Learning the ins and outs of SEO terminology and jargon can feel like learning a foreign language. We’ve compiled this SEO glossary to reduce the learning curve and steer clear of any sort of baptism by fire. Furthermore, this resource is a focused deep dive add-on to this overarching marketing terms lexicon.
We’re hopeful that you’ll find this resource helpful. If this is the case, please make sure to bookmark it for future reference!
SEO Glossary: Part 1
# – A
10 Blue Links
The format in which search engines used to display search results; ten organic search results all presented in the same format on a SERP.
Rand Fishkin coined this term, which references content that is “10x better” than anything else on the web for that same topic.
2xx status codes
A class of status codes indicating the request for a page is successful.
4xx status codes
A class of status codes indicating the request for a page has resulted in an error.
5xx status codes
A class of status codes indicating the server’s inability to complete the request.
Advanced Search Operators
Special characters and commands you can type into the search bar to narrow your search query.
A process or formula through which stored information is retrieved and ordered in meaningful ways.
Alternative Text (Alt Text)
The text in HTML code describing the images on web pages.
A search phrase where the goal of the searcher is unclear and requires additional specification.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Often referred to as “diet HTML”. Website owners employ AMP to provide a lightning-fast viewing experience for mobile users.
Sharing or spreading the existence of your brand; typically used in the context of social media, paid advertisements & influencer marketing.
The text through which you link to other pages.
An application programming interface (API) allows for the creation of applications by accessing the features or data of another service like an operating system.
Abbreviated form of “asynchronous.” Async means that the browser doesn’t need to wait for a task to finish before moving onto the next one while loading your webpage.
Content that is created by programs, not humans.
SEO Glossary: Part 2
B – C
aka “inbound links”; links from other websites that point to your website.
Search engine optimization techniques that go against Google’s quality guidelines.
aka “crawlers” or “spiders”; programs that scour the internet to find content.
The percentage of total visits that did not result in a secondary action on your site. For instance, if someone visited your homepage and then left before viewing any other pages, that would be a bounced session.
A web browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, is software that allows you to access information on the internet. When you make a request in your browser, you’re instructing your browser to retrieve the resources necessary to render that page on your device.
Combining multiple resources into a single resource.
A saved version of your webpage.
Google’s web indexing system. Caffeine is the index, or collection of web content, whereas Googlebot is the crawler that goes out and finds the content.
Abbreviation for “country code top-level domain,” ccTLD refers to domains associated with countries. For example, .ru is the recognized ccTLD for Russia.
The various vehicles through which you can gain attention and acquire traffic, such as organic search and social media.
Also known as a “business listing,” a citation is a web-based reference to a local business’ name, address, and phone number (NAP).
The ratio of impressions to clicks on your URLs; (CTR = clicks/impressions)
Client-side & Server-side Rendering
Client-side and server-side rendering refer to where the code runs. Client-side means the file is executed in the browser. Server-side means the files are executed at the server and the server sends them to the browser in their fully rendered state.
Showing different content to search engines than you show to human visitors (this is a really uncool thing to do)
Commercial Investigation Queries
A query in which the searcher wants to compare products to find the one that best suits them.
The ratio of visits to conversions. Conversion rate answers how many of my website visitors are filling out my forms, calling, signing up for my newsletter, etc.?
The average number of pages a search engine bot will crawl on your site.
Instructions to the crawler regarding what you want it to crawl and index on your site.
The process by which search engines discover your web pages.
Critical Rendering Path
A Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) is the code that makes a website look a certain way (ex: fonts and colors).
SEO Glossary: Part 3
D – F
Domain Authority (DA)
Domain Authority (DA) is a metric used to predict a domain’s ranking ability; best used as a comparative metric (ex: comparing a website’s DA score to that of its direct competitors).
Refers to a page or group of pages being removed from Google’s index.
When a URL, section of URLs, or an entire domain has been removed from a search engine index. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as when a website receives a manual penalty for violating Google’s quality guidelines.
“Directory” in the context of local SEO is an aggregate list of local businesses, usually including each business’s name, address, phone number (NAP) and other information like their website. “Directory” can also refer to a type of unnatural link that violates Google’s guidelines: “low-quality directory or bookmark site links.”
In the context of the local pack, distance refers to proximity, or the location of the searcher and/or the location specified in the query.
