57+ Words Every Content Marketer Should Know [Glossary]

As a kid, you probably learned the phrase, knowledge is power. As a marketer, you prove its validity every day through your content that educates, informs, and inspires your audience.

But knowledge isn’t a static construct.

Perceptions and attitudes change, innovations emerge, and new insights and ideas arrive to shake up everything you thought you knew. (Before 2016, did you know an alternative to “facts” existed?)

To excel in the current conditions and opportunities, make sure these content marketing terms and definitions are part of your knowledge base.

Note: I’ve organized these definitions into best-fit categories, though many span multiple areas.

Strategy terms

Audience

In a marketing context, audiences are targeted, clearly defined groups of individuals and/or organizations that willingly read, listen, view, or otherwise engage with your brand’s content, assuming they will benefit from it.

Pinpointing the target audience(s) your content will serve is one of the three pillars of a winning content strategy. But remember: Content marketing is about building a trusted relationship. Your content should have human resonance and reflect their needs, preferences, and priorities to earn their attention and loyalty.

Definitive resource:  The Marketing Mandate: Build Stronger Bonds With Your Audience

Buy-in/business case

A business case captures the organization’s rationale for investing in content as a component of its marketing strategy. Typically delivered to executive management as a document or presentation, it’s a helpful tool for building stakeholder understanding and support to execute the program effectively.

At a minimum, your business case should address:

Why your company needs content marketing

How it can help your organization meet its marketing goals

Budget and resources

Expected outcomes and estimated times to achieve them

Executive management may struggle to understand how content drives the bottom-line business goals. A little education can go a long way toward winning over “content-clueless” business leaders.

Focus your buy-in conversation on the benefits they could gain and support your argument with data and proof-of-concept examples. You can use content to strengthen your pitch. Share relevant e-books, newsletters, and other sources of content industry expertise — the more they consume, the quicker they’ll experience those light-bulb moments of understanding.

Definitive resource: How To Snap Out of Strategic Malaise and Get Inspired for 2024 Content

Content marketing

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Content marketing can work best when used to complement other business strategies, including:

Account-based marketing

Branded content

Demand generation

Influencer marketing

Product marketing

Search engine optimization

Social media

Public relations

Definitive resource: Content Marketing Basics: How To Start (or Jumpstart) Your Content Practice

Content marketing strategy

Copyblogger defines content marketing strategy as a plan for attracting your ideal customers and moving them through your sales process by publishing and promoting useful content.

However, CMI lays it out more plainly: Your content marketing strategy is your why — why you are creating content (your business goal), whom it will serve (your audience), and how it will be unique (your mission).

Definitive resource: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Content strategy

Content strategy operates more broadly than a content marketing strategy. It is a plan for creating, managing, and distributing all content produced and shared across the enterprise — not just the content in a content marketing program or initiative. For example, the content’s development to deliver an optimal user experience would fall under a content strategy, not a content marketing strategy.

Content mission statement

A content mission statement is the centering principle of your brand’s unique content vision. Ideally, this statement reflects your business values, distinguishes your storytelling from competing content, and governs your content team’s creative and strategic decision-making. It includes:

What stories your brand will tell (e.g., topics)

How those stories take shape (e.g., core content formats and platforms)

How your content assets work collectively to create a desirable experience for your audience

Definitive resource: How To Write an Inspiring Content Marketing Mission Statement

Goals

Goals are the business outcomes your content marketing strategy will achieve. While the ultimate goal is profitable action, program goals should be more specific, such as sales growth, budget savings, or greater customer loyalty and brand satisfaction. Goals also must be measurable and include an achievement date.

Definitive resource: 4 Content Marketing Goals That Really Matter to the Business 

Personas

A persona is a composite sketch of a target audience’s relevant characteristics based on validated commonalities. It informs your strategic plans for reaching, engaging, and driving your audience to take meaningful action on your content. Without well-researched personas, you can only guess what your audience wants, often reverting to creating content around what you know best (your products and company) instead of what your audience seeks.

Definitive resource: How To Build a Better Audience Persona

Planning and process terms

Channel and media planning

Media planning is the process of deciding where, when, and how often to deliver a message to an audience. The goal is to reach the biggest number of the right audience members with the right message as often as needed to achieve the desired effect (e.g., brand awareness, leads, sales).

