A good SEO strategy is essential to getting your site surfaced in search results. So naturally, you must develop a solid understanding of foundational SEO principles and terms.
As you begin learning the SEO ropes, you may feel like you’re learning a complex second language.
Don’t let that defeat you — you’ve got this, and SEO jargon doesn’t have to be a mystery. Use this glossary of SEO terminology to help orient yourself and understand the terms you need to know to succeed in search.
Already a master of SEO lingo? Scroll down to the bottom for additional SEO resources, including a beginner’s and more advanced technical guides.
SEO Terms: A Glossary
Algorithm – A computer program used by search engines. This program allows them to retrieve data and deliver results for searches.
Algorithm Change – Refers to when search engines update or change the algorithms they use.
Authority – The signals search engines use to assess and “grade” sites and pages to determine rank in search engine results.
Backlink – AKA inbound link. A link from another (3rd party) site to your site or one of your webpages.
Black Box – This term is used to describe Google’s esoteric programs. Google’s algorithm is a “black box” — we can observe it in action and see its effects, but can’t fully access the program itself or know everything about it.
Black Hat SEO – Risky and ill-advised SEO tactics that Google frowns upon. These tactics are contrary to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Engaging in black hat SEO tactics can result in penalization or removal from search rankings.
Competitor – Your competition in the market. Generally, they fall into two categories:
- Direct – they sell similar goods and services to a similar target audience.
- SEO – competitors who bid on the same keywords as you and increase competition for the same organic traffic.
Crawler – The program(s) a search engine uses to crawl the web. AKA: Bot, Spider.
Domain – Your website’s name. It follows the ‘www.’ in the URL, and also what follows the @ symbol in an email address. For example, in ‘www.Domain.com’ the ‘Domain.com’ is the actual domain name.
Google – The most popular search engine. Founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in September 1998. Google created a revolution in search — moving away from human-edited web directories and toward web crawling technology using an algorithm(s) to analyze and rank websites.
Heading – Also called H tags, they range from H1-H6. These tags designate sections of your content from the most important (H1) to the least (H6.) Heading tags, especially the H1, should always incorporate your target keywords.
Headline – An H1 tag. The most important of your headings, and should always include your keyword(s.)
Head Term – A keyword with high search volume (e.g. “email” with 1.2 million). Since head terms are popular search terms, it’s harder to rank for them. AKA: Head Keyword, Short-tail.
Keyword – The word or phrase you’re focusing on in your content. Keyword selection should be influenced by the terms your target audience is using in their online searches. Including keywords in your content helps search engines know what pages to surface in search results.
Keyword Research – A process of discovery. It helps you understand what keywords your audience uses in their searches and provides insight into the topics and themes most relevant to them. You also determine the keyword volume (frequency in search) and what competition exists for the term. All of this helps you determine the best keyword(s) to focus your efforts on.
Keyword Stuffing – Spam (Black hat SEO) tactic. It’s the practice of using a keyword too many times or using irrelevant keywords, in forced and unnatural ways. By doing this, spammers hope to rank higher in search results. It could result in page demotion or removal from search page rankings.
Knowledge Graph – Google’s database of knowledge. Contains data about keywords and search intent which is used to improve search results and surface relevant or related results. Displayed in a Knowledge Panel, or carousel, at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP.)
Knowledge Panel – A specific section of results in the SERP. Appears as a box at the top of the first page of Google’s search results (or right side of the page on desktop.)
Link – A connection between two sites or web pages that are created with HTML code. They’re integral to how sites and pages are graded by search engines and pivotal to site navigation.
Long-Tail Keyword – Multiple-word search terms. Usually highly specific. People who use long-tail keywords are known to display greater purchase intent. These keywords are less popular and it is normally easier to rank for them. E.g. “Email marketing” with 18k in search volume instead of “Email” with 1.2m in search volume.
Manual Action – The term Google uses to describe a penalty. This happens after a human reviewer manually reviews a site to verify whether or not it complies with Google’s Webmaster guidelines. If not, pages or sites can be demoted or entirely removed from search results.
