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The Full SEO Glossary: 120 Terms & Simple Definitions

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the series of practices focused on increasing a website’s visibility and traffic quality by utilizing organic search engine results. Typically, SEO tries to have business pages rank highly on search engine result pages (SERPs) for relevant queries.

SEO is a fast-paced and multifaceted field, and the terminology can intimidate many new business owners. We’ve assembled the most 120 most important SEO terms, and provided straightforward, understandable definitions.

If you’d like to put these terms into context, check out our SEO for small businesses beginner’s guide

1. 10 blue links:

Refers to the first 10 organic search results, displayed in a blue link format. This does not include paid ads, news results, related searches, or Google+ boxes.


2. Algorithm updates:

Any change in a search engine’s algorithms or ranking system; either new rules or adjustment to current rules. Google typically implements many small updates and a few major updates a year.

3. Alt tag (alt attribute):

The alt tag is inserted in the image tag in HTML code, and is used to specify alternate text for an image. Best SEO practices include a description of the image so search engines can understand what it’s about. Optimizing an image’s alt text is a good way to improve accessibility and demonstrate topic relevance to search engines.

4. Anchor text:

This is the clickable text in a hyper link. For SEO practices, it’s recommended to use natural language and avoid exact match, spammy, and keyword-heavy text when linking to other sites.

Image showing an example of anchor text on a website.

5. Authority site:

Describes websites trusted by users, its industry, and industry experts—and therefore viewed as high quality by search engines. These websites publish trustworthy information and link to other reliable sites.

6. Backlink:

Created when another website links to your website. Search engines view backlinks as a “vote of confidence,” showing that another site considers yours valuable and relevant. A valuable backlink comes from an authority site and has high link relevance.

Earning backlinks from a variety of high quality websites can greatly improve your SEO.
Earning backlinks from a variety of high quality websites can greatly improve your SEO.

7. Black hat SEO:

practices that violate Google’s quality guidelines. These unethical methods don’t solve problems for the searcher, and often result in a penalty from search engines.

8. Bounce rate:

Metric showing how many visitors visited a webpage and then quickly left without performing any actions or browsing any other pages. The lower the bounce rate, the better. Factors like page load, content, quality, landing page relevance, and ads can negatively affect your bounce rate.

9. Branded keywords:

Keywords that include your company, brand name, and any variations of it.

10. Brand mention link building:

This link building tactic involves searching for places your brand, service, product has been mentioned without linking to you. You can then contact those websites to ask them to add a backlink.

11. Broken link (dead link):

A link that doesn’t work, possibly because of an improper URL, a deleted linked page, and often happens when a page is moved or renamed. Broken links can damage your SEO and reduce search engine rankings, since it can prevent crawlers from indexing your site.

12. Canonical URL (Canonical tag):

When websites have duplicate content, search engines won’t know which one to display in search results. Defining a URL as the original, and add a canonical tag to each matching page. In the eyes of the search engine, this merges all duplicate pages into one.

Adding canonical tags to one of a set of duplicant content  stops them from competing against each other for rankings.
Adding canonical tags to one of a set of duplicant content stops them from competing against each other for rankings.

13. Chunky middle keywords (medium tail, medium length):

Keywords with descriptors that start to alter a searcher’s intent.

14. Clickbait:

Links trying to ‘trick’ users to click on it. These can mislead users about a page’s true content, or use phrases like “you won’t believe” and “must see” to increase click thru rate.

15. Content:

All the information available on a website. Content consist of videos, animations, text, images, PDFs, and more. It’s an essential tool to attract traffic and improve user experience.

16. Content marketing:

A marketing strategy that aims to increase brand awareness and visibility by publishing high quality, valuable online content.

17. Cornerstone content:

These are the most important, thorough articles on your website. Cornerstone content is usually high quality and exhaustive, with many links to and from other web pages.

18. Crawling:

Acquisition of data about a website. Search engines spiders/bots/crawlers scan a website, collect details about each page, and follow links to discover new pages.

In order to be easily crawled, your website should have logical internal links that help crawlers discover all of your site's content.
In order to be easily crawled, your website should have logical internal links that help crawlers discover all of your site's content.