Similarly, a channel plan — including social media planning — directs how your brand manages its content on the ever-evolving list of media platforms. It spells out the rationale and expectations for using each channel. Compiling this guidance ensures you don’t waste time and budget on distribution that can’t help your content marketing and business goals.

Definitive resource: How To Choose the Best Distribution Channels for Your Content 

Content brief

Often provided to freelancers, consultants, and other outsourced writers assigned to create content, a content brief documents the guidelines and instructions to ensure a properly focused asset that meets the brand’s editorial standards and marketing expectations. A well-constructed brief should include an elevator-pitch description of the assignment, relevant branding details (e.g., tone, voice, and stylistic considerations), key messages, and target audience insights.

Content inventories and audits

Paula Land, author of Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook, says a content inventory is a collection of data about your content. It’s a comprehensive, quantitative list — typically created in a spreadsheet — of all content assets, ideally across all content types, channels, and distribution formats. It enables marketers to make data-based content decisions.

In contrast, as Paula explains, a content audit is a qualitative evaluation of the inventoried content. It helps you see how your content helps (or hinders) your brand’s success. Assess your content against customer needs and business objectives to identify which assets are performing well (and which aren’t.)

Definitive resource: 4 Things To Ignore (and 3 Things To Do) in Your Next Content Audit 

Content/editorial plan

A content or editorial plan details the operational, technical, tactical, and team resource decisions involved in executing your content strategy. This outlet helps ensure all the correct elements are in place to produce content efficiently and deliver the best possible experience for your audience.

Ideally, your plan should cover four key areas:

Governance and guidelines around the quality standards, preferred practices, and principles that define and distinguish your brand’s content

Processes and systems, such as the production tasks, workflows and routing practices, and technologies that facilitate the work

Team resources, including the roles and responsibilities and the skills required to fill them or address the gaps

Creative and distribution details, including key focal topics, content types and formats, calls to action, and priority channels and platforms.

Definitive resource: 4-Point Guide To Crafting a Winning Content Plan

Content operations

Content operations are the big-picture view of how all content-related organizational functions coordinate and manage their work. It covers all the components outlined in your content plan, from strategy and creative planning to governance, execution decision-making, measurement, and optimization.

Definitive resource: Don’t Avoid Content Operations; Use This Helpful Framework Now

Editorial calendar

An editorial calendar is a process tool for tracking and orchestrating the tactical execution of the content plan. It provides clear visibility on the critical details of the creative and production workflows, including topics, titles, authors, and images for each asset and the schedule for packaging, publishing, and promoting it.

Definitive resource: Editorial Calendar Tools and Templates To Help You Master Your Content To-Do List

Content workflow

Workflows are sets of tasks a team follows to complete a content asset. In her book Content Strategy for the Web, Kristina Halvorson says a content workflow determines “how content is requested, sourced, created, reviewed, approved, and delivered.”

At a minimum, they should outline critical tasks at each stage of the editorial process. Here’s a simple example:

Outline.

Write.

Review.

Edit.

Approve.

Publish.

Definitive resource: 5 Steps To Build a Content Operations Workflow That Helps Everybody

Creation terms

Copy editing, proofreading, and fact-checking

These editorial techniques ensure the content’s high quality, clarity, and accuracy. Each distinct approach serves a unique purpose.

Copy editing involves reviewing and editing content for mechanical errors or style inconsistencies that might impact quality or readability. Tasks include checking text for grammar, spelling, linguistic, or punctuation issues. A copy editor may also rewrite to fix problems with transitions, wordiness, jargon, and style.

Proofreading allows for scrutinizing the content in its almost-published state to catch any typographical or minor errors missed in editing or created during production.

Definitive resource: Master Content Proofreading and Editing With These Tips

Fact-checking verifies the content’s factual accuracy and sourcing. It ensures the content doesn’t spread disinformation, miscredit or misquote sources, get dinged for plagiarism or copyright infringement, or otherwise risk losing the audience’s trust. The importance of thorough fact-checking can’t be understated, especially when working with generative AI content tools.

Curation

Curation is the assembly, selection, categorization, commentary, and presentation of relevant content. The technique often involves your brand putting its spin on others’ content. It can also be applied to repackaging and repurposing your previously published content.

