SEO Terminology - A Glossary of the Most Popular SEO Terms

Author Justin Smith
by Emily Pierce
Updated May. 2, 2017

Search engine optimization can sound much like a foreign language, especially if it’s a new concept for you. If you’re thinking about hiring and digital marketing agency to help with optimization, you’ll need to know some basic SEO terminology to stay in the loop about the in’s and out’s of your site.


301 Redirect or Redirection

A page that when visited, immediately send users to a different page on a site. 301's are put in place when a web page is deleted or does not exist. 301's are beneficial for pages that are linked to from other sites or are ranking on search engines. It helps keep the user experience of your site intact and ranking pages in good standing with search engines.



404 Not Found

A 404 not found error occurs when a user tries to access a page that does not or no longer exists. Often, when a 301 redirect hasn't put in place on a page that does not exist, users may see something like this:

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Algorithm

A sequence of actions performed including calculations and automated reasoning. For SEO, we referred to Google’s algorithm that automates organic search results factoring in over 300 different signals.



Alt Text/Tag

An SEO element for describing images to search engines. Because search engine bots cannot see images, the ALT tag helps with a string of words about the picture, often including an important keyword.



Analytics

A system for computing and analyzing a set of data or statistics. For SEO, we use analytical statistics like website traffic, users, revenue, traffic sources, site goals, and the behavior pattern of users to compare the progress of an SEO campaign. Google Analytics is a standard software for collecting and reporting analytical data.

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Anchor Text

Text within a website that is clickable and links to another page on the site or a different domain. This text typically is a different color from the other text around it to indicate a hyperlink. For SEO, anchor text is used to link a relevant keyword to its corresponding page.



Black Hat SEO

SEO term for an aggressive strategy that does not adhere to search engine policy and guidelines. Black hat SEO can refer to hiding text on a website, keyword stuffing, spam link building, content automation, cloaking, and several others. Black Hat SEO can result in a penalty to a site from search engines, preventing it from ranking organically.



Branded Keywords

A set of organic or paid keywords that include the brand or name of a business.



Canonical Tag

HTML markup placed on a web page that is not considered an authority page. A canonical tag tells search engines to look at the URL specified in the tag as the authority and preferred version of the page, passing link juice and rankings to that URL.

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Click Through Rate/CTR

The rate that users click on a website from or organic or paid search results. CTR is a way to gauge title and description performance.



Content Management System/CMS

An application used to manage digital content in a collaborative environment. Popular content management systems include WordPress, Onveos, and Magento.



Conversion

A conversion occurs when a user completes the most important action on a website. Actions can include buying a product, signing up for a newsletter, filling out a contact form, register for a webinar, etc.



Crawl

Using a third party application to search a website and collect data including pages, status codes (200, 301, 404), and SEO elements like titles and meta descriptions.
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CSS

Cascading Style Sheets is a language for how the HTML markup on a site will look.


Dead Link

A hyperlink that is broken and directed to a page that no longer exists. Errors like 404 not found, server errors, 500 errors, 403 forbidden, etc. Dead links can have a negative impact on SEO.


Disavow

A process of identifying spam backlinks to a site and telling search engines to ignore them. The disavow tool was put in place to help sites that have a weak or poor backlink profile recover from penalties and avoid multiple links from one or more spammy websites.


Duplicate Content

An SEO term for a block of content that is present on more than one page or website on the internet. It is considered a bad signal for SEO and can result in a search engine penalty. For duplicate content within the same domain, see canonical tags for a solution.


eCommerce SEO

An SEO campaign or search engine optimization tactic performed to increase rankings specifically for an eCommerce brand, category page or product pages. Often an eCommerce SEO campaign focuses on product name or product SKU keywords.


Dynamic Tags

Various SEO page elements that are automatically generated using placeholder tokens to put passable meta tags on all pages of a site quickly. These are used to give pages on a site different titles, meta descriptions, and other SEO elements that are unique for search engines.


Fresh Content

A website that is continually updated (weekly or monthly) with content which can include a blog, resource center, and updated metadata.


FTP

File Transfer Protocol is used to transfer files to and from a computer, network, or a website.


GoogleBot

Also known as a spider, a web crawler that discovers and indexes new and updated pages on a site.


Google Analytics

An online analytics software and service that collects and reports on web traffic, allowing marketers to track progress of conversions, revenue, traffic sources, and paid campaigns to a website.


Google Search Console

Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools. A free online service provided by Google to monitor a website’s index and crawl status.


