When I first started working in the internet industry, back in 1874, a colleague said to me that I shouldn’t be daunted by the ridiculous number of acronyms that are seemingly used on a daily basis. I’d learn them in good time, he said. There was no need for panic stations.

Sure enough, I was bombarded with seemingly random three- and four-letter acronyms, from all directions. I hunkered down and gradually learned the most important ones. I’m somewhat allergic to jargon, but sometimes there is no getting around the fact that we need to speak the right language in digital marketing circles. There is only one way to describe ‘real-time bidding’ (RTB), and no amount of Plain English is going to improve that kind of phrase.

We used to have a glossary on a much older version of Econsultancy.com, but that’s long since vanished, so I thought I’d compile a handy cut-out-and-keep guide to help newbies to get up to speed with the lingo. 

So here is a list of the most common acronyms that every digital marketer should know about. I think they cover most bases, though no doubt I have missed out a few obvious ones (by all means add them in the comments area below). Some of these are very much filed under 'marketing', whereas others lean more towards 'tech' (but are included as you are likely to cross their paths at some point). For the purposes of brevity I shan’t define each one: that’s what Google / Wikipedia is for.

Ok, here goes...

AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

AJAX - Asynchronous Javascript and XML

API - Application program interface

AOV - Average order value

AR - Augmented reality

ASP - Application service provider

ATD - Agency trading desk

B2B - Business to business

B2C - Business to consumer

CLV - Customer lifetime value

CMS - Content management system

CPA - Cost per acquisition / action

CPC - Cost per click

CPL - Cost per lead

CPM - Cost per thousand

CPV - Cost per view (see also PPV)

CR - Conversion rate

CRM - Customer relationship management

CRO - Conversion rate optimisation

CSS - Cascading style sheets 

CTA - Call to action

CTR - Click-through rate

CX - Customer experience

DM - Direct mail (or 'Direct message', in Twitter circles)

DMP - Data management platform

DNS - Domain name system

DR - Direct response

DSP - Demand-side platform

ECPM - Effective CPM

EPC - Earnings per click

EPM - Earnings per thousand

ESP - Email service provider

FB - Facebook

FBML - Facebook Markup Language

FTP - File transfer protocol

GA - Google Analytics

HIPPO - Highest paid person's opinion

HTML - HyperText Markup Language

HTTP - Hyper Text Transfer Protocol

HTTPS - Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure

IM - Instant Messaging

IMAP - Internet Message Access Protocol

IP - Intellectual property (or 'Internet Protocol')

IPTV - Internet protocol television

ISP - Internet service provider

KPI - Key performance indicator

LTV - Lifetime value

MoM - Month on month

MLM - Multi-level marketing

MVT - Multivariate testing

OEM - Original equipment manufacturer

OS - Operating system (sometimes this is used for 'open source')

PHP - PHP Hypertext Preprocessor

POS - Point of sale

PPC - Pay per click

PPL - Pay per lead

PPV - Pay per view

PR - PageRank

PV - Pageviews

QA - Quality assurance

QR Code - Quick response code

QS - Quality score

RFI - Request for information

RFP - Request for proposal

ROI - Return on investment

RON - Run of network

ROR - Ruby on Rails 

ROS - Run of site

RSS - Really Simple Syndication

RT - Retweet

RTB - Real time bidding

RTD - Real time data

S2S - Server to server

SaaS - Software as a service

SEM - Search engine marketing

SEO - Search engine optimisation

SERP - Search engine results page

SLA - Service level agreement

SM - Social media

SME - Small / medium enterprise. (aka SMB = ‘business’)

SMM - Social media marketing

SMO - Social media optimisation

SMP - Social media platform

SMS - Short message service

SOV - Share of voice

SOW - Statement of work

SSL - Secure Sockets Layer

SSP - Supply-side platform

SWOT - Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats

TLD - Top level domain

TOS - Terms of service

UCD - User-centric design

UI - User interface

UGC - User-generated content

URL - Uniform resource locator

USP - Unique selling proposition

UV - Unique visitor

UX - User experience

VOD - Video on demand

VM - Viral marketing

WOMM - Word of mouth marketing

WYSIWYG - What you see is what you get

YOY - Year on year

YTD - Year to date

XML - Extensible Markup Language

What others are there that are worth knowing / used often?