Definitive resource: 7 More Ways To Curate Content Like a Pro

Generative AI

As defined by IBM Research, generative artificial intelligence uses technologies built on large learning models (LLMs) to generate high-quality text, images, audio, video, and other content formats based on the data the models were trained on. These tools respond in real time to prompts posed in its interface — natural language text instructing the AI engine to perform a specific task.

Brands and tech providers have used this technology in back-end programming and chatbot applications for many years. The public launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in 2022 has made generative AI more accessible, affordable, and easy for brands and consumers to use in their content creation efforts.

Distribution and promotion terms

Accessibility

Accessibility involves creating a content experience that anyone can navigate, understand, and use. The term is often used in the context of the user, such as those who may have visual or auditory impairments. It also accounts for audiences who prefer to mute videos and read the captions.

Definitive resource: 5 Ideas To Make Your Content Accessible to All

Calls to action (CTAs)

Calls to action are statements or design elements highlighting actions you want the audience to take after engaging with the content, such as subscribing to your newsletter, attending an event, or exploring other relevant assets and offerings. The best CTAs are simple, straightforward, inviting, and easy to notice.

Channels

Channels are individual content distribution outlets, such as blogs, podcasts, newsletters, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

Formats

A content format refers to how the content is presented for distribution and engagement. It could be the text for a printed book, a digital magazine, or an SMS campaign. It could be the audio for a podcast. It might be the visuals for a video or infographic.

Keywords/key phrases

Keywords or key phrases describe the contents of an asset based on terms people use to search for that topic. They are the building blocks of a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

Owned media

Owned media distribution platforms operate under your brand’s control. You decide where and how the content appears, how it is accessed, and how it fits in with the audience’s experience. Your website is an example of owned media.

Shared/social media

Shared media, including social media, provides opportunities for marketers to post content, create and listen to conversations, and interact with people. These platforms are ultimately controlled by a third party, which can change its policies and procedures — or cease operations — and change the brand’s access to the audience on that platform.

Definitive resource: Is Social Media Even Worth It Anymore?

Native advertising

Native advertising is a paid third-party promotion format. The brand pays to publish content that matches the form, feel, function, and quality of the publishing outlet’s content.

Branded content

Wikipedia defines branded content as “content funded or outright produced by an advertiser.”Like native advertising, brands partner with relevant publishers that have the trust of their audience, which includes members of the brand’s target audience. This technique takes a more immersive, sensory-driven approach to storytelling, making the experience more entertaining, valuable, and memorable.

Definitive resource: Branded Content: Getting It Right

Paid search

These opportunities typically include relevant pay-per-click ads or other sponsored listings near the top of search engine results pages (SERP).

Influencer marketing

A growing marketing technique (and burgeoning industry on its own), influencer marketing programs enlist the assistance of people who have the ear of your target audience to bring attention to your content.

Content personalization

Personalization involves targeting content to individuals based on one or more of their characteristics — who they are, where they are, when, why, and how they access content, and what device they use to access it. Given the competition for online attention, marketers use this technique to make their content more findable, engaging, and personally resonant to their target audience and existing customers.

Definitive resource: How To Get Your Audience To Give Their Data for Personalized Content

Search engine optimization

SEO is a set of techniques and tactics to get content to rank as highly as possible on search engine results pages. The higher your content ranks, the more likely it is to be clicked on by the searcher.

Search engines continually fine-tune their technologies, algorithms, and ranking factors to provide users with a more satisfying experience. While these changes aren’t always transparent, familiarizing yourself with these SEO-related terms can help you focus your search strategy more precisely and enhance your content’s discoverability:

EEAT: Experience, expertise, trustworthiness, and authoritativeness are the four tenets of Google’s assessment for content quality and value. Aligning your content with these standards can improve your content’s rankings and discovery potential.

Search generative experience: SGE is Google’s latest experimental project and is likely to soon roll out for all searchers. It uses AI technology to provide detailed information snapshots at the top of its search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s designed to answer users’ queries without requiring them to click on links that would take them away from Google’s domain.

Retrieval augmented generation: To compile SGE snapshots, Google uses this AI-driven process to aggregate relevant source materials and serve the most contextually relevant answers to a user’s query.

Definitive resource: Update Your SEO Strategy for the AI Era 

Content segmentation

Segmentation refers to categorizing content based on the target audience niche (similar to a buyer persona). Often affecting design, messaging, and presentation, content segmentation can improve engagement, better differentiate your brand from competitors, and improve content marketing’s effectiveness.

