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The ABC’s of Search Engine Optimization


Hi guys, I just want to share the glossary of Search Engine Optimization from Search Engine Journal.

This is helpful for SEO newbies who wish to know certain SEO terms and know what it does.


Above the Fold
Content that appears on a website before the user scrolls. Google
created the Page Layout Algorithm in 2012 to lower the rankings of
websites featuring too many ads in this space.

Asynchronous JavaScript and XML is a type of programming that
allows a webpage to send and receive information from a server to
change that page dynamically without reloading.

A complex computer program used by search engines to retrieve data
and deliver results for a query. Search engines use a combination of
algorithms to deliver ranked webpages via a results page based on a
number of ranking factors and signals.

Algorithm Change
Some algorithmic changes go completely unnoticed. However, the
impact of a major algorithmic change can usually be seen quite
quickly, though the change sometimes takes a few weeks to completely
roll out. Algorithmic changes come in three forms:

• Algorithm Update: The search engine changes certain
signals of an existing algorithm.
• Algorithm Refresh: The search engine re-runs an existing
algorithm using the exact same signals as last time.
• New Algorithm: The search engine adds a new algorithm to
improve search quality. For example: Google Panda, Google

Alt Attribute
HTML code that provides information used by search engines and
screen readers (for blind and visually-impaired people) to understand
the contents of an image.
Also known as: Alt Text.

The science of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to take future action based on what has (or hasn’t) worked historically.
Also see: Google Analytics

Anchor Text
The clickable word or words of a link. This text is intended to provide
contextual information to people and search engines about what the
webpage or website being linked to is about. For instance, if you were
creating a link to send your visitors to Search Engine Journal, “Search
Engine Journal” is the anchor text.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The science of making computers perform tasks that require human intelligence. Rather than following a set of programmed rules (like an al-
gorithm), an AI computer system is basically a digital brain that learns.
AI can also make and carry out decisions without human intervention.

The combination of signals search engines use to assess websites and
webpages for the purposes of ranking


Short for business-to-business. In B2B SEO, the buying cycle is longer,
products and services are more expensive, and the audience is professional decision-makers.

Short for business-to-consumer. In B2C SEO, the buying cycle is typically shorter (though it still varies by industry), products and services
are (mostly) cheaper, and consumers are the audience.

This is a link from another website pointing to your own website.

See: Inbound Link

The most popular search engine in China, Baidu was founded in January 2000 by Robin Li and Eric Xu.

The name of Microsoft’s search engine. Bing launched in June 2009,
replacing Microsoft Live Search (previously MSN Search and WinB
dows Live Search). Since 2010, Bing has powered Yahoo’s organic
search results as part of a search deal Microsoft and Yahoo struck in
July 2009.

Black Box
A complex computer program that is poorly understood. Inputs and
outputs can be observed, but there is no access to the process itself
due to its confidential nature. For example, Google’s algorithm is a
black box.

Black Hat
Risky tactics that go against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Also see: Webspam

A publication of content, sorted in chronological order, with the most
recent content appearing at the top. The content reflects personal or
corporate interests, and can be written by an individual or a group of
contributors. Blogs were originally called web logs or weblogs. However, as “web log” can also mean a server’s log files, the term was
confusing. To avoid this confusion, the abbreviation “blog” was coined,
and became the common term.

Bounce Rate
The percentage of website visitors who leave without visiting another
page on that website. Bounce rates range widely depending on industry and niche. Although bounce rate can indicate potential content or
website issues, it is not a direct ranking factor, according to Google.

See: Crawler, Googlebot

Branded Keyword
When a user’s query includes an exact match, or variation, of a specific company or brand name. For instance, “Search Engine Journal”,
“SEJ”, “SearchEnginejournal.com”, and “Search Engine Journal SEO
101 Guide” are a few examples of branded keywords.

A navigational element that helps users easily figure out where they are
within a website.
See: Website Navigation

Broken Link
A link that leads to a 404 not found. Typically, a link becomes broken
A website goes offline.
A webpage is removed without implementing a redirect.
The destination URL is changed without implementing a redirect.


A technology that temporarily stores web content, such as images, to
reduce future page loading times.

Cached Page
A snapshot of a webpage as it appeared when a search engine last
crawled it.

Canonical URL
An HTML code element that specifies a preferred website URL, when
multiple URLs have the same or similar content, to reduce duplicate

A country-code top-level domain. For instance, a company based in
the United Kingdom would have a domain like this: www.example.
co.uk, where uk is the ccTLD.

Click Bait
Content that is designed to entice people to click, typically by
overpromising or being intentionally misleading in headlines, so
publishers can earn advertising revenue.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)
The rate (expressed in a percentage) at which users click on an organic
search result. This is calculated by dividing the total number of organic
clicks by the total number of impressions then multiplying by 100.

Showing different content or URLs to people and search engines. A
violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Stands for Content Management System. A web-based application
that lets people create, upload, and manage digital assets.