Chris Lake

Published 20 February, 2013 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (38)

Save or Cancel

Paulo Cunha

Nice one, good mix of tech and business terminology! Going to keep that handy for training handouts.

By the way, URL normally stands for uniform resource locator , in which context have you seen it used as "Universal resource language" ?


over 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Thanks Paulo - you're quite right, I must have disengaged my brain when writing that one. Now fixed, cheers.

over 5 years ago

Alec Cochrane

Alec Cochrane, Head of Optimisation at Blue Latitude

You missed out my favourite:

PEBKAC - problem exists between keyboard and chair

over 5 years ago



You should add in one of the most common acronyms, SEO. Although some may argue that it is interchangeable with SEM, there are valuable and noticeable differences between the two, as SEO is a subset of SEM. There are many paid marketing strategies that are SEM but not SEO, like Paid Inclusion and PPC ads.

over 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Zoe - Wow, I can't believe I left that one out...!

over 5 years ago



You could also throw in DR (direct response) - just sayin! .. I'm sure there's a bunch more that we're all missing!

over 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWD

What's this no CRO Chris!? It's the future I tell you, did you not see the compelling evidence and quotes on show in my 'will 2013 be the year of CRO' post... tish

A general comment on this list is the dominence of acquisition based acronyms. Quite simply no room at the inn for the likes of LPO and my trust CRO.

This time next year maybe..!

over 5 years ago



Nice list, I read through them all (and this really is nitpicking but..) and the only things that stuck out to me were

AJAX = Asynchronous Javascript AND XML
PHP = PHP Hypertext Preprocessor (Recursive Acronym)

A few I didn't see maybe b/c not commonly used as much any more:

URI - Uniform Resource Indicator (Same as URL but common enough to mention)
CGI = Common Gateway Interface
GNU = GNU's Not Unix
PERL = Practical Extraction and Report Language (or Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister if you ask inventor Larry Wall)
LAMP = Linux Apache MySQL Perl/Php/Python
WIMP = Windows Icons and Mouse Pointing (Pejorative form of GUI)
Oh yeah, GUI! = Graphical User Interface
SFTP = Secure FTP (Hey you included HTTPS)
SSH = Secure Shell

I know these are all technical but you included a lot that is outside pure digital marketing.

I also give a hearty second to PEBKAC, that is a VERY important one!

over 5 years ago



SOAP = Small Objects Access Protocol
REST = Representational State Transfer
JSON = Javascript Object Notation
VOIP = Voice Over IP

TLD can be extended:
gTLD - Generic TLD
sTLD - Sponsored TLD
ccTLD - Country Code TLD
vTLD - Vanity TLD (AKA .brand, coming soon to a registrar near you)

over 5 years ago


Dominic Collard


over 5 years ago


Mark Gavalda

In 1874? :)

over 5 years ago

David Edmundson-Bird

David Edmundson-Bird, Principal Lecturer in Digital Marketing & Course Leader MSc Digital Marketing Communications at MMU Business School

1874 - yes that's probably the time AIDA was originated. Should we still be referring to AIDA? Is it too simplistic for the much more sophisticated marketing environment that Digital has provided?

over 5 years ago

Peer Lawther

Peer Lawther, Digital Content Manager at StepChange Debt Charity

CTA is a pretty big marketing one (call to action, of course).

Oh, and SNAFU. But that's pretty common across all companies, marketing or not.

over 5 years ago


James Bott

A few mobile acronyms missed off:
CPD - Cost Per Download
CPI - Cost Per Install (download and an open)
CPCV - Cost Per Completed View
CPE - Cost Per Engagement
CPR - Cost Per Registration
CPS - Cost Per Subscription

DR - Direct Response

over 5 years ago


Paul Swift, MD at WORTH EVENTS

Freak Out!

OOTGAOAT (One of the greatest albums of al time)!

over 5 years ago



QS = Quality Score
LP = Landing Page

over 5 years ago



CTA!! Call to action

over 5 years ago


Nick Hilditch, Town Clerk at Hythe Town Council

PIM = product information management
DAM = digital asset management
CMS = content management system

and most importantly:
TLA = three letter acronym (ETLA = extended three letter acronym)

over 5 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

BAL - Bodacious Acronym List

over 5 years ago


Jeremy Phillips, Content Strategist at Copy and Content Ltd

When I'm having a bad day in digital content I like to remind myself that I know what jpeg and gif stand for:

jpeg - joint photographic experts' group
gif - graphics interchange format

...and how a gif image actually works, which is quite interesting.

over 5 years ago


School Website

Hi there, great list! This is a tiny one but I noticed you missed out the first 'Y' in WYSIWYG, this stuck out for me because we offer it as part of our CMS for schools! Thought I would mention it for the purpose of clarity.

over 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Some great suggestions above. I told you I would miss some obvious ones.

