SEO Glossary of Terms

Last Update: 1/25/2018

We get quite a few questions asked about website or search engine terms, so we decided to put together our own SEO Glossary with examples to help you speak the SEO lingo in no time. Because the world of search change on a daily basis, we’ll do our best to keep it up to date. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!


– – Numeric SEO Terms – –

301 Redirect – Use of this command in a link will ensure that the visitor is redirected to another page without the original page losing the search engine ranking. The index in the search engine is updated.

404 Error – A message displayed when a server cannot find the URL requested. If someone clicks on a link and is displayed that error message, the link is said to be broken.

– – A – –

Above the FoldContent on a page that is visible without scrolling. Relevant for webpages, SERPs, ads, and anything else visible in a browser.

Adwords Keyword Planner (website) – Tool for estimating website traffic, competition, advertising costs and other factors of keywords based on match type. Replacement of the Adwords Keyword Tool.

Algorithm (Search Engine) – The internal calculations, or recipe, a search engine will use to rank a list of content based on a search query.

ALT Text – The written description attached to the image in the webpage HTML. A search engine crawler cannot read or categorize an image, but an ALT text can help with that. Another name for this is ALT Attribute.

Anchor Text (Link Text) – Description of the webpage link that is visible to the visitor. The text is noticeable because of the underlining and bold lettering. Search engines use the anchor text to determine page contents.

– – B – –

Black Hat SEO – Manipulative website edits and spammy link building tactics that aim to improve search engine rankings. These tactics violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, as they are not intended to improve user experience, and have been the target of many Google algorithm updates including Panda and Penguin.

Blog – A slang term for “web log.” Websites use blogs as the central repository for current events and commentary associated with the owner of the website. New entries in the blog will be noticed in the search engine, which ranks the sites according to the most recent activity.

Bookmark – A place marker that can be stored in a web browser or on a website. The visitor can return to the pages that have been visited in the past. Clear descriptions in the webpage titles are recorded in the bookmark.

Bounce Rate – The percentage of website visitors that leave the website after viewing a particular webpage. It is typically a measure of the quality or relevancy of content on a page.

Branded Keyword – A keyword, or keyword variations associated with an organization’s brand or identity name. Distinct from non-branded keywords in that visitors have a clear intention of what website to visit before viewing the SERP.

Broken Link – Referring to a link on a page that does not load correctly or display the desired information.

Browser (Web Browser) – A software application for translating HTML documents into user-friendly webpages. Common web browsers include Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Opera.

– – C – –

Canonical URL – The authoritative URL that is correct for the resource. Multiple URLs (,, associated with the same landing page will point to the canonical URL. The search engine will record the canonical URL for the website as the primary entry.

Citation – A mention of a business name on the web with or without a link. A full citation contains information from a NAP listing (Name Address Phone #). Citations are important for local businesses as they are a big factor that search engines use to determine local search rankings.

Cascading Style Sheets – or CSS – A set of commands within the webpage code that describe the presentation semantics, which is the way the page looks. Each attribute, including headers, footers and fonts, will be described within the CSS.

Content Management System (CMS) – A computer program that allows the management of website information from a central interface. Popular CMS’s include WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.

Conversion– When a website visitor completes a desired action or goal. Examples of conversions may include emails, completing an online form, or calling a phone number.

Conversion Form – A webform where information is collected for a site visitor. Data gathered about each visitor can be transformed from website traffic into business leads through follow-up activities.

Cookie– A small file sent by a website and stored in a user’s web browser while browsing the website. It allows websites to remember information about a user and display custom information such as advertisements when the user returns.

CPC – Cost per click, the rate at which an advertiser pays for a visit to their website.

– – D – –

Directory – A comprehensive listing of all websites that have been gathered from various sources. The contents will be arranged to provide helpful information for anyone seeking websites in a given category. Top 10 listings, traffic control, SEO copywriting and other important attributes can be assigned to each entry.

