A Higher Ed Marketer’s Guide to Digital Marketing Terms and Definitions

Carnegie Higher Ed Oct 05, 2016 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

The digital marketing landscape has exploded in higher education over the last five years. Higher ed marketers are embracing these important digital advertising strategies in their overall recruitment marketing plans. But in a space that keeps changing, it can be hard to keep up. (You don’t have to tell us—we live and breathe this every day!)

Staying up-to-date with the latest and greatest in digital marketing for higher ed is difficult—and what’s even tougher is understanding all the different terms that are tossed around in the digital marketing sphere. So I took some of the most common and confusing terms and created a glossary for your reference:

Display Advertising

What it is: Display advertising refers to the banner ads shown on websites. These ads come in a variety of sizes and formats (text, images, video, etc.). They are shown to a target audience through behavioral targeting, keyword targeting, or a specific network of sites.

Why we love it: Display advertising is an extremely cost-effective way to generate brand awareness for your institution and target distinct audiences like undergrad vs. grad with specific calls to action like “apply,” “visit,” or “learn more.”


What it is: Also commonly known as remarketing, Retargeting is a form of online display advertising that allows you to tag your website visitors (with a cookie) so you can serve them display ads after they’ve left your site, enticing them to come back to take a decisive action. Hence the name “Retargeting/remarketing,” because you are marketing to an audience who’s already been to your website.

Why we love it: Retargeting keeps your brand in front of prospective students after they leave your website and, consequently, top of mind. It provides a frequency of message and a way to get students back to your site to take a decisive and identifying action, like filling out a request for information form, signing up for an open house, or even applying.

IP Targeting

What it is: IP Targeting matches a physical mailing address to its IP address and delivers display advertising directly into the home, across any and all devices running off the home IP.

Why we love it: IP Targeting allows you to connect with an entire family and other key stakeholders in the home. It also helps you connect your traditional marketing (direct mail and e-mail) to digital marketing, allowing you to expand your reach and further optimize your list.


What it is: With geofencing a virtual perimeter (or “fence”) is drawn around a specific location or locations. You can only target mobile devices when they are active within that fence.

Why we love it: Geofencing allows you to get very specific (within 25 meters) and build up an audience you can target.

Mobile Location Targeting

What it is: Location-based targeting captures mobile devices within a geofence, allowing you to advertise to them both while they are there and after they’ve left the geofenced area.

Why we love it: Serving ads after a mobile device has left the geofenced location means expanded reach, frequency, and relevance—which add up to higher engagement.

Mobile Footprints

What it is: Mobile Footprints, a proprietary service of Carnegie, combines the power of Mobile Location Targeting with IP Targeting to expand the reach of a digital advertising campaign from one geofenced location and one audience to many. This matches the devices captured through geofencing to home IP addresses, so you can reach all individuals and devices operating on the home IP.

Why we love it: Expanded reach! With Mobile Footprints you’ve gone from targeting one individual on one device to having the ability to target multiple stakeholders (think parents!) on multiple devices.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

What it is: SEM is short for Search Engine Marketing. SEM is a type of Internet marketing associated with the researching, submitting, and positioning of a website within search engines to achieve maximum visibility and increase your share of paid and/or organic traffic referrals from search engines. SEM involves things such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), keyword research, paid listings, and other search engine services that will increase search traffic to your site.

Why we love it: SEM helps you successfully target search engine users via advertising (paid) links in search results in addition to organic search to send targeted traffic to your website. These channels deliver high-quality traffic and inquiries to your institution.

PPC (Pay Per Click)

What it is: PPC is search engine advertising that allows advertisers (that’s you) to bid for ad placement in a search engine’s sponsored links when someone searches for a keyword related to your institutions’ offerings. A paid search campaign allows you to target prospective students who are searching for specific keywords. Your paid text ads will appear on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Why we love it: PPC delivers high-quality leads by allowing your institution to appear as a result to queries that active, qualified .edu searchers are looking for, whether it’s a specific program, offering, or degree.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

What it is: SEO is a critical component for ensuring your institution has a strong organic search presence when prospects are looking for you. Search engine optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques, and tactics used to increase the number of visitors to your website by obtaining a high-ranking placement on a given search engine results page (SERP), including Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines.

Why we love it: While doing good SEO is not easy, when done right the effects are long lasting and impactful. Good SEO will increase your visibility to any .edu searcher and ultimately result in not just a higher number of visitors to your website but incredibly qualified visitors too.

Landing Page

What it is: A landing page is any webpage a visitor arrives at, or “lands” on, as a result of clicking on any of the digital advertising options listed above. Landing pages are used to capture user data, such as a name and e-mail address, with the intent to connect with the prospect at a later time.

Why we love it: Being able to deliver the exact information a user is looking for on a clear, concise page and collecting their information for future follow up is a win-win. Bonus: landing pages create a really easy way to track how your digital ads are performing by tracking the traffic to those pages and the number of forms submitted.

CTA (Call to Action)

What it is: A CTA is a clear instruction in your digital ads, e-mails, or landing pages to the audience to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as “learn more,” “visit,” or “apply now.”

Why we love it: Having a clear, concise, and singular call to action is arguably the most important element of your digital marketing campaigns. A great CTA button can direct users, get them to take a desired action, improve conversion rates, and ultimately help your campaign achieve its defined objectives.

There are so many more digital marketing terms relevant to higher education. With all the buzzwords for products, services, and technologies, this is barely scratching the surface! But hopefully this terminology guide will serve as an initial glossary to pin up next to your desk for future reference. So when you are contemplating starting a PPC campaign vs. geofencing vs. IP Targeting, you will know what they are all about. And if you need any help getting those campaigns started, just contact us!


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