SEO Definitions – SEO Glossary with 45 SEO Terms

SEO Definitions

SEO or Search Engine Optimization (here we go starting with our very first term right away 🙂 ) like any industry has its own specific terms, phrases and abbreviations. In this article, we’ve included a list of the important SEO definitions any digital marketer will face inevitably at a certain point during their career.

General Terms

SEO

We can’t start without the core term of the whole industry. SEO simply stands for Search Engine Optimization, but it’s not as simple as it may sound.

 It includes many actions & strategies that aim at improving the quality and quantity of organic traffic received to a website (or a webpage) from the different search engines.

 Unsurprisingly, most SEOs (the people trying to achieve it) target mainly Google as the top search engine to get traffic from. Its market share is so dominating, that it makes the potential traffic coming from it worth all the efforts.

SERP

One of the most important terms and abbreviations when it comes to SEO. It stands for “search engine results page” and this is the actual page with results we see when conducting a search:

search engine results page or SERP for the keyword "chess"
How one SERP a.k.a. search engine results page could look

Search Engine

The search engine’s main goal is to help users answer their questions and find the information they need. Google, of course, has been #1 for years, and other popular alternatives include:

  • Microsoft Bing
  • Baidu
  • Yandex
  • Duck Duck Go
  • Ecosia

and so on.

Algorithm

An algorithm is a specific process which analyzes data (submitted as text in the search bar) to return the most relevant and best answers.

HTML

It stands for Hypertext Markup Language and this is the standard programming language that is used to “form” the text, links, and images of a web page.

Traffic

When it comes to SEO, we most often refer to organic traffic, which is the traffic coming from search engines

In other words, this is when people search for something in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and any other search engine, find an organic search result (not a paid ad)  and visit it. All visits from the different search engines to a website count as organic traffic. 

Visits that come from Facebook and Twitter are referred to as social media traffic

There is also referral traffic that comes from other websites linking to your website.

URL

One of the main concepts of Internet and digital marketing is the Uniform Resource Locator (URL). In simple terms, it is the address of a specific, unique resource on the Web. This resource could be an HTML page, a .PDF document, an image, etc.

Google Search Operators

Google Search Operators are special commands that help us better define the search engine results we get. They can be used to:

  • discover new link-building opportunities
  • find content ideas
  • identify onsite and technical issues within a website

and more.

Local pack

This is a box of typically three local business listings which appear when conducting searches implying a local intent. We can find them on top of the SERPs above the standard 10 (or often less these days) blue links with organic results. The local pack has a map of business locations on top, along with three (most often) results containing additional details including:

  • an address
  • contact details
  • working time
  • # of reviews

 An example of a query, that would trigger a local pack to show, is: “handyman near me”:

handyman near me Google result with local pack
A search query generating a local pack in the SERP

Search Engines and Their Functions (Crawling, Indexing and Ranking)

Crawling

Crawling is the process of obtaining data/information from the billions of public web pages available on the web, as well as adding and organizing them in the index of search engines.

 In other words, Google, for example, sends bots to web pages to scan and “read” them to extract their content- text, images, videos.

Indexing

Indexing is the other main term when we talk about search engines. While crawling is the process of examining the code of each URL they find over the web, indexing is the process of storing and organizing the content found during crawling. Pages should be included in the index first, to be visible and rank for different keywords.

Ranking

Ranking is the actual order of search results in the SERP sorted from the most relevant (quality results) to less relevant down the page. 
One of the main goals of SEOs is to achieve higher rankings and bring the most relevant organic traffic to their own or clients’ websites.

Bots (or Search Engine Bots)

They are also known as spiders or crawlers, and they scan the web to crawl and index content.

Cache

Caching a webpage means temporarily storing it (with its content- images, text, etc.) to reduce page loading times

A cached page is a snapshot of a webpage of how it looked when a search engine crawled it.

Cloaking

Cloaking is a dangerous practice of showing different content to search engines and users. This could lead to a penalty and result in losing organic positions in the SERP.

Manual Penalty

Manual penalties occur when a human reviewer (from Google) finds enough evidence for violating Google’s quality guidelines by specific pages.

Sitemap

The sitemap file is a dedicated page on a domain where we provide information about URLs, images, videos, and other file types on our websites. The main purpose of a sitemap is to inform search engines and their crawlers about the important pages and the relationships between them.

