Words You Need to Know: Online Business Glossary


When I first started my online business, I had no idea what I was doing (seriously).

Because you’re a small business owner now, you’ve probably noticed yourself wearing a lot more hats than normal 💂‍♀️(figuratively, of course).

If you went into business for design (like me) or anything really, you’re probably now realising how much more than design running a business is. Honestly, I’m probably only designing 25% of the week! The rest of it is just keeping the biz wheels turning.

Like me, you’ll probably catch up quickly to stay afloat. But stick around, because I know I could have really used someone to explain to me what people were talking about when they were using their big ‘online business’ words.

If you’re running an online business, you’ll definitely be running into these words soon, and often.

I’ll continue to add to this post as I continue to find words that you don’t normally come across in the real world.


Opt In

The term opt-in is used loosely to describe a place where a website visitor/customer can enter in their details/give permission for you to contact them.

It almost always relates to signing up to someone's email list/newsletter.

Opt in is used to describe the actual form you use to collect information (sign up form), it’s also used to describe the action of someone filling out that form and giving you permission (signing up).

It’s can be a little bit confusing, because like I said, it’s used pretty loosely. Here are some examples.

“You should place an opt-in on every page of your website”

Translation: You should place a sign up form (often your email newsletter) on every page of your website.

“They all opted-in to my email list”

Translation: They all signed up to my email list.


Content upgrade

This one also often relates to email marketing.

A content upgrade is something that you give away for free in exchange for someone signing up for your email newsletter (someone ‘opting-in’) / or something you get for free in exchange for opting-in to someone’s email list.

The reason it's called a content "upgrade" is because it's normally a part of something like a blog post and offers more about that post, so an upgrade of what you're already reading.

For example, a content upgrade to this post could be something like a free PDF checklist of the small biz glossary.


Lead Magnet

A lead magnet is just a general optin, this might be on the homepage of your website or a pop up. It's not linked to anything in particular (like a content upgrade is) and it's basically just a fancy word for an opt-in. 

A Lead Magnet is an opt in that is designed to attract (magnet) potential customers (leads), get it?



A domain name is the URL of your website. For example, my domain name is bigcatcreative.com.

Your domain is actually separate from your website, and this can sometimes get a bit confusing. Because they’re separate, they can be hosted on different platforms. For example, if you have your website hosted on Squarespace, you can have your domain hosted somewhere else.

I won’t get into the finer details, but it’s important and useful to know that your domain is just your URL name.



On the flipside, your website hosting is the other half of the website puzzle. (Domain + Hosting = Website!).

Where your website is hosted is like it’s online home. It’s where your website lives. You must host your website on a platform like Squarespace or Wordpress (those are the two most popular). You get to choose where you host your website.

Hosting a Wordpress site gets a bit more tricky, so make sure you have a good web designer/developer on your team!


Affiliate links/affiliate marketing

You’ll start to see this pop up pretty often, especially if you’re into blogging.

Affiliate marketing is when a company partners with external websites to make commission based sales.

For example: I am an affiliate partner for ConvertKit (an email marketing platform that I use) and if anyone uses my unique link to sign up to ConverKit, I get a percentage of whatever plan that person signs up for. ( Interested? 😉)

Each companies commission rate is different, it might be a percentage, a fixed rate, or something else, but either way, both parties are benefitting.

Often you will see blog posts with a disclaimer like: “I used an affiliate link in this post which means I get a kickback if you make a purchase...etc”. There’s nothing to worry about here, you won’t be charged extra, and if you’re planning to sign up to the platform being advertised anyway, you might as well use someones affiliate link to help them out!

Almost anyone can use affiliate marketing, so it’s worth checking if any platforms you pay for offer affiliate programmes.

If you’re a big time blogger, you can make a lot of money through affiliate marketing.



You’ve probably seen this a lot throughout your small biz journey. Whether you're new in business, or have been around a while, a lot of people still don’t know the basics of a brand and what it really means.

As a designer, I can honestly say that a brand isn’t just design. Design is an important part of your branding, but it’s equally as important as your brand “voice” and your business mission.

All together, these three things are the building blocks of a brand. Design, Voice and Mission.

So when you’re talking about about branding, just remember that you’re talking about the whole package: graphic elements that make up your brand design (logo, colors, photography), the way you speak to your target audience (target copywriting) and the mission and purpose behind your business (what are you creating, why are you creating it, who is it for?).

Branding is not just a logo design!


Client Avatar

Also known as your Target Audience, Target Market, Target Customer, Ideal Customer, Ideal Client… you get the idea!

These are the people that you are marketing your product or service to. Your ideal customers. The people who would purchase your product in a heartbeat. Your whole brand (as above) is designed around these people.

If you don’t have one of these, you need to go back and figure it out, because it you’re marketing to everyone, you’re marketing to no one!

Related Post > How to Define Your Target Audience


Mailing List/Email list

Traditionally, a mailing list is a collection of physical addresses where you send out your snail-mail newsletter to.

Because it’s 2018 and most business are run online, you’re much more likely to run into an email list, which is exactly the same, but email addresses instead of physical addresses and you’re sending emails, not letters!

The “list” comes down to your actual list of names and email addresses. You could have multiple lists on the same email marketing platform.



This word lends itself to a lot of different definitions, but for online businesses and bloggers in particular I hear this word being thrown around a lot.

Niching in the online business world means sticking to a certain theme, product or general idea instead of spreading yourself over a bunch of different products or categories.

For example: if you’re in the blogging world you would often have a “niche” like travel or food.

If you’re a service based business you may have a “niche” like web design or copywriting.



Copywriting, not to be confused with copyrighting, is the act of writing copy. Copy is text, written to advertise or promote something (like a sales page, your website, your brand).

For example, all of the text on your website is considered “copy”. You could hire a professional copywriter to write it for you.

Email Sequence

An email sequence is a series of emails set up to automatically send out to your email subscribers.

A common email sequence is a 'welcome series'. This is usually 1-3 emails, one per day, set up to automatically send out to anyone that signs up to your email list. 

Other common email sequences are used for launches or sales. They are almost always set up prior and automatically send when prompted.



*Cringe*, that word sounds totally nerdy and super confusing. I know, it is. But it’s something that you gotta know.

Don’t even try to google the definition of Analytics (I just did), it’s terrifying!

My definition of analytics is: all of the statistics, numbers and data that give you useful info on your website.

It shows you awesome things like how many people visited your website, what are you most popular blog posts, where is your audience coming from and all of that juicy data.

This is really useful for us online business owners because our business is our website, and we need to keep on top of it!

But i’m not here to tell you why you should be interested in analytics (you can find that below) I’m just here to tell you what it is and how it relates to you as an online business owner.

Related Post > Why You Should Be Tracking Your Analytics


Let me know in the comments if you have any words I should add! Thanks for reading :)


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