SEO Glossary “Cheat Sheet” for Beginners

Search engine optimization is increasingly becoming one of the most valuable tools to have when it comes to marketing. SEO impacts many aspects of digital marketing, from branding and design to content and technology. Because of this, having a basic knowledge of SEO terms, acronyms, and definitions can greatly improve your digital marketing strategy, and our SEO glossary can help.

If you are new to the current world of SEO, some of the digital marketing terms can look like you are learning a whole new language filled with combinations of numbers and acronyms. Learning SEO doesn’t have to be intimidating, though.

Whether you are starting fresh or simply refreshing your knowledge, we have compiled a list of the most common SEO terms used in the industry to get you started on your search engine optimization journey.

SEO Terms 101: Common SEO Definitions

# | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y


200 OK
Status code indicating that a web page has successfully been connected to and delivered.

301 Redirect
Status code indicating that a web page has been moved to another location permanently. Generally considered to be the best redirect for passing along ranking factors.

302 Redirect
A type of redirect indicating that a web page has been moved temporarily, allowing search engines to keep a version of an old webpage.

404 Error
Error code meaning that a web page no longer exists and is permanently taken down.

502 Error
An error code caused by an issue with the server that hosts a website


Alt Text
Description of an image through text (aka “alternative text”). Used by screen readers for accessibility purposes and by search engines as a ranking factor.

Anchor Text
The clickable words within a link. Anchor text is a ranking factor for the page being linked to.

Examples of anchor text:


When another site links to your site, this is considered a “vote of confidence” in Google’s eyes. The more authoritative the site linking to yours, the more link equity (domain authority) is passed along to you. Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors.

Black Hat SEO
Aggressive SEO strategies with the intention of manipulating search engines. Tactics against webmaster guidelines that can cause a site to receive a penalty or be banned from search results.

A program that crawls, or reads, on-page and off-page site content in order to gather information for proper indexing on search engines.

Bounce Rate
Google defines a bounce as a “single-page session on your site.” Bounce rate is the percentage of site visitors who leave without interacting with the site by clicking to another page, watching a video, etc.


Canonical Tag
An HTML tag that helps reduce duplicate content. This tag indicates to search engines which page is the “preferred version” of content that should be ranked.

Content Management System. A program that allows users to publish content to the web. Examples of CMS’s include WordPress, Shopify, Magento, Joomla, Drupal, etc.

Crawl Budget
Allocated amount of pages that the Googlebot can crawl & index in a certain timeframe. Can be affected if site speed is slow or contains high number of pages.


Domain Authority
DA is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank. The score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.

Domain Authority can also be a term used interchangeably with “link equity”, meaning the authority earned by a site through backlinks.

Duplicate Content
Similar or nearly identical content found on multiple webpages. Duplicate content isn’t good for SEO because it isn’t clear to search engines which page to rank.

Examples of duplicate content:

  • Written content copied onto more than one page
  • Exact replicas of a webpage that have a slightly different URL (usually autogenerated by filters or a CMS)


External Link
A link that directs users to a domain other than the source domain. These hyperlinks improve ranking power by improving link equity based on trustworthiness, relevancy, popularity, and anchor text used.


Featured Snippet
A text summary or instant answer that appears in the top of organic search results.

Followed Link
Allows link equity to be passed from one page to another.


Google RankBrain
An important part of the Google algorithm using machine learning to understand search intent and provide users with the most relevant search results.


Heading Tags
HTML tags that help explain the content hierarchy on a webpage. H1 is the most important and H6 is the least important. Best practice is to only have one H1 tag per page, but multiple H2-H6 tags are ok if they make sense within the content hierarchy.

Hreflang Tags
HTML tags telling search engines there are international versions of your site, and which languages and countries your sites are intended for.

Examples of Hreflang tags:

  • <link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”en-us” />
  • <link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”es-mx” />
  • <link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”it-it” />

Stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. How data is sent to a web browser from a computer server.

Stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Includes SSL (Secure Sockets Layers), which encrypts data being transferred between websites and web browsers. Google rewards secure sites with slightly higher rankings.


Information Architecture
The site structure or hierarchy of webpages. Having a logical organization of folders & subfolders is very important a) for users to navigate the site and b) for search engines to understand and rank content.

Internal Links
Links from one page to another, but on the same site. Reasons why internal linking is important:

  • For users to navigate a site
  • For search engines to find every page on your website
  • For search engines to understand the structure of a site
  • For dispersing link equity across a site


A scripting language used to program dynamic elements to web pages.