19. Crawlability:

The process of allowing crawlers/bots/spiders to easily navigate, recognize topics, and easily find content to index a website. Site crawlability can be improved by creating an XML and image sitemap, setting up proper redirects, and optimizing site speed, images, and video.

20. Cross-linking:

Refers to linking domains owned by the same company or person. As long as the websites are related to each other, and links are few, they should not be penalized.

21. Dead-end page:

A web page without links that creates a dead-end for visitors and search engine crawlers, forcing them to leave the website. These can be avoided by including navigation links in headers, footers, or links suggesting next steps.

22. Deep linking:

Internal links within a website’s content; any link from one page on a website to another page on the same website. This can help increase engagement and the length of site visits.

23. De-indexed:

When pages, page groups, or websites are removed from Google’s index. De-indexing makes a page ineligible to appear in search engine result pages (SERPs). Sometimes, it is strategic to de-index functional pages you don’t want to rank, such as login pages.

24. Direct traffic:

Refers to website visits where users entered a website’s exact URL into their browser.

25. Disavow links:

A tool to remove certain backlinks from external sites. Since backlinks from unrelated and untrusted sites can negatively impact your SEO, disavowing links can help maintain your ranking.

26. Dofollow link:

The vast majority of links are dofollow links, meaning they function and let crawlers follow them.

27. Domain authority (DA):

Shows a website’s relevance in its industry or subject area. This metric anticipates how well a site will perform in SERPs, and how competitive it is against other sites in the same niche. Domain authority is an important factor to rank highly for certain keywords.

28. Dwell time (time spent on page):

Measures the time a visitor spends on a website after clicking through from a SERP. The longer the dwell time, the better, because it indicates a visitor has found relevant and useful content.

29. Editorial link (natural links, organic links):

These are the ideal backlinks. These links are placed in the body of content, and serve as a sort of citation. These links send strong signals, since the author clearly believes your content as a trustworthy knowledge source on that particular subject.

30. Email outreach (link outreach, blogger outreach):

An important part of off-page SEO, this refers to finding backlink opportunities and contacting the site to ask them to link to your relevant content.

31. Fat head keywords (short-tail keywords):

Broad, super-popular keywords with the search volume. They only make up about 30% of all searches and are very difficult to rank for, since so many websites compete for them.

32. Featured snippet (rich answer, direct answer):

Featured snippets are a relatively new SERP feature. When searchers input questions, the first listing is often a featured snippet—a box with an answer summary with a source link below.

An example of a featured snipped on a google SERP page.
An example of a featured snipped on a google SERP page.

33. Freshness (freshness factor):

This is one of Google’s ranking signals. New or recently updated content is considered fresh, and that freshness is particularly important to rank content covering trends, news, and recurring events.

34. Google Ads:

Advertising service where advertisers bid on keywords for their ads to appear in Google search results, and other places in the Google advertising network. These sponsored results are not affected by SEO.

35. Google Analytics:

Google’s web analytics service that provides exact data on website visitors and traffic. It requires adding a tracking code to a website, and a Google Analytics account.

36. Google autocomplete:

Search feature that suggests common search phrases as the user types into the search box. It’s a great source of long tail keywords, since it offers the most popular search phrases.

37. Google Keyword planner:

A built-in Google Ads tool that can help you generate keyword ideas, or find data about keywords you’ve already found.

38. Google Search Console:

Free tools and resources provided by Google that help businesses track website performance, submit sitemaps, check for any penalties, and check page indexing.

39. Google Trends:

Online tool that displays keyword and keyword phrases popularity. Its graphs show search volume over time, helping you anticipate trends and create keyword strategies.

Google trends can help you in your keyword research.
Google trends can help you in your keyword research.

40. Guest posting (guest blogging):

Link building method where you contribute a piece of content, a blog article, or quote in exchange for a backlink. This only works if the other website is relevant to yours.

41. Hit:

Every file download from a website is calculated as a “hit.” This includes you page’s HTML files, images, videos, graphics, buttons, and more.

42. HTML heading (heading element, H1-H6 tag):

Heading tags are used in HTML to create structure. Each level of headings (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6) tell both readers and spiders the hierarchy of content.

43. HTML sitemap:

These bulleted lists show links to all pages on a website, and help visitors navigate.

