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The Content Marketing Terms You Need to Know (Even if You Need to Fake it at First)

In this new tech world we live and work in, a lot of buzzwords get thrown around. But who can keep up with the never-ending flood of new industry terms and abbreviations? For people looking to make a career pivot, it can be extra daunting to walk into an interview (or a new position!) where you don’t know all the terminology.

If you are looking to jump into content marketing but are afraid you won’t be able to speak the language, don’t panic. Let us help you get up to speed with this short list of terms. (And this is by no means an exhausted list! If you have more to add, please send them to me at [email protected]).

Content Strategist

con-tent strat·e·gist



Content strategists are experts on evaluating the user experience and using storytelling principles to engage users in compelling ways. They:

    • Establish editorial strategy and ensure content is consistent across all channels
    • Define and establish guidelines for voice, tone and style across all content
    • Improve content delivery and promotion
    • Analyze what is working and what isn’t in terms of a company’s content marketing efforts
    • Create appropriate and targeted content for a brand’s audience.

Psst! You can even be a Certified Content Strategist! You have to have at least five years of experience as a content editor, digital content manager, web writer or a similar position. You can become certified by completing a content strategy course with the Content Marketing Institute or Hubspot.

Content Brief

con-tent brief


A content brief is arguably the most important foundational component of content marketing. A poor content brief will break even the most well-developed content strategies. This sacred document outlines the context, direction and desired outcomes for a company’s content marketing campaigns. The content brief helps ensure that the brand, content strategists and copy writers are all on the same page.  

What should be included in a content brief?

  • An objective description of a brand including company vision and what makes a brand unique compared to its competitors.
  • A topic and angle: tell writers exactly what they need to achieve in their copywriting.
  • A specific target audience: who is the company marketing to?
  • Voice, tone and style of the brand: Who is this company? What do they value? How do they engage with consumers?


re·turn on in·vest·ment

/rəˈtərn än inˈves(t)mənt/


In content marketing, Return On Investment (ROI) provides a clear picture of whether a company’s strategy (or the project you are executing) is profitable. How much revenue is earned compared to the amount spent on creating and distributing content? If a company spends less on producing content than they earn in sales, then that’s a nice ROI! 


key per·for·mance in·di·ca·tor

/kē pərˈfôrməns ˈindəˌkādər/


A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving primary business objectives. Depending on the industry and the specific departments being tracked, a company will want to monitor different KPIs to evaluate their success at reaching targets. 

In other words, KPIs give a brand the opportunity to step back and say, “Hey, is this working? How are we actually doing? Are we meeting our goals?” For content marketing, KPIs may include the conversion rate for content (i.e., how many people bought that product that was promoted in your blog post), keywords in the Top 10 Search Engine Results or monthly website traffic.


search en·gine op·ti·mi·za·tion

/ˈsərCH ˌenjən äptəməˈzāSHən/


You likely know this one, but you may not realize it’s an acronym: Search Engine Optimization (or why else would they be redundant and say Is that SEO optimized?). SEO is the process of increasing website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of search engines. If search engines can’t find your web page, it’s unlikely your work will not get seen. Some of the key ways to make content more SEO friendly is by generating backlinks, including relevant keywords and using calls to action. Like this one to Neil Patel, the SEO master. 


search en·gine re·sults page

/ˈsərCH ˌenjən rəˈzəlt pāj/


Out of the millions of web pages on the internet, the ones that matter the most to content marketers are Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). SERPs are highly coveted real estate for content placement. When users search for something online using a search engine, they will be presented with a SERP curated to match their specific search query. 

SERPs contain two types of results: organic and paid. Organic results appear as a result of the search engine’s algorithm. SEO experts work to optimize web content and websites to rank more highly in these search results. Paid results are paid placements from an advertiser. Previously, these small ads were kept separate from the organic results. Now it’s harder to spot paid results as they are being integrated and presented in different ways.





Here’s a great example of the content marketing industry borrowing terms from the transportation industry. For airlines, a flight refers to the process of getting people from point A to point B via an aircraft. In content marketing, this term refers to the length of a campaign from beginning to end. While a sponsored or branded content campaign is live, you can employ mid-flight optimization to tweak and adjust your marketing strategy based on new insights.


call to ac·tion

/kôl to͞o,tə ˈakSH(ə)n/


A call to action (CTA) offers a compelling reason for the audience to take an action. Be deliberate with how you are sprinkling CTAs throughout your content. If you are creating a long-form blog post, think about what you are trying to achieve with this piece of content. How will this blog post help you get there? Then, determine what action you want your audience to take as a result of reading the blog post (i.e. visit your website, buy a product,  or attend an event).

Interested in how the pros approach CTAs? Check out all the content marketing experts you should be following here! (And yes, this is a CTA!)

Native Advertising

na·tive ad·ver·tis·ing

/ˈnādiv advərˌtīziNG/


This is one of the sneakiest methods of content marketing and got a bad rap in its early life invading editorial across the internet without announcing itself. Native ads are usually found in social media feeds and as recommended content on a website. They blend in with regular posts because they match the feel and look of other content present on the channel in which they appear. How can you identify native ads? Look for the words “suggested post” or “recommended for you” and try to spot a sponsorship credit (which should be there!) Read all of the FTC’s regulations here

There’s more! Because there is so much confusion around “native” and its cousins (branded content, sponsored content, and integrated marketing) I created a whole separate post just to define these terms for you.

And finally … allow us to introduce you to the Digital Marketing Trifecta: Paid Media, Earned Media and Owned Media.

Earned Media

ear·ned me·di·a

/ərnd ˈmēdēə/


Otherwise known as online word of mouth, earned media refers to the media exposure a brand or company earns organically by attracting media attention. That viral Tweet you just read about how much a random user loves her new iPhone? That’s earned media at work: when a piece of user-generated content connects with a large audience, leading to thousands of reshares. Mentions in the press, shares and reposts on social media and digital reviews can all be categorized as earned media.

Paid Media

paid me·di·a

/pād ˈmēdēə/


As its name suggests, paid media refers to any type of paid media placement. Sponsored content in a publication, social media ads, paid search results, and influencer marketing are popular ways to promote a company’s content to drive more earned media. Companies can generate more traffic and drive more conversions by expanding the reach and recognition of a brand. 

Owned Media

ow·ned me·di·a

/ōnd ˈmēdēə/


Where do companies create and share their own unique content? On channels that they own and control. Company websites, newsletters, and social media accounts are extensions of a company’s brand. The more owned media a company has, the more able it is to shape its brand presence online.


Shaye DiPasquale is a freelance writer, social media manager and content creator. She recently graduated from Elizabethtown College, where she studied Mass Communications and Women & Gender Studies.  Her writing has appeared on Her Campus, HelloFlo, Her Culture, Substream Magazine, The Owl, NJMOM and more. She is also the founder of createHER Collective, a community for young changemakers and creators to collaborate on initiatives through creative exchange. Check out more of her work at!

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