Meta Description – The short blurb that describes what a search result is about that appears below the title and link on the SERP. It’s a tag added to the head section of an HTML document, it succinctly illustrates what the content on a webpage or site is all about. The more accurate and engaging your meta description, the better your Click Through Rate (CTR) will be. Include keywords.
Off-page SEO – SEO boosting activities and tactics that do not occur on your website. E.g. — brand awareness campaigns, social media marketing, offline marketing, and link building all help improve SEO without occurring on your actual website.
On-page SEO – The SEO boosting activities that occur on your website. This can include optimizing the HTML code across your site (heading tag, H tags, meta descriptions, etc.), publishing good content that targets the right audience and keyword(s), intuitive site navigation, and more.
Organic Search – AKA unpaid or natural search results. Organic search results are ranked and displayed in order of most helpful and relevant. The ranking is done in accord with search engine-specific algorithms. You do not and cannot pay for organic search result placement.
Outbound Link – Links that direct away from the domain they’re found on, these links direct visitors to other (3rd party) websites.
Pagerank – This algorithm measures the importance of a page based on not just the volume of links leading to it, but also the quality of those links. Google says, “Not all links are equal.”
Page Speed – How much time elapses before a webpage completely loads. This factor affects your search results ranking.
Paid Search – Search results whose position is paid for. These pay-per-click ads are marked “Ads” in Google search results and are placed above and sometimes below organic search results.
Rank – The placement of a specific webpage in organic search results concerning a specific query.
Ranking Factor – Ranking factors are the various things deemed important (or not) that all influence search engines’ respective algorithms. They help search engines understand where to place a webpage in search results. You can directly influence many ranking factors on your webpages and site.
Search Engine – Computer programs that index websites, webpages, and countless documents and files on the Internet. They make it possible for users to input queries and receive results from the search engine’s index. They’re created and updated over time using crawlers and the information and data therein are analyzed by algorithms.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – The practice of optimizing a site and all of its content so that it’s highly visible and gets good placement in organic search results. Good SEO involves keyword research, understanding your audience, creating good and relevant content, and good website structure, navigation, and loading speed. A great SEO strategy addresses content and marketing, and technical elements, too.
Search Engine Results Page (SERP) – This page is full of the results provided by search engines after an online search is conducted. Results are sorted in order of relevance and helpfulness. SERPs normally include a list of no more than 10 links, but they can include other sections like:
- Knowledge Panels
- Local Pack
- Shopping Results
- And more.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL) – This is the string of numbers and symbols located in the address bar at the top of your web browser, which includes all of the information your computer needs to find the right page, image, or document on a website. For example, “https://www.domain.com” is the URL for Domain.com.
Put these SEO terms to good use
It’s time now to build an SEO strategy that’ll help increase the visibility of your website and drive more traffic to it. As you do so, keep this glossary of SEO terms handy for use as a quick reference.
You don’t have to do it alone though. We’ve got the resources and tools you help you create that amazing SEO strategy of yours.
Check out these blog posts for more information, advice, and next steps:
Achieving online success — whether that be launching a lucrative eCommerce business or hitting a milestone of 10k blog subscribers — is directly influenced by SEO. You can’t build a successful strategy on a shaky foundation, so start with this post if you’re new to search engine optimization.
This helpful infographic lays out the 10 things you must have to achieve SEO perfection on your blog posts or webpages. Hang on to this one, you’ll come back to it as you create content for your site.
When we wrote this post, we did so with your website’s best interests at heart. We consulted Mike, our resident SEO expert, and asked him for 10 elements that together, create an effective SEO strategy. Show your site how much you care about it by implementing the tactics covered here.
Ready to level up your SEO game? This guide lays out your path. What does a website audit entail? What tools are available to you to conduct and track the audit? What should your goals be? We get into the minutiae in this post, but don’t let that deter you. Read this post, take action, and outperform your competitor in the SERPs.
Not all SEO-boosting activities occur on your website (reference glossary above: Off-page SEO.) Not as technical as the previously mentioned resource, but just as thorough and equally as important. First, get your house in order with on-page SEO, and then, grow your off-site reputation with the strategies you learn about in this post.
Keep this SEO Terms Glossary handy
Download this Glossary of SEO Terms to always have on-hand when you need it.