Domain Name – The series of words, separated by periods, that make up the recognizable web address for the website. For example: Search engines try to show a preference for branded domain names, as opposed to domain names stuffed with keywords.

Doorway Page – Pages created to direct visitors from one page to another non-relevant page e.g. an advertisement. Known as a black hat strategy, this practice often results in de-indexing from search engines.

Duplicate Content – Content that is identical or nearly identical. Duplicate content is often unintentional and is often common on large websites with many products or service pages. Search engines are typically unwilling to display duplicate content or display only display one version of the content.

– – F – –

The Fold – The line at which the webpage is cut off by the bottom of the screen. An initial glimpse at a webpage should provide all pertinent information to the user without having to scroll down on the page. This is an old newspaper term that held significant meaning for the writers whose work was published “above the fold.” Ads published above the fold are priced higher than those below the fold. The same theory holds true on a webpage.

Fragment URL A URL containing “#”. Used to specify a location within a HTML document. For example, is a fragment URL and entering that URL into a browser will take a user to the HTML section of this article. The “HTML” part of the URL is the fragment identifier.

– – G – –

Google AdSense – Google’s advertising partnership program for website content creators. It allows websites to join Google’s AdWords display network and display advertisements on their website. They recieve a share of the revenue generated from these advertisements.

Google Adwords – Google’s platform for allowing advertisers to display ads in their SERPs or through their display network.

Google Analytics – Google’s free platform for tracking visitors for a website and to understand the performance and quality of a website.

Google Juice – See Link Juice.

– – H – –

.htaccess– A file uploaded to a website’s server that controls a number of functions, including redirects and access levels.

Headings – Text that is placed within heading tags, such as H1, H2, H3 or H4. The size and bold type provide a clear reading for the visitor. A search engine will use the text within these tags for categorizing the page.

HTML – HyperText Markup Language – A standardized language for managing the contents of a webpage to present in an organized fashion to the visitor. Functionality within the page will support the placement of elements including videos, images and text that adjust to the screen size.

HTTP – HyperText Transfer Protocol – The protocol for exchanging or transferring structured text known as hypertext for the World Wide Web.

HTTPS – Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Adding a SSL certificate to a website so the connection is encrypted and more secure. Google has said that HTTPS websites have a small ranking benefit, although the signal is less than other major ranking signals like on page content and backlinks.

Hummingbird – A Google algorithm update, focusing on improving conversational searches. e.g. “What places sell enchiladas this late at night?”. Instead of displaying a Wikipedia article on enchiladas Google would display Mexican restaurants still open at 3 am.

– – I – –

Impressions – Number of times a website, or ad for a website, is displayed in a search engine for a particular keyword.

Inbound Link – or Backlink – A website is visited through the inbound links received from other websites on the Internet. More inbound links to a website will improve the site’s search engine results ranking.

Internal Link – A link on a webpage that sends the user to another part of the same page or another page within the same website. These links can help search engines categorize pages and improve search engine rankings when used in moderation.

Indexed Pages – or Indexed Content – The webpages that have been explored and stored by a search engine. A website without any indexed pages will not appear in SERPs.

IP (Internet Protocol) Address – A number assigned to an electronic device, such as a computer or smartphone, connected to a particular Internet connection. It helps identify location and network interface identification of someone visiting a website.

– – J – –

Javascript – A proprietary language written by Oracle Corporation. The use of Javascript on a webpage provides control over the presentation of entries on a webpage. Search engines have overlooked the contents of Javascript in the past. Changes are being made to include the contents.

– – K – –

Keyword – Common terms used to find information on the Internet. Search engines track the words typed by users to find the websites of interest. Refined keywords will return more meaningful results from search engines.

Keyword Density – The frequency of a keyword being mentioned on a webpage. Intentionally having an unnaturally high keyword density is known as keyword stuffing.