44. HTML source code:

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the standard language used to build web pages and applications. HTML source code is the only stage where people can read and modify the code before the computer translates it into a live website.

An example of HTML source code.
An example of HTML source code.

45. Hub:

A page that includes multiple links to the most relevant and accurate websites in its niche.

46. Hyperlink (link):

A link is clickable/tap-able text or image that directly takes a user to another page or page section. Hyperlinks are essential navigational tools.

47. Hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP):

This refers to the main protocol used to transfer data over the web. Websites can either use secure or not secured HTTPS types.

48. Image filename:

The unique name used to identify an image in a file system; this is the name and file format we save images as on our computers. You can explain the image content to crawlers by briefly describing the image, separating words with hyphens.

49. Image SEO:

Optimizing all the images on a website to increase content relevance, search engine visibility, and screen reader accessibility. This includes optimizing file size for page load speed, setting descriptive file names, adding alt tags with descriptions, and creating image sitemaps.

50. Image sitemap:

This is an XML file with all a website’s images to be crawled and indexed. This can either be a separate file or added to the existing XML sitemap.

51. Index:

Search engine database with information about all websites crawlers have found. Websites not included in the index don’t be displayed in SERPs. You can check your website’s index status by checking your URL in Google’s Search Console.

52. Indexing:

Process of adding a website to a search engine database. You can help crawlers index your site by earning backlinks, uploading an XML sitemap, and make sure you’re not using a “noindex” value in your HTML robots tag.

53. Internal link:

Any of your website links that send visitors to other pages within your website is an internal link. These connect website pages and help both visitors and crawlers navigate your website.

Internal linking is essential to increasing your website's crawlability and overall SEO.
Internal linking is essential to increasing your website's crawlability and overall SEO.

54. Interstitials:

Disruptive, promotional pages inserted into normal website content. Common interstitials are pop-ups or lightbox that cover the whole web page, that a visitor must manually close to continue browsing. Since it interferes with content access and reduces user experience, they can potentially hurt your SEO.

55. Keyword:

Words or phrases searchers input into the search box to find matching content. Identifying a keyword and using it in your content helps crawlers categorize your website/content and display it for the correct results.

56. Keyword analysis:

Process of examining all the keywords you’re considering and using, This involves weighing search volume, cost per click (CPC), competition, and current SERP position.

57. Keyword cannibalization:

Using the same keyword for multiple web pages, which damages your SEO as you end up competing with yourself.

58. Keyword categorization:

Classifying and grouping keywords based on user intent and context at the time of searching. It helps determine the keywords searchers use at different stages of the buying process, so that you can customize landing pages to drive appropriate conversions.

59. Keyword competition (keyword difficulty):

One of the two most important metrics in keyword analysis. Keyword competition measures how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword or phrase. It’s directly related to popularity.

59. Keyword competition (keyword difficulty):

One of the two most important metrics in keyword analysis. Keyword competition measures how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword or phrase. It’s directly related to popularity.

60. Keyword density:

Percentage of the keyword being used on a page, compared to word total. Search engines use it to determine a web page’s relevance.

61. Keyword frequency:

Keyword frequency measures the total number of times a keyword was used on a web page. Since it’s not a percentage (like keyword density), the amount of other content on the web page doesn’t factor in.

62. Keyword funnel:

Deals with customer intent and their current stage of the buying process. Based on these factors, the customer’s search terms change. We can categorize keywords by buying pages, and optimize landing pages to encourage conversion.

63. Keyword proximity:

Describes how close the keywords are on a web page.

64. Keyword rank:

Position in the SERP listings for a specific keyword.

65. Keyword research:

Method of discovering new keywords relevant to your business and appropriate in terms of search volume and competition. This is necessary to determine profitable niches, drive traffic, and promotion.

66. Landing page:

The pages visitors first “land” on after clicking a link. Ideally, these pages are optimized for promotion and conversion.

67. Lead magnet (gated content):

Content used to encourage potential customers to leave their email or other contact information. Businesses often offer free resources in exchange for an email, which is then used in other marketing strategies.

68. Link building (link acquisition, linkbuilding):

Process of increasing the quality and number of backlinks to a website. This is a major SEO task.

