This post was contributed by Brad Shorr, Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an internet marketing agency specializing in SEO, PPC and web design.

20 SEO Terms Worth Learning

SEO (search engine optimization) is an excellent online marketing option for small businesses because it requires a relatively modest financial investment and targets Google search engine users, a huge audience (Google currently processes more than 3.5 billion searches a day).

This post is designed to give you an overview of SEO, enabling you to speak confidently to SEO specialists (if you choose to hire one) and pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses in your SEO readiness.

1. 301 Redirect

If you permanently replace an old webpage with a new one, or if you move your entire website to a new domain, 301 redirects automatically take users from the old page address to the new one. For example, if one of your customers bookmarked your Product page, which has moved to a new URL, when the customer clicks on the bookmark, he or she will be taken to the new page. For SEO, 301 redirects preserve whatever ranking your old page(s) had, which helps keep your website content’s visibility high for relevant searches. This term is part of what is called “technical SEO.” For other important SEO tech terms, check out this post.

2. Algorithm

Search engines use an algorithm, or formula, to rank webpages when their users conduct searches. These algorithms consist of hundreds if not thousands of factors, continually change, and are not fully revealed to the public. The art and science of SEO boils down to determining the important algorithmic factors—primarily for Google’s algorithm—and then making your website content as strong as possible in those areas.

3. Anchor Text

Anchor text is the wording of a link. The anchor text in the link above is “continually change.” Because the Google algorithm puts emphasis on anchor text, using specific keywords in certain ways in anchor text helps optimize website pages. Handling anchor text properly helps SEO; handling it incorrectly could hurt it.

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4. Backlink (Inbound Link)

A backlink (also called inbound link) is a link from another website to your website. Backlinks are a VERY important factor in Google’s algorithm, and most SEO campaigns put a great deal of effort into link building. Having a lot of good backlinks is enormously helpful, having few is a hindrance, and having the wrong kind of links can hurt your SEO.

5. Black Hat SEO

When an SEO specialist tries to “trick” Google by finding holes in its algorithm, such unethical practices, this is often referred to as black hat SEO. Beware of black hat SEOs, because if you hire one and Google notices what’s going on, your website could be penalized or even banished from Google. Fortunately, Google spells out what it considers black hat practices to be—start reviewing them here.

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6. Conversion

How do you measure the results of your SEO campaign? One of the most important measurements is the number and quality of conversions — a conversion being a specific, measurable and trackable activity taken by an Internet user. Conversions important in an SEO campaign are click-throughs from a Google search page to your website page, and phone calls or web form inquiries that came from website visitors who found your website when doing a search. A competent SEO specialist will emphasize conversions in campaign reporting.

7. Domain

A domain is something like “”. Domains are used to identify websites at the highest level, and are also used for things like email addresses. For SEO, building domain authority, or making your website strong relative to Google’s algorithm, is an important component of an SEO campaign. Page authority, by the way, is something different. Here, SEOs try to build the strength of individual webpages within the website domain.

8. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a robust, widely used service that tracks and reports a wealth of information relating to your website traffic. SEOs use Google Analytics to evaluate certain types of conversions, as well as other important data about your website that directly and indirectly affects SEO performance. If you embark on an SEO campaign, you’ll need to create a Google Analytics account.

9. Indexed Page

An indexed webpage is one that Google has identified and keeps track of, making it findable for people doing searches. If a webpage is not indexed, it cannot be found—thus, it’s very important for website pages to be indexed. Certain technical issues sometimes prevent webpages from being indexed, so SEOs try to identify and correct them.

10. Internal Link 

An internal link is a link from one page of a website to another page. Internal links are a ranking factor in the Google Algorithm, so the number and organization of internal links on your website matters for SEO. Generally, the most important pages of your website in terms of conversion—usually product and service pages—should get the lion’s share of internal links, because this tells Google those pages are important, and should therefore be ranked highly.

11. Keyword

Keywords are the words people enter when they do a search on Google. Each webpage of your website that is targeted in the SEO campaign will be optimized for specific groups of keywords—keywords that match up with the ones your prospects are most likely to use when looking for whatever it is you sell. SEOs conduct extensive keyword research to identify what those keywords should be.

12. Link Building

As mentioned earlier, backlinks are crucial for SEO. Strong backlinks come from websites that are relevant, popular and have strong domain authority. This makes sense: If Google sees lots of great sites linking to yours, it concludes your site must have great content! SEOs use many techniques for link building. One of the most popular and effective is creating content on your behalf or in collaboration with you, and then having it published on websites with a link back to your site.

13. Long-Tail Keyword

A long-tail keyword is a search phrase that is not hugely popular, but detailed and relevant to your business, such as “monogrammed white cotton bath towels.” For small businesses, optimizing for long-tail keywords is often a more successful strategy than trying to compete against large companies on ultra-popular, high-volume keywords.

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14. Meta Description

A meta description is a snippet of text that appears under the link on a SERP. It’s important to have persuasive meta descriptions for your key webpages, since those descriptions improve conversions by making search engine users more likely to click on the links. By the way, meta descriptions, like all “meta” data, do not appear on the visible webpages, but are programmed into them behind the scenes—learn more here

15. Meta Title

A webpage’s meta title is a brief (50-60 character) high-level description of what it is about. The meta title is extremely important for SEO, as it is the main way to communicate the subject of the content to Google spiders, so that Google can match that page to the most relevant searches. SEOs spend a great deal of time optimizing meta titles with appropriate keywords.

16. Organic Traffic

Website traffic comes from various sources. Referred traffic is visitors who clicked on your site from another website (such as Yelp). Direct traffic is visitors who entered your URL directly into their browser. Organic traffic is visitors who clicked on your site from a search engine results page (SERP). For an SEO campaign, tracking and increasing organic traffic is a core metric.

17. Ranking Factor

Ranking factors are elements of a search algorithm that cause website content to be ranked well or poorly. Important ranking factors include backlinks, meta titles, having a sitemap, page loading speed and having a mobile-friendly website. Local SEO, essential for small businesses serving a local market, has its own subset of ranking factors. See them all right here.

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18. SERP

SERP is SEO jargon for search engine results page — a page of results you see when you enter a search query. The purpose of SEO is to get your webpages on the first page of Google, because that positioning leads to the greatest number of conversions.

19. Sitemap

If it hasn’t already been done, your SEO will want to submit an XML sitemap to Google, a tool that helps it understand how to interpret and rank your website content.

20. Spider

A search engine spider, also referred to as a crawler, is a virtual “bot” that visits your web content on a recurring basis to report its content and any changes back to the search engine. Spiders (Google’s are officially called Googlebots), are essentially the focus of SEO. In nontechnical terms, an SEO specialist tries to make your website content as clear as possible to spiders, and then impress the h*ck out of them!

Use this glossary to teach yourself the fundamental terms of SEO. Although you won’t learn them all overnight, take it from us: Using them will eventually become second nature…as long as you practice!

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