Keyword Research – The process of researching keyword variations of value to a website. Requires the use of tools like the Adwords Keyword Planner to discover search volumes and competitiveness of different keywords.

Keyword Variations – Different keywords that have the same or similar user intent. E.g. “potato distributors in Lansing, MI” and “Lansing potato suppliers”.

– – L – –

Landing Page – The first page a user visits after clicking on a link in a SERP.

Link – An element on a webpage allowing a user to navigate to another webpage or a new location on the current page. Search engine crawlers follow links to index webpages on the Internet.

Link Bait – Content created on a website with the primary intention of encouraging other websites to link to the content.

Link Building – Activity associated with creating more inbound links for a website. Search engine rankings tend to improve as more inbound links are created.

Link Heat – See Link Juice.

Link Juice (Google Juice, Link Heat) – A figure of speech for the authority given to a website or webpage by search engines that flows to other sites through links.

Link Reclamation – Finding broken or dead links to a current or former website and requesting that they be corrected. Additionally, requesting links be created where a brand name is mentioned but no link to the brand’s website exists.

Link Text – See Anchor Text.

Long Tail Keyword – Multiple words in the string of keywords typed into a search engine. For example, a “normal” keyword may be “baseball bats”, whereas a long tail search might be “where can I find wooden louisville slugger baseball bats for sale”.

– – M – –

Metadata – Internal words that are stored in the html of webpages and are not visible to users, but are noticed in by search engine crawlers.

Meta Description – Brief, written description of fewer than 160 characters that summarizes a webpage. Intended for both users and search engines, as it is visible in a SERP, and can include keywords that affect search engine rankings.

Mobile Friendly – If a website displays a different more user-friendly design of their website for smaller mobile screens then their website is said to be mobile friendly. Desktop versions of websites displayed on mobile devices do not always have readable text and clickable links. According to Google, not having a mobile friendly website can impact search engine visibility for users doing searches on mobile devices.

mozRank – An algorithm runs against websites to determine how many inbound links exist. SEOmoz devised this approach to assign a ranking on a scale of 0-10 for each page. A 10 represents the page with the best use of inbound links.

– – N – –

NAP – Name Address Phone Number. Details and contact information of a business that can be used as a citation for improving local search engine visibility. NAP listings can be found on any website but are often created in online directory listings such as Yelp, Yellow Pages and Insider Pages. It is important for existing NAP listings on the web to be consistent for local SEO.

Negative SEO – In wake of Google’s Penguin update, negative SEO emerged as a strategy involving deliberately attacking a competitor website to lower search engine rankings. Tactics may involve submitting websites to spammy directories or creating numerous links with exact match anchor text. Google has gotten better at identifying negative SEO efforts. Webmasters can also use Google’s Disavow links tool to combat negative SEO.

New Visitor – Similar to a unique visitor, visitors in a given period that have never visited your website before.

Nofollow – A command that will cause search engines to ignore the link. A webpage will include this type of link when the owner does not want to endorse the other website. This command should never be used on internal links.

Non-Branded Keyword – Keywords that do not contain a brand name. Most SEO campaigns have a strong focus on improving website traffic from non-branded keywords.

– – O – –

Organic Search Results – The non-sponsored area of a SERP. The results appear in order or relevancy for a user’s query. There are typically 10 results displayed.

– – P – –

Page Title – The webpage title appears at the top of the browser window.

PageRank – Search engines assign a number between 0-10 for an indexed webpage to rate the authority of that webpage.

Panda – Similar to Penguin, Panda is a series of updates to Google’s algorithm which penalized websites with poor or thin content and/or spammy link portfolios. It emphasizes the importance of having quality content on a website. This ranking algorithm allows smaller websites with high-quality content to rise in Google search results.

Pay-per-click – or PPC – Online advertising approach that determines the cost of an ad by the number of people who click on the ad.

