, an ad is generally a banner,
a graphic image or set of animated images (in a file called an
animated GIF) of a designated pixel size and byte size limit. An ad
or set of ads for a campaign is often referred to as "the
creative." Banners and other special advertising that include
an interactive or visual element beyond the usual are known as rich
Hint 1: Keep
track of sites that you are considering advertising on. It
not only tells you if there is a temporarily bubble in its ranking
but which direction it is heading. All sites change and can go up
and down some, but drastic or long term changes will tell you if
they are doing something right or wrong and whether advertising
with the site over an extended period is a good plan.
Hint 2: Consider
advertising with sites where the Alexa ranking is getting
better. Like buying bonds, buying while the numbers are
moving up can get you a great deal and offer relatively high
return on the investment.
Since the demise of the big and
well-funded dot-coms in or about 2000, advertising online has also
started to take different forms. Small and/or regionalized
business find little advantage to advertising nationally or
internationally and getting people to even find their own company
site is a full time job in itself.
New regional or market niche
directories that offer listings, banner placement, profile pages, or
even general list contact information have become popular and well
worth the relatively small fees.
The online business has also taken
a few pages from other media and the future will probably be
changing quickly over the next five years. On the near
horizon, look for the the "advertorial" to make a
significant debut. For the uninitiated, an advertorial is an advertisement,
generally written about the company or a product from a third party
perspective and of course, hyperlinking to more information or the
Ads are often rotated into ad spaces from a list. This is usually
done automatically by software on the Web site or at a central site
administered by an ad broker or server facility for a network of Web
Ad space: An ad space is a
space on a Web page that is reserved for ads. An ad space group is a
group of spaces within a Web site that share the same
characteristics so that an ad purchase can be made for the group of
An ad view, synonymous with ad impression, is
a single ad that appears on a Web page when the page arrives at the
viewer's display. Ad views are what most Web sites sell or prefer to
sell. A Web page may offer space for a number of ad views. In
general, the term impression is more commonly
marketing: Affiliate marketing is the use by a Web site that
sells products of other Web sites, called affiliates, to help market
the products. Amazon.com, the book seller, created the first
large-scale affiliate program and hundreds of other companies have
A banner is an advertisement in the form of a graphic image that
typically runs across a Web page or is positioned in a margin or
other space reserved for ads. Banner ads are usually Graphics
Interchange Format (GIF) images. In addition to adhering to size,
many Web sites limit the size of the file to a certain number of
bytes so that the file will display quickly. Most ads are animated
GIFs since animation has been shown to attract a larger percentage
of user clicks. The most common larger banner ad is 468 pixels wide
by 60 pixels high. Smaller sizes include 125 by 125 and 120 by 90
pixels. These and other banner sizes have been established as
standard sizes by the Internet Advertising Bureau.
banner: This is the idea that, in addition to banner ads,
there are other ways to use the Internet to communicate a marketing
message. These include sponsoring a Web site or a particular feature
on it; advertising in e-mail newsletters; co-branding with another
company and its Web site; contest promotion; and, in general,
finding new ways to engage and interact with the desired audience.
"Beyond the banner" approaches can also include the
interstitial and streaming video infomercial. The banner itself can
be transformed into a small rich media
Booked space: This is the
number of ad views for an ad space that are currently sold out.
name, and branding: A brand is a product, service, or
concept that is publicly distinguished from other products,
services, or concepts so that it can be easily communicated and
usually marketed. A brand name is the name of the distinctive
product, service, or concept. Branding is the process of creating
and disseminating the brand name. Branding can be applied to the
entire corporate identity as well as to individual product and
service names. In Web and other media advertising, it is recognized
that there is usually some kind of branding value whether or not an
immediate, direct response can be measured from an ad or campaign.
Companies like Proctor and Gamble have made a science out of
creating and evaluating the success of their brand name products.