How frequently two websites (or webpages) are mentioned together
by a third-party website, even if those first two items don’t link to (or
reference) each other. This is a way search engines can establish
subject similarity.
For instance, imagine Search Engine Journal and Search Engine
Roundtable never linked to or mentioned each other. However, other
websites and blogs would likely mention both SEJ and SER on lists of
popular search engine news publications.
To see this in action, see: related:https://www.searchenginejournal.
com/ search engine journal

Comment Spam
Poorly written comments, often off-topic and self-promotional, posted
by spambots in the hopes of getting a free (but ultimately worthless)

There are two types of competition:
• Direct Competitors: Companies that sell similar products
and/or services, serve the same needs, and target a similar
audience both online and offline.
• SEO Competitors: Companies that vie for the same keywords
and organic search visibility, but with unalike products or
services that address different needs and/or target audiences.
Recommended reading:
• Think You Know Who Your SEO & PPC Competition Is? Think

• Words, images, videos, or sounds (or any combination thereof)
that convey information that is meant to be distributed to and
consumed by an audience.
• One of the two most important Google ranking factors (along
with links). Search engines want to reward content that is useful,
informative, valuable, credible, unique, and engaging with
better traffic and visibility.

“Content is King”
A phrase often used by speakers at conferences and writers on
popular SEO (and digital marketing) publications. In this context,
“content is king” usually means that content is essential for you to have
any SEO, digital marketing, or business success.
This phrase actually dates back to a Bill Gates essay, “Content is
King”, published January 3, 1996.
Recommended reading:
• Content is King (Wayback Machine)

When a user completes a desired action on a website. Examples of
conversions include:
• Completing a purchase.
• Adding items to a shopping cart.
• Completing a form (e.g., requesting a demo, registering for a
• Downloading premium content (e.g., ebook, whitepaper).
• Subscribing to an email newsletter.
• Video views.

Conversion Rate
The rate (expressed in a percentage) at which website users complete
a desired action. This is calculated by dividing the total number of
conversions by traffic, then multiplying by 100.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
The process of improving the number or quality of conversions that
occur on a website. Some popular CRO tactics include testing changes
to website design, copy, images, price, call-to-action, and messaging.

The extent to which a relationship exists between two or more
elements. Often used in SEO research to infer relationships of variables
on search rankings due to the black box nature of algorithms. Always
remember, however, that correlation ≠ causation.

Crawl Budget
The total number of URLs search engines can and want to crawl on a
website during a specific time period.
Recommended reading:
• What Crawl Budget Means for Googlebot (Google
Webmaster Central)

Crawl Error
• URLs that a search engine bot is unable to crawl.
• URLs that return a status code error.

A program search engines use to crawl the web. Bots visit webpages
to collect information and add or update a search engine’s index.
Also known as: Bot, Spider, Web Crawler

The process of gathering information, using a crawler, from the billions
of public webpages to update, add, and organize webpages in a
search engine’s index.

Cascading Style Sheets describe how HTML elements (e.g., color,
fonts) should appear on webpages and adapt when viewed on
different devices.

Customer Journey
All of the potential moments (or touchpoints) at which a prospect is
exposed to or engages with a brand. All of these interactions are
designed to eventually persuade, influence, and convert that prospect
to become a customer, client, or subscriber.
Though customer journeys can vary greatly by business type and
industry, typically it is made up of four main “stages”:
Awareness > Consideration > Decision > Retention
Google’s Avinash Kaushik offers an alternative framework:
See > Think > Do > Care
Also known as: Buying Process, Consumer Decision Journey, the
Customer Journey to Online Purchase, Marketing Funnel, Path to
Purchase, Purchase Funnel

All the hard numbers that represent real customers – the who, what,
where, when, why, and how – all of which is needed to make informed
decisions about SEO strategies and tactics.

Dead-End Page
A webpage that links to no other webpages. So called because once
a user or bot arrives on this page, there is no place to move forward.
Deep Link
• A link pointing to any webpage other than the homepage.
• A link pointing to content within a mobile app.

When Google removes a website or webpage, either temporarily or
permanently, from search results, specifically its search index. Google
provides a Remove URLs tool in the Search Console for voluntary
cases; however, a website may also be de-indexed as punishment for
violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, in the form of a manual
Also known as: Delisting

A list of websites, usually separated by related categories and
maintained by human editors. Depending on the directory, inclusion
could be free or paid. In the past, links from directories were highly
sought after (e.g., DMOZ), leading to widespread abuse and overall
devaluing of this sort of link building.
Also known as: Web Directory, Link Directory

If your link profile includes a high number of spammy, artificial, or lowquality inbound links that may be harming your rankings – and don’t
have the ability to get them removed for a legitimate reason (e.g., the
link exists on a site you have no control over) – you can use Google’s
Disavow Tool tool to tell Google to ignore those links.