Personalization

It refers to how a search engine adjusts users’ results based on personal information, including location and search history. 

That’s why to get “cleaner” results, SEOs often search in the browser’s incognito mode.

Chrome settings-new incognito window
Opening an incognito tab in Google Chrome

SEO Onsite Terms Glossary

Meta title

Also known as a title tag, the meta title is the blue text shown on search engine results pages (the SERPs). Its main purpose is to inform users of the topic of a page.

Google search engine results page- meta title highlighted
Meta title of a search result in the search engine results page

Meta description

Meta descriptions’ role is to show a short one to two sentence summary of a webpage which is presented in the SERP underneath the title tag. They give more context and the users can decide whether this result would satisfy their search needs.

Google search engine results page meta description highlighted
Meta description of a search result in the SERP

Rel Canonical

Useful html code that notifies search engines of the preferred version of a URL. Irreplaceable element when multiple versions of a webpage with similar content exist.

For example, canonicals are used often for eCommerce websites where pages have different filters and generate hundreds and sometimes thousands of duplicate pages. 

Thin Content

This is low-quality content which does not provide any value to the readers. It could be auto-generated, presenting text that would not satisfy the visitor’s demand for quality information.

Duplicate Content

A copy of someone else’s content used for own purposes, like trying to rank webpages with stolen text.

Page Speed

This is the time needed for a webpage to load. It’s one of the most important SEO factors these days and plays a vital role
to provide a good user experience.

The page speed of a website depends on different factors including the capabilities of your server, images used, installed plugins, page filesize, and more.

SSL Certificate

It stands for secure sockets layers and it is a digital certificate which enables encrypted connections. In its essence, SSL is a chunk of code located on web servers, providing security for the different online communications and services. 

SSL certificates make it possible for websites to move from the old and insecure HTTP protocols to the modern and safe HTTPS.

Anchor text

 Anchor text is most often highlighted in a different colour (usually blue) than the rest of the text on a page, and it is the clickable word or set of words of a link. Its main purpose is to provide a clue about what information we will find if we follow the link (could be internal or external).

anchor text examples on a webpage
anchor texts example

Redirects

Redirections occur when one URL is moved to another location. There are different types of redirects, with the most common being a permanent redirect (301).

Link Building

Backlinks

Backlinks, also known as inbound links or just links are all links placed on other websites that point to your domain. Basically, these are links from one site to another, and they are one of the core elements of search engines and SEO. 

The number of all inbound links to a website is known as the backlink profile of that website.

backlinks profile of a website in Ahrefs- Chess.com
Backlink profile of a website from Ahrefs

Internal Links

An internal link is a link from your own website to another page on it. For example, if we link from the homepage to a service page (or a landing page), that would count as an internal link. 

Another example is if we link from a blog post to another blog post.

Internal links linking to related articles

Domain Authority/Domain Rating

Also known as DA and DR, these are metrics used by two popular SEO software providers (MOZ & Ahrefs) which stand for Domain Authority and Domain Rating respectively. They describe the backlink profile strength of a website.

 In other words, they compare the number and quality of links to a website and measure its DA/DR on a scale from 0 to 100 (for Moz; and 1 to 100 for Ahrefs).

Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR) of Facebook.com
DR or Domain Rating, an Ahrefs metric
Moz Domain Authority (DA) of Facebook.com
DA or Domain Authority, a MOZ metric

Broken Links

Links that lead to non-existing pages (the so-called 404 pages) are referred to as broken links.

broken link example on a resource page
Broken link example found by an SEO extension- Check my links
Example of a page on YouTube that is not available
Unavailable page example

Outreach

When it comes to earning backlinks, outreach is one of the most important and powerful techniques. Outreach includes the process of establishing mutually beneficial relationships with webmasters, bloggers, authors, and websites owners

When we refer to outreach, the most common form is email outreach. The main goal is to present our product or service in front of an audience that could be interested in it.

Brand Mentions

Whenever your brand name is mentioned online without a link, this counts as a brand mention. SEOs often contact website owners and webmasters and try to turn those mentions into proper links.

Page Rank

A complex algorithm invented by Google that measures 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.”

