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Demystifying Marketing Terminology: Marketing Your Service Business Online

FieldPulse | October 18, 2016

digitalmarketingDigital marketing is more accessible than ever, but the industry does a poor job of explaining itself to small businesses. As a service business owner it can be hard to find the time to build your own ads and develop a diverse marketing plan, but at the same time it can be hard to work with a freelance marketer when you don’t understand what it is that they do.

From CPM to KPI’s, ad spend to SEO, there’s a lot of internal jargon in marketing. In this article we’re going to break down how the language works and what most businesses look for in their marketing plans. Whether you’re looking to work with marketers or build your own plans, understanding how the industry communicates plays a huge role in creating quality marketing plans. We’ll focus primarily on digital marketing, but also talk about some of the big picture practices in the service contracting industry.

Website Basics

If you already have a website, you’re probably familiar with the basic conversation about hosts, domains, and content management systems (wordpress, squarespace, etc). We’ve previously written about Squarespace and the benefits it offers to service businesses, but there’s more to running a website than just registering a URL and adding a phone number.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a popular topic among small business owners as it seems to offer great advantages. SEO, in a nutshell, is everything that makes it easier for a website to be found on search engines like Google and Bing. There are thousands of guides out there that promise top rankings if you follow their “proven steps,” but SEO typically boils down to building your website in a way that makes it easy to find by tweaking headers, descriptions, and on-page content to match the language that people use when searching online.

The way Google sorts search results is complex. There are over two billion lines of code that make up the complex algorithm they use, and after the latest update to it they’ve introduced a rolling update model where it updates every day instead of every month or so. There are no “hacks” or “tricks” that will guarantee you a good ranking, but you can still do well as long as you understand how it works.

Search rankings are all about competition; the more popular the query, the harder it is to rank well. On top of how the site is built (you can’t rank well for a term that doesn’t match what’s on your site), google also looks at how old and how popular your site is. The former is measured by your domain age, which is exactly what it says on the tin; the latter is measured through a wide variety of metrics, such as referral traffic from backlinks (legitimate links to your site from elsewhere on the web), organic traffic (people going directly to your site), and social traffic (people going to your site from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms).

If you’re trying to rank well on a popular query, like “roof repair,” you’ll be competing against large companies that have been on the internet for a while, with large budgets and engaged audiences. You can invest thousands of dollars trying to dominate a popular term, and lose to companies that don’t even operate in your service area. Things get easier, though, when you pursue specific terms like “roof repair in [your town here],” as your only competition will be the local businesses, rather than every english-speaking roofer on the web. There are diminishing returns on specific queries, however, as you still need to match your content to the way your customers behave online.

A common metric used to judge the quality of a website is its bounce rate. Bounce rate is a percentage-based measurement of the number of website visitors who leave the site after looking at just one page. People who bounce, instead of exploring the site, are like window shoppers; they’re not really there to buy anything. Low bounce rates indicate that people like what they see, and that they want to learn more.

Google Search Ads

Google Adwords is one of the most popular advertising platforms, and for good reason; almost everyone who uses the internet has seen Adword ads. Placed in the popular real estate at the top of Google search results, these ads allow businesses to target customers based on their region, demographics, and, most importantly, search criteria.

Unlike Google Adsense, an ad network used for placing traditional banner ads on other websites, Adwords is primarily text-based. They have options for placing ads in search results, as mobile cards in certain cellphone menus and dynamic search listings, and on select website networks. It’s a great way to expose potential customers to your brand or special deals that you’re offering, and the targeting tools Google offers are some of the best around.

Adsense uses a Pay Per Click, or PPC, pricing structure. When you set up ad campaigns, you allocate a budget for ads that’s only spent when potential customers interact with your ads; it’s displayed for free. Your cost per click depends on the popularity of the keyword you’re targeting, with more popular keywords requiring higher bids.

There are tons of options and techniques you can use for building Adwords campaigns; make sure to check out our local advertising guide to get the most out of them.

Social Media

Every social media platform has their own internal lingo for how they work, but there are a few universal factors. Whether you’re on Facebook or Friendster, you’ll be looking at the difference between post reach and post engagement, as well as your share ratio and a couple of other measurements.

Reach is a measurement of how many people see your posts on social media, without accounting for the number of people who interact with them. Reach is often expressed as a percentage of your total follower count, and it can be broken down into organic reach (people who see your posts naturally) and paid reach (people who see your posts because you put money into them). Due to recent changes, growing your organic reach on Facebook is close to impossible if people don’t share your posts. Sites like Facebook profit the most from paid advertising, and they’ve built their features to encourage spending.

Engagement is a measurement of how many people click on, like, comment on, or otherwise interact with your posts, and is expressed in percentage-formats similar to reach.

Share ratios measure what percentage of your audience shares the content you’ve posted with other people. Shares are really important for media companies like Buzzfeed, as it can be used to measure how ‘viral’ something is. Most service businesses have low share ratios, but it’s still an important part of the discussion.

When marketers talk about making posts on social media, it’s common to talk about calls to action, or CTA’s. A CTA is a statement or button that encourages viewers to do a specific thing, like click a link or join a mailing list. You can also find CTA’s on websites and in television ads and on billboards; they’re everywhere.

Most marketers don’t post on social media directly. Instead, they use digital tools to plan and schedule their posts well in advance. This lets them juggle more clients without being tied to their desk, as their social media pages take care of themselves once everything is scheduled. This is a key part of building a content calendar, or a plan that lays out what posts are made when and how long ad campaigns last.


You can spend money on every facet of marketing, and the way marketers talk about spending is a bit different. Ad spend is a term used to refer to the overall monthly budget allocated to a marketer for advertising purposes. Ad spend is often broken down into percentages to express how much money was spent on each platform, which can then be compared to the return generated through each channel. It doesn’t offer a comprehensive look at ROI (which can’t always be expressed through direct numbers) but it’s representative enough to determine the relative efficiency of different advertising techniques.

There’s Always More Jargon

Digital marketing is always evolving, and there’s always more jargon. We’ve only brushed the surface of how marketing works and what terms are used, but the information we’ve covered here should help you get started with your digital marketing efforts.

If you want to stay on top of the scene, keep an eye on trade publications and professional journals connected to digital marketing. There’s a lot of noise out there directed at new businesses and at-home entrepreneurs, and filtering through the ‘free ebooks’ to find new and relevant information can be hard.

Never be afraid of asking for clarification when working with marketers. The field is fast-paced, but the concepts and psychology involved is fairly easy to understand once the terminology is translated into plain language. Taking the time to do your research and talk about case studies is always worthwhile as it can save you from wasting money on marketers or programs that don’t align with your goals.

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