Search Engine Optimization and Marketing Glossary

On Site/On-Page Specific


On page SEO and Technical SEO

Photo by Lord James on Flickr.


  • .htaccess – On hosting platforms using Linux (versus Microsoft’s IIS), the Apache system can be enabled to use .htaccess for managing redirects, file name structure and other domain-level SEO opportunities. The .htaccess file is primarily used for redirects in SEO, but can be used to rewrite URLs, direct to error pages, and adjusting headers.
  • Alt – Short for alternative text, this on page element allows webmasters to add text to images when the image does not load. Crawlers use the text to evaluate the relevancy of the webpage to keywords and context.
  • Anchor Text – In content, anchor text, refers to the words used to link out to other pages, files or URLs. The words used in linking out do have an impact on the value of the page they reside on and the page they link to.
  • Canonical – In cases where a website has a need or use of duplicated/closely similar content, the canonical tag allows webmasters to explicitly express the relationship between content and pass value to the canonical URL. Usage in <head>: <link rel=”canonical” href=”” />
  • CSSCascading Style Sheets are used to style content and websites. These sheets contain the code that manages the look and feel of webpages. Moving styling off of webpages, helps to improve the crawlability of the site. CSS should be used to control styling as opposed to using the native element, such as <H1>.
  • Deep links – This term refers to links that reside in a website’s architecture. Typically, this means links within a site 3+ pages/folders deep. Linking deeper into a site helps build a robust backlink profile and grows the search value of the site as a whole.
  • Description – The description meta tag (<meta name=”description” content=””>) offers a way to inform the search engine result for the webpage. The description should be a good summation of the content of the page while also including a call to action/value proposition for the user. It should be noted that Google may change the description based on the user’s search. Keywords searched by users will be bolded in the SERP if they are present.
  • EMD – Stands for Exact-Match Domain. Prior to RankBrain and Hummingbird, EMDs would receive some additional search value for the exact-match keywords used in the URL.
  • External Links – These are website links pointing at a website; considered inbound links. Example: Your Site X ← Site Y
  • Information Architecture – To help outline and manage the way content is organized on a website based on user flow and information relationships. This is different from sitemapping as IA centers on user activity and content relationships versus physical content placement as with sitemaps.
  • Internal Links – These are website links pointing out from a website; considered outbound links. Example: Your Site X → Y
  • Link Bait – A popular marketing term, referring to content used to generate organic links to the page or content. Link bait may be take the form of infographics, downloadable content, images, PDFs, podcasts or slide decks.
  • Metadata – In it’s totality, metadata is any added content added to the page to expand the context. This can take the form of header data, robot directives, linking information, etc. There are over 200 types of metadata options that can be used.
  • NoFollow – This on page, in anchor, directive “request” that web crawlers not follow the link. From an SEO perspective, the use of rel=”nofollow” is meant to help manage on page link value as well as show that a link is useful, but is not directly relevant to the page. Such as social links, links to websites mentioned but not referenced or links to databases, indices and login areas.
  • Robots.txt – Used in the root folder of a website, the robots.txt file contains directives for managing how web crawlers interact with the website they reside on. Managing the crawlers is an effective way to help place priority on areas of the website, block malicious crawlers, block private or non-public folders and files, and call out sitemaps for crawling.
  • Title – In the code layout of a webpage, a title for the page can be called out. This title functions as any title would, say for a book, publication or resource. The title of a webpage should speak to the focus of the page in an effective and meaningful way. The title is used in the SERP and is valuable to search engines because it is valuable to introducing users to what content they will find on the page being returned in the result; or at least, should be on the page. Keywords searched by users will be bolded in the SERP if they are present.
  • TLDTop-Level Domain refers to the general location of a domain representing a website. Example: in, .com is the top-level domain for our website.
  • Subdomain – Subdomains reside on a TLD and are structured from a domain control standpoint to be shown as a main URL instead of being shown as a sub folder. Example, a folder in the hosting of may be “/favorite-chocolates/” but this folder maybe mapped to instead of being accessible at This method helps associate a specific category, keyword(s) or target with content better than using deep folder structures.

Off Site Specific

  • Citation – A citation is a reference to a brand or business location represented on a third-party website. Often includes the NAP information along with a short description, URL, and pertinent business information like hours of operation.
  • NAP – Short for Name, Address, and Phone number, NAP data is used by several mapping services like Google Maps, MapQuest, and Waze. Local SEO relies heavily on NAP data consistency and having it association with a website URL.
  • Link Building – Backlinks are one of the top three ranking factors according to Google’s Andrey Lipattsev and other sources.
  • Content Syndication – Platforms like Outbrain, allow for content to be shared with new audiences while not taking away from the original content. Content syndication allows for both unique content to reach a broader audience and build new backlinks as the original content should be linked or referenced with a canonical.
  • Social Media – It goes without saying that social integration is important to the off site strategy of any digital marketing. Social traffic and social activity around content/brands has an impact on both user traffic and search value.