A Domain Name Server (DNS) allows domain names (ex: “andrewroche9.com”) to be linked to IP addresses (ex: “127.0.0.1”). DNS essentially translates domain names into IP addresses so that browsers can load the page’s resources.
Domain name registrar
A company that manages the reservation of internet domain names. Example: GoDaddy.
Content that is shared between domains or between multiple pages of a single domain.
When links are earned naturally and given out of an author’s own volition (rather than paid for or coerced), they are considered editorial.
Data that represents how searchers interact with your site from search results.
Often used on e-commerce websites, faceted navigations offer a number of sorting and filtering options to help visitors more easily locate the URL they’re looking for out of a stack of thousands or even millions of URLs. For example, you could sort a clothing page by price: low to high, or filter the page to view only size: small.
Organic answer boxes that appear at the top of SERPs for certain queries.
Fetch and Render tool
A tool available in Google Search Console that allows you to see a web page how Google sees it.
The process of encoding information using fewer bits; reducing the size of the file. There are many different compression techniques.
The default state of a link, “follow” links pass PageRank.
SEO Glossary: Part 4
G – I
Terms that describe a physical location or service area. For example, “pizza” is not geo-modified, but “pizza in Seattle” is.
Google Analytics goals
What actions are you hoping people take on your website? Whatever your answer, you can set those up as goals in Google Analytics to track your conversion rate.
A free (with an option to pay for upgraded features) tool that helps website owners get insight into how people are engaging with their website. Some examples of reports you can see in Google Analytics include acquisition reports that show what channels your visitors are coming from and conversion reports that show the rate at which people are completing goals (ex: form fills) on your website.
Google My Business listing
A free listing available to local businesses.
Google Quality Guidelines
Published guidelines from Google detailing tactics that are forbidden because they are malicious and/or intended to manipulate search results.
Google Search Console
A free program provided by Google that allows site owners to monitor how their site is doing in search.
Google search operators
Special text that can be appended to your query to further specify what types of results you’re looking for. For example, adding “site:” before a domain name can return a list of all (or many) indexed pages on said domain.
Google Tag Manager
A single hub for managing multiple website tracking codes.
Googlebot / Bingbot
How major search engines like Google and Bing crawl the web; their “crawlers” or “spiders.”
Often used as a link-building strategy, guest blogging involves pitching an article (or idea for an article) to a publication in the hopes that they will feature your content and allow you to include a link back to your website. Just be careful though. Large-scale guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links are a violation of Google’s quality guidelines.
An HTML element used to designate headings on your page.
A tag that indicates to Google which language the content is in. This helps Google serve the appropriate language version of your page to people searching in that language.
Hypertext markup language is the language used to create web pages.
Image results in some SERPs that are scrollable from left to right.
The act of speeding up web pages by making image file sizes smaller without degrading the image’s quality.
A sitemap containing only the image URLs on a website.
Index Coverage report
A report in Google Search Console that shows you the indexation status of your site’s pages.
A huge database of all the content search engine crawlers have discovered and deem good enough to serve up to searchers.
The storing and organizing of content found during crawling.
A query in which the searcher is looking for information, such as the answer to a question.
In the context of SEO, intent refers to what users really want from the words they typed into the search bar.
Links on your own site that point to your other pages on the same site.
An internet protocol (IP) address is a string of numbers that’s unique to each specific website. We assign domain names to IP addresses because they’re easier for humans to remember (ex: “andrewroche9.com”) but the internet needs these numbers to find websites.
SEO Glossary: Part 5
J – L
A programming language that adds dynamic elements to static web pages.
Kanban is a visual method for managing workflow at the individual, team, and even organizational levels. Pronounced “kahn-bahn,” the term translates from its original Japanese to “visual signal” or “card.”
Unlike other workflow management methods that force change from the outset, Kanban is about evolution, not revolution. It hinges on the fundamental truth that you must know where you are before you can get to your desired destination.
An estimate, in the form of a numerical score, of how difficult it is for a site to outrank its competitors.
A tool designed for in-depth keyword research and discovery.
A spammy tactic involving the overuse of important keywords and their variants in your content and links.
A “key performance indicator” is a measurable value that indicates how well an activity is achieving a goal.