The Open Directory Project. This human-edited directory of websites
launched June 5, 1998 and closed March 17, 2017.

A link that doesn’t use the “nofollow” attribute. In other words, a link.

A website address – typically ending in an extension like .com, .org, or
.net. For example: www.searchenginejournal.com is the domain of this

Domain Authority
• The overall “strength” of a website, built up over time, which
can help a new page rank well quickly, even before that
content has earned links or engagement.
• A score, between 0-100, SEO software company Moz uses to
predict the ability of a website to rank in search results.
Recommended reading:
• The Three Pillars of SEO: Authority, Relevance, and Trust

Doorway Page
Webpages that are created to rank in search engines for specific
keywords only for the purpose of redirecting users who click on that
page to a different website.

A search engine that was founded September 28, 2008. It is often
praised for its heavy focus on user privacy and a lack of filter bubbles
(search personalization). DuckDuckGo relies on more than 400
sources to serve its search results, including vertical search engines,
its own crawler, DuckDuckBot, Bing, and Yandex. In 2016, 4 billion
searches were conducted on DuckDuckGo.

Duplicate Content
When a significant amount of content contained on one webpage
matches, or is incredibly similar to, content that exists elsewhere on the
same website or a completely different website.

Dwell Time
The amount of time that elapses between when a user clicks on a
search result and then returns to the SERP from a website. Short dwell
time (e.g., less than 5 seconds) can be an indicator of low-quality
content to search engines.


The buying and selling of products, all conducted online.
Recommended reading:
• A Step-By-Step Guide to SEO for E-Commerce Websites

Editorial Link
A link that is given by one website to another without the recipient asking or paying for it.
Also known as: Natural Link.

Engagement Metrics
Methods to measure how users are interact with webpages and content. Examples of engagement metrics include:
• Click-through rate
• Conversion rate
• Bounce rate
• Time on page/site
• New vs. returning visitors
• Frequency and recency
• Dwell time


People, places, organizations, websites, events, groups, facts, and other things.
Also see: Knowledge Graph

External Link
See: Outbound Link


Featured Snippet
For certain queries, usually questions (i.e., who/what/where/when/
why/how), Google sometimes shows a special block above the organic search results. This box contains an summary (in the form of
paragraph, list, table, or video), as well as the publication date, page
title, link to the webpage from which the answer originated, and URL.
Also known as: Position Zero.
Recommended reading:
• Optimize Your Site for Featured Snippets

How easily the content on a website can be discovered, both internally
(by users) and externally (by search engines).

Footer Link
Links that appear in the bottom section (or “footer”) of a website.
See: Website Navigation


The search engine founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in September 1998. Google marked a radical departure from human-edited
web directories, relying on web crawling technology and a complex
algorithm to analyze hyperlinking patterns to rank websites. Google is
the most-used search engine in nearly every country in the world.

Google Analytics
A free web analytics program that can be used to track audience behavior, traffic acquisition sources, content performance, and much
Visit: Google Analytics

Google Bomb
A practice intended to make a website rank number one for a surprising or controversial search phrase. This was accomplished by having a
large number of websites link to a certain webpage with specific anchor text to help it rank for that term.

For example, in 2003 President George W. Bush’s White House bio
ranked number one on a search for “miserable failure.”

The web crawling system Google uses to find and add new websites
and webpages to its index.

Google Dance
An outdated term for the volatile period of time during which Google
updated its search index, roughly every month.

Google Hummingbird
A new Google search algorithm that was officially announced in September 2013 after it had been in use for a month. The purpose of Hummingbird was to better understand the full context of queries (i.e., semantic search), rather than certain keywords, in order to provide better

Google Panda Algorithm
A major Google algorithm update that initially rolled out in February
2011, it was followed by numerous subsequent updates. The goal of
Google Panda was to reduce the visibility of low-value content, often
produced by “content farms.” In 2016, Panda became part of Google’s core ranking algorithm.

Google Penguin Algorithm
A major Google algorithm that launched in April 2012, it was followed
by a series of updates and refreshes. The goal of Penguin was to reduce the visibility of overly-optimized sites, or sites that excessively
abused certain spammy tactics (e.g., building low-quality links, key-
word stuffing). In 2016, Penguin started running in real-time as a part
of Google’s core algorithm.

Google Pigeon Update
The name (given by the SEO industry, not Google) of a significant
Google local search update launched July 24, 2014. The goal of Pigeon was to improve the accuracy and relevance of local searches
by leveraging more traditional Google ranking signals and improving
distance and locating ranking parameters.

Google RankBrain
A major Google algorithm change officially introduced in October
2015, although it had been in testing for months before this. With RankBrain, Google added machine learning to its algorithm and has been
called the third most important ranking signal. In June 2016, it was
revealed that RankBrain has been involved in every query and has an
impact on rankings.

Google Sandbox
A theorized and debated (but never confirmed by Google) “waiting
period” that prevents new websites from seeing the full benefit of their
optimization efforts. Typically, this effect is witnessed most often with
new sites targeting competitive keywords and can only be overcome
when the site gains enough authority.

