The Essential Glossary of Common SEO Terms

Written by: Levy Online on

SEO Mind Map

If you’re new to digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), the amount of information coming your way can be a little overwhelming. Outside of understanding the concepts behind SEO marketing, there are countless terms you may not be familiar with. In order to fully grasp SEO strategies, here are the most common SEO terms to help build a firm foundation for your digital marketing efforts.


In the context of SEO, this refers to a complex program that search engines, like Google, use to retrieve and deliver data that most accurately answers a user’s query. Using multiple algorithms, search engines are able to rank webpages based on factors that will give the user the best possible results.

Algorithm Update

In the world of SEO, you’ll hear about algorithm updates constantly because it may affect your rankings. Search engines will periodically make changes to an existing algorithm in an attempt to improve query results. However, it could mean you’ll need to adjust your SEO strategy to compensate for those changes.

Alt Attribute or Alt Text

This short HTML code is a description that tells search engines the contents of an image. It also helps readers who are visually impaired to understand what is in the image and how it relates to the text.


The process of analyzing search engine data by collecting stats and interpreting numbers to help formulate a plan of action moving forward.

Anchor Text

When providing a link in the text of your webpage, the anchor text is the clickable words within that text. It provides insight to search engines and users by telling them what they can expect when they click on that link. For example, Levy Online is the clickable anchor text in this definition. It tells search engines and users that link will take them to the Levy Online website.


As one of the pillars of SEO, authority is the measure given by search engines to websites that have robust, informative content and high-quality backlinks. The more authority a website has, the more strength and visibility search engines will give, which ultimately improves rankings.


A backlink refers to a hyperlink on a webpage that links back to your website or webpage. Also referred to as an “inbound link” or IBL, they tell search engines your website has authority because your content is considered helpful and trustworthy by other authorities.

Recommended: What Are Backlinks and Why Are They Important?

Black Hat

This describes SEO marketing tactics that are not in line with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or other search engine guidelines and can actually hurt your SEO efforts.


For businesses, a blog refers to periodically published content that shares information from the perspective of the company or industry experts. Blogs can be used to answer user queries and drive more organic traffic to your website if done the right way.


Also referred to as a crawler or spider, a bot is what collects data during the crawling process to update and organize a search engine’s index.

Bounce Rate

This is the percentage of visitors to your website who leave without viewing another page on the website.

Branded Keyword

This refers to user queries that include specific company or brand names or variations of that name.

Broken Link

A link that results in a “404 Not Found” error message. This can happen when a URL is changed or a webpage is removed without redirecting.

Canonical URL

When multiple URLs have similar content or there are different URLs that lead to the same page, this HTML code element tells search engines which website URL is preferred.


This is an umbrella term for everything included on your website that conveys information, such as text, images, and videos. Search engines see content as one of, if not the most crucial ranking factor. Content should always provide value and be unique and engaging for better search results.

Recommended: How SEO Content Has Evolved


This references when a user completes the desired action on your website. Conversions can be the purchase of a product or service, subscribing to your newsletter, or registering for an event.


Crawling is the process of search engine bots gathering data and information from your webpage in order to update and add to the search engine’s index.


Short for Cascading Style Sheet, this describes how HTML elements (such as colors, fonts, text size, etc.) should appear when viewed on different devices. CSS helps web developers create a uniform style for multiple pages on a website.


Also known as delisting, this is when search engines remove a website from their index. This can be a result of using black hat SEO tactics which bots were able to pick up.


You can tell search engines to ignore, or disavow, a link if it seems spammy, forced, or is on a low-quality website to avoid associating with that site and affecting your rankings.


Unless marked with the “nofollow” attribute, this is the default for any link on a website.

Dwell Time

This refers to the amount of time that passes from when a user clicks on a search result to the time that user returns to the search engine results page (SERP) from that website. A short dwell time tells search engines that your website does not have high-quality content or fails to answer the user’s query.

Engagement Metrics

These metrics measure how a user interacts with the content on your website using click-through rate, conversion rate, bounce rate, new vs. returning visitors, time on site, dwell time, and more.

External Link

Also referred to as outbound links, this is a link on your website that directs a user to a page on a different website.

Featured Snippet

A special block of content at the top of a SERP that quickly answers a user’s query. It is also referred to as “position zero” because it sits above the top-ranking result. The webpage used to create the featured snippet is generally also in the top 3 positions in the SERP.

Recommended: What is a Google Featured Snippet?

Google Analytics

The free analytics program offered by Google to track traffic, audience engagement, performance of a website’s content, generate reports, and more.

Google Webmaster Guidelines

Google’s recommendations on how to optimize your website to improve rankings while also delivering value to users with the highest quality content. Anything that might be seen as trying to deceive users could result in manual action from Google.

Gray Hat

Risky SEO techniques that don’t fall under the “Black Hat” category, but don’t exactly adhere to search engine guidelines either.

Guest Posting

A tactic used to build backlinks that involves creating high-quality content for other websites in exchange for a backlink to your website. This is also known as Guest Blogging.


This is the default introductory webpage of your website from which all navigation can be reached.


Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML, tags are elements of code that are used in SEO to improve the effectiveness and organization of webpages.


Short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, this is how data is transferred between a computer server to a web browser.


A more secure version of HTTP, Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure encrypts data with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) before transferring from a server to a web browser.


A comprehensive database consisting of information collected during the crawling process from which search engines retrieve results for user queries. When a page is indexed, it is stored in a search engine’s database and is eligible to appear in SERPs.


The words or phrases that SEO marketers are trying to rank for in SERPs. These keywords are used throughout the pages on a website to help search engines determine their value and relevance in relation to a topic or user query.

Keyword Cannibalization

When multiple webpages from your website are ranking for the same user query, spreading clicks over those pages rather than having a higher CTR for just one strong page.

Keyword Density

This refers to the occurrence of a keyword throughout the text of a webpage.

Keyword Research

An SEO process of uncovering relevant topics and search terms related to your website that users are searching for and could potentially drive more traffic to your webpages.


Short for key performance indicators, this is a method used by SEO professionals to measure whether or not they are reaching their marketing goals and objectives.

Landing Page

Any webpage that is strategically designed to generate conversions, such as making a purchase, filling out a form, or registering for an event. Internet marketers generally try to drive traffic to landing pages.


This is a connection from one webpage to another using HTML code. It allows users to navigate between different pages, websites, and social media networks.

Link Building

An important strategy for SEO, this process involves getting other trusted and authoritative websites to link to your site. When you get links from other relevant sites, it can improve your SERP ranking because search engines see your content as trusted and valuable.

Long-Tail Keyword

This refers to keywords that very specific and may have less search volume, so they are generally easier to rank for.

Manual Action

This is Google’s term for a penalty after a human reviewer discovers black hat tactics or any strategies that do not comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Meta Description

A short description of a webpage’s content inserted as a tag in an HTML document head. This is the text you see on the search engine results page.

Meta Tags

This refers to data that appears in a webpage’s HTML source code to let search engines know what content is included on that page. For example, SEO uses title tags and meta descriptions for this purpose.

Nofollow Attribute

A metatag that tells search engines, such as Google, to not follow a particular outbound link.

Noindex Tag

A metatag that lets search engines know not to index a webpage.

Off-Page SEO

Strategies to improve search engine rankings that occur outside of a website. This includes link building, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and others.

On-Page SEO

Strategies to improve search engine rankings that occur within a website. Examples are publishing high-quality content, optimizing HTML code, and improving website navigation.

Outbound Link

A hyperlink that directs users to a page on a different website.


According to Google, “PageRank is the measure of the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other pages. In simple terms, each link to a page on your site from another site adds to your site’s PageRank. Not all links are equal.”

Page Speed

One of the ranking factors search engines take into consideration, this is how long it takes for a webpage to completely load in a user’s browser.

Paid Search

This refers to pay-per-click advertisements that appear above and below a search engine’s organic results.


For SEO purposes, a persona is a fictionalized character that represents an ideal website visitor or customer based on their demographics, behavior, needs, motivations, and goals using real data.


This is a word, multiple words, or a phrase that a user enters into a search engine. The search engine then delivers results based on the query.


The position in which a webpage appears in a search engine’s organic results to answer a user’s query.

Ranking Factor

A type of signal interpreted by complex algorithms to determine where webpages should appear in a search engine’s results page for any user query.


Either a temporary or permanent forwarding of a user to a different webpage from the one originally requested.


How closely the content of a webpage is related to the context of a search query as determined by search engines. In other words, how well the content answers the user’s question.

Reputation Management

Also referred to as online reputation management, or ORM, this is a strategy to develop a positive online presence through online reviews and mentions. It also involves minimizing negative reviews.

Recommended: Your Guide to Managing Negative Reviews

Rich Snippet

A form of microdata, called schema markup, can be added to the HTML of a website. It provides search engines with contextual information during the crawling process that can then be displayed in the SERPs. The result is an enhanced listing referred to as a rich snippet.


This is a form of microdata that can be added to the HTML of a website to create rich snippets that will appear in SERPs.


Also known as web scraping, this is a technique used by search engines to copy website content or data using a computer program or script to build a searchable index.

Search Engine

A computer program that allows users to enter a search query to retrieve information from that program’s index. Results are most commonly websites or webpages.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is the process of improving the position of a website in organic search results using several different strategies and optimization efforts.

Recommended: How SEO Can Help Your Small Business

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

This is the page a search engine displays containing the results to a user’s query. There are generally about 10 organic search results on each page.

Title Tag

An HTML meta tag that is seen as the title of a webpage. In most cases, the title tag is the title that search engines use when displaying search results, so SEOs generally include strategic and relevant keywords in the title tag.


A uniform resource locator, or URL, is a particular string of characters that lead users to a specific resource on the web.


This refers to the prominence and position a website occupies within the organic search results to a user’s query.

Voice Search

Voice-activated technology that allows users to speak into a device in order to ask questions or conduct an online search without having to type.


An online document that can be viewed via a web browser.


A collection of webpages hosted together creating a group of related content.

White Hat

This describes SEO marketing tactics and strategies that comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or other search engine guidelines.

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