Like any highly specialized discipline, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) carries with it the weight of several key terms and phrases that can seem like a foreign language to those uninitiated. Here at Astute, we’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of 23 key terms and phrases that are vital to understanding SEO.

Search Engine Optimization is a deep well, and this is by no means intended to be a comprehensive list. Rather, this is intended as a beginning point. Without further ado, here are the 23 terms and phrases you must know to get started.

1. Algorithm

In the context of SEO, algorithms are programs developed by search engines that are designed to give relevant answers and solutions to queries. Put simply, the algorithms largely determine where your website will rank for specific searches on the SERP (search engine results page).

2. Alt Text

Alt text is a description of an image that is inserted as an HTML attribute along with the image. Because search engines cannot see images, the inclusion of alt text gives a readable description that allows it to be categorized accordingly. Additionally, if an image fails to load, alt text will be displayed in a blank box.

3. Analytics

A software application that collects and compiles relevant data and statistics about your website. This includes information regarding the sources of generated traffic, user demographics, keywords, bounce rate, and other valuable insights that help you to analyze what is working for and against you in your efforts to optimize your SEO efforts.

4. Authority

In the realm of SEO, authority equates to trust. Trust is earned by displaying consistently relevant content that attracts people to engage with your site. Another great way to earn domain authority is to have other websites backlink to you. When this happens, search engines deem you an authoritative and credible source. The higher your authority, the higher search engines will rank your site (most of the time).

5. Backlinks

Simply put, a backlink is when a website displays a link back to your website or blog. In theory, the concept isn’t hard to grasp. In reality, gaining valuable backlinks can be a difficult and ongoing process. Link building is one of the most crucial factors in maximizing your SEO efforts. The more (and higher quality) backlinks you have, the more authority search engines will give your site.

Link building tips.

6. Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that leave a website immediately before exploring other pages or interacting with the website. Generally speaking, a high bounce rate is bad for rankings, and a low bounce rate is good for rankings. However, like most things relating to SEO, it depends. The bounce rate can be improved by having an appealing site with engaging content. This will entice visitors to interact with your site for a longer duration.

7. Conversion

Conversion is the process of turning a casual visitor into a regular user. This is accomplished through email list subscriptions, plugin interactions, sales, etc. The conversion rate is the percentage of users that you’re able to lead towards these actionable metrics.

8. Cost Per Click (CPC)

Cost-per-click is a type of advertising model that refers to the actual price paid by an advertiser to a publisher for each click on an ad. This type of advertisement aims to draw targeted traffic to a website through the use of specific keywords and phrases. Though not a direct SEO term, knowing the CPC for certain keywords can be valuable information.

9. Deep Link

A deep link is a link on an external website that directs users to a specific page on your site other than the homepage. Deep linking can be a good thing for the purposes of SEO because search engines value content that is relevant to user queries. On the other hand, many marketers dislike deep linking because it can bypass the intended flow of a user’s experience on their website.

10. Directory

In SEO, a directory is simply a website whose purpose is to provide listings of classified topics (either general or specific) where businesses, products, and services can be listed. Obtaining backlinks in relevant directories can help boost SEO efforts, though be careful to stay away from shady directories, or “link farms,” as they are often known.

11. DoFollow / NoFollow

DoFollow is when a backlink is allowed to improve your rankings with search engines. Both humans and bots are allowed to follow these links to their destinations. On the flip side, NoFollow links are backlinks that include an HTML attribute that instructs search engines not to recognize this particular backlink. Only humans are allowed to follow this link, not bots.

12. Index

Index is an alternate name for the database used by a search engine. A website will not be findable if it does not exist in a browser’s index.

13. Internal / External Links

An internal link is when a hyperlink is added to content in order to redirect the user to a different page on the same domain. On the contrary, an external link is when a hyperlink is added in order to redirect the user to an external domain. Both lend credibility to your domain while simultaneously making it easier for search engines to crawl your site.

14. Keyword

A keyword is a single word or short phrase that is posed to a search engine in an effort to produce precise and relevant results. Keywords should be researched and chosen wisely when being employed for the purposes of SEO. Using the right keywords can result in a high amount of traffic on a website. Keyword research is essential for good SEO results.

15. Landing Page

A landing page, quite simply, is the page you “land” on when clicking on a link. This is often the “Home” page, but can also be a specialized page that is used in concert with a specific marketing campaign. Learn more about Landing Pages.

16. Meta Tag

A meta tag is the umbrella term that covers meta descriptions and meta keywords. A meta description is a short description (up to 300 characters) that displays below the site’s title in search engine results. It gives browsers relevant information before deciding to click the link, similar to a menu at a restaurant.

Meta keywords are specific words that describe and categorize a particular piece of content, which search engines use to rank the content accordingly. Meta keywords are no longer a ranking factor with most search engines. Search engines use meta tags in order to rank and gain insight into the content of a site.

Check out this Moz article for insight on how to write great meta tags.

17. Penalties

Google will penalize websites that fail to follow their guidelines for ethical conduct or attempt to manipulate their way around said guidelines. Penalties will result in the lowering of rankings or potential banishment. Here’s a list of Google Penalties.

18. Ranking Factor

There are several ranking factors that search engines take into consideration when ranking a website. Included in these factors are the quality of content, adherence to white hat SEO techniques, quality internal & external links, meta tags, and many more.

19. SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

When a user enters a query into a search engine, the page of results that displayed is known as SERP. Check out this article on Google SERP features to dig deeper.

20. Sitemap

A sitemap is a model (or list) of pages contained in a website or URL. It is typically laid out in a hierarchical fashion. The purpose of the sitemap is to let search engines and users know the proper flow of a website and its content in order to have better indexing and ranking in SERPs. Here’s a helpful link on how to create an XML Sitemap.

21. Technical SEO

Technical SEO refers to the non-content related work that is done in order to give the content its highest level of visibility. This is done by scoring quality backlinks, creating internal & external links, strong keyword research, blog outreach, meta-tagging, SCHEMA Markup, etc.

22. Traffic

Traffic refers to the number of visitors engaged with your website. The higher your site’s traffic, the higher your rankings will be with search engines.

23. White Hat / Black Hat

White Hat SEO is the practice of ethical SEO guidelines. It seeks to improve search engine rankings through the use of strong technical SEO practices and excellent content. Black Hat SEO, on the other hand, ignores search engine guidelines and seeks to manipulate its way to the top of rankings. Black hat SEO can lead to penalties, lower rankings, and even banishment.

So there you have it. By no means an exhaustive list, but if you are interested in the world of SEO and need a little guidance to understand the “native” language, this list should be an excellent starting point.