The 5 critical digital marketing terms for the C-suite

We’ve seen it again and again: time-strapped c-level executives have to make digital marketing decisions, but the jargon can be confusing and defeating. If you’ve:

  • Been unsure exactly what you’re getting from digital marketing,
  • Gotten frustrated trying to derive meaning from digital marketing stats or
  • Left a conversation with your marketing team unsure of how your digital marketing is impacting your business, then this article is for you.

Here are the 5 most important digital media terms for the c-suite, as well some specific questions to ask your marketing team to spark discussion.

1. Conversion

  • A conversion is an action a prospective customer takes that results in some value for your business. Your analytics platform tracks conversions. All paid advertising should be tied to these conversions. 
  • Leads and sales are common conversion actions worth tracking on your site. Below, we’ve outlined a list of common actions that indicate a user who has engaged with your brand and is valuable to your business.

Newsletter sign-ups to contact form fills to adds to cart. M
icro conversion (less value) → macro conversion (more value).

What to ask your team: “What conversion actions are we measuring on our site? What value are we assigning to each of those?”

2. CPA

  • Cost per acquisition (CPA) is the amount spent to get one conversion. 
  • A lower CPA is better, but evaluating all your marketing tactics solely on CPA might miss the mark. Awareness tactics like online video may serve an important role in introducing people to your brand, but not result in many immediate, direct conversions. See “attribution” section below for more information on crediting awareness channels. 

What to ask your team: “What marketing changes had the greatest effect on reducing our CPA?”


  • Return on ad spend (ROAS) is a metric used to show effectiveness of your paid marketing efforts. ROAS above 1 indicates you are making more from your efforts than what you spend in working media.
  • It’s similar to ROI, but ROI generally captures other spending outside of just working media, like creative production or time costs.
  • To use the ROAS metric, assign a value to each of the conversion actions you’re tracking. ROAS is a better metric than CPA if you have multiple conversion actions on your site that are valued differently – it allows for optimization toward the highest-value conversions. 

What to ask your team: “What is the average ROAS for our campaigns? Which drive negative ROAS, and how can they be improved? How would those improvements affect our ROI?” Tip: Use KW2’s budgeting and ROI calculators to see how small changes can have a big impact.

4. Attribution

  • Attribution is the system of giving credit to different channels, content or audiences for a specific conversion. An attribution model is a chosen framework for allocating that credit.
  • For example, if someone sees an Instagram ad for a new natural beauty brand (Instagram ad impression), performs a Google search about the brand, visits the website (organic traffic) and identifies a lipstick they like, leaves to look at reviews of the lipstick, then returns to the site by typing in the URL (direct traffic) and purchases the lipstick:

A multi-touch model would allocate credit to all three channels used to influence that conversion. A first interaction attribution model would credit Instagram for 100% of that sale. A last interaction attribution model would credit Direct traffic for 100% of that sale.

  • There are multiple attribution models to choose from. Your selected attribution model should align with your business goals. 
    • For a business focused on aggressive growth, a first interaction attribution model attributes 100% of conversion credit to the first channel that introduced someone to your business. In the example above, you might expand your Instagram advertising efforts to introduce more people to your brand.

What to ask your team: “What is our default attribution model? What channels/content introduce people to our brand? Which channels lead to sales?” Note: Google Analytics defaults to a last non-direct interaction attribution model. 

5. CTA

  • A call to action (CTA) is a short statement telling a user what action should be taken as a result of viewing an ad, visiting a webpage, viewing a video, etc.
  • Examples: Apply Now, Learn More, Contact Us, Shop Now
  • Your calls to action should align with your customer journey. If someone has never heard of your business, a “contact us” CTA might be too far-fetched. If they’ve been to your site a few times, it might work better. 

What to ask your team: “Do our CTAs align with our website experience? What CTAs have we tested and how did they fare?”

With an understanding of these 5 terms, you’ll be prepared for your next digital marketing analytics regroup. You can arm yourself with questions for your team, and more closely align your business goals and digital marketing strategies. Need high-level expertise? Give us a call and we’ll put our 32 years of media strategy, planning, execution and reporting to work for you.