Online Advertising 101

There are various forms of online advertising. Many of these forms can involve big, familiar names like Google, Facebook, and YouTube. There are a lot of abbreviations to keep track of, some of which might not be so familiar: CPC, CPM, CPL, SEM, RTB, CTR…There are even technology platforms with their own abbreviations, such as DMPs and DSPs that help manage and deliver those aforementioned abbreviations, interface with your CRM, and hopefully provide ROI.

It is easy to get confused by the online advertising industry jargon and lost amid all of the options that are in a continuous and rapid state of evolution. A recent study that we conducted of VPs and Deans of Enrollment, Admissions, and Marketing at hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide found that, when asked to rate the statement, “Our recruitment marketing/admissions team has a solid understanding of the types of paid online advertising solutions that are available,” the average rating was…..well…quite average.

In an effort to define and clarify the various types of online advertising that are available to colleges and universities, let’s define those abbreviations above.

  • CPC Cost-per-click (also known as pay-per-click, or PPC): When a school pays for each time one of the ads in a campaign is clicked. The cost per click can be calculated by dividing the total cost of the advertising campaign by the number of clicks that the campaign has generated.


  • CPL Cost per lead: Paying a defined amount when a prospective student requests information on your website, typically via filling out a form.


  • CPM Cost per thousand: This model refers to advertising bought on the basis of thousands of impressions. CPM can be contrasted with pay-for-performance advertising, such as the cost-per-click model.


  • CTR Click-through rate: The average number of click-throughs for every 100 ad impressions. The CTR is depicted as a percentage.


  • DMP Data management platform: A technology platform used by agencies and advertisers that enables the collection, management, segmentation, sharing, and analysis of advertising data


  • DSP Demand side platform: A technology platform on the purchasing side that agencies and advertisers use to manage (and often automate) media buying, targeting, optimization, and reporting.


  • RTB Real-time bidding: The process of agencies/advertisers buying and selling ad impressions in an automated fashion.


  • SEM Search engine marketing: the process of acquiring website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo


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