illustration of a blog post: SEO 101: Glossary of Terms
white rounded rectangle masking image below

SEO 18 min read

SEO 101: Glossary of Terms

Dallin Porter photo

Dallin Porter

Communications Manager @ Galactic Fed

Published 09 Sep 2020

Starting out in the world of SEO can be daunting, we get it. It’s a specialized area of digital marketing, with a lot of information; but, when understood and done correctly, has the potential to skyrocket your brands’ visibility. As part of our SEO 101 Series we used our expertise to compile an all-in-one comprehensive glossary of the terms you need to know to SEO.

Keyword

A keyword is a string of text that makes up all or part of a search query (and it is not necessarily just a single word, despite the name). The goal of SEO is to get pages to rank well in search engines for relevant keywords. For example, a website promoting a sci-fi movie may want to rank for keywords such as “sci-fi”, “movie”, “science fiction”, “film”, “sci-fi movies”, “movies like 2001 space odyssey”, etc.

Short/long-tail

Keywords are sometimes described as being “short-tail” or “long-tail”. This is a fancy way of saying that the keyword has few words or many words. Short-tail keywords like “movie” are simple and get a lot of searches, but they are hard to rank for, and are not very direct (it’s usually vague as to what the user’s intention is). Long-tail keywords like “best sci-fi movies from 2015” individually get very few searches, but are more in-line with what people actually search for, and are easier to target.

SERP

This stands for “Search Engine Results Page”. Type a query into Google and hit enter. What you see is a SERP, and each individual listing is a “result”.

Organic

This is a qualifier for a certain kind of website traffic. Any traffic that comes in from clicking on a search result is considered “organic traffic”. This is distinct from those who come in through clicking on advertisements in search results. SEO is concerned only with organic traffic. SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is a separate field that deals with ads on search engines and ad traffic.

Index

The “index” is a search engine’s internal catalog of websites. If a page is “indexed” on Google, that means Google is aware of its existence and it can be found in search results.

Spider/bot

A “bot” or “spider” refers to a bot run by a search engine, which automatically visits websites, reads their content, and follows their links to discover more websites to add to the search engine’s index.

Crawl

Crawling refers to the act of a bot or spider reading and storing the content of a webpage. A lot of SEO involves making pages friendly to search engine spiders so that they can crawl it efficiently and recognize its content. If a page has been “crawled”, that means its content has been recorded in the search engine; this is different from being indexed. A page can be crawled, but not indexed (if the page has a “no-index” tag, telling robots not to index the page), or it can be indexed, but not crawled (if the site’s robots.txt has a directive not to crawl the page - the page may still show up in search results, but there will be no preview of its content, and the spider will not follow any links on that page).

Crawl budget

With billions of web pages on the internet to crawl, and limited resources to do so, web crawlers allocate a “crawl budget” to each website, limiting the number of links they will follow on your pages. Having too many pages, especially if your website is relatively new and has low authority, will eat up your crawl budget before web crawlers are able to visit every page on your site, leading to pages not being indexed.

Robots.txt

The robots.txt file is a text file hosted on the site at www.domain.com/robots.txt - it contains directives for search engine spiders, telling it which pages to crawl or not to crawl. Note that the robots.txt is often unjustly relied upon for ensuring that certain pages are not indexed. It does not actually prevent pages from being indexed.

HTML

Stands for “HyperText Markup Language”. HTML is a language expressed in the form of “tags”, which are enclosed in angle brackets. The HTML of a page is what the browser parses in order to determine what to display to the user, and it is what search engine spiders parse in order to determine the content of the page.

Tag

A “tag” is a pair of enclosed angle brackets in HTML. A tag may look like: This is some bold text.

Anchor

An “anchor” or “anchor tag” is a specific type of HTML tag, which is used to link to websites. It is designated with . It includes an “href” attribute, which tells the browser and search engine spiders where the link goes to. An example anchor tag would look like: This links to an example website

Anchor text

The “anchor text” is the text inside an anchor tag. It’s what search engine spiders read to get an idea of what the linked website is about. In the previous example, the anchor text is “This links to an example website”.

Title

The title of a page is the text inside the tag. It is what is displayed as the bold blue link text in Google search results, and it's also what is displayed in the tab holding the page in the browser.

Meta-description

The meta-description is held in a special tag, and it is often (though not always, at the discretion of Google’s algorithms) used as the descriptive text in Google search results.