In Internet advertising, the
of pages in a cache server or the user's computer means that some ad
views won't be known by the ad counting programs and is a source of
concern. There are several techniques for telling the browser not to
cache particular pages. On the other hand, specifying no caching for
all pages may mean that users will find your site to be slower than
you would like.
According to ad industry recommended guidelines from FAST,
a click is "when a visitor interacts with an
advertisement." This does not apparently mean simply
interacting with a rich media ad, but
actually clicking on it so that the visitor is headed toward the
advertiser's destination. (It also does not mean that the visitor
actually waits to fully arrive at the destination, but just that the
visitor started going there.)
A click stream is a recorded path of the pages a user requested in
going through one or more Web sites. Click stream information can
help Web site owners understand how visitors are using their site
and which pages are getting the most use. It can help advertisers
understand how users get to the client's pages, what pages they look
at, and how they go about ordering a product.
A clickthrough is what is counted by the sponsoring site as a result
of an ad click. In practice, click and clickthrough tend to be used
interchangeably. A clickthrough, however, seems to imply that the
user actually received the page. A few advertisers are willing to
pay only for clickthroughs rather than for ad impressions.
The click rate is the percentage of ad views that resulted in
clickthroughs. Although there is visibility and branding value in ad
views that don't result in a clickthrough, this value is difficult
to measure. A clickthrough has several values: it's an indication of
the ad's effectiveness and it results in the viewer getting to the
advertiser's Web site where other messages can be provided.
approach is for a click to result not in a link to another site but
to an immediate product order window. What a successful click rate
is depends on a number of factors, such as: the campaign objectives,
how enticing the banner message is, how explicit the message is (a
message that is complete within the banner may be less apt to be
clicked), audience/message matching, how new the banner is, how
often it is displayed to the same user, and so forth.
click rates for high-repeat, branding banners vary from 0.15 to 1%.
Ads with provocative, mysterious, or other compelling content can
induce click rates ranging from 1 to 5% and sometimes higher. The
click rate for a given ad tends to diminish with repeated exposure.
Co-branding on the Web often means two Web sites or Web site
sections or features displaying their logos (and thus their brands)
together so that the viewer considers the site or feature to be a
joint enterprise. (Co-branding is often associated with
cross-linking between the sites, although it isn't necessary.)
A cookie is a file on a Web user's hard drive (it's kept in one of
the subdirectories under the browser file directory) that is used by
Web sites to record data about the user. Some ad rotation software
different ad will be rotated into the next page view.
Cost-per-action is what an advertiser pays for each visitor that
takes some specifically defined action in response to an ad beyond
simply clicking on it. For example, a visitor might visit an
advertiser's site and request to be subscribe to their newsletter.
This is a more specific form of cost-per-action in which a visitor
provides enough information at the advertiser's site (or in
interaction with a rich media ad) to be used as a sales lead. Note
that you can estimate cost-per-lead regardless of how you pay for
the ad (in other words, buying on a pay-per-lead
basis is not required to calculate the cost-per-lead).
Sites that sell products directly from their Web site or can
otherwise determine sales generated as the result of an advertising
sales lead can calculate the cost-per-sale of Web advertising.
CPA: See cost-per-action.
CPC: See cost-per-click.
is "cost per thousand" ad impressions, an industry
standard measure for selling ads on Web sites. This measure is taken
from print advertising. The "M" has nothing to do with
"mega" or million. It's taken from the Roman numeral for
CPS: See cost-per-sale.
CPTM: CPTM is "cost per
thousand targeted" ad impressions, apparently implying that the
audience you're selling is targeted to particular demographics.
creative: Ad agencies and buyers often refer to ad banners
and other forms of created advertising as ""the
creative." Since the creative requires creative inspiration and
skill that may come from a third party, it often doesn't arrive
until late in the preparation for a new campaign launch.
CTR: See clickthrough
Demographics is data about the size and characteristics of a
population or audience (for example, gender, age group, income
group, purchasing history, personal preferences, and so forth).
FAST is a coalition of the Internet Advertising Bureau (
), the ANA, and the ARF that has recommended or is working on
guidelines for consumer privacy, ad models and creative formats,
audience and ad impression measurement, and a standard reporting
template together with a standard insertion order.
FAST originated with Proctor and Gamble's Future of Advertising
Stakeholders Summit in August, 1998. FAST's first guideline,
available in March, 1999, was a guideline on "Basic Advertising
Measures." Our definitions in this list include the FAST
definitions for impression and click.
Filtering is the immediate analysis by a program of a user Web page
request in order to determine which ad or ads to return in the
requested page. A Web page request can tell a Web site or its ad
server whether it fits a certain characteristic such as coming from
a particular company's address or that the user is using a
particular level of browser. The Web ad server can respond
Fold: "Above the
fold," a term borrowed from print media, refers to an ad that
is viewable as soon as the Web page arrives. You don't have to
scroll down (or sideways) to see it. Since screen resolution can
affect what is immediately viewable, it's good to know whether the
Web site's audience tends to set their resolution at 640 by 480
pixels or at 800 by 600 (or higher).
Hit: A hit
is the sending of a single file whether an HTML file, an image, an
audio file, or other file type. Since a single Web page request can
bring with it a number of individual files, the number of hits from
a site is a not a good indication of its actual use (number of
visitors). It does have meaning for the Web site space provider,
however, as an indicator of traffic flow.
According to the "Basic Advertising Measures," from FAST,
an ad industry group, an impression is "The count of a
delivered basic advertising unit from an ad distribution
point." Impressions are how most Web advertising is sold and
the cost is quoted in terms of the cost per thousand impressions (CPM).
IO: See insertion
An insertion order is a formal, printed order to run an ad campaign.
Typically, the insertion order identifies the campaign name, the Web
site receiving the order and the planner or buyer giving the order,
the individual ads to be run (or who will provide them), the ad
sizes, the campaign beginning and end dates, the CPM, the total
cost, discounts to be applied, and reporting requirements and
possible penalties or stipulations relative to the failure to
deliver the impressions.
Inventory is the total number of ad views or impressions that a Web
site has to sell over a given period of time (usually, inventory is
figured by the month).
Media broker: Since it's
often not efficient for an advertiser to select every Web site it
wants to put ads on, media brokers aggregate sites for advertisers
and their media planners and buyers, based on demographics and other
Media buyer: A media buyer,
usually at an advertising agency, works with a media planner to
allocate the money provided for an advertising campaign among
specific print or online media (magazines, TV, Web sites, and so
forth), and then calls and places the advertising orders. On the
Web, placing the order often includes requesting proposals and
negotiating the final cost.
Opt-in e-mail is e-mail containing information or advertising that
users explicitly request (opt) to receive. Typically, a Web site
invites its visitors to fill out forms identifying subject or
product categories that interest them and about which they are
willing to receive e-mail from anyone who might send it. The Web
site sells the names (with explicit or implicit permission from
their visitors) to a company that specializes in collecting mailing
lists that represent different interests. Whenever the mailing list
company sells its lists to advertisers, the Web site is paid a small
amount for each name that it generated for the list. You can
sometimes identify opt-in e-mail because it starts with a statement
that tells you that you have previously agreed to receive such
In pay-per-click advertising, the advertiser pays a certain amount
for each clickthrough to the advertiser's
Web site. The amount paid per clickthrough is arranged at the time
of the insertion order and varies considerably.
Higher pay-per-click rates recognize that there may be some
"no-click" branding value as well as
clickthrough value provided.
In pay-per-lead advertising, the advertiser pays for each sales lead
generated. For example, an advertiser might pay for every visitor
that clicked on a site and then filled out a form.
Pay-per-sale is not customarily used for ad buys. It is, however,
the customary way to pay Web sites that participate in affiliate
programs, such as those of Amazon.com and Beyond.com.
Since this is the prevalent type of ad buying arrangement at larger
Web sites, this term tends to be used only when comparing this most
prevalent method with pay-per-click and other methods.
