SEO terms on a screen under a magnifying glass

Search engine optimization, a term consistently reduced to SEO, often feels like a universe far more complex than a simple acronym might suggest. But we’ve broken it down to a manageable, effective marketing tactic.

Understanding SEO starts with the sea of terms, acronyms and metrics that comprise the world of search engine marketing (SEM). Below we’ve detailed some of the most commonly confused terms related to search engines (like Google), your own website, and the metrics you should keep an eye on. 

backlink: A link from a different website to your website. 

indexing: The process Google goes through to identify pages on the internet they may want to serve users in the future. 

natural language (NL): Writing in ways that represent the way people actually communicate, and demonstrating the intent behind those communications. Google is getting better all the time at understanding these nuances of human communication. 

search engine results page (SERP): The spread of both paid and organic listings that appear when a user types a keyword into a search engine. 

web crawlers/spiders: The artifical intelligence (AI)-driven bots that Google deploys throughout the internet to aid in the indexing process.

404 error: Usually a broken link. A user has reached a destination that either never existed or no longer exists.

5XX error: The server either timed out or experienced an error. 

alt tags: Verbally describe an image to search engines or visually impaired users who cannot see the image. 

canonical tags: Help Google to know when a pair or group of similar pages should be treated as one page. 

H-tags: Help to organize the content page down from its primary subject (H1) to its subtopics
(H2) or even subtopics of subtopics (H3+).

HTML: The actual instructional code web browsers read to render your webpage as close to the way it is intended to be rendered as possible.

meta description: Akin to the ad copy of an SEO result. It’s a short description about the page a user will reach after they click on your SERP listing. Limited to about 150 characters.

redirects: When a page is either moved somewhere else on your site or removed entirely, redirects make sure all of the links to that page that may be out there on the web somewhere don’t result in a broken link for a user.

robot tags: Tell search engine crawlers some rules for a page, such as whether or not to index it, how often it should be crawled, and if images for the page should be ignored.

sitemap: Provide search engine crawlers with a list of every page you actually want them to crawl and index.

title tag: It’s almost exactly what it sounds like. It’s the title of your page, in HTML form. It shows up in your web browser tab but also in search results as the SEO headline. Limited to about 60 characters.

bounce rate: The frequency at which users arrive at one of your pages, and leave without taking any other action on the site (visiting another page, submitting a form, downloading a brochure, etc.).

conversions: Any action on your site you’re hoping a user will take that is of greater significance to you than other actions. For example, you may consider someone submitting a form as a “conversion”, whereas someone who just watches a video may be more of a “good to know”.

page load speed: How long does it take for a page to load? Google doesn’t want to keep their users waiting, so be careful not to make pages take too long to load.

page/session ratio: The average number of pages a user views during their session.

page views: How many visits a specific page gets, regardless of whether they are unique or repeat visitors.

session: The collective experience a user has on your site in one period of time; not to be confused with page views.

time on site: How long users are interacting with your website after they initially arrive.

Now that you’ve mastered the lingo, learn how to put it all into practice in our article, “Searching for SEO Balance”.