Volusion's Glossary of Ecommerce Terms

Confused by some of the terminology surrounding marketing, design or the technical aspects of maintaining an online store? Learn more from our glossary of ecommerce terms.

While ecommerce professionals do their best to provide transparency and clarity in their work, occupational terminology always carries the potential to undo those efforts when communicating to clients. In order to help merchants understand that terminology in our own communications, and to better prepare our merchants for other information in the field, we have put together a glossary of ecommerce terms. You can download a printable version of the glossary here and, for a more thorough dicussion of these concepts, but sure to download The Ultimate Field Guide to Ecommerce Conversions.

301 Redirect: A 301 Redirect is a permanent redirect that communicates to search engines that a page has permanently moved. Since the move is permanent, the search engines know to transfer any SEO value from the old page to the new one.

Below the Fold: The part of a Web page one can only view by scrolling down. The first part of a Web page a viewer initially sees is above the fold. It is widely believed that most readers will pay less attention to the content below the fold or potentially not see it at all, depending on how far they must scroll down.

Browser: A software application used to access, search and explore sites. Examples include: Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari.

Call to Action: A message directed at the user to cause a reaction, asking them or encouraging them to physically do something. In most cases, it will be a succinct, attention-grabbing imperative such as: “Contact us at,” “Shop now” or “Save money and order now!”

Cart Abandonment: When a shopper/customer adds items to their virtual cart and then leaves the site without making a purchase. This information does not have to be completely negative, as it can be used to follow-up and remind customers later of their intended purchases.

Content Management System (CMS): An intuitive Web publishing software or string of applications that allow a person or organization to create, edit, search, publish and remove content from the Web. Some examples include Blogspot, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): a styling language used to declare design elements of a website, including color, font and layout.

Custom 404 Page: The web page directed to users to announce that the server cannot find what they’re looking for. Traditional 404 pages offer no explanation to users and make pressing the back button their only option. In order not to lose views or customers, a custom-made 404 page can keep the user on the website and direct them to a more helpful page like the homepage, site search or contact page.

Duplicate Content: Content that can be seen on multiple sites or locations on the Internet. In most cases, this duplication is not done on purpose or for harmful reasons. It is up to search engines to figure out which content is best to index, rank and refer, and this can create problems for site traffic.

Facebook Advertising: An advertising strategy that takes Facebook users’ available information (age, interests, location, etc.) to target their advertisements accordingly. This strategy helps filter out the groups unlikely to purchase their products or services.

F-pattern: The pattern in which readers scan a web page, often focusing on the first few paragraphs of content from left to right then rerouting their attention completely downward. Shape may change depending on the use and layout of product images, headings and bullet points, which grab readers’ attention.

FTP: Short for File Transfer Protocol, FTP is a way to transfer files over the Internet that is used every day all over the world. An FTP client is the software that actually controls the transfer of the data between the two computers (your computer and the remote site).

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): A universally-used, standardized markup language that uses a system of tags to communicate page effects to web browsers.

Indexing: The act of compiling, analyzing and storing information from websites. After the search engine bot comes back from its crawl, it will store the desired data into an index in order to better answer search queries.

On-Page Messaging: The actual content on a website, such as product descriptions and company background, that can be optimized and manipulated to include higher quality keywords and entice customers to make the final purchase.

Optimizing: Making changes to a site in order to garner the most organic search traffic possible to the site. This may include incorporating keywords into content and tags, blogging, engaging in social media, etc.

Organic Search: The outcome of a user clicking a site that was listed to them through natural search engine results from their queries – not paid. These search results are the most relevant data when it comes to analyzing site traffic.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising: The paid way to obtain visitors via search engine results pages. Companies or advertisers pay search engines or some sort of advertising platform a small amount for each click on their promoted ad. These ads typically appear at the top and bottom of the search results.

Redirects: Servers can redirect users or search engines to a different URL for a number of reasons, including maintenance, new domain, updated information, canonical URLs, etc. The most common redirect is the 301 Permanent, used when URL pages have permanently changed to a different URL.

Search Engine Crawling: A method a search engine bot or spider takes to retrieve and index (store) a website’s data including the website URL, titles, meta tags, content and hyperlinks. Usually, it involves the search engine crawler visiting a list of website URLs then following the indexed hyperlinks.

Shopping Feeds: Lists of product information provided to shopping channels in a specific format in order for these channels to properly display the products. This will usually include a product title, image, description and marketing message.

Site Architecture: The blueprint of a website that takes into account content, design and functionality. A good site architecture will allow the users and search engines to easily navigate the website with sound categories, subcategories and links. Site maps, wireframes and user interactions all contribute to the site architecture.

Soft Add-to-Cart: An online shopping feature that allows users and customers to add items to their virtual cart without having to leave the shopping experience. A full summary or breakdown of the contents of the customer’s cart is available for viewing as each item is added.

Tagline: A short and succinct promotional slogan that a company uses to describe who they are/what they do. Taglines can also be used for products to increase sales as well. Some examples include: Nike’s “Just do it,” Skittles “Taste the rainbow” and DosEquis “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do…”

Target Market: The group of people a business chooses to communicate with, ideally the people most likely to buy the products being sold. This market should be narrowly defined by demographic and psychographic factors.

Template: A website template is a frame that surrounds each page of a website. It provides a consistent feel to the website, regardless of which page your visitors are on.

Title Tag: A brief text describing the main theme or topic of a particular Web page. This is the most important SEO real estate on a page, so it should contain the most relevant keywords for search optimization and is a crucial component in user experience. Visitors will typically see the Title tag on browsers and search engine result pages.

Value Proposition: A statement of assurance that companies use to guarantee customers a beneficial or quality experience from their services, products or company values. Simply put, it is an explanation of why customers should buy from that specific company. This sort of proposition should be present in all the main areas of the website.

Website Analytics: A compilation of organized data used to measure a variety of data around a website. An analytical tool can track the success of channels like organic search and paid search, as well as site traffic, number of clicks, how long viewers stayed on a page, click-paths, etc. In the big picture, this data could serve as market research and determine changes in business strategy.