A way of deferring the loading of an object until it’s needed. This method is often used to improve page speed.
The ease with which a link can be found by human visitors or crawlers.
While “building” sounds like this activity involves creating links to your website yourself, link building actually describes the process of earning links to your site for the purpose of building your site’s authority in search engines.
The value or authority a link can pass to its destination.
Also known as reciprocal linking, link exchanges involve “you link to me and I’ll link to you” tactics. Excessive link exchanges are a violation of Google’s quality guidelines.
A term used to describe all the inbound links to a select domain, subdomain, or URL.
The number of links on a page.
Linked unstructured citations
References to a business’ complete or partial contact information on a non-directory platform (like online news, blogs, best-of lists, etc.)
Local business schema
Structured data markup placed on a web page that helps search engines understand information about a business.
A pack of typically three local business listings that appear for local-intent searches such as “oil change near me.”
A query in which the searcher is looking for something in a specific location, such as “coffee shops near me” or “gyms in Brooklyn.”
Refers to pages that require login authentication before a visitor can access the content.
Longer queries, typically those containing more than three words. Indicative of their length, they are often more specific than short-tail queries.
SEO Glossary: Part 6
M – P
Refers to a Google “Manual Action” where a human reviewer has determined certain pages on your site violate Google’s quality guidelines.
HTML elements that describe the contents of the page that they’re on. Google sometimes uses these as the description line in search result snippets.
Meta robots tag
Pieces of code that provide crawlers instructions for how to crawl or index web page content.
To minify something means to remove as many unnecessary characters from the source code as possible without altering functionality. Whereas compression makes something smaller, minification actually removes things.
Google began progressively moving websites over to mobile-first indexing in 2018. This change means that Google crawls and indexes your pages based on their mobile version rather than their desktop version.
A list of links that help visitors navigate to other pages on your site. Often, these appear in a list at the top of your website (“top navigation”), on the side column of your website (“side navigation”), or at the bottom of your website (“footer navigation”).
A query in which the searcher is trying to get to a certain location.
Links marked up with rel=”nofollow” do not pass PageRank. Google encourages the use of these in some situations, like when a link has been paid for.
A meta tag that instructions a search engine not to index the page it’s on.
Earned placement in search results, as opposed to paid advertisements.
Page Authority (PA)
Similar to DA, Page Authority (PA) predicts an individual page’s ranking ability.
Page speed is made up of a number of equally important qualities, such as first contentful/meaningful paint and time to interact.
A component of Google’s core algorithm. It is a link analysis program that estimates the importance of a web page by measuring the quality and quantity of links pointing to it.
Pages per session
Also referred to as “page depth,” pages per session describe the average number of pages people view of your website in a single session.
A website owner can opt to split a page into multiple parts in a sequence, similar to pages in the book. This can be especially helpful on very large pages. The hallmarks of a paginated page are the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags, indicating where each page falls in the greater sequence. These tags help Google understand that the pages should have consolidated link properties and that searchers should be sent to the first page in the sequence.
A Google algorithm update that targeted low-quality content.
People Also Ask boxes
A box in some SERPs featuring a list of questions related to the query and their answers.
Refers to the way a search engine will modify a person’s results on factors unique to them, such as their location and search history.
In the context of the local pack, prominence refers to businesses that are well-known and well-liked in the real world.
The “http” or “https” preceding your domain name. This governs how data is relayed between the server and browser.
In an SEO context, pruning typically refers to removing low-quality pages in order to increase the quality of the site overall.
Exchanging money, or something else of value, for a link. If a link is purchased, it constitutes an advertisement and should be treated with a nofollow tag so that it does not pass PageRank.
SEO Glossary: Part 7
Q – R
If you use your website to encourage potential customers to contact you via phone call or form, a “lead” is every contact you receive. Not all of those leads will become customers, but “qualified” leads are relevant prospects that have a high likelihood of becoming paying customers.
When traffic is “qualified,” it usually means that the visit is relevant to the intended topic of the page, and therefore the visitor is more likely to find the content useful and convert.
Words typed into the search bar.
The machine learning component of Google’s core algorithm. RankBrain adjusts ranking by promoting the most relevant, helpful results.
Ordering search results by relevance to the query.
When a URL is moved from one location to another. Most often, redirection is permanent (301 redirect).
