SEO Marketing Terminology: A Beginner’s Glossary

Search engine optimization can be a complex process and comes with its own unique terminology and jargon. We’ve compiled a glossary containing 50 of the most important SEO terms so that you can get a head start on your own SEO journey!

Alt Text: HTML code that provides information used by search engines and screen readers that describes the images on web pages. Also called “alt text.”

Anchor Text: The clickable text of a link. The text is meant to provide contextual information to both people and search engines about what the webpage being linked is about. See also: hyperlink.

Backlink: A link to a webpage that originates from an external website. Also called an inbound link. 

Black Hat SEO: SEO practices that violate Google’s guidelines or otherwise manipulate search engine algorithms. Sometimes referred to as “webspam,” “search spam,” or “spamdexing.”  

Bots: Also called “web crawlers” or spiders.” A specific type of bot used by search engines to index the content of websites across the internet, so that they can appear in search engine results.

Broken Link: A link that leads to a 404/Not Found page. A link usually becomes broken when a website goes offline, a webpage is removed without implementing a redirect, or the destination URL has changed without implementing a redirect.

Business Listing: Refers to any web-based reference to a local business’ name, address, and phone number (sometimes called NAP). Also known as “citations.” These can occur on local business directories, websites, apps, or social media platforms. They can help improve SEO and ensure you rank accurately on Google Maps.

Canonicalization: In SEO terms, this usually refers to picking the best possible URL when there are multiple choices available. For instance:

“www.example.com”

“www.example.com/index.html” and

“example.com/home.asp”

Most would consider these the same URL, but each are technically different, and a web server could return different content for each of these URLs.

Click Bait: Content that is designed to entice people into click, usually through intentionally misleading headlines. This type of content is increasingly frowned upon and tends to reflect poorly of brands.

Click-Through Rate (CTR): The ratio of users who click on your URL compared to the number of total users who view it.

Content: The words, images, videos, and/or sounds on a website that contain information that is distributed to and consumed by an audience. Most search engines prioritize content that is useful, informative, valuable, credible, unique, and engaging.

Conversion: When a user completes a desired action on a website, whether it’s completing a purchase, downloading premium content, subscribing to an email newsletter, etc.

Conversion Rate: The percentage of website users who complete a desired action.

De-index/Delisting: When a search engine removes a website from search results, either temporarily or permanently.

Directory: A list of websites, usually separated into related categories and maintained by human editors. Inclusion can either be free or paid, depending on the directory.

Duplicate Content: Content that is shared between domains or multiple pages of the same domain.

First Meaningful Paint: In terms of page speed, this refers to the point at which a user can understand the first piece of content on a webpage, such as readable text or an image.

Google Trends: A website providing data visualizations on the latest search trends and popular topics.

Header Tags: Tags used to separate content into sections based on importance. Ranges from H1 to H6, with H1 being used for the headline. Headline tags should be read naturally while incorporating relevant keywords.

Hyperlink: A webpage link that can be accessed by clicking on an icon, graphic, or text. Unlike anchor text, which refers to the text, a hyperlink is the link itself.

Intent: In SEO terms, intent refers to what users wanted to find from the words that they have typed into the search bar. Sometimes the intent differs from the actual wording.

Keyword/Keyphrase: Any word or phrase that users regularly search for. One of the major elements of good SEO is using keywords that are relevant to your target audience in your content.

Keyword Density: How often a keyword or phrase appears within the content of webpage.

Keyword Stuffing: A tactic where a website overuses important keywords in an unnatural fashion in order to manipulate search engine results. Most modern search engines punish this practice by lowering search result rankings or hiding webpages entirely.

KPI: Short for “key performance indicator.” Refers to measurable value that indicates how well an activity is achieving its intended goal.

Long-Tail Keywords: Search queries containing three or more words. Users tend to use long-tail keywords to get more specific and relevant results.

Markup Validation: Ensuring that the code of web documents (such as HTML, CSS, and XML docs) follow the format or language needed to function properly. Also called “W3C validation,” which is named after the World Wide Web Consortium, the recognized standards organization for the internet.

Meta Tags: Information that appears in the HTML source code of a web page. They describe the content of a webpage to search engines.

Mobile Optimization: Various practices designed to make sure a webpage is easily readable and accessible to mobile users. Since 2018, Google started building its crawls and indexes based on the mobile versions of websites rather than desktop versions.

Off-Page SEO: The act of improving your webpage’s authority by getting linked by other websites. Google and other search engines prioritize content that is popular and linked by other reputable sources.

On-Page SEO: The act of optimizing the parts of your website that affect search engine results, such as accessibility, page speed, and keyword usage.

Organic: In SEO terms, organic refers to earned placement in search results, as opposed to paid advertisements.

Page Speed: Various elements that determine how quickly a webpage loads, including “first meaningful paint” and “time to interactive.” Page speed can directly impact a webpage’s ranking in search results.

Query: The words typed into a search bar.

Rank Math: A popular SEO plug-in for WordPress.

Ranking: Where a webpage appears within the organic search results for a specific query.  

Redirection: When a URL is moved from location to another.

Robots.txt: Files that search engine crawlers which pages they can or cannot request from the site. This is mainly used to avoid overloading your site with requests.

Schema.org: Code that is “wrapped around” elements of your web page to provide additional information about it to search engines. When data uses schema.org, it is referred to as “structured” as opposed to “unstructured.”

Search Engine: A program that retrieves information by searching for items in a database, highlighting results that match the request sent by the user. Google is the most popular search engine, taking up 92.26% of the market in 2021, but there are other popular options like Bing and Yahoo.

Search Traffic: The visits sent to your website through search engines.

SERP: Short for “search engine results page.” The page you see after conducting a search.

Short-Tail Keywords: Search queries consisting of one or two words. Users tend to use short-tail keywords when they are only searching for a more general topic.

Sitemap: A list of pages on a website. There are two types of sitemaps – HTML (organized by topics, helps site users navigate a website) and XML (provides bots a list of webpages on a website).  

Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking typically refers to websites where users share their web pages and other content. This can increase off-page SEO. Popular examples include Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit.

Time to Interactive: In terms of page speed, this refers to when everything on a webpage had loaded and is fully interactive.

User Experience: The various aspects that effect how a user interacts with a website. Includes content quality, visual polish, page seed, accessibility, and mobile optimization. A poor user experience can result in a lower ranking in search results.

Visibility: The prominence that a webpage has when displayed in search engine results.  

White Hat SEO: SEO practices that fully comply with Google’s guidelines.

Yoast: A popular SEO plug-in for WordPress.

Mark Buckner
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Mark Buckner is a freelance writer and editor from Hammond, Indiana. A recent graduate of Purdue University Northwest, he has edited two books and written on topics ranging from social media to science fiction film. At this time, he is open to other freelance writing and editing opportunities.

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