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SEO Glossary: 39 Essential SEO Terms

Updated: Jun 24

* terms added at last update

You know it’s important to optimize your website for search engine results, but SEO jargon can feel like a foreign language, making it difficult to accomplish. We’ve compiled an SEO glossary with all the essential terms to help you strategize and communicate with the folks managing your website.

Alt Text – Text within HTML code that describes an image on a web page. Alt text is read by screen readers for the visually impaired and search engines to include your images in search results. Alt text isn’t visible since it’s hidden in the backend of the webpage.

Authority – Refers to a website’s reliability, credibility, popularity, and engagement based on Google’s search algorithm. The more authority a site has, the higher it will rank in search engine results, which increases website traffic. Also known as Domain Rating or Domain Authority.

Backlinks – Links from a page on one website to another. Also referred to as “inbound links,” backlinks are referrals directing users from other external websites to your website.

Black Hat SEO – Refers to a set of SEO practices that go against Google’s webmaster guidelines. Black-Hat SEO focuses on exploiting algorithmic loopholes that Google is actively working to close.

Bounce Rate – The percentage of visitors that land on your website and leave without completing another action (e.g. clicking through to another page, adding an item to their cart, or downloading a file). Bounce Rate is a key metric in Universal Analytics (GA3), but it’s being replaced with Engagement Rate in the new version of Google Analytics, GA4. Read more about this update on our blog: Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics.

Broken Link – A link on your site that points to a dead or non-existent webpage. Broken links can be internal (on your website) or external. Broken links lead to a 404 error page.

Content Pruning*: The practice of removing outdated or low-performing content to improve website ranking. However, Google advises against deleting content solely based on its age, emphasizing that older content can still be valuable​

Core Web Vitals – A set of metrics that are part of Google’s Page Experience signals used to rate basic functionality and user experience on your website.

Cornerstone Content – The collection of articles and pages on your website that you most want to rank for in search engines.

Crawler – An internet program that browses the internet systematically. Crawlers are most commonly used by search engines like Google to index and categorize webpages to show them in search results for relevant queries.

Domain – The main web address of your site (example:

DNS – a Domain Name Server (DNS) translates domain names into IP addresses so that browsers can load the page’s resources. Usually, tasks like connecting your email provider, adding website app integrations, and changing your domain host will require you to edit DNS settings.

E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)*: Google has added "Experience" to its E-A-T guidelines, making it E-E-A-T. This update underscores the importance of showcasing first-hand experience in your content to build trust and authority.

Featured Snippet – Highlighted excerpts from web pages that appear at the top of some Google search results.

Google Analytics – The free web tracking tool offered by Google to analyze how users find and interact with your website. Read our 5-step guide to setting up Google Analytics 4 for your website.

Google Business Profile – Formerly known as Google My Business listings, Google Business Profiles (GBP) are free business listings from Google that show up in Google maps and web search results. It’s important to claim your Google Business Profile to keep the information accurate and up to date.

Google Knowledge Panel – Automatically generated information boxes that appear next to search results on Google when users search for entities such as people, places, and organizations. Knowledge panels allow users to get a quick snapshot of information based on Google’s understanding of available relevant content.

Google Search Console – A free tool from Google that helps monitor and troubleshoot your website’s appearance in Google search results. Search Console helps identify what queries show your webpages as search results.

Header Tags – HTML tags that set apart headings and subheadings from the rest of the content on a webpage, in order from most to least important. H1 tags are most commonly used to mark a web page title. Also called H Tags.

Helpful Content Update*: An update to Google's ranking algorithm that emphasizes the need for original, helpful content that is created for users, not just for SEO purposes. It targets low-value content and uses machine learning to assess content quality.

HTML – Code on your website that search engines read.

Indexing – The process of storing and organizing information found by search engines during crawling.

Keyword – Words and phrases that users enter in search and webpages have been optimized for. Each web page should be optimized for relevant keywords so your page can show up when users are looking for info found on your site. Keywords can be branded (e.g. Nike shoes) or non-branded (e.g. running shoes).

Lazy Loading – A tactic for improving page speed by deferring the loading of an object (like images) until it’s needed. An example is using infinite scroll on websites where pictures, text boxes and other on-page elements won’t load until a user scrolls to where they’re located on a webpage.

Link Building – The process of getting more inbound links (backlinks) to improve a website’s authority and search engine ranking.

Meta Description – A brief description of the contents of a webpage and why someone might want to visit it. Meta descriptions are displayed on search engine results page below the page title. Meta descriptions are included in your site’s HTML.

Mobile-First Indexing*: The mobile version of a website is primarily used for indexing and ranking on Google. Due to this recent update, mobile-friendly design is more critical than ever.

Off-Page SEO – Search engine optimization tactics used outside of your website. This includes tactics such as link building, social media content, and online reviews of your business.

On-Page SEO – Search engine optimization tactics used on your website. This includes site content, header tag optimization, meta descriptions, images, and user experience.

Organic Traffic – Visitors who discover your website on a search engine results page instead of a paid ad.

Page Speed – The amount of time it takes for a webpage to load

PageRank – A formula designed by Google that ranks your website’s overall SEO on a scale from 0-10.

Query – The words or phrases a user enters into a search engine. A query could include 1 or multiple keywords.

Rich Snippet – Google search result with additional data shown alongside it. Rich snippets (also known as rich results) stand out against normal search engine results and tend to have higher click-through rates. Some examples of rich snippets include recipes, events, customer reviews, and local business listings.

Schema markup – Code that helps search engines better understand your content for search results. Schema markup is often used to help identify rich snippets.

Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) – Pages that search engines show in response to a user’s search query.

Sitemap – A document that provides search engines with a map of all the pages on a website to make it easier to index.

Subdomain – A subsection of a primary domain. (Example:

Zero-click searches* - search engine results where the answer is displayed directly at the top of the SERP in a featured snippet, knowledge panel, or answer box, providing users with immediate information without requiring them to click through to a website​ 

Search Engine Optimization can be time-consuming and complex, but when it’s done right, it can be your key to success on SERPs. Our experienced team can help you with everything from SEO audits to ongoing optimization plans.

Contact TotalCom to discuss how we can boost your SEO strategy.


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