May 2, 2018 | Lauren Nettles

SEO Terms to Improve Your Web Literacy - Part 1

Have you ever been sitting in a meeting, listening closely, nodding along, only to suddenly realize you have no idea what at least 90% of the words coming out of your coworkers' mouths even mean?

Gif of an animated fox smiling, then suddenly looking panickedThis actual gif record of introverted me in a sales meeting is a great example

It's understandable to get lost in the incredibly-fast-paced world of digital marketing, especially when it comes to keeping up with the terminology. Here's a handy list and explanations of common SEO, PPC, and other digital marketing terms that will keep you from having an existential crisis in your next meeting. Well, at least not one based on having no idea what's going on. I can't promise anything else. 

301 Redirect

When a page or blog post has been moved or deleted from a certain URL (a.k.a. web address), visitors will get an error when they try to click or otherwise visit the page at that address. This might happen if you edit the page and decide you want to change the URL, such as to remove a typo, or if you move the page to a new address and change the link in your menu, but don't do anything about the old URL.

A 301 redirect is a tool that you or whoever is hosting your website uses to fix that error. It redirects web browsers and search engines from the old address to the news one, signaling that the content has been permanently moved to the new location. Users never see the redirect; once you set it up, a 301 redirect is invisible and automatic.

Read More: "What Are 301 Redirects and Why Do You Need Them?"


Google Adwords is a digital advertising service that allows businesses to place display, search, video, and even app ads through the Google ad network.

Algorithm (search)

Algorithms generally are sets of rules or processes for calculations or other problem-solving operations. Thus, search algorithms are the the sets of criteria and processes that search engines use to deliver information to you.

Check up on the current Google Algorithm specifications here

Alt Text

Alternative text, a.k.a "alt text," is a short description of the contents of an image file. You won't usually see alt text, because it's included in the code as an HTML attribute attached to the image. When an image is broken or the user's browser settings prevent the image from being displayed, the alt text will appear in a blank box where the image should be. They are important not only in case the image doesn't show up, but for users with visual impairments who rely on descriptions of images to fully experience your content. 

Anchor Text

When you see an in-text link like this, the words that are hyperlinked are called the "anchor text"—in this case, the anchor text is "like this." It's as simple as that! 

Authority (site or page)

Domain authority refers to the strength of a root domain, a.k.a. a whole website, and how well the pages of that website generally will rank in search engine results.  

While the term is often used as a broad description of the quality of a website, it originated as a metric developed by Moz to predict how well a website will rank in search engine results. It incorporates factors like total number of links and linking root domains, and is measured on a scale from 1 to 100.

Page authority is very similar, but measures the likelihood of an individual page to rank rather than a whole domain.


A backlink is an incoming link to your content from another website, a.k.a. the "referring domain." These links indicate a relationship between the content on their website and the content on your website, so search engines look at these links and the content on both sides as an indicator of quality.

That's why your "backlink profile," or the overall picture of incoming links, the quality of sites they're coming from, and what content is being linked to, is so important. If lots of high-quality websites choose to link to your content, search engines extrapolate that your content is likely to be good, too.

Black Hat SEO

Don't do this! Black Hat SEO refers to tactics that are only focused on getting attention from search engines and ignore the fact that real, actual humans are the ones who are searching for and need your information. Generally, it doesn't obey search engine guidelines and can get you in trouble - in addition to being just a crappy thing to do. 

Bot (also Robot, Spider, or Crawler)

These little folks explore (or crawl) the Internet for search engines and automatically download content from websites. They help search engines understand what's important. 

Bounce Rate

Less fun than it sounds. Bounce rate is the amount of users who come to your site and leave immediately before clicking on anything. It's a warning sign that something is wrong - it might be with your current strategy, or it might be something wrong with your entire website. Either way, it's important to keep an eye on your bounce rate. 


This is a fun way to explain where you are on a site and how to get back to where you started. If you're familiar with Hansel and Gretel, this will make sense to you (just watch out for forest witches). 

Canonical URL

Canonical URLs help webmasters prevent duplicate content by specifying the preferred version of a page. For example, if you sell a product that comes in different colors and have a page for each of those colors, search engines won't know which one to prioritize. Using a canonical URL will tell search engines which page you want them to pay attention to. 

Knowing how to use canonical URLs improves your site's SEO!

Click Fraud

This information probably won't come as a surprise, but a publisher clicking on a pay-per-click ad a lot to get profit is considered bad form. It lowers the advertiser's confidence that they'll be getting a good return on the investment - because they won't be. 


Cloaking is a way of building a webpage to display different content to search engines than it displays to people. It fools crawlers into ranking the page for keywords, but when the users get to the page, they see completely different and unrelated content. 

Cloaking is extremely bad news. You can wind up completely banned from search engine results if you get caught cloaking. Don't do it! 

CPC - Cost Per Click

Cost Per Click (CPC) refers to the actual price you pay for each click in your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaigns. 