Google Search Console
Google’s Search Console offers several helpful features, including the
ability to monitor sites for indexing errors and site speed. These pages
are also used to communicate manual action notifications.
Recommended reading:
• A Complete Guide to the Google Search Console

Google Trends
A website where you can explore data visualizations on the latest
search trends, stories, and topics.
Visit: Google Trends

Google Webmaster Guidelines
Google’s guidance on good website optimization practices, as well as
“illicit” practices that can result in manual action. Simply:
• Make unique, valuable, and engaging websites and webpages
for users, not search engines.
• Avoid tricks and techniques that deceive users and are intended
only to improve search rankings.
Recommended reading:
• Google Webmaster Guidelines

Gray Hat
A supposed “gray” area between techniques that adhere to Google’s
Webmaster Guidelines, but then add an element that bends the rules a

Guest Blogging
A popular link building tactic that involves developing content for other
websites in exchange for a backlink pointing at your own pages.
Also known as: Guest Posting.


Heading tags (H1-H6) separate content into sections, based on importance, with H1 being the most important and H6 being the least
important. Headline tags should be used naturally and should incorporate your target keywords where relevant, as doing so may provide a
small SEO benefit.

An H1 tag.

Head Term
A popular keyword with high search volume that is usually difficult to
rank for.
Also known as: Head Keyword, Short-Tail

Hidden Text
Any text that can’t be seen by a user that is intended to manipulate
search rankings by loading webpages with content-rich keywords and
copy. This technique is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and
can result in a manual action. For example, adding text that is:
• Too small to read.
• The same color as the background.
• Using CSS to push the text off-screen.

Hilltop Algorithm
Influenced by the HITS Algorithm, and added to Google’s algorithm in
2003, Hilltop assigned “expert” status to certain websites or webpages published about a specific topic that also link to unaffiliated pages
about that topic.
Recommended reading:
• Hilltop: A Search Engine based on Expert Documents (Krishna
Bharat & George Mihaila)

HITS Algorithm
Hyperlink-Induced Topic Search is a link analysis algorithm that assesses a value not just based on content and inbound links (authorities), but
also its outbound links (hubs).
Recommended reading:
• Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment (Jon

The default, or introductory webpage, of a website.

.htaccess File
A server configuration file that can be used to rewrite and redirect

Stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML tags are specific code
elements that can be used to improve the effectiveness of SEO for
webpages and websites.

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol is how data is transferred from a computer server to a web browser.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure uses a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
to encrypt data transferred between a website and web browser.
HTTPS is a minor Google ranking factor.

Hub Page
An authoritative central resource (e.g., page or article), dedicated to a
specific topic (keyword), that is continually updated and linked to, and
also links out to topically-relevant webpages.

Inbound Link
A link to a webpage that originates from an external website. For example, if Search Engine Journal were to link to Google, that would
count as an inbound link on Google’s side; if Google were to link to
Search Engine Journal, that would be an inbound link on SEJ’s side.


The database search engines use to store and retrieve information
gathered during the crawling process.

How easily a search engine bot can understand and add a webpage
to its index.

Indexed Page
A webpage that has been discovered by a crawler, has been added
to a search engine index, and is eligible to appear in search results for
relevant queries.

Information Architecture
How a website is organized and where various content and navigational elements are located on webpages.

Information Retrieval
The process of searching for information (e.g., text, images, video) from
a large database and then presenting the most relevant information to
an end user.

Internal Link
See: Website Navigation

IP Address
An Internet Protocol Address. IP addresses can be:
• Shared: Numerous websites share an address within one server
or a group of servers (a.k.a., virtual hosting).
• Dedicated: A website has its own address.
Neither will help you rank better; however, a dedicated IP address can
increase site speed.


JavaScript (JS)
A programming language that makes it possible to dynamically insert
content, links, meta data, or other elements, on websites. JavaScript
can potentially make it difficult for search engine bots to crawl and
index webpages and increase the time it takes for webpage to load for

The word, words, or phrase that an SEO professional or marketer
targets for the purpose of matching and ranking for what users are
searching for. The words used on webpages can help search engines
determine which pages are the most relevant to show in organic results
when a searcher enters a query. Keywords usually represent topics,
ideas, or questions.
Also known as: Keyphrase.

Keyword Cannibalization
A type of self-competition that occurs when multiple pages from one
website rank for the same query on a SERP. This can result in a lower
CTR, diminished authority, and lower conversion rates than from having one consolidated webpage that ranks well.
Recommended reading:
• How to Identify & Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization to
Boost Your SEO

Keyword Density
How often a word or phrase appears within the content of a webpage.
At best, this unproven concept is outdated, if ever really mattered to
search engines. There is no ideal percentage that will help a webpage
rank better.

Keyword Research
The process of discovering any relevant topics, subjects, and terms
searchers enter into search engines, as well as the volume and competition level of those terms. This practice is made possible by a variety of
free and paid tools.

Keyword Stuffing
Adding irrelevant keywords, or repeating keywords beyond what is
natural, to a webpage in the hopes of increasing search rankings. This
spam tactic is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can result
in a manual action.

Knowledge Graph
An entity database Google uses to surface facts and information on
people, places, and things (a.k.a., entities) – and their connections – in
a Knowledge Panel or carousel at the top of search results on relevant

Knowledge Panel
A box that appears at the top of, or on the right rail (desktop only), of
Page 1 of Google’s search results for relevant queries. This panel contains facts and information on people, places, and things, as well as
links to related websites or Google searches.

Stands for key performance indicator. A measurement method businesses use to gauge whether marketing and business objectives, targets, and goals are being reached.

Landing Page
• Any webpage that a visitor can navigate to.
• A standalone webpage that is designed to capture leads or
generate conversions.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
An information retrieval method designed to help search engines identify the correct context of a word. LSI doesn’t play a useful role in SEO
See: Google Latent Semantic Indexing

A person who may or may not be interested in your product(s) and/
or service(s). A lead willingly shares their email address (and usually
other personal or contact information) in exchange for something they
deem of value from the website.

A connection between two websites built using HTML code. A link
enables users to navigate to websites, social networks, and apps. Links
play a critical role in how search engines evaluate and rank websites.
Also known as: Backlink.

Link Bait
Intentionally provocative content that is meant to grab people’s attention and attract links from other websites.

Link Building
A process designed to get other trusted and relevant websites to link to
your website to help improve your organic search rank and visibility.
Link building can be done by:
• Conducting outreach to media outlets, bloggers, influencers,
and webmasters.
• Attracting editorial links naturally, by publishing various types of
high-quality or sensational content.
• Paying for them. For example, you can obtain links via
sponsored content, paid reviews, or paying for a specific type
of link to appear on another website.
• Forging partnerships.
• Manually. For instance, you link together various properties you
manage or own, or add your site to online directories or review

Link Equity
The value of inbound links, in terms of relevance, authority, and trust.

Link Farm
When a group of websites link to each other, usually using automated programs, in the hopes of artificially increasing search rankings. A
spam tactic.
Also known as: Link Network, Blog Network, Private Blog Network

Link Juice
A term you should never use in public or online.
Did you mean…: Authority or PageRank

Link Profile
Every type of link that points to a particular website. The quality of a
website’s link profile can vary widely, depending on how they were
acquired and the anchor text used.

Link Velocity
How quickly (or slowly) a website accumulates links. A sudden increase in link velocity could potentially be a sign of spamming, or
could be due to viral marketing or doing something newsworthy (either
intentionally or unintentionally).

Log File
A file that records users’ information, such as IP addresses, type of
browser, Internet Service Provider (ISP), date/time stamp, referring/
exit pages, and number of clicks.

Log File Analysis
The process of exploring the data contained in a log file to identify
trends, administer the site, track user’s movement around the site, gather demographic information, and understand how search bots are
crawling the website.

Long-Tail Keyword
• Highly specific multiple-word terms that often demonstrate
higher purchase intent.
• Less popular keywords that have low search volume that are
usually easier to rank for.
Machine Learning
A subset of Artificial Intelligence in which a system uses data to learn
and adjust a complex process without human intervention.


Manual Action
Google’s term for a penalty. Google will take manual action on a
website after a human reviewer (i.e., a Google employee) manually
reviews a website to confirm whether it has failed to comply with
Google’s Webmaster guidelines. Penalized websites can either be
demoted or removed entirely from search results. Manual actions can
be assessed to the entire website or just certain webpages.

Meta Description
A tag that can be added to the “head” section of an HTML document.
It acts as a description of a webpage’s content. This content isn’t used
in ranking algorithms, but is often displayed as the “snippet” that appears in the search results. Accurate and engaging descriptions can
increase organic click-through rate.

Meta Keywords
A tag that can be added to the “head” section of an HTML document.
Adding a bunch of keywords here won’t help you rank – search engine algorithms have ignored this tag for ranking purposes for years
due to abuse (in the form of keyword stuffing).

Meta Tags
Information that appears in the HTML source code of a webpage to
describe its contents to search engines. The title tag and meta description are the most commonly used types of meta tags in SEO.

A way to measure activity and performance in order to assess the success (or lack thereof) of an SEO initiative.


Natural Link
See: Editorial Link

Negative SEO
A rare but malicious practice where webspam techniques are used to
harm the search rankings of another website, usually a competitor.
Recommended reading:
• 7 Tips to Protect Your Site From Negative SEO

A specific market or area of interest consisting of a small group of highly-passionate people.

Noarchive Tag
A meta tag that tells search engines not to store a cached copy of your

Nofollow Attribute
A meta tag that tells search engines not to follow one specific outbound link. This is done in cases when a website doesn’t want to pass
authority to another webpage or because it’s a paid link. The nofollow
attribute looks like this:
Anchor text goes here

Noindex Tag
A meta tag that tells search engines not to index a specific webpage in
its index.

Nosnippet Tag
A meta tag that tells search engines not to show a description with your

“(not provided)”
After search engines moved to secure search in 2011, keyword data
was removed from Google Analytics, replaced with “(not provided)” –
thus making it impossible to know which queries were responsible for
visitors finding a website.
Recommended reading:
• Not Provided: A Complete Roundup


Off-Page SEO
Demand generation and brand awareness activities that take place
outside of a website. In addition to link building, promotion tactics can

include social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing,
influencer marketing, and even offline marketing channels (e.g., TV, radio,

On-Page SEO
These activities all take place within a website. In addition to publishing
relevant, high-quality content, on-page SEO includes optimizing HTML
code (e.g., title tags, meta tags), information architecture, website
navigation, and URL structure.

Organic Search
The natural, or unpaid, listings that appear on a SERP. Organic search
results, which are analyzed and ranked by algorithms, are designed to
give users the most relevant result based on their query.

Orphan Page
Any webpage that is not linked to by any other pages on that website.

Outbound Link
A link that directs visitors to a page on a different website than the one
they are currently on.


According to Google: “PageRank is the measure of 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.” The algorithm was named after
Google co-founder Larry Page.
Recommended reading:
• The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web
by Larry Page
• The Anatomy of a Search Engine by Sergey Brin and Larry

Page Speed
The amount of time it takes for a webpage to completely load. Page
speed is ranking factor.

A webpage is loaded in a browser.

Paid Search
Pay-per-click advertisements that appear above (and often below) the
organic results on search engines.

Stands for Private Blog Network.
See: Link Farm.

Stands for Portable Document Format file. PDFs can contain text, images, links, videos, and other elements.
Recommended reading:
• 10 Tips to Make Your PDFs SEO Friendly

See: Manual Action

A fictionalized representation of an ideal website visitor or customer
– their demographics, behavior, needs, motivations, and goals – all
based on actual data.
Also known as: Buyer Persona, Marketing Persona

When search engines use search history, web browsing history, location, and relationships to create a set of search results tailored to a
specific user.

Hypertext Preprocessor is a scripting language used to create dynamic
content on webpages.

Search engines aim to reduce the organic search rankings of content
that infringes on copyright. Google introduced a filter in 2012 that reduces the visibility of sites reported for numerous DMCA-related takedown requests.
Recommended reading:
• An update to our search algorithms (Google)

When, after entering a query, a searcher bounces back and forth between a SERP and the pages listed in those search results.
Also see: Dwell time

See: Rank

PPC (Pay Per Click)
A type of advertising where advertisers are charged a certain amount
(usually determined by bid, relevance, account history, and competition) every time a user clicks on the ad. Combining PPC and SEO can
result in more SERP real estate, clicks, and conversions. Also, PPC data
can inform your SEO strategy, and the reverse is also true.


Stands for query deserves freshness, where a search engine might
decide to show newer webpages in search results (rather than older
pages) if a particular search term is trending, perhaps because a news
event has resulted in a surge in searches on that topic.
Recommended reading:
• Google Keeps Tweaking Its Search Engine (New York Times)

Quality Content
Content that helps you successfully achieve business or marketing
goals (e.g., driving organic traffic or social shares, earning top search
rankings, generating leads/sales).

Quality Link
An inbound link that originates from an authoritative, relevant, or trusted website.

The word, words, or phrase that a user enters into a search engine.
Also known as: A search.


Where a webpage appears within the organic search results for a specific query.

Ranking Factor
An individual component which contributes to a complex series of algorithms that determine where webpages should appear with the organic search results for a specific query. For years, Google has said
that its algorithms “rely on more than 200 unique signals” to help users
find the most relevant webpage or answer.
Also known as: Ranking Signal.

Reciprocal Links
When two websites agree to exchange links to one another.

A technique that sends a user (or search engine) who requested one
webpage to a different (but equally relevant) webpage. There are two
types of redirects:
301: Permanent
302: Temporary

URL data that identifies the source of a user’s webpage request.

The process of asking a search engine to return a website or webpage(s) to its search index after de-indexing.

A way search engines measure how closely connected the content of a
webpage is aligned to match the context of a search query.

Reputation Management
The practice of crafting a positive online perception of a brand or person – including in search results and on social media – by minimizing
the visibility of negative mentions.
Also known as: Online Reputation Management, Public Relations

Responsive Website
A website designed to automatically adapt to a user’s screen size,
whether it’s being viewed on a desktop or mobile device.