Alt text

Also referred to as “alt”, “image alt”, or “image alt text”. It’s an attribute for tags (tags that tell the browser to display an image), and it used as a textual description of the image. It is what’s displayed in the browser if it can’t load the image for whatever reason. It is also a signal to search engine spiders as to what the image content is.

H1/H2/H3

These are various levels of “heading” tags. An H1 tag - <h1>Heading Text</h1> - is usually displayed as large, bold text, typically at the top of the page; usually there is only 1 H1 tag on a page. H2 tags <h2>Sub-heading text</h2> are generally used as subheaders, and there are often multiple H2 tags on a page. The levels go all the way down to H6, but only H1 and H2 are usually of significance to search engine spiders. Search engines generally regard heading text as being especially indicative of the subject of the page, so target keywords usually go in the H1 and H2 tags.

Status code

Status codes are 3-digit numbers that indicate what kind of response was given to a web request (an attempt to visit a specific page). The first digit is a designation indicating the general type of response, and the last two digits designate the exact response type within that general category. 2XX responses indicate success, with 200 being the most common (representing the default “OK” response). 3XX responses indicate a redirect, with 301 (permanent redirect) and 302 (temporary redirect) being the most common. 4XX responses indicate an error with the client request; for example, attempting to go to a page that doesn’t exist (404), or going to a page that you’re not authorized to view (403). 5XX responses indicate an error with the server response, such as a bug on the website (500) or the server being unresponsive (503). Ideally, all links on a client’s website should be 2XX or 3XX. Anything with an error code needs to be fixed.

Funnel

The funnel describes the series of layers a user goes through from discovery of the site to paying customer. The top of the funnel is the “discovery” or “awareness” layer, where the user discovers the site through a Google search, or a link on another website, etc. With regards to SEO, the top of the funnel always refers to a Google search (or another search engine like Bing or Yahoo, but we mostly concern ourselves with Google). The user will see the site as a search result (AKA an “impression”) and if they are interested, they will click the result and visit the site (AKA a “click”). In the middle of the funnel, the user is viewing the site (AKA a “session”), viewing individual pages (AKA “pageviews”), and they may interact with the site, or they may leave immediately (AKA a “bounce”). Toward the bottom of the funnel, the user may sign-up for a trial, request a demo, download a resource, or take some other action to show prolonged interest. At this point they become a “lead”. Once they actually purchase the product (if there is a product to sell), then we call the user a “sign-up” or a “closed deal”.

Impression

This is the term used to indicate that our site appeared in a user’s search results on Google for a particular search term. It doesn’t matter if they click on the site or not (or even if they notice it at all). When we say “this page had 10,000 impressions last week”, that means that it was one of the results for 10,000 different searches over the span of 7 days.

Click

A “click” in SEO refers to an instance of a user clicking on a search result pointing to our site. The number of clicks to a page will naturally always be lower than the number of impressions.

CTR

This stands for “Click-through-rate”. It’s calculated by dividing clicks by impressions (clicks/impressions). A 100% CTR means that every time our page(s) appeared in search results, the user clicked on it. 100% CTR almost never happens, except in the case where there were only a handful of impressions. Typical CTRs tend to be between 5% and 20%.

Position

This refers to a page’s ranking for a particular search. The top position is 1 (first result). Being in the top 3 positions is the most desirable. Interest rapidly drops off for results beyond the 3rd position. The first page of results shows positions 1 through 10. Showing up beyond the first page of results is effectively worthless from an SEO perspective.

Average position

This is a commonly used metric to estimate a page’s overall performance in Google search results. It’s simply the average of all rankings the page registered for all of its impressions.

Pageview

This is a metric in Google Analytics, which refers to a page being viewed once by a user. If a user visits a page multiple times, it will register as multiple pageviews.

Session

This is a metric in Google Analytics, which refers to a the whole of a single user’s visit to your site. If a user visits a page multiple times in the same session (generally a 30-minute block of time), the page will register only 1 session. Naturally, the number of sessions will always be lower than the number of pageviews.

Unique pageviews

A variation on pageviews, this represents the number of unique sessions in which a page was viewed at least once.

Bounce

A “bounce” refers to a user leaving a page shortly after visiting (and usually returning to the search result that led them to your site). It’s an indication to Google that the user didn’t find what they were looking for on your site, and it detracts from your ranking for the search result that led them to you.

