A guide to SEO terminology, in plain English

Have you recently tried to dabble in Search Engine Optimization as part of your marketing strategy? Or have you just dealt with an SEO agency for the first time? If you have, then my guess is you have just drowned in hard-to-understand SEO terminology. Websites intending to educate people on SEO have a tendency for assumed knowledge of the readers, while agencies try to impress clients with technical jargon.

A ‘no-nonsense’ glossary of terms

In this blog post, I attempt to strip the definitions down to layman’a terms. Here is a list of what I consider to be the most essential terms, with simple definitions.

301 Re-direct

A 301 redirect is used for redirecting one page to another. This is mainly used when changing a URL of a page, because Google will still be used to the old URL.

Alt Text/Tag

Having a website that is accessible to people with disabilities will give you ‘browny points’ with Google. Screen-reading software, will read out the text on a website to the user. Alt text is a small bit of text that tells screen-readers what the image is.

Anchor Text

When you see some text that is clickable (usually underlined and blue), this means it links to another page. The text that you click on is called the Anchor Text. Having links to your site, with Anchor Text that is descriptive to what the page is about, will help your SEO.


A backlink is when another website has a link to your website. Search Engines see this as a ‘vote of confidence’. Search Engines see the anchor text (see above) as the ‘topic’ and the backlink as “If you want to know more about [topic] then go to this website”. Another term for this is Inbound Links from other websites.

Canonical URL

Image source: Shopify

Search Engines don’t like duplicate content on different pages. If for any reason you need to have duplicate content, you can get around this by using a canonical tag on one of the pages, which basically tells search engines “dont look at me, like at that page instead”.

Domain Authority

Domain Authority is a metric that was developed by Moz – one of the market-leaders in SEO software. They use 3 main contributing factors – Domain Age, Popularity and Size – to give websites a rating between 0 and 100. Basically, it is the measure of a URL’s power. If you get a backlink (see above) from a high-DA website, it is much more influential to your SEO rankings than 10 backlinks from very low-DA websites.


Website pages and blog posts have headers, just like books, magazines, and newspapers. In the code of a website, there are header types, numbered H1 to H6. The easiest way understand Header tags is by thinking of a book. Think of an H1 header as the Book title on the front cover. There is only ever one title of a Book, just like you should only have one H1 tag on a page. In a book you also have chapter titles (similar to H2 tags), and those chapters are often broken up into subsections (H3 tags), etc.. You get my point!

Indexed Pages

Your website contains multiple pages. A page that is indexed, means it is ‘stored’ by Google for returning search results. You can however choose to have a page non-indexed. It’s a page that needs to be on your site, but you don’t necessarily want search engines to find it. Another example is a thank you page, displayed after a form is submitted. 

Internal Links

These are links between pages of your site. For example a link from one blog article to a similar blog article, or a link between a blog article and service page. It helps to have good internal linking, because it helps the user navigate through your content, and it also tells search engines what the information hierarchy is.


Image source: Search Engine Land

A keyword is what a person enters in a search engine to find results. The name ‘keyword’ implies that it is just a word, but it can actually be a string of words. Nowadays, it’s common to have questions as keywords, like “How to do SEO for my website?“.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

LSI is something that Google uses in their algorithm to determine the relationship between words, and their context. Its not important to know how it works. What’s important is that nowadays, rather than thinking of individual words in your content, Google will recognise the ‘topic’ of your content, by analysing the relationship of various different words in the content.

Link Building

We already spoke about the definition of backlinks. Link building is the process of obtaining backlinks, by means of searching for opportunities, manual outreach, guest blogging, etc…

Long-Tail Keywords

We’ve already defined Keywords (above). Long-tail keywords are keywords which contain 3 or more words. These keywords tend to have less traffic, but searchers typing in long-tail keywords, are usually more qualified leads.

Meta Descriptions

Image source: Kick Point

This is the bit of text you see in a search result, under the main title of the page. It sums up what the site is about. Search engines use meta descriptions to judge how relevant the website is to the search keywords. 

Off-page SEO

This is exactly what it sounds like – any SEO work that you do NOT on your website. For example, link building, blogging, etc..

On-page SEO

The exact opposite of the previous term – i.e. any work you do ON your site to improve your SEO. This includes improving website speed, setting up proper header tags and image alt tags (see above), and other similar things to make your website more search engine-friendly. 

Page Title

Again, exactly what it sounds like. The name of your page. This is shown in the tabs at the top of your browser, as well as the main line in search results. Having a title containing keywords you want to rank for, helps with your SEO.


Image source: SEOBlog.com

A ranking of a keyword means that position in a search result that your website appears on. Each results page has 10 results by default, so rankings 1-10 are on page 1, 11-20 one page 2, and so on. Your website doesn’t have a single ranking, it has a separate ranking for each keyword. The higher the ranking is, the more clicks you will get for that keyword.


This is a file used to tell search where to look, and where not to look, on your website. See the definition for Indexed Pages above. The robots.txt file is what tells search engines which pages should and shouldn’t be indexed.


SERP stands for Search Engine Ranking Page. It is the page that shows the results of your search query, and it usually contains 10 results.

Short-Tail Keywords

The opposite of Long-Tail Keywords (above). Short-tail keywords contain just one or two keywords. They are very direct, and they have a high search volume. They are however, more competitive, and difficult to rank for. They are also very broad, so the probability of the person being a potential customer is quite low. If someone were to type Web Design, they are not necessarily an ideal fit, but if they typed Web Design Dubai, then that makes them a lot more qualified as lead. 

Social Bookmarking

Image source: Lynda.com

Think of regular bookmarks in your web browser. Social bookmarks are similar, but the bookmarks are stored on a website, and can be shared with others. You can add tags to social bookmarks, which basically associates the bookmarked site with a category.

XML Sitemap

This is literally a map of your website, which shows Search Engines what the structure of your website pages is. This helps search engines know how pages and blog posts are categorised.


I hope some of that made sense. At the end of the day, don’t be overwhelmed at the terminology when trying to learn SEO, and watch out for agencies trying to confuse you with jargon to make themselves sound like experts. At React Digital, we won’t confuse you with gibberish, but will rather help you to understand the journey that we are on together.

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