69. Link diversity:

Link building strategy that aims to collect a variety of links from different types of websites and domains.

70. Link equity (link authority, backlink authority):

Refers to the idea of a link influencing website rank. It describes how a link from one page can confer authority or value to another through hyperlinks.

71. Link popularity:

The total number of backlinks a website has.

72. Link relevancy:

Categorizes how topically connected and relevant to each other two linked websites are.

73. Link rot:

When web pages and linked pages become old, moved, or deleted. When a site has many broken links, it has link rot.

74. Link velocity:

How quickly a website creates new backlinks and builds a backlink profile. The rate of backlinks created should be natural, otherwise search engines will suspect guidelines have been violated.

75. Local SEO:

Optimizing customer traffic based on geographical location. This is especially important for businesses with localized services and/or stores.

76. Local search:

Search limited by geographic limits to show businesses that directly meets customer needs. Aims to match customers with nearby businesses.

77. Long tail keyword:

A very specific keyword phrase (usually three or more words) that matches a business’ exact products/services. These keyword phrases usually capture people close to the point of purchase and therefore typically have a higher conversion rate.

78. Metadata:

Provides descriptive information to a website. Meta tags in a web site’s code are read by a browser and search engine crawlers. This includes titles, meta description, robots, and many, many more.

79. Meta description tag:

An important tag that describes a website’s content. Search engines take this information and display it in a search result snippet. If not filled out, the search engine will pick text from a website’s content to display.

Meta descriptions are the snippets of text you see in search results.
Meta descriptions are the snippets of text you see in search results.

80. Mobile optimization:

Refers to improving a website to provide a positive mobile experience. This typically involves readjusting layout, adjusting text for easy reading, streamlining mobile navigation and call to action buttons, and optimizing image size for quicker load times.

81. Nofollow link:

An attribute value of a link that tells search engine crawlers not to pass link equity to the website it leads to.

82. Off-page SEO:

All actions that improve a website’s rankings in the SERPs that are not performed on the webpage itself (link-building, marketing, social media marketing, etc.).

83. On-page SEO (onsite SEO):

Optimizing of all website pages, including content and HTML source code.

84. Organic rank:

The position of a website in traditional, organic SERP listings. This refers to the rank you earn by SEO methods, not search engine marketing.

85. Orphan page:

Web page with no links pointing to it, which is therefore undiscoverable by crawlers.

86. Page authority (PA):

A measure of how well a we page will perform in SERPs and how competitive it is compared to other pages in its niche.

87. Page speed (page load speed, page load time, response time):

Measurement of how much time it takes for all web page content to display in the browser window. This affects both rank and user experience.

88. Page rank (PR):

In Google search, this metric measures the relevance and importance of websites in order to rank results. Google assigns a website based on all other websites that link to it and their PR.

89. Pageview (page impression):

Request to load a website page. How many times a visitor loads a specific page, and is tracked by Google analytics.

90. Reciprocal linking:

An agreement between two websites to give backlinks to each other. This tactic is only effective if both sites are topically relevant.

91. Referral traffic:

All traffic coming into your website from sources other than a search engine. This includes all backlinks and links from social media.

92. Robots meta tag:

A piece of code that tells a search engine bot how to crawl and index your page content. This includes values like “noindex,” “nofollow,” “nosnippet,” and more.

93. Screen reader accessibility:

Screen readers convert digital text into synthesized speech in order to help blind or visually impaired users read text and understand images. Optimizing for accessibility is different than SEO optimization, but the two areas overlap when it comes to properly setting up image captioning, image alt attributes, title tags, on-site sitemaps, and more.

94. Search engine marketing (SEM):

Digital marketing in which businesses earn website traffic by increasing visibility in SERPs. SEM can either refer solely to paid search, or both SEO and paid search.

95. Search engine result page (SERP):

The pages displayed by a search engine in response to a particular search query. SERPs today often provide a mixture of traditional results (title headline with short description), and SERP features.

96. Search result snippet:

Refers to the element of a search engine listing, showing information from your meta description tag. Traditionally, this consists of a web page title and a description.


97. Search volume:

Total number of search queries a particular keyword or phrase gets in a specified time period.