Keyword Stuffing
The practice of adding irrelevant or repeating keywords to manipulate search engine rankings. This is a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Stands for Key Performance Indicators. These are the metrics used to measure the success of digital marketing campaigns.


Landing Page
A stand-alone webpage that is typically used to generate leads and conversions. Within Google Analytics, a Landing Page is a dimension through which a user first entered the site.

Link Equity
The domain authority earned through backlinks. The more backlinks a site receives from relevant and authoritative sites, the more link equity or domain authority the site will have.

Long-Tail Keywords
Search terms typically having more than 2 or 3 words. These terms have a lower search volume, but are specific and more likely to convert. (Example: “blue striped maxi dress” versus “dress”). Over 70% of searches are using long-tail keywords.


Meta Description
Appears in search results just below a webpage’s title, describing the page and encouraging searchers to click. Generally 150-160 characters long.

Mobile-First Indexing
Since mobile traffic now surpasses desktop traffic, Google primarily crawls & indexes the mobile version of websites. Google first began rolling out Mobile-First Indexing in March 2018. Beginning in July 2019, all new websites will have the mobile version indexed by default.


Nofollow Link
A signal to search engines to not pass link equity to another page. Written in HTML as: <a href=”” rel=nofollow>

Signal to search engine crawlers to restrict a page from being indexed in search results. Commonly used for paid landing pages, outdated pages, or pages that do not provide value through search.


Off-Page SEO
An aspect of SEO focused on building a site’s Domain Authority, mostly by earning backlinks (also known as “link building”).

Examples of Off-Page SEO tactics include:

  • Creating valuable content that other sites would want to link to
  • Outreach to relevant & authoritative sites to promote content
  • Guest blogging

On-Page SEO
The aspect of SEO that includes optimizing page copy, title tags, meta descriptions, heading tags, URLs, and image alt text, to incorporate target keywords.

Orphaned Page
A web page that is not linked to any other page on a website.


Page Speed
The time it takes for a web page to load. Since page speed is such a big part of a user’s experience, it is a search engine ranking factor.


Words, phrases or questions that are entered into a search engine.


The position of a website on a SERP (search engine result page) for a specific keyword. Historically only 10 sites would rank on the 1st page of Google, known as the “ten blue links”. In the more recent age of Universal Search, Google incorporates different SERP features depending on the search intent, such as Images, News, Videos, Featured Snippets, Maps, People Also Ask, etc.

A text file that tells web crawlers which pages on a site should be ignored. This file should live in the /robots.txt folder of each domain.


Schema Markup
A type of structured data vocabulary agreed upon by major search engines. Adding Schema Markup to web pages helps search engines to better understand the content and structure of a site. It can also enable site content to show up in different SERP features such as featured snippets, carousels, knowledge graphs, etc.

Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving organic search engine traffic to a website through a variety of strategies. The 3 major pillars of SEO are On-Page, Off-Page, and Technical SEO.

Stands for Search Engine Results Page.

Short-Tail Keywords
Search terms with one or two words. The terms are very broad with low search intent and high competition, and are harder to rank for.


Target Keywords
The words or phrases that a web page is intended to rank for. When performing On-Page SEO, it is recommended to optimize a page around a handful of Target Keywords.

Technical SEO
An element of SEO ensuring that a site is technically optimized and can be crawled, indexed, and rendered by Search Engines. Aspects of Technical SEO include fixing 404 errors, solving duplicate content, ensuring modern JavaScript can be rendered, implementing Schema Markup, improving Page Speed, etc.

Title Tag
An HTML tag on each webpage, telling users and search engines the title of the page. The Title Tag is the blue link that shows up in SERPs. Optimizing title tags with target keywords is an important part of On-Page SEO. 


Stands for Uniform Resource Locator. Each webpage has a unique URL or “address” that can be accessed in a browser. 

User Experience (UX)
The overall experience a user has when interacting with a site. Factors impacting UX include pagespeed, site navigations, mobile responsiveness, brand connection, engaging content, and easy-to-access information.


A metric measuring how visible a site is to users based on prominence in SERPs.


White Hat SEO
SEO strategies that comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. 


XML Sitemap
An index of all the pages on a website that are intended for search engines to rank. This file should live in the /sitemap.xml folder of each domain. Site managers can submit their XML sitemaps in Google Search Console.

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