Proof of performance: Some
advertisers may want proof that the ads they've bought have actually
run and that clickthrough figures are accurate. In print media,
tearsheets taken from a publication prove that an ad was run. On the
Web, there is no industry-wide practice for proof of performance.
Some buyers rely on the integrity of the media broker and the Web
site. The ad buyer usually checks the Web site to determine the ads
are actually running. Most buyers require weekly figures during a
campaign. A few want to look directly at the figures, viewing the ad
server or Web site reporting tool.
This is a term for personal interest information that is gathered by
Web sites by requesting it from users. For example, a Web site could
ask users to list the Web sites that they visit most often.
Advertisers could use this data to help create a demographic profile
for that site.
template: Although the media have to report data to ad
agencies and media planners and buyers during and at the end of each
campaign, no standard report is yet available. FAST,
the ad industry coalition, is working on a proposed standard
reporting template that would enable reporting to be consistent.
Rich media is advertising that contains perceptual or interactive
elements more elaborate than the usual banner
ad. Today, the term is often used for banner ads with popup menus
that let the visitor select a particular page to link to on the
advertiser's site. Rich media ads are generally more challenging to
create and to serve. Some early studies have shown that rich media
ads tend to be more effective than ordinary animated banner ads.
(return on investment) is "the bottom line" on how
successful an ad or campaign was in terms of what the returns
(generally sales revenue) were for the money expended (invested).
RON: See run-of-network.
ROS: See run-of-site.
A run-of-network ad is one that is placed to run on all sites within
a given network of sites. Ad sales firms handle run-of-network
insertion orders in such a way as to optimize results for the buyer
consistent with higher priority ad commitments.
A run-of-site ad is one that is placed to rotate on all non-featured
ad spaces on a site. CPM rates for run-of-site ads are usually less
than for rates for specially-placed ads or sponsorships.
A splash page (also known as an interstitial) is a preliminary page
that precedes the regular home page of a Web site and usually
promotes a particular site feature or provides advertising. A splash
page is timed to move on to the home page after a short period of
Depending on the context, a sponsor simply means an advertiser who
has sponsored an ad and, by doing so, has also helped sponsor or
sustain the Web site itself. It can also mean an advertiser that has
a special relationship with the Web site and supports a special
feature of a Web site, such as a writer's column, a
Flower-of-the-Day, or a collection of articles on a particular
Sponsorship is an association with a Web site in some way that gives
an advertiser some particular visibility and advantage above that of
run-of-site advertising. When associated with
specific content, sponsorship can provide a more targeted audience
than run-of-site ad buys. Sponsorship also implies a "synergy
and resonance" between the Web site and the advertiser. Some
sponsorships are available as value-added opportunities for
advertisers who buy a certain minimum amount of advertising.
Targeting is purchasing ad space on Web sites that match audience
and campaign objective requirements.
visitor: A unique visitor is someone with a unique address
who is entering a Web site for the first time that day (or some
other specified period). Thus, a visitor that returns within the
same day is not counted twice. A unique visitors count tells you how
many different people there are in your audience during the time
period, but not how much they used the site during the period.
A user session is someone with a unique address that enters or
reenters a Web site each day (or some other specified period). A
user session is sometimes determined by counting only those users
that haven't reentered the site within the past 20 minutes or a
similar period. User session figures are sometimes used, somewhat
incorrectly, to indicate "visits" or "visitors"
per day. User sessions are a better indicator of total site activity
than "unique visitors" since they indicate frequency of
view is, depending on what's meant, either an ad view or a page
view. Usually an ad view is what's meant. There can be multiple ad
views per page views. View counting should consider that a small
percentage of users choose to turn the graphics off (not display the
images) in their browser.
visit is a Web user with a unique address entering a Web site at
some page for the first time that day (or for the first time in a
lesser time period). The number of visits is roughly equivalent to
the number of different people that visit a site. This term is
ambiguous unless the user defines it, since it could mean a user
session or it could mean a unique visitor that day.