Penguin– Similar to Panda, Penguin, is a series of updates to Google’s algorithm with the intention of discrediting websites that engage in black hat SEO tactics to improve their rankings in Google SERPs. Sites with unnatural anchor text portfolios or backlinks from irrelevant or low-quality pages were often the target.

– – R – –

RankBrain – An update to Google’s search algorithm that was announced on October 26, 2015, and was likely implemented spring of 2015. RankBrain enables an artificial intelligence system to deliver accurate results even if the words in the search query do not appear on the page.

Ranking Factor – One of many elements used in a search engine to calculate the final list of results provided to the user. Examples could include the number of inbound links, title tags, metadata, and body content.

Referral Traffic – Website visitors that enter a website by clicking on links on other websites.

Referrer String – A recorded set of data that tracks the visitor’s movements between pages on a website. Webmasters use this string to determine where the user will depart from the site.

Really Simple Syndication – RSS Feed – New content is published to the subscribers of a website’s RSS feed.

– – S – –

Search Engine – Software code designed to search for information on the World Wide Web and display it according to the relevancy of a search query. Popular search engines today include Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Baidu.

SERP – Search Engine Results Page – – A webpage presented to the user with the results from a search query. What you see after searching for something in a search engine like Google.

Search Query – What a person types into a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo!. Many search engines allow users to search by voice.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing – A form of internet marketing that promotes websites by increasing their visibility in search engines. Encompasses both SEO and PPC marketing.

Semantic Search/SEO – Also known as Latent Semantic Indexing. When search engines understand that there is a strong relationship between the search query and content, even if keywords in the search query are not included in the content. An example would be “Here’s Johnny” and an article on the movie The Shining that doesn’t mention the famous movie quote.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization – The process of positively affecting the way a website appears organically in search engine results, with the intent of drawing more website visitors for a particular set of keywords.

Site Map – List of pages on a website accessible to search engine crawlers and/or website visitors.

Soft 404 – When a non-existent page (a page that has been deleted/removed) displays a ‘page not found’ message or page to anyone trying to access it, but fails to return a HTTP 404 status code. In other words, the content of a web page displayed is entirely unrelated to the HTTP response returned by the server.

Source/Medium – A section of Google Analytics that combines Traffic Source and Traffic Mediums. Source: the origin of traffic to a website. Examples might include Linkedin, Bing, Google, Facebook, etc. Medium: the general category of the source, for example, cost-per-click paid search (CPC), web referral (referral), and organic search (organic).

Spam Referral – Traffic to a website via bots and not from users. Spam traffic typically gets tracked as referral traffic in Google Analytics as the websites doing the spamming are doing it for lead generation as curious website owners want to know the source of all their new website traffic. Too much spam traffic can misinterpret changes in website traffic.

Spider (Web Crawler, Bot) – Program that gathers information from various websites across the World Wide Web.

– – T – –

Top Level Domain (TLD) – The highest level in the hierarchical domain name system of the Internet. For the URL the TLD is “com”.

Traffic – Collective statistics concerning the number of people who visit the website.

Traffic Rank – Comparison between websites that reveals the number of visitors a website receives in comparison to all other sites on the Internet.

– – U – –

Uniform Resource Locator – URL – The recognizable website address used to access a landing page.

URL Parameters – Tags set to a URL that are typically dynamically created to help track data sources. They begin in a URL with a question mark (?) and are divided with ampersands (&).

Unique Visitors – Total number of unique users that have visited a webpage in a given period.

User Experience – Also known as”UX”. The experience of a visitor once on a website and how effectively their needs are met. Often measured by behavior metrics in Google Analytics including bounce rate, pages/session, and avg. session duration.

– – X – –

XML Sitemap – A file that can be submitted to search engines and other crawlers to notify them of URLs to crawl on the domain.

Michael Hall

Michael Hall is an Account Manager at Netvantage SEO, which specializes in SEO, PPC and social media. Mike also runs our Denver office.

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