Rich Snippet
Structured data can be added to the HTML of a website to provide
contextual information to the search engines during crawling. This information can then be displayed in the SERPs, resulting in an enhanced
listing, known as a rich snippet.
Recommended reading:
• What Is Schema Markup & Why It’s Important for SEO
• Getting Started With Schema Markup for SEO

The Robots Exclusion Protocol (or Standard) is a text file, accessible at
the root of a website, that tells search engine crawlers which areas of a
website should be ignored.

Return on Investment (ROI)
A way to measure the performance of SEO activities. This is calculated by
dividing how much revenue you earned via organic search by the cost of
the total investment, then multiplying by 100.


A form of microdata which, once added to a webpage, creates an
enhanced description (commonly known as a rich snippet), which
appears in search results.

A technique used to copy website content or information using a
computer program or script. Search engines, such as Google, scrape
data in order to build a searchable index of websites.
Also known as: Web scraping.

Search Engine
A computer program that enables users to enter a query in order
to retrieve information (e.g., files, websites, webpages) from that
program’s index (i.e., a web search engine, such as Google, indexes
websites, webpages, and files found on the World Wide Web). A

search index is built and updated using a crawler, with items being
analyzed and ranked by a series of algorithms.
Also see: Baidu, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Google, Yahoo, Yandex

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
An umbrella term for increasing a website’s visibility in search engine
results pages, encompassing both paid and organic activities.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The process of optimizing a website – as well as all the content on that
website – so it will appear in prominent positions in the organic results
of search engines. SEO requires an understanding of how search engines work, what people search for (i.e., keywords and keyphrases),
and why people search (intent). Successful SEO makes a site appealing to users and search engines. It is a combination of technical (onpage SEO) and marketing (off-page SEO).
See: On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
The page search engines display to users after conducting a search.
Typically, search engines show about 10 organic search results, sorted
by relevance. Depending on the query, other search features may be
shown, including:
• AdWords Ads (above and below the organic search results)
• Featured snippets (a.k.a., Position Zero)
• Images
• Knowledge panels
• Local Pack (with map)
• News
• Related questions
• Related searches
• Shopping results
• Sitelinks
• Tweets
• Videos
Also known as: SERPs, when referring to multiple search engine results

Search History
Search engines track every search users conduct (text and voice), every webpage visited, and every ad clicked on. Search engines may
use this data to personalize the results for signed in users.
Also known as: Web Browsing History.

Share of Voice
How many impressions a brand receives in the SERPs for search terms
when compared to the total impressions that the brand’s competitors
receive for those same search terms.

Up to six algorithmically-chosen links that appear below the listing for
the same website of a top-ranked organic search result. Pages can be
blocked from appearing as sitelinks within the Search Console or Bing
Webmaster Tools.
Also known as: Deep Links (Bing).

A list of pages on a website. There are two types of sitemaps:
• HTML: This type of sitemap, typically organized by topics,
helps site users navigate a website.
• XML: This type of sitemap provides crawlers with a list of
webpages on a website.

Sitewide Links
A link that appears on every page of a website, typically in a sidebar
or footer of blogs or websites that use templates.

Social Media
Platforms (websites and apps) where users can interact with each other, as well as create, share, and consume content.

Social Signal
Any factors that demonstrate authority and influence on popular social
networking websites. For example, the social authority of a user on Twitter.
Although many correlation studies have indicated that socials signals
impact rankings (e.g., number of Likes/shares a piece of content receives), Google has publicly stated that social signals are not a direct
ranking factor. Popular sites that have a lot of social media engagement tend to rank well for other reasons.

See: Webspam

See: Bot

Split Testing
A controlled experiment used to compare at least two webpages to
measure the effects of a different variable on conversions. After the
pages are shown for a long enough period of time to site visitors to
gather an adequate amount of performance data, a “winner” can be
Also known as: A/B Testing.

SSL Certificate
A digital certificate used for website identity authentication and to encrypt information sent to the server using Secure Sockets Layer technology.

Status Codes
The response codes sent by a server whenever a link is clicked, a webpage or file is requested, or a form is submitted. Common HTTP status
codes important to SEO:
• 200 (OK)
• 404 (Not Found)
• 410 (Gone)
• 500 (Internal Service Error)
• 503 (Service Unavailable)
• Stop Word
A frequently used word. For example: a, at, for, is, of, on, the. Search
engines have, in the past, ignored these words to save time/resources
when indexing. Search engines have evolved greatly since the early
days, and stop words sometimes are meaningful, so this isn’t something
to worry much about for SEO purposes.
Recommended reading:
• New Google Approach to Indexing and Stopwords by Bill

• How Google Might Ignore Insignificant Terms in Queries by
Bill Slawski

A separate section that exists within a main domain. For example:
http://jobs.searchenginejournal.com/ is a subdomain that exists
within the main domain of https://www.searchenginejournal.com/


Organizing and categorizing a website to maximize content findability
and help users complete desired on-site tasks.

Time on Page
An inexact estimation of how long a user spent looking at a particular
webpage. Pages with high exit rates can greatly skew this data.

