Essential SEO Terms

The fundamental aim of search engines is to satisfy its users. They want to provide the best results when a user search for something. When someone uses a search engine, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, they are looking for the solution to a problem or the answer to a question. These engines want to provide the most helpful, relevant, and credible answer or solution.

We know learning all the ins and outs of SEO vocabulary and jargon can feel like learning another language. To help you get a handle on all the new terms we’re throwing at you, we’ve compiled a chapter-by-chapter SEO glossary with definitions and helpful links. You might want to bookmark this page for future reference!

This is a list of the 65 most essential search engine optimization (SEO) terms to help marketers communicate with developers and understand how to optimize their websites.

1. Anchor text

Every link consists of two main elements. There’s the web address that the link is pointing to (the destination) and there’s the anchor text. The anchor text is the text that works as the link.

The easiest way of explaining this is to give you an example. Here’s a link to my resource and education page: online business resources. The destination of this link is, and the anchor text is “online business resources”.

Anchor texts are particularly important for SEO. Whenever you’re trying to get a link back to your website it’s good to have a relevant keyword as the anchor text.

Backlink is simply a link placed on someone else’s website that points back to your site. Backlinks are one of the most important factors for SEO. Getting a lot of backlinks with relevant anchor texts is the shortest way of improving your search engine rankings.

3. Black hat SEO

Like everything SEO has its dark side too. Black hat SEO is the name for all SEO practices that are known for being manipulative or unethical, and in the long run can hurt your website, or even get it banned from search engines.

Of course, there’s a very thin line between “perfectly fine” and “unethical” … one day some SEO practices are OK, and the other they are suddenly black hat, so there’s no exact list of such practices.

4. Canonical tag

It’s an HTML link element that lets webmasters to inform search engines about some duplicate content pages they’ve created. The tag is placed in the HEAD section of the HTML structure. Here’s what it looks like:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”” />

This tag informs that the current page is a copy of the page located under the address set in the canonical tag (href).

The main idea is that when a search engine sees this tag it does not rank that page, but transfers all the rankings to the canonical page. So, in essence it’s very similar to the 301 redirect.

5. Cloaking (page cloaking)

It’s a practice of taking a webpage and building it in a way so it displays different content to people and to search engines. That way, at least in theory, you can get a good ranking for your desired keywords (by presenting an optimized page to the spiders) and then present real people with unrelated offers and content. While this might work from a marketing standpoint it can also get you penalized or even banned very quickly.

6. Deep linking

On the World Wide Web, deep linking is making a hyperlink that points to a specific page or image on a website, instead of that website’s main or home page. Such links are called deep links.

Deep links are particularly valuable for SEO. Linking to specific pages within your site with a good anchor text improves the rankings of these pages. Essentially, building deep links is where SEO game is won or lost.

It’s a standard HTML link that doesn’t have the rel=”nofollow” attribute. Do-follow links are the most valuable ones from an SEO perspective.

8. Domain name (and hosting)

Domain is your unique address on the internet. For example, the domain of this blog is You can get a shiny new domain at GoDaddy for just $6 or so.

Hosting, or a web host, is where your website is kept/stored on the web. You need a web host to be a website owner. You can get really affordable hosting at Host Gator for $3.96 a month.

9. Duplicate content

If you have two separate pages within your website that have the same content on them (or very similar content) then you have duplicate content. Duplicate content is believed to be a bad thing for SEO. Google doesn’t like sites that use the same piece of content over and over again, and they often penalize them for it.

If you think that you are safe then think again. Let me give you an example. If your site runs on WordPress, and if you’re using similar categories and tags (like for example a tag “business” and a category “business”) then the listing pages for your tags and categories will probably be very similar if not exactly the same. That is a prime example of duplicate content.

10. Keywords

There are many definitions of keywords. Let me share the one that matters for SEO. Keywords are single words or whole phrases of a particular SEO importance for a given page or website.

For example, if I’m writing an article about choosing the best gardening equipment, my main keyword could be “gardening equipment “. It is the keyword I want to rank for because I want people to find this article when they input “gardening equipment” into Google.

Another example is this very list. The main keyword here is SEO glossary. I want people to find this post by putting “SEO glossary” into Google.

11. Keyword density

Keyword density is a number describing how often a specific phrase appears in a piece of text. To calculate it you just have to divide the number of times your keyword appears in a piece of text by the total number of words this piece of text has, and then multiply the result by 100. The final result will be expressed as a percentage score.

Keyword density is believed to have an effect on SEO. The reasoning behind it is that if a given phrase has a high-density score then it means that the text is clearly about that phrase, so it probably should get good rankings for it. Unfortunately, this practice doesn’t work so well like it used to in the past.

12. Google Search Console:

A free program provided by Google that allows site owners to monitor how their site is doing in search.

13. Header tags:

An HTML element used to designate headings on your page.

14. Keyword stuffing

If you take a random piece of text in English some words will occur more frequently than the other. For example, words like: and, or, it occurs very frequently, while words like: powerhouse, mushrooming occur very rarely. Keyword stuffing is a practice of taking a word or a phrase and repeating it very often in a piece of text. Usually to the point where the text no longer looks natural, all for the purpose of increasing keyword density of your desired phrase.

While working on keyword density is no longer believed to work, keyword stuffing does work, but it works against you. Stuffing your text with keywords is sure to backfire.

15. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

The standard definition of LSI is truly impossible to understand so I’m not going to bring it up here. Instead, here’s a more digestible one.

LSI is considered to be an important factor for search engines when ranking your page. It’s said that search engines analyze the content on your page and search for LSI keywords supporting your main keyword. If they find such keywords your page gets a boost in rankings for your main keyword.

LSI keywords are keywords that are similar to your main one – keywords that are usually found along your main keyword in the natural language.

For example, if your main keyword is “gardening equipment” and you’re using it a lot in your article it would be great to use some LSI keywords as well, such as: “plants “, “garden“, “vegetables“, “planting“, etc. These are the keywords that would be mentioned naturally in a genuine conversation.

In other words, LSI is a way of checking whether the text is genuine or just stuffed with random keywords purely for improving rankings.

16. Linkbait

It’s like a fishing bite only for links. Basically, it’s a piece of highly viral content. Content that is most likely to attract a lot of links, hence – linkbait.

Creating clickbait content is usually very hard even though the principles are simple. There are a couple of ways you can choose: (1) create something really funny, (2) create something of exceptional quality, (3) create something that brings a lot of value for free.

Linkbait content is not only text. Videos, pictures, graphics, and audio work equally well.

This is one of the biggest SEO terms. Link building is simply a process of getting backlinks to your page. For example, if you’re publishing articles on with a link to your site then you’re doing some link building.

One more thing. Link building is considered to be the most important element of every SEO strategy. If you want to have a well ranked page you have to get backlinks to it.

It’s a network of websites that link to each other for the sole purpose of increasing their rankings and PageRanks. Let me give you an example. If you were to create a link farm (don’t!) you could launch 4 different websites, for example. Each on a different server. Then you would link page #1 to pages #2, #3, #4. Page #2 to pages #1, #3, #4, and so on. Basically, every page links to every other page. Such a network isn’t very powerful when it contains only 4 sites, but when they’re hundreds or thousands of them (which isn’t uncommon) then it’s a completely different story. BUT!

This is considered as a “black hat” SEO technique. Don’t take part in it unless you want your site to get penalized.

By using the “nofollow” attribute of a link you can make some of the links on your site unimportant from an SEO point of view. Therefore, by using this attribute skillfully you can “sculpt” the PageRanks of certain pages within your website. You can increase the visibility of some pages by granting them with follow links and decrease the visibility of others by using nofollow links.

This whole technique requires a lot of practice and knowledge to do it properly. What’s more, many people believe that it’s no longer that effective due to Google’s new approach for handling nofollow links.

20. SEO

Search engine optimization. The act of improving your website/webpage so it appears higher in the rankings of search engines, increasing your chances of someone clicking on your link in that search engine.

21. Search engines

Platforms that people use to find what they’re after, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

22. Ranking

Where you appear in a search engine after someone has typed a certain word. If your ranking is higher, you will appear closer to the top of the search.

23. Metadata/meta tags

Information about your website held in the back end of your website. Some of this information is viewable in your search engine ranking, like your webpage title, URL, and description of your page

24. Bots

These browse your website and web pages (usually referred to as crawling) in order for search engines to assess where you should appear on search engine rankings.

25. URL

The website address that appears at the top of your screen. Usually starts https:// or http://.

26. CMS

Content management system. The platform where your website data is stored. You can edit your website and web pages on the CMS.

27. Plugin (or plug-in)

Additional software that you can add to a website to further customize it. Sort of like using apps on your phone.

28. Content

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.

29. “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.

30. 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.

31. 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.

32. Correlation

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.

33. Crawl Budget

The total number of URLs search engines can and want to crawl on a website during a specific time period.

34. Data

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.

35. 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.

A link pointing to any webpage other than the homepage.

A link pointing to content within a mobile app.

37. De-index

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 action.

38. Directory

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.

39. Disavow

If your link profile includes a high number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality 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.

40. Meta description

Your meta description is the information that appears just below your meta title on your search engine ranking.

Most CMS pull this automatically from your page content, but you should be able to edit it where you need to.

Ultimately, it should clarify to the search engine user what they’re clicking on and encourage them to click.

41. Image tags

Image tags are what appear to bots when they’re crawling your site and come across images.

As they can’t “see” the images and don’t know what they’re pictures of, they use the image tags to determine what they are and whether they’re relevant.

It’s also good practice to save your images with descriptive but short titles, like “Woman-eating-cake.png.”

Using dashes (-) or underscores (_) to separate words makes it easier for bots.

42. Alt tags

Alt tags are mainly used for those who are visually impaired to help them read what images are onscreen. They should be used alongside the image tags, to support them.

For example, where the image tag might be “Woman-eating-cake.png,” the alt text could go into a bit more detail (without being too much), like “Woman eating strawberry cake with sprinkles.”

These alt tags can also further help bots to understand the images on your website and, if used properly, can boost your SEO ranking.

Distance: In the context of the local pack, distance refers to proximity, or the location of the searcher and/or the location specified in the query.

43. Engagement:

 Data that represents how searchers interact with your site from search results.

44. Google Quality Guidelines:

Published guidelines from Google detailing tactics that are forbidden because they are malicious and/or intended to manipulate search results.

45. HTML:

Hypertext markup language is the language used to create web pages.

46. Index Coverage report:

A report in Google Search Console that shows you the indexation status of your site’s pages.

47. Index:

A huge database of all the content search engine crawlers have discovered and deem good enough to serve up to searchers.

Links on your own site that point to your other pages on the same site.

49. JavaScript:

A programming language that adds dynamic elements to static web pages.

50. Login forms:

Refers to pages that require login authentication before a visitor can access the content.

51. Manual penalty:

Refers to a Google “Manual Action” where a human reviewer has determined certain pages on your site violate Google’s quality guidelines.

52. Meta robots tag:

Pieces of code that provide crawlers instructions for how to crawl or index web page content.

53. Navigate:

A list of links that help visitors navigate to other pages on your site. Often, these appear in a list at the top of your website (“top navigation”), on the side column of your website (“side navigation”), or at the bottom of your website (“footer navigation”).

54. No Index tag:

A meta tag that instructions a search engine not to index the page it’s on.

55. PageRank:

A component of Google’s core algorithm. It is a link analysis program that estimates the importance of a web page by measuring the quality and quantity of links pointing to it.

56. Personalization:

Refers to the way a search engine will modify a person’s results on factors unique to them, such as their location and search history.

57. Prominence:

In the context of the local pack, prominence refers to businesses that are well-known and well-liked in the real world.

58. Rank Brain:

The machine learning component of Google’s core algorithm that adjusts ranking by promoting the most relevant, helpful results.

59. Robots.txt:

Files that suggest which parts of your site search engines should and shouldn’t crawl.

60. Search forms:

Refers to search functions or search bars on a website that help users find pages on that website.

61. Search Quality Rater Guidelines:

Guidelines for human raters that work for Google to determine the quality of real web pages.

62. Sitemap:

A list of URLs on your site that crawlers can use to discover and index your content.

63. Spammy tactics:

Like “black hat,” spammy tactics are those that violate search engine quality guidelines.

64. URL parameters:

Information following a question mark that is appended to a URL to change the page’s content (active parameter) or track information (passive parameter).

65. X-robots-tag:

Like meta robots’ tags, this tag provides crawlers instructions for how to crawl or index web page content.

66. Image compression:

The act of speeding up web pages by making image file sizes smaller without degrading the image’s quality.

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