Search Tools

  • Analytics/GA – Google is a popular option for monitoring website traffic, but not the only one. Analytics is the activity of obtaining and interpretation user activity on a website. For Google:
    • Users – Refers to web visitors to the web property.
    • Sessions – The number of times, in a given period of time, that users initiated a visit to a website. One user can generate multiple sessions.
    • Channel – Paths taken by users to reach content on a website.
    • Bounce – Sessions initiated by users then abandoned, either immediately or within a 30 minute limit of no activity. Primarily refers to web visits that only land on one page and leave without viewing other pages.
    • Pageviews – In a session, each time a page is loaded, the loaded page is considered a pageview. A user can produce, multiple sessions, that produce multiple pageviews.
    • Entrances/Exits – This is pretty direct: entrances are where and when users initiate a visit to the web property. Exits are the opposite, where users sessions end.
  • AdSense – Google’s platform for affiliate marketing. Website owners can use AdSense to display third-party ads on their properties to generate revenue; the website becomes part of the Google Display Network and referred to as a “search partner”. Google Search Network refers to properties managed and controlled by Google, not third-parties.
  • AdWords – Google’s platform for paid search marketing. Adwords offers webmasters and business owners the ability to promote products, services, and more through Google’s widespread network of digital properties. This includes YouTube, DoubleClick network, Display network, text ads (pay-per-click) in search, product searches (PLAs), and mobile search.
  • GSC/GWT – In 2015, Google rebranded Google Webmaster Tools as Google Search Console. Within Google Search Console, webmasters can view messages from Google about the verified website to include concerns with malware, review sitemaps, crawl stats, and queries. GA does not offer data around queries when users are logged in, GA shows [not provided]. To view search analytics for these keywords, webmasters must log into their profile to view statistics and details.
  • PLA – Product Listing Ads are paid ads produced for products in a business’ inventory. Similar to Amazon product listings. PLAs are managed in AdWords as a “shopping campaign” and uploaded via spreadsheet or API.

PLA in Google SERP


  • CTR – Click through rate; the percentage of clicks to impressions. Calculated by Clicks/Impressions.
  • Impressions – The number of times a webpage, ad, keyword or other digital item is presented to a user.
  • KPI – Key Performance Indicator; a sign of performance of a strategy or campaign. Can be positive or negative.
  • PPC – Pay-per-click; in search marketing, PPC refers to paid ads shown to users in the search result page.
  • Referring – Third-party sites and sources that send traffic to a website; referring traffic to a site.

Google Specific Terms

  • Algorithm – All the search engine processes and platforms function based on mathematically computations using a great number of data types and various amounts of said data. Google is the most popular but Bing, Yahoo, Alta Vista, Blekko, and others all use some form of algorithm to determine what sites and resources are included in their indices and in what order.
  • Hummingbird – The official code name for Google’s last core algorithm update completed in 2014.
  • PageRank – The core calculation that started it all. PageRank was the original calculation used by Google’s index to determine what web resources should be include in the results and where those results should rank in relation to other related sites. For a full examination, view our breakdown of PageRank.
  • Panda – Panda algorithm updates were aimed at identifying low-quality content and reducing or eliminating these low quality sites from Google’s index.
  • Penguin – This algorithm component focused on spam and links. In the last announced Penguin update the goal was to identify websites that pursed paid links, spam links, advertorials, link networks or other links that violate Google’s quality guidelines.