Sales terms

Account

Account is a sales target, opportunity, or customer group within the total addressable market.

Account-based marketing (ABM)

ABM is a B2B marketing approach where the brand identifies specific high-value (typically enterprise-level) organizations and creates content that targets employees at that company as a unit rather than individual members of the organization.

Buyers

Buyers are prospects — people who need or have an active interest in purchasing a service or product.

Consumers

In marketing, “consumers” are likely or intended customers for a business. “Buyers” also may be used. 

Customers

While buyers and consumers are terms used to indicate interest or intent, customers are the individuals or organizations who have purchased from the business or brand.

Conversion

A conversion occurs when a consumer takes an action your organization designates as meaningful — purchasing a product, registering for an event or a gated asset, subscribing to a blog or newsletter, or joining a social media community — after engaging with the brand’s content.

Demand generation

Demand generation involves targeted, sales-centric marketing programs to drive awareness and interest in a company’s products and services. The greater the demand, the easier it is for sales to nurture that interest to convert.

Definitive resource: Demand Generation: Follow These Content Tips

Ideal customer profile

An ICP describes a targeted buyer (person or company) that most needs and is likely to buy your brand’s solution.

Journey map

This method involves identifying the information and assistance needed at each possible consumer interaction. It helps marketers deliver the most effective content to nurture them toward conversion.

Definitive resource: A 4-Step Customer Journey Map Process for Better Content Results

Lead

A lead is a person or business in your company’s sales or marketing database typically because they engaged with a branded asset or communication platform.

Lead scoring

Scoring is a marketing method of objectively and comparatively evaluating the quality and conversion potential of a prospect based on predetermined sales criteria.

Marketing-qualified lead

MQLs are potential customers whom the marketing team deems worthy of passing along to the sales team.

Sales funnel/funnel stage

The sales funnel defines a customer’s decision-making process from the time they enter the marketplace through the purchase (or decision not to buy). It’s commonly used to determine the most effective outreach approach to nurture conversions. (While marketers may also use funnel stages to define customer decision-making, content marketers are more likely to characterize these stages as progressions in a journey.)

Sales-qualified lead

An SQL occurs when the sales team determines the lead to be an active prospect. These leads are more likely to become customers than MQL.

Total addressable market

TAM refers to the total number of prospective buyers and/or potential revenue opportunities for a product or service.

Measurement terms

A/B testing

This method pits two pieces of content against each other to gauge comparative performance. Also known as split testing, it’s a randomized experiment where two possible version options — two web pages, two subject lines, two design strategies, two content angles, etc. — are presented on equal scale to different viewers.

Analytics

Marketo defines analytics as managing and studying metrics data to determine the ROI of marketing efforts like calls to action, blog posts, channel performance, and thought leadership pieces, as well as to identify opportunities for improvement.

Key performance indicators

KPIs are standard, agreed-on measurements for assessing progress against your goals. KPIs include average conversion rates, number of leads, quality of leads, revenue per new customer, etc.

Metrics

In contrast to KPIs, metrics are the business-as-usual measurements that quantify things that add value, such as page views or likes on a social media post. They don’t focus on the most critical goals. Think of these as the what-needs-to-be-true numbers so the KPIs can be achieved.

Definitive resource: 23 Measurement Definitions Every Content Marketer Should Know 

Return on investment

ROI broadly describes the profitable actions and business growth derived from the company’s marketing initiatives. Knowing the expected ROI for content campaigns enables marketers to determine appropriate budget allocations, maximize the efficiency of each expense, and demonstrate the impact to executive stakeholders. However, though it’s (arguably) the most critical measurement of a content program’s effectiveness, it can be difficult to calculate and quantify, let alone prove definitively.

Definitive resource: Why You Struggle To Prove Content ROI — and How To Settle Up (or Down) 

Subscribers

In content marketing, subscribers are audience members who provide personal data to receive valuable content ongoing. It’s a core metric to assess content marketing’s value.

Definitive resource: How a Subscribed Audience Can Draw a Crowd for Your Next Content Product

Understanding the language is the first step to success

While this glossary is not a comprehensive list, it should clarify commonly confused or misunderstood industry terms and concepts. If you would like us to add other content marketing constructs, let us know on social.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute