Essential Digital Marketing Glossary, SEO, Part One

The digital marketing world is riddled with jargon, acronyms, and other terminology that might be confusing for some. When people ask me what I do at dinner parties, I lose them the minute I hit them with jargon.

To that end, Alex Tsygankov and I have decided to give you the glossary that you need to make the right decisions for your digital marketing plans. Instead of doing the standard A through Z glossary, we will break it out into disciplines. This way, you can skip right to what you need to know.

In this part, we will focus on SEO or search engine optimization. There are so many SEO terms that we decided to split this one into two parts. Here is a link to part two of our monster SEO glossary.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Again, this isn’t every term associated with SEO. We’ve selected the terms that we feel you’ll need to succeed with your next SEO effort.

Here are the SEO terms we think you need to know…


Algorithms are the formulas search engines like Google and Bing use to rank websites. They are based on dozens of factors like authority, relevance, and user behavior. They can also factor in Core Web Vitals elements like website speed and ease of use.

Why do you need to know?

A base understanding of algorithms and what they do is helpful for digital marketers as it determines the visibility and ranking of their website in search engine results. These are updated often, and the updates could affect the ranking of your website.

Alt Attribute

Search engines cannot always understand a link or an image. Alt attributes provide a text description of an image or link, which helps search engines and screen readers know what they are looking at, so to speak.

Why do you need to know?

As a digital marketer, using alt attributes is important as it makes the website more accessible to users and helps improve the website’s SEO. You can update the alt attribute using editors in platforms like WordPress or Duda. Be certain to write it for the user and not simply for search engines. Stuffing keywords in these attributes is considered spammy.


Analytics refers to data measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting. Analytics tools track things like website traffic, user behavior (bounce rate, time on page/site), and conversion rate (did they buy or download something).

Why do you need to know?

Anyone in marketing or management can benefit from a base knowledge of reading and understanding the data in something like Google Analytics or dashboards like Semrush or Ahrefs. These platforms provide the data you need to know if what you’re doing is working and what your next steps should be.

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink that provides context about the linked page’s content. For example, in the previous sentence, the words “page’s content” are linked. This signals that the link you are clicking will be about page content.

Why do you need to know?

It’s important to understand how anchor text can improve the user experience and search engine ranking of your website. Be certain to link to relevant and high-quality pages that serve the needs of the reader, but also, within reason, contain high-value words and phrases that inform the search engines what the page is about.


Backlinks are links from one website to another. Think of these as votes of confidence. For example, here is an article from Semrush about the importance of backlinks. By linking to this article, I am signaling that the page linked has value and is relevant to you, the reader.

Why do you need to know?

Backlinks are used by digital marketers, especially SEOs, to build a website’s authority and visibility and to boost their rankings in the SERPs (search engine results page).

But be careful. Make sure to build backlinks honestly. Never buy links or trust someone to build links to your website without them first explaining how. Toxic backlinks can take a website out of the rankings and even bring a penalty. Shady linking practices are considered Black Hat SEO…

Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO refers to unethical techniques used to manipulate search engine rankings, such as keyword stuffing and link spamming. These techniques are all too prevalent in the digital marketing world.

Why do you need to know?

Avoid using black hat SEO techniques, and never work with an SEO who employs black hat techniques. These can result in penalties and negatively impact your website’s ranking and reputation.

We’ve cleaned up a lot of these messes lately, mostly in the form of disavowing toxic backlinks. Ask your SEO to assure you that they are not using black hat SEO in any form.

Bounce Rate

A bounce is when someone clicks on a link in the SERP and then leaves that page without visiting any other pages on that site. Bounce rate is the percentage of website visitors who leave after only viewing one page.

Why do you need to know?

High bounce rates are a signal that your website’s content and page structure are not enticing people to click around and visit more of your content. A high bounce can be a signal of a poor user experience.

That said, some pages will naturally have a high bounce rate if the purpose of the page is singular, and the user is not expected to visit any other pages.

Branded Keyword

Branded keywords are keywords (see part two for keyword definition) that include the name of a brand, company, or product.

Why do you need to know?

You would want to rank and possibly advertise for branded keywords if your goal is to improve your brand website’s visibility in search results and/or target users looking for a specific brand or product. Sometimes, in competitive instances, marketers may bid on a competitor’s brand or product name so their website can appear in the SERPs ahead of their competitors.


A cache is a temporary storage location on a device’s hard drive where a copy of a web page can be stored for faster retrieval the next time it is visited.

The best way to explain this is to think about the last time your web team made an update to your page. You didn’t see the update until you refreshed your browser. This is called “clearing your cache.”

Why do you need to know?

Utilizing smart caching techniques is a great way to improve the speed and performance of a website. If you are making regular updates to your website, you will want to know how to clear the cache on the server so those updates can be seen as they are made.

Canonical URL (Canonical Link)

A canonical URL is a URL (the address of the page, i.e. for a web page that indicates which URL should be considered the source of the content in search engine results.

Why do you need to know?

Digital marketers use canonical URLs to avoid duplicate content issues and improve the SEO of their websites. Often, digital marketers will employ content syndication, allowing their content to appear on larger websites, like an industry magazine website.

You will see a message to the effect of “this article first appeared on the Wellspring Digital website, reused with permission.” Just make sure that if you are syndicating your content, ask them if they are using what is called a “rel=canonical” link element indicating that the version on your website is the original.


A business listing in an online directory or similar, that includes the Name, Address, and Phone number of the business, and will typically include other information such as a business description and opportunities for additional information about the business. Citations are a powerful local SEO and Google Business Profile ranking factor but must be done correctly or they will become harmful and/or difficult to manage and update.

Why do you need to know?

SEO is about more than just a bunch of keywords and links. There are many off-site SEO factors, besides just backlinks, that make a difference in your rankings. Citations offer backlinking opportunities that validate a site’s relevance, IF (and it’s a big IF) the site where the citation exists is a high-value website. An example of this could be a listing in a local chamber of commerce or a respected business association.

Conversion and Conversion Rate

Conversion is a completed goal, such as a purchase or form fill. Conversion is a common goal for all websites, getting the user to perform a desired action. The conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors who complete this desired action.

Why do you need to know?

Conversions are crucial for digital marketers as they indicate whether a website is achieving its goals. Conversion rate optimization is the effort put into testing, updating, and finetuning a page, landing page, navigation, or other site elements to boost the conversion rate.

If your website is not converting, you need to assess and make some changes. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Sometimes small, incremental changes are all that’s needed to improve your conversion rate.

Core Update

A change to the algorithm used by a search engine to rank websites, usually done in an effort to improve the search results or to eliminate poor results or spammy links.

Why do you need to know?

If you or your SEO have employed shady tactics for quick rankings, algorithm changes can significantly impact your website’s search engine ranking and organic traffic. Generally speaking, a core update will not have a significant impact on a website if that website is adhering to the search engine’s terms of service.

Sometimes, a core update may lead to an improvement in rankings if you are doing SEO the right way. That said, sometimes you can experience what is called “reiteration” where, after a core update, your rankings go up and down until they settle. Your SEO will want to keep a close eye on this.

Of course, if you’re using black hat SEO (see above), you may see short-term ranking improvements, but eventually, one of these core updates will get you a penalty or, at a minimum, a significant loss in rankings and traffic.

Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics from Google related to user experience, including loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability (meaning the layout does not shift after it loads as you see on a lot of link bait sites). These are considered important for a good website user experience and may impact search engine ranking.

When these metrics are low, it means that your website’s speed and usability may be below par which can impact search engine rankings. The reports may be confusing with terms like “largest contentful paint” and “first input delay.”

Here is an example from a test run on

As you can see, they failed. There are other factors at play with, like popularity and content richness. So, they can get away with a lot more than a small business could.

Why do you need to know?

All you need to know is that you want your website to evaluate as “good” and not “need improvement,” “poor,” or “failed.” Where you host your website, whether you optimize the code, images, and video, and how easy your site is to use will all affect this score. Hold your web developers to account for this score.


The process of removing a web page from a search engine’s index, causing it to no longer appear in the SERPs. In some cases, you will want to de-index certain pages of your website. However, things like black hat SEO tactics, website hacks, or other website issues can cause it to be de-indexed by search engines.

Why do you need to know?

A de-indexing of a website is a bad thing (unless you do it yourself) and one you should avoid as much as possible. Sometimes, it may be as simple as a bad robots.txt file setup that instructs the search engines to no longer crawl your site. Yes, we’ve seen this before. Always have your SEO double-check settings when any major updates are done to your website.

Direct Traffic

Traffic to a website that is not referred by another website or a search engine, such as visitors typing the URL directly into their browser or clicking on a bookmark. In other words, the user will type into the browser and be taken directly to our homepage.

Why do you need to know?

Understanding the source of your website’s traffic can provide insights into how users are finding you. That said, direct traffic can be misleading as it is often a catch-all for traffic where an analytics platform cannot identify the source.


A website that lists and categorizes links to other websites, often used as a source of backlinks. Directories come in all shapes and sizes. An entire site might be a directory, for example, is a well-known website directory. Sometimes, a directory might be part of a larger site, like a member directory of a local chamber website.

Why do you need to know?

Directories, at least reputable ones, offer high-quality backlink opportunities that can impact the search engine ranking and visibility of a website. At a minimum, make sure that you are listed and linked to in the directories for the organizations where you are a member.

An SEO or digital marketer will often search for relevant directory listing opportunities to build your backlink profile and improve your website’s visibility to the search engine crawlers.


A disavow is a request that a search engine ignores certain backlinks to a website, typically used to address negative SEO or to remove low-quality or toxic links.

Why do you need to know?

It is critical to maintain a quality and reputable backlink profile, as these will have an impact on the search engine ranking of a website. We’ve been brought in time and again to clean up the messes of others engaging in shady backlink practices.

We’ve also seen and mitigated the harm caused by a negative SEO attack. What would you do if your website traffic just disappeared? That could happen if you end up with toxic backlinks.

Duplicate Content

Content that is copied and appears on multiple websites, which can result in a penalty. These are instances where the content appears without an indication that it is not the original piece. Duplicate content is also the practice of repeating page content to rank for keyword variations, for example, a page repeated on a website where only a service area name is unique.

Why do you need to know?

It’s important that your website contains unique content on each page. Don’t fall into the trap of creating service area pages where the content is repeated from page to page with only the service area name being unique. And if you are reposting content from another website, be certain to use a rel=canonical tag to let the search engine know where the original content resides.

Dwell Time

The amount of time a user spends on a website before returning to the search engine results page. A low dwell time can indicate that you have a bad UX on your site or that the content is low quality.

Why do you need to know?

If website visitors are sticking around and visiting multiple pages on your website, that is a good indication that your site is easy to use and that your content is interesting enough to them that they want to consume more of it. This is the goal of any quality website, getting them to stick around.

E-E-A-T (Formerly E-A-T)

Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, is a Google quality rating factor (see Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines) for website content and authors. Google employs 10,000+ search quality raters who use E-E-A-T as a guideline to assess the quality of a search result.

Why do you need to know?

While we do not yet know if this is a ranking factor, Google E-E-A-T is a website assessment guideline that every website owner should aim to meet. Digital marketers need to focus on the experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness behind every piece of the website content, as this content will impact the ranking and visibility of that site.

Engagement Metrics

These metrics measure a user’s interaction with a website, including click-through rate, time on site, and bounce rate. A successful website will have high engagement.

Why do you need to know?

You will want to track and optimize engagement as it is an effective indicator of the quality of a website’s design and content, impacting user experience and conversion goals.

Featured Snippet

A quick answer to a user’s query, displayed at the top of Google’s search results page, such as definitions, bios, recipes, etc. Featured snippets tend to perform well in the SERPs as they signal that the content of the site directly answers the need of the searcher.