General Terms

  • Above the fold – Refers to the area viewable on page load without scrolling. Considered a prime area of any web page, this area even had it’s own Google algorithm update.
  • Absolute Link – An HTML link with the complete path expressed. Example: <a href=””> is an absolute link. The opposite is a relative link, <a href=”../basic-seo-in-2016/”> the HTML link varies based on the webpage’s placement in a site; the URL changes as browsers, crawlers, and other systems append the folder to the link.
  • Affiliate Marketing – Using platforms like AdSense webmasters can generate revenue by allowing advertisers to place ads on their site(s) and/or use tracked links to products to send users to shopping or service product pages; generating commissions.
  • API – Application program interface is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for software applications allowing programs to communicate with one another and developers to pull in data to use in their own platforms.
  • Backlinks – The term used to describe links back to a target website from other websites.
  • Black Hat – Tactics and strategies that are viewed as malicious, unethical, and/or violate known search guidelines of either Google, Bing, or Yahoo, or even multiple systems.
  • Cloaking – Like a Klingon spacecraft, cloaking refers to hiding information, keywords, links or other elements from either users, crawlers or both. Cloaking violates quality guidelines and is subject to manual actions by the big 3; Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
  • Context – Just as the language definition focuses on the surrounding circumstance of a situation, context in regard to search refers to the relevance of content; be it an image, text, video, etc, in relation to the content and page it is apart of.
  • Conversion – Users completing a key action on a website leading to a connection with the website. Conversions can be clicks, form completions, calls, views, etc. and are typically a main KPI.
  • CPC – Cost per click; part of the group of metrics for paid marketing efforts and refers to the cost associated with any click on a search ad, but CPC can be associated with other digital activities with enough data and tracking information, such as SEO.
  • CPM – Cost per thousand; the “M” is the roman numeral for thousand. Like CPC, CPM is a metric for paid marketing but can be applied to other digital strategies. In SEM, CPM refers to display campaigns focused on branding where impressions are the target and KPI–budget is spent on impressions versus clicks.
  • Crawler – How do search engines know a web page exist? Ans: crawlers. Crawlers are programs that run with a directive to look for something specific. For the search engines, they are looking for webpages. Other crawlers exist that look for other things, such as images, videos, PDFs, and more.
  • Display – In digital marketing, this refers to the display marketing channel. Display is one path to presenting a brand, product, service or concept primarily focused on images as the ad material. Video, text, and audio may be used, but in the digital context, display is image ads.
  • Grey Hat – Tactics and strategies that are viewed as neither good nor bad from an ethical point of view, but can be seen as questionable. Most times grey hat is considered tactics that do not violate known search guidelines of either Google, Bing, or Yahoo, or other platforms, but does boarder on “gaming” the algorithm or marketing industry. Such as bidding on or optimizing for a competitor name or service.
  • Hotlinking – Linking to an element or asset that resides on a third-party site. If the source changes, the link may break or the asset, such as an image, will no longer display.
  • Inbound – Traffic or value being received by a web property. “Inbound traffic” is web visitors that are interested in a topic or site; with or without direct influence. Side note: “Interruptive marketing” is a tactic used to divert web traffic that may or may not be interested towards a web property.
  • Infographics – Images used to illustrate a particular situation or set of data in an engaging visual form. Click for an example of an infographic.
  • Long-tail Keyword – Phrase or string of keywords with more than 3 terms.
  • Manual Action – When a website violates a quality guideline of a search engine, they may be subject to a penalty, known as a manual action; as in most cases, someone with the search engine physically removes the website or property from the index.
  • Natural Link – Links that are created out a ‘natural’ desire, want or need of a user without (or very little) influence of the link target.
  • Organic – In search, this refers to inbound activity via search engines or organic digital activities users may perform.
  • Query – A question or database call. In search, when users submit their question through the search engine form, this query is evaluated against the algorithm which evaluates the existing index to produce an answer. Learn how search works from Google.

How Search Works by Google

  • Reciprocal Link – Quid Pro Quo in the link space. An outdated technique (but one that hasn’t died) link exchanges were all the rage for much of the early 2000’s. Reciprocal link exchanges are not inherently bad, more grey hat, as long as both links have value to the target audience and relevant to the content of both sites.
  • Relative Link – An HTML link with a variable path. Depending on the webpage’s placement in a site, the URL changes as browsers, crawlers, and other systems append the folder to the link. Example: <a href=”/basic-seo-in-2016/”> is an relative link. The opposite is an absolute link, <a href=””> which doesn’t change no matter the file placement.
  • Retargeting / Remarketing – Related to Display Advertising, remarketing focuses on serving ads to users that may have already seen the ad or a variant thereof, or users that have visited a web property and tagged with a cookie. This allows ads to be delivered to the user as they navigate the web if the website they visit is part of the display network.
  • Search Index – Websites included in a search platform’s repository as a potential answer to a user’s query.
  • SEM – Search Engine Marketing; paid digital marketing done via text, image, video, audio or other mediums to attract users to a website, draw attention to a brand, increase awareness, sell a product or service, or stimulate activity.
  • Semantic – By Wikipedia definition: relating to meaning in language or logic. When used in SEO or SEM, it relates to contextual relevance and technical SEO logic.
    • Semantic Web – An extension of the W3C, Semantic Web is the process of creating deeper connections between content, categories of nouns, technical web elements, and frameworks for data. Semantic and are important resources for this.
    • LSI – Latent Semantic Indexing; indexing of content done based on implied relationships between concepts, terms, and information.
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization; editing, adjusting, and addressing several factors of a website’s make up, on and off site, to increase the likelihood of a website showing promenently in search result pages for key terms related to the site’s primary purpose and primary audience.
  • SERP – Search Engine Result Page; once a user enters a search term or phrase, the list of relevant pages displayed on the screen or mixture of answers (such as maps, products, definitions, etc.) are give on a SERP.
  • Snippet – A short block of information displaying parts of a webpage in a SERP; commonly shown are the title, description, URL, and occasionally relevant sitelinks. At one point, author information was also displayed.
  • Uber Search – Combined content search of text, image, video, files, and audio.
  • URL – Universal Resource Locator; used to identify a set of files and webpages related to a particular World Wide Web address or server location.
  • White Hat – Tactics and strategies that are viewed as valuable, ethical, and do not violate known search guidelines of either Google, Bing, or Yahoo. These types of tactics often mirror or recreate natural growth trends or focus on improving the value of search results and providing users with the best answers to their search queries.