98. Secondary keywords:

Keywords that support your primary keyword. Using secondary keywords can help prevent over-optimizing content with just one (primary) keyword. Secondary keywords are typically long-tail keywords.

99. Seed keywords:

This is the list of the most relevant keywords to a particular keyword, and form the foundation of keyword research.

100. SERP feature:

Google focuses on offering searchers easily skimmable, detailed information. For that reason, the search engine has begun showing results in different ways, including rich snippets, knowledge graphs, and paid search engine results (ads).

101. Social signal:

In SEO, social signals describe social media engagements (shares, likes, retweets, pins, etc.). It is unclear whether or not social signals influence ranking, but they definitely increase backlinks and therefore authority.

101. Social signal:

In SEO, social signals describe social media engagements (shares, likes, retweets, pins, etc.). It is unclear whether or not social signals influence ranking, but they definitely increase backlinks and therefore authority.

102. Splash page:

These are introductory pages to a website, usually featuring a large image/video, a small amount of content, and a button to continue further to more content. Splash pages are used as home pages and showcase the brand. These are strongly discouraged in best SEO practices.

103. Static URL:

The unchanging URL of a website with content that also stays the same. These are readable, descriptive, include memorable keywords, and therefore generally have a higher click-through rate.

104. Status codes (301, 302, 404, 410, 500, 503):

These are server responses when a browser requests a webpage. These indicate either success or failure to load a webpage, and specify problems. Common types of status codes include:

  • 301: a URL has been permanently redirected or moved to a new location; sends users to a new page
  • 302: a URL has been temporarily redirected
  • 404: Page not found. This happens when the web page has been deleted, but is still linked to it. These are bad for user experience, website health, and SEO.
  • 410: Permanently removed webpages that have been removed from the search engine index.
  • 500: Indicates there is a problem with the server, and no access to the site.
  • 503: Often used for website maintenance; tells search engine crawlers to come back later

105. Technical SEO:

The part of SEO that focuses on helping search engines crawl and index a site easily and accurately. This is the foundation of all other SEO activities, and includes site performance, image optimization, site structure, and responsiveness.

106. The fold:

A leftover from the early days of newspapers, this refers to the portion of web pages a visitor sees without scrolling. This area is important to create a good first impression, increasing bounce rate and dwell time.

107. Thin content:

Basically, content with little or no value to visitors. This can include duplicate pages, low-quality affiliate pages, and pages with little text.

108. Traffic:

All visitors that spend time on a website. Major traffic categories include direct, organic, paid, and referral.

109. URL (uniform resource locator):

This unique text is a website’s online “address” – URLs should also be optimized to be descriptive, readable, accurate, and include relevant keywords.

110. Unique visit:

Refers to the first time a particular user visits a website and browses. Unique visits are defined by IP addresses—another visit from the same IP address will not add to the total number of unique visits.

111. User engagement:

Describes how well a website holds a visitor’s attention and keeps them browsing.

112. User experience (UX):

Another search engine ranking factor, UX covers how easy/enjoyable it is to use a website. Simplicity and usability of the user interface, site structure, site speed, and mobile friendliness all affect user experience.

113. User-generated content:

Any content posted by website visitors, such as photos, videos, reviews, social media posts, and comments.

114. User interface (UI):

Everything on a website that visitors can interact with. UIs should be simple, clear, consistent, and intuitive.

115. Visit (session):

Describes each time a visitor arrives on a page and continues browsing. A visit is counted, regardless of whether that user has visited a page previously (as long as there was at least half an hour between visits).

116. Webpage:

One HTML document that connects to the World Wide Web and be read by a browser. They can consist of one or multiple web pages.

117. Website quality:

Search engine bots try to determine quality when ranking a website. Search engines weigh content relevance, content length, user engagement, social signals, backlink profiles, readability, and media variety.

118. Website structure:

Term describing the form of your pages and links; think of this as a map of internal links. It influences user experience, and it should be clear and logical to make navigation easy for users and crawlers.

119. White hat SEO:

Good SEO practices focused on optimizing content and delivering value to a targeted human audience. It always follows search engine results and policies.

120 XML sitemap:

This is an XML file containing all the URLs crawlers should crawl and index. XML sitemaps are helpful to get new content indexed and improve the discoverability of your website.