Title Tag
An HTML meta tag that acts as the title of a webpage. Typically, the
title tag is the title search engines use when displaying search listings,
so it should include strategic and relevant keywords for that specific
page. The title tag should also be written so it makes sense to people
and attracts the most clicks. Typically, title tags should be less than 65

Top-Level Domain (TLD)
The extension of a given web address. These include:
• .com
• .org
• .net
• .info
There are also many more industry and country-specific options. See:
Also known as: gTLD (Generic Top-Level Domain); Domain Extension.

The people (and sometimes bots) who visit your website.

Generally applies to the history of a domain (e.g., whether it cites or
features expert sources, builds a positive reputation, adheres to Webmaster Guidelines).

A link analysis technique used to separate good “reputable seed pages” from web spam.
Recommended reading:
• Combating Web Spam with TrustRank by Zoltan Gyongyi,
Hector Garcia-Molina, and Jan Pedersen


User-Generated Content (UGC)
Any form of content – videos, blog posts, comments, reviews, etc. –
that is created by users or customers.

Universal Search
When search engines pull data from multiple speciality databases to
display on the same SERP. Results can include images, videos, news,
shopping, and other types of results.
Also known as: Blended Search.

Unnatural Link
Any links Google identifies as suspicious, deceptive, or manipulative.
An unnatural link can result in Google taking manual action on your

A uniform resource locator is the specific string of characters that lead
to a resource on the web. The term URL is usually short-hand for the letter-based web address (e.g., www.searchenginejournal.com) entered
into a browser to access a webpage.

URL Parameter
The values added to a URL in order to track where traffic comes from
(i.e., which link someone clicked on to discover your website or webpage).
Here’s an example of a URL parameter (bolded):

Also known as: Query String.

How easy it is for people to use your website. Site design, browser
compatibility, disability enhancements, and other factors all play a
role in improving usability and making your site accessible for as many
people as possible.

User Agent
Web crawling software.

User Experience (UX)
The overall feeling users are left with after interacting with a brand, its
online presence, and its product/services.


Vertical Search
A specialized type of search where the focus is only on a specific topic, type of content, or media. For example, YouTube (video), Amazon
(shopping), Kayak (travel), Yelp (business reviews).

Virtual Assistant
A bot that uses natural language processing to perform tasks, such as
conducting web searches. For instance, Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana.

The prominence and positions a website occupies within the organic
search results.

Voice Search
A type of voice-activated technology that allows users to speak into a
device (usually a smartphone) to ask questions or conduct an online
that contain important informational resources about a brand
or business. These pages usually aren’t important for ranking
purposes. For example, SEJ’s footer navigation links to our
About Us page, privacy policy, and our various social profiles.
• Related Links: This area usually appears in the right rail or
beneath content. It might be called “Most Popular,” “Most
Read,” or “Trending Now.”
• Content Links: Links that appear within your main content
(e.g., articles, landing pages).
• Breadcrumb Navigation: This type is less popular than it
once was. Essentially, each webpage shows a “trail” to help
quickly tell visitors where they are on your site. For example:
Home > SEO > Link Building > What Is Website Navigation?
Also known as: Internal Links (or Internal Linking), Site Architecture


Any methods that exist solely to deceive or manipulate search engine
algorithms and/or users.
Also known as: Black Hat SEO, Spam, Spamdexing, Search Spam

White Hat
Tactics that comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.


Word Count
The total number of words that appear within the copy of content. Too
little (or thin) content can be a signal of low-quality to search engines.

A popular blogging and content management system.


A document that exists on the World Wide Web and can be viewed by
web browsers.

A collection of webpages hosted together on the World Wide Web.

Website Navigation
How a website connects its webpages to help visitors navigate that site.
Website navigation comes in a few different forms, including:
• Main Navigation: The major topics or subjects your website
is focused on. For instance, on SEJ our Main Navigation
consists of SEO, News, PPC, Content, and Social.
• Secondary Navigation: Topics related to the main
navigation. For instance, on SEJ secondary navigation includes
links to webinars, podcasts, guides, SEJ Summit, and other
• Footer Navigation: Typically this includes links to pages

Extensible Markup Language is a markup language search engines
use to understand website data.

XML Sitemap
A list of all the pages on a website that search engines need to know.

Yahoo was born in April 1994 and was an incredibly popular search
engine and portal in the ’90s. Yahoo search was mostly human-powered, at least until June 2000 when a then unknown search engine
called Google began powering Yahoo’s organic search results. That
deal continued until 2004, when Yahoo started using its own search
technology. Since 2010, Yahoo’s organic search results have been
powered by Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.

The most popular search engine in Russia, Yandex was founded September 23, 1997 by Arkady Volozh and Ilya Segalovich.


I know these are a lot to chew, but these terms will help a lot in terms of communicating with with other webmasters and bloggers.

This glossary tells a lot if not all about SEO and it works.


All credit goes to Search Engine Journal for creating this awesome list.

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