@Paul - Forgive me, I have sinned. CRO FTW!

@Jeremy - Thanks for those suggestions and corrections - I have updated the post.

@Mark - Yes, the year began on a Thursday, if I recall correctly... ; )

@David - I agree with you, it's just that I've heard this used in innumerable meetings over the years. I don't come from a marketing background and assumed people were in pain when they said it, hence the inclusion / clarification. It still gets used...

@Peer / @Lauren - Holy smokes... CTA... another massive omission, along with SEO and CRO. It should definitely be on the list, which I may have to expand in due course.

@James - DR. Certainly merits inclusion.

@Paul Swift - Who are the brain police?

@Nick - Yet more obvious misses from me... thanks.

@Doug - I should have made a slideshow!

@Jez - I nearly included these. I may have to change the headline to '100+' and undertake a bit of editing.

Thanks for all of your input, do keep the suggestions coming.

over 5 years ago


Mary Meehan, eMarketing Lead at DuPont

FRS = Functional Requirement Specifications (I just came across this one last week, had always called it a "func spec"!)

over 5 years ago



Hiring for a copywriter at the moment and have been asked to elaborate on what EDM is. Was very suprised as thought this was a common Digital term.

over 5 years ago


Chris Wood

pURL personalised URL
rURL response URL

CTOR Click to Open Rate

GOAT - Gone off at a Tangent!

over 5 years ago



Fab idea for a list. Hadn't heard, but love HIPPO.

Wondering region acronyms feel very absent as they're used all the time? ala APAC, EMEA, MENA

over 5 years ago


Shaun Janes, Manager at Accenture

Always too many but whatever happened to KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid

over 5 years ago



I like this one: BO

(business owner, of course)

over 5 years ago



What about eDM for electronic direct marketing?

over 5 years ago



RfQ - Request for Quotation

over 5 years ago

Jeff McCarthy

Jeff McCarthy, Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School

Excellent list Chris. Did you look at pURL (personalised)?

over 5 years ago


Mike D

I am currently in my last semester as a marketing grad and one acronym that we have used and came up a lot was IMC. Integrated Marketing Communications!

Great list!

over 5 years ago

Mark McGee

Mark McGee, Director at InfoJuice Ltd

Excellent list, glad to see HIPPO making an appearance. This should be balanced out by BIPPO (Best Informed Person's Opinion).

Others that come to mind are I/O Error (Idiot Operator)

WWW (World Wide Web) - was surprised that wasn't there :)

ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)

FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)

If you have AIDA, you have to have REAN, REACH and SOSTAC®

And something I believe will be become very important to marketers in the near future: NFC (Near Field Communication)

I'm sure this list could go on and on!

over 5 years ago



Thanks for this list. Have printed it for reference for our company HIPPO.

By the way, I've always used a variation of PEBKAC:

PICNIC - Problem in Chair, Not in Computer

over 5 years ago


Clarisse. C

I am about to start my final school test in marketing next week and this article will surely contribute to help me a lot. Thank you

over 5 years ago


Donald Schwartz

IMHO, this a list of exclusionary language. Why use it?

over 5 years ago


Nick Hilditch, Town Clerk at Hythe Town Council

@Donald Schwartz - using jargon and acronyms can be exlusionary as you rightly say.

But when they're used as shortcuts in conversations with others, we need to know what they mean - certainly some of the explanations helpful. Meanwhile, the mnemonics are useful tools to speed learning and ensure that you execute a task with right content in the right order.

As long as all parties have established a mutual understanding, then using this list could save a lot of time.

over 5 years ago


Jamshed Mehta, Boss. at Freelancing nothing.

1874 - you must have been at least 18 years old. So now you are 144 years old or is it a case of 'back from the past.' TimBL was -81 years old.
See, useless chaps like me just browsing should be banned on the web.
GREAT collection of acronyms. Will keep me busy mugging some and then showing off at boring parities.
77 years real age-front to the present.

29 days ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.