It’s one of the search engine’s core elements, and it was named after Larry Page, one of Google’s co-founders. 

Follow/ NoFollow Attributes

These are meta tags that inform search engines whether to follow or not outbound links and pass Page Rank. By default, links are “follow”. 
If we don’t want to pass authority to another webpage, then the no-follow directive could be used. It looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor text goes here</a>

Unnatural Links

Unnatural are all links whose main purpose is to manipulate the SEO performance of a website. There are various types of shady practices that include link networks, paid links, links exchange, and more.

Keyword Research

Keywords

A keyword is a single word or a phrase that adds context to content.  As users we can refer to keywords as the words we enter in the search bar of search engines. What most SEOs usually do is to optimize websites and web pages for specific sets of keywords.

Search Intent

This is one of the most important factors to consider when conducting keyword research and working in SEO as a whole. 

In simple terms, search intent is what the user expects to see when looking for information in the search engine results pages. 

For example, a search for “best video games” will result in articles presenting lists with different video games. From there, we can make a conclusion about the search intent i.e. what the user is looking for is not a specific game, landing page, or anything else, but lists with different video games examined and reviewed.

Keyword Stuffing

An old-school search engine optimization technique for adding irrelevant keywords and/or including a large number of keywords with the single goal of improving search rankings. It’s a spam approach that is against Google guidelines and could lead to a manual action.

keyword stuffing example
Keyword stuffing example

Search Volume

It describes the approximate number of users who search for a specific keyword within a given timeframe (usually 1 month).  
For example, if an SEO software tool shows 156k volume for the keyword “blue jeans”, this means that people search for that phrase around 156 000 times a month.

Search volume provided by popular SEO software- Ahrefs

It’s a dynamic metric, that changes over time, so it’s important to follow the most recent trends and numbers.

Keyword Difficulty (KD)

Most SEO software on the market have a metric, which is most often called Keyword difficulty (or KD). It is an estimation of how hard it would be to rank in the top 10 organic search results based on a 0-100 scale. One of the main factors that are taken into account when calculating it, is the number of linking domains to the current top-10 ranking pages.

In other words, the more domains link to a page or website that ranks in the top 10 for a keyword, the more difficult it is to rank for that keyword.

Keyword Difficulty metric (KD) by Ahrefs

Head Terms

Head terms, also known as head keywords, are popular keywords which have a large number of monthly searches. They are very competitive, and their conversion rate is lower compared to longtails.

If we take Search Engine Optimization as a topic, for example, a head term would be SEO:

Example of a head term

Longtail Keywords

These are more specific keywords with lower search volume. They often contain three-four and even more words and get less traffic, but have a higher conversion rate.

Further to the above example, longtail phrase containing SEO would be:

Longtail keyword example in Ahrefs- SEO courses Johannesburg
An example of a longtail keyword with lower volume but higher conversion rate

Commercial, Informational, Navigational & Transactional Keywords

There are different types of queries, and they can be divided into those 4 main categories. 

  • Commercial keywords refer to the phrases that we usually use for paid advertising campaigns. 
  • Informational keywords are used by users when looking for information about a specific thing and don’t have transactional intent. They usually include questions such as “When?”, “How?”, “Where?”, and so on. 
  • Navigational queries are used when the user is already familiar with a brand and wants to find their online (or physical) address in order to navigate to their website or social profile. 

For example, a lot of people type “facebook” in the search box instead of opening it directly by typing facebook.com in the address bar.

example for navigational keyword
Navigational query example
  • Transactional keywords are used when users are ready to purchase a product or service. Their search intent is to buy something.

Often they are a combination of queries including terms such as “buy”, “purchase”, “order” and the brand name (or product category).For example:

Buy Huawei P40 PRO”  or “blue jeans on sale

Local Keywords

Local keywords are queries that imply searches with a concrete location in mind. Examples of such queries would be “handyman London” or “handyman near me“. Here the user is looking for a specific service (could be also a product) nearby.

Conclusion

SEO is a vast discipline with so many branches and terms, that it’s almost impossible to cover every single one of them. Still, we hope this post helped you to widen your knowledge and get a better understanding of some of the main phrases used in Search Engine Optimization. 

We will do our best to keep it updated and add regularly new SEO-related definitions and phrases.

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