Here is an example featured snippet for Lowes. You can see where it might sit in a standard SERP (search engine results page)…

Why do you need to know?

Being featured in a Featured Snippet can drive more traffic to a website and increase visibility, potentially leading to more conversions. You will want to code your website and develop content in ways that give the search engine easy snippets to feature, like a glossary. 😉

Google Analytics

Google’s free web analytics service that tracks and reports on various metrics related to a website’s traffic. Google Analytics provides insight into data around traffic sources, user behavior, and audience demographics.

Why do you need to know?

Google Analytics allows marketers to track and analyze their website’s performance, helping them make data-driven decisions about their marketing strategy and adjust their tactics to maximize results. There are other analytics tools out there and as Google moves to GA4, many marketers may move to other alternatives.

Google Search Console

Another free tool provided by Google that helps website owners monitor and maintain their site’s presence in Google search results. It provides valuable insights into how a website is performing in search, including any technical issues that may affect its visibility.

Why do you need to know?

This information can be used to optimize the website and improve its ranking in search results, ultimately helping to drive more traffic and increase conversions. This tool will show you information not available in Google Analytics, information that is critical to your website’s success.

Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines

A set of guidelines used by human search results raters to assess the quality and relevance of Google’s search results. In this document are a series of standards that Google strives to meet when it comes to the results they offer in its search engine.

Why do you need to know?

While not a page-turner, it is useful to read this guide to understand what Google considers a quality search result. Understanding these guidelines can help when optimizing your website for search engine visibility to improve ranking, ultimately driving more traffic, and increasing conversions.

Google Search Essentials

Previously known as Google Webmaster Guidelines, it is a guide provided by Google to website owners offering best practices for improving the site’s visibility in Google search results. These guidelines offer insight into what web development tactics are preferred by Google and will rank favorably.

Why do you need to know?

Adherence to these guidelines can help a website perform better in search, ultimately driving more traffic and increasing conversions. Like the Rater Guidelines, this resource is a dry read but very much worth the time.

Heading Tags

A type of HTML tag used to format and structure content on a website, typically used for headings and subheadings. These are also referred to as H Tags or, H1, H2, H3, and so forth. H tags are a ranking factor if used appropriately and effectively.

Why do you need to know?

A well-structured website with clear heading and subheading tags can improve user experience and make it easier for search engines to crawl and understand the content. For example, in this glossary, each term is an H3 tag followed by its definition.

This has a dual purpose. One, to make it easy for you to find a term and its definition, and two, so the search engines will rank this post favorably. So very meta.


A secure protocol (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) for transmitting data over the internet, ensuring that data is encrypted and protected from hacking. HTTPS is also a ranking factor. The Chrome Browser will show a warning for all sites without HTTPS.

Why do you need to know?

HTTPS is important to marketers for two main reasons. One, it provides a secure experience for users, increasing their trust of your website. Two, it is a confirmed ranking factor. Ignore it at your own peril. If you do not yet have an SSL setup, do it as soon as possible!

A quick way to know if you have HTTPS setup or not is to view your website in the Chrome browser. If you see a warning and do not see the padlock, like below, you need an SSL ASAP (sorry).

Index and Indexability

The process by which a search engine catalogs and stores website pages in its database, allowing them to appear in search results. As search engines crawl websites, they determine a website’s indexability and store the websites that have value.

Why do you need to know?

The indexability of a website directly affects the visibility of that website in search engines and determines if its content will be easily discoverable by users. You can see if Google has indexed your website in Google Search Console. Another way is to use the “site:” command in the search bar, for example,

International SEO

The practice of optimizing a website to rank well in search engines for specific countries or regions. International SEO involves practices of localization and location-specific websites, subdomains, or website sections.

Why do you need to know?

It is very difficult to target a global audience and increase reach in different regions without an effective International SEO campaign. International SEO is a skill that not all digital marketers possess.

Stay Tuned for SEO Terms, Part Two!

That’s it for part one. In part two, we will wrap up the SEO terms you need to know. To get that and the upcoming terms for content marketing, marketing automation, PPC, and more, join our newsletter!

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