Traffic sent to a website from another website. For example, if your website is receiving visits from people clicking on your site from a link on Facebook, Google Analytics will attribute that traffic as “facebook.com / referral” in the Source/Medium report.
Refers to keywords unique to a specific locale. Use Google Trends, for example, to see whether “pop” or “soda” is the more popular term in Kansas.
A tag that allows site owners to tell Google which version of a web page is the original and which are the duplicates.
In the context of the local pack, relevance is how well a local business matches what the searcher is looking for
A script that forces your browser to wait to be fetched before the page can be rendered. Render-blocking scripts can add extra round trips before your browser can fully render a page.
The process of a browser turning a website’s code into a viewable page.
Commonly used for the purpose of link building, resource pages typically contain a list of helpful links to other websites. If your business sells email marketing software, for example, you could look up marketing intitle:”resources” and reach out to the owners of said sites to see if they would include a link to your website on their page.
Google’s preferred design pattern for mobile-friendly websites, responsive design allows the website to adapt to fit whatever device it’s being viewed on.
A snippet is a title and description preview that Google and other search engines show of URLs on its results page. A “rich” snippet, therefore, is an enhanced version of the standard snippet. Some rich snippets can be encouraged by the use of structured data markup, like review markup displaying as rating stars next to those URLs in the search results.
Files that suggest which parts of your site search engines should and shouldn’t crawl.
SEO Glossary: Part 8
Code that “wraps around” elements of your web page to provide additional information about it to the search engine. Data using schema.org is referred to as “structured” as opposed to “unstructured” — in other words, organized rather than unorganized.
Taking content from websites that you do not own and republishing it without permission on your own site.
A method of tracking how far visitors are scrolling down your pages.
A method of keeping track of tasks that need to be completed to accomplish a larger goal.
An information retrieval program that searches for items in a database that match the request input by the user. Examples: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Refers to search functions or search bars on a website that help users find pages on that website.
Search Quality Rater Guidelines
Guidelines for human raters that work for Google to determine the quality of real web pages.
Visits sent to your websites from search engines like Google.
The number of times a keyword was searched. Many keyword research tools show an estimated monthly search volume.
Refers to the popularity of keywords over time, such as “Halloween costumes” being most popular the week before October 31.
The term we use to describe the primary words that describe the product or service you provide.
How people feel about your brand.
Results displayed in a non-standard format.
Stands for “search engine results page” — the page you see after conducting a search.
A list of URLs on your site that crawlers can use to discover and index your content.
A metric used to quantify a domain’s relative risk of penalization by using a series of flags that are highly correlated with penalized sites.
Like “black hat,” spammy tactics are those that violate search engine quality guidelines.
Like responsive design for images, SRCSET indicates which version of the image to show for different situations.
A “Secure Sockets Layer” is used to encrypt data passed between the web server and browser of the searcher.
Another way to say “organized” data (as opposed to unorganized). Schema.org is a way to structure your data, for example, by labeling it with additional information that helps the search engine understand it.
SEO Glossary: Part 9
T – Z
Content that adds little-to-no value to the visitor.
Image thumbnails are a smaller version of a larger image.
Time on page
The amount of time someone spent on your page before clicking through to the next page. Because Google Analytics tracks time on page by when someone clicks your next page, bounced sessions will clock a time on page of 0.
An HTML element that specifies the title of a web page.
Visits to a website.
The searcher wants users to do something, such as buy a product or service. If keyword types sat in the marketing funnel, transactional queries would be at the bottom.
Google describes unnatural links as “creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page.” This is a violation of their guidelines and could warrant a penalty against the offending website.
Sections of a website occurring after the TLD (“.com”), separated by slashes (“/”).
Information following a question mark that is appended to a URL to change the page’s content (active parameter) or track information (passive parameter).
Uniform Resource Locators are the locations or addresses for individual pieces of content on the web.
An urchin tracking module (UTM) is a simple code that you can append to the end of your URL to track additional details about the click, such as its source, medium, and campaign name.
Guidelines published by search engines like Google and Bing for the purpose of helping site owners create content that will perform well in search results.
Search engine optimization practices that comply with Google’s quality guidelines.
Like meta robots tags, this tag provides crawlers instructions for how to crawl or index web page content.