H1

Also known as a heading, the H1 is typically the largest text on the page and is the main thought. For blogs, this is often the name of the blog post. It can be similar to the title but not the same to maximize SEO efforts.


HTML

Hypertext Markup Language. The system for creating and marking up websites with content, graphics, links, and images.


Inbound Link

Links from other websites that direct users to a page on your website. Inbound links are also known as a backlink.


Internal Link

A hyperlink of text or an image within a website that links to another page on the same site. For SEO, this is a good opportunity to incorporate relevant keyword driven anchor text.


IP Address

A unique set of numbers usually separated by periods that devices including computers, smartphones, and tablets use to communicate with each other on the same network. An IP address is a digital footprint for internet activity on a given network.


Keyword Not Provided

When looking in Google Analytics under organic keywords, “keyword not provided” are organic searches for users logged into their Google account that is no longer accessible for data collection.


Keyword Research

During an SEO campaign, research on competitors and a site’s current rankings helps develop a list of keywords to target for on-page optimization, content development, and link building.


Keyword Stuffing

A black hat SEO tactic for adding a significant amount of a keyword onto a page or website to manipulate organic search engines.


Landing Page

A page on a website that is specific and unique to a group of users. For SEO, a landing page targets a specific keyword and typically has a good call to action for users to perform.


Link Building

The practice of gaining links from other websites to improve the authority of a site. Typical link building includes local citation building, blogger outreach, forums, etc.


Manual Penalty

The negative impact on a site based on a search engine’s algorithm. A penalty can happen when black hat SEO tactics are employed.


Meta Description

HTML markup that allows users to see a snippet of a web page that is typically 160 characters in length. This description displays in organic search results for Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.


Nofollow

HTML markup on a link telling search engines not to pass link juice and authority to the site it’s being linked to. Nofollow links are standard practice for sites that outbound link on a regular basis.


Organic Search Results

Results on a search engine based on the relevance of the keyword a user is searching. These are typically displayed after paid advertisement at the top of the page.


Outbound Link

Links within a website that take users to another website.


PageRank

Created by Google and that ranks both the quality and quantity of links to a site that will help determine a domain’s authority. This scale is 0-10 with 10 being of the highest authority.


Panda

First released by Google in 2011, Panda is an algorithm update for how Google shows organic search results. This update took aim at thin content sites and low-quality sites in an attempt to improve user results.


Penguin

In 2012, Google’s Penguin algorithm updates launched and targeted unnatural link building specifically to boost and manipulate a website’s organic rankings.


Quality Content

Content that is both relevant and robust for users based on the keyword, industry, and website. Quality content also means write for users and not just for SEO.


Quality Link

The creation of relevant and natural links to a website. Typically, having high-quality links to a site can result in an improved PageRank, domain authority, and organic rankings.


Robots.txt File

A text file on a website that instructs search engines to ignore certain parts of the site. These are created to prevent search engines from crawling pages like the admin, logins, cart pages, etc.


Search Engine

An SEO term that refers to a program that searches millions of pages and documents using an algorithm to display the most relevant and quality results possible based on a user’s search query.


Search Query

A keyword that a user types into a search engine to find relevant websites and information.
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SEM

Also known as Search Engine Marketing, SEM is digital marketing across organic and paid advertising platforms to increase the visibility of a website or web page.


SEO

Also known as Search Engine Optimization, SEO is the digital marketing practice for increasing free traffic and visibility to a website or web page through search engine rankings. SEO practices typically include on-page optimization for specific keywords, content development focusing on specific keywords, and high-quality link building.


SERP

Pages displayed by a search engine based on the keyword of a user. Typically, the title and meta description are present for the user, giving them relevant information about the website before clicking.
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Sitemap

A list of pages on a website that is easily accessible to search engines, crawlers, and users. Typically, sitemaps are formatted as an XML file and organized as a hierarchy. Sitemaps are particularly useful for indexing new and updates web pages.

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Title Tag

HTML element on a web page the represent the most relevant keyword and information about the page. The title tag displays to users at the top of their browser and in search engine results. The title tag is one of the most important factors when rankings a web page for a particular keyword.


URL

A web address that points to a unique page on a website, FTP, email, or database access. Also known as a Uniform Resource Locator.


Usability

Usability is an SEO term based on user-centered design. When developing a site, the design, development, and SEO are created based on how the user will interact with the website to improve their experience.


White Hat SEO

Search engine optimization techniques that are aligned with search engine best practices and are user focused with the goal of improving the organic visibility of a website. Also known as ethical SEO.


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