Bounce rate

The bounce rate is the ratio of bounces to sessions (bounces/sessions). A bounce rate of 100% for a page means that users always bounced from that page. It’s important to keep bounce rates as low as possible, as they are a strong signal to Google of our relevance to our users, and they directly affect rankings.

Lead

A “lead” is any user that is likely to become a paying customer. This is not an SEO metric - rather, it’s a sales metric - but it is often used in conjunction with SEO metrics to gain insights on users’ behavior.

Closed deal

A term for a lead that became a paying customer. This is the bottom of the funnel, and though it registers the smallest numbers, it’s important, because it is the only metric that shows actual revenue, or ROI (return-on-investment).

Search volume

This is a metric that gives a rough idea of how many people search for a particular keyword, usually represented as average searches per month. Note that this is a VERY rough estimate drawn from Google, and should not be taken too literally. Most keywords will show up as having 0 search volume, even if some people do search for it.

Traffic share

This is a gauge of how many people will click on a particular search result, based on rank. The metric is derived from a lookup table that gives a percentage of traffic based on rank: 32.5% for rank 1, 17.6% for rank 2, 11.4% for rank 3, etc. (data source is here: https://chitika.com/2013/06/07/the-value-of-google-result-positioning-2/). Monthly traffic can be estimated by taking this percentage of search volume: for example, a page ranking at position 2 for a keyword with a search volume of 100 will have an estimated monthly traffic of 0.176 * 100, or 17.6 (which could be rounded to 18 for a more sensible figure, since you can’t have a fraction of visitors).

Google snippet/Google answer card

This is a special result that sometimes appears in Google searches, which appears at the top of the page, or on the right sidebar. If Google thinks there’s a particularly authoritative answer to a query, it will display a snippet with the “answer” to the query, and a link to the site the answer was sourced from. Getting mentioned in a Google answer card is considered particularly valuable. Examples of the snippets can be found on the searches: “how to bake cookies” (recipe from bettycrocker.com), “the new deal” (information from livingnewdeal.com and a sidebar result of Wikipedia information), and “weather new york” (weather widget from weather.com).

Domain Authority

DA for short. This is a metric provided by Moz. It ranges on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 100. Websites with a DA of close to 1 are considered very insignificant (most websites have a DA < 10), while websites with a DA close to 100 are giants (like Google, Yahoo, Amazon, etc.). Links from high-DA websites have significantly more value than links from sites with low-DA.

Page Authority

PA for short. Page Authority is a sister metric of Domain authority, except it applies to a single page instead of an entire domain. This metric is most used in assessing the value of Wordpress or Blogspot subdomains. Since Wordpress and Blogspot both have a high domain authority, every subdomain also has high DA. Thus, the value of a blog on one of these sites or similar sites is judged by PA instead of DA, since anyone can create a subdomain on one of these sites and host a blog on it. If you get a link from someblog.blogspot.com, it will automatically have a DA of around 90, but it’s PA will likely be around 1.

Link equity/link juice

Link equity (AKA “link juice”) is the term for the value spread from one page to another page that it links to. Though by far the most valuable link equity is from backlinks (external sites linking to your site), internal links can spread equity as well (this is most effectively done by linking from high-ranking pages to important revenue-driving pages). Think of an external link pointing to your site as a vote for you, and an internal link as a vote for yourself. The more links you have on a page, the less equity each one passes to its target page.

Domain Rating

DR for short. This is a metric provided by Ahrefs. It is used to rate the backlink profile of a website. DR is a measure of the quantity and quality of the backlinks going to an entire domain. Based on quality and the number of backlinks a website is scored on a 0 to 100 (logarithmic) scale. The higher your score the stronger your website and the higher the potential to perform well in search.

URL Rating

UR for short. This is a metric provided by Ahrefs. UR rates the backlinks going to a specific page. UR shows the strength of a target page’s backlink profile on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100, with the latter being the strongest. Both internal and external links are taken into account when calculating this metric (but they’re “weighted” differently).

\ For more expert advice on SEO, check out our Essential SEo Guide for Beginners, The Definitive Guide to SEO Keyword Research, or How To Perform a SEO Site Audit.

white rounded rectangle masking image below
Dallin Porter photo

Dallin Porter

Communications Manager @ Galactic Fed

Best marketing stories, weekly