Cost per click can help you weigh how expensive a term is against the relative benefit of getting those clicks. It is useful both as you decide what terms to bid on and when you're calculating your ROI after a campaign is in play.  

Read More: "What's the Difference Between PPC and CPC?"


CPM, or cost per thousand, is the cost per, you guessed it, 1000 impressions. It's used to quantify the average cost of a PPC campaign and assign a value to it. 

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is the percentage of users who convert on your website. A conversion can be almost any quantifiable goal that you want to measure - signs ups, sales, clicks, downloads, etc. 

Read More: "19 Words That Decrease Headline Click Through Rates

Crawl Error

Crawl errors can be caused by many different factors. Luckily, Google has a handy crawl error report that can give you details! A crawl error keeps your website from appearing in a search results page, even if someone searched the perfect thing to bring them to your site, so they're important to keep an eye on. 

CSS - Cascading Style Sheets

CSS controls how your website looks. The CSS your developer writes affects the design and style of your text, links, headers, and most anything that could fall under "design" of the site.

CTR - Click Through Rate

This one is pretty self explanatory - it measures how many people click on a specific link. It's a ratio of how many people clicked to the total amount of people who viewed the page. It's commonly used as a measure of success for a campaign. 


Your domain is the main address for your website. It's unique to you, and you usually pay to register for a domain. Don't forget to renew your domain though - someone else can snatch it up if you let it expire. Search engines tend to favor websites that have longer registrations because it shows consistency and stability. 

Domain Authority

Moz developed this search engine ranking score to rank how well a website does on a search engine result page (or SERP). It shows how relevant to a specific subject a website is, which has a direct impact on ranking. 

Duplicate Content

Content that is similar or even identical to content from another page on your website or a different website makes search engines lose trust in your content. The more duplicate content, the worse shape you'll be in. Basically, make sure your content is unique, and you'll be in good shape. 

DNS - Domain Name System

The DNS is how domain names are found and translated into IP addresses. It connects the domain name, how we know to find a website, to a computer's unique IP address. 

External Link

When you put a link on your page to a website other than your own, instead of another page on your own website, you've got yourself an external link.


Headings are the part of the page you want people and search engines to pay the most attention to. They come in decreasing degrees of importance (H1, H2, H3, etc) and go inside an HTML header tag for formatting purposes and to catch search engine attention. 

HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language

Speaking of HTML, that's the code of your website that search engines are looking into. The cleaner your code, the easier it is for search engines to read and deliver results to the people you want to see your site. 

HTTP - Hyper Text Transfer Protocol

HTTP defines how messages are transmitted and formatted and what browsers and web servers should do about those messages. For example, when you type a URL, it sends an HTTP command to the server. That command fetches and displays the web page you asked for by typing the URL. 

Inbound Link

An inbound link is coming "in" to your page - if someone outside your organization puts a link to your website on their website, you've received an inbound link from that other website. 


The process of search engines collecting pages and storing them in their databases is called indexing. Indexing allows search engines to respond to that embarrassing question you just typed into Google or Bing. 

Internal Link

Unlike external links, internal links are links on a webpage that link to another page on the same website. All these links I've been providing to other VIEO blog posts are internal links. 

IP - Internet Protocol

An IP is how data is sent from one computer to another across the great, wide Internet. Each computer has at least one IP address - it's that computer's unique identifier. 

ISP - Internet Service Provider

An ISP, a bit obviously, provides internet services. Those services include ways to access, use, or otherwise participate in the Internet. There are commercial, non-profit, privately owned, or community-owned ISPs. 


Keywords are the words you want to rank for. It's what people will type into the search engine, and what you hope your page will rank for. Which keywords will rank and be effective for you are extremely subjective, so do your research!

Keyword Density

How many times you use a single keyword on the same page is known as keyword density. If you're not careful, keyword density can become keyword stuffing, which does more harm than good. 

Keyword Research

Optimizing your site content becomes much less of a mystery if you've done your keyword research. By using keyword tools, you can determine which keywords to target first, how difficult they should be to rank for, and how often people search for those terms. Keyword research can get pretty involved, but taking the time to do it makes a huge difference to your campaign.

Read More: "How to do Keyword Research for Your Next Blog Post"

Keyword Stuffing

Using the same keyword over and over and over and over and over and over again on a page is keyword stuffing. Generally, if you read over something and think it sounds weird because of how many times you repeat a word, you're probably keyword stuffing. Don't be afraid to use variations on your keywords - search engines are getting smart enough to understand what you mean. 


You're halfway there! Pat yourself on the back and get yourself a cup of coffee, you SEO genius in the making you. Keep an eye on our blog for Part 2! 


How healthy is your SEO? Build a lean, strong web presence with our 5-day SEO plan for marketing directors.


Lauren Nettles

Lauren Nettles

As VIEO's content marketing strategist, Lauren Nettles creates content strategy for VIEO and our clients. She works with the content team to create, document, and revise creative content strategies that help clients and customers better understand each other.

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