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SEO: A Beginner’s Guide To Industry Terminology

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a term thrown around a lot these days, and it has become a capability many advertising agencies and digital media firms are touting to enhance your brand’s presence online.

But what is SEO? And what does it do for your brand?

Through a series of blogs, we’ll give you a peek behind the mysterious SEO curtain to explain its usefulness and dispel any rumors you may have heard.
But first, let’s make sure you are familiar with the industry terminology we’ll be using.

Search Engine Terms

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – A set of techniques to improve a website’s presentation to visitors and its stature in a search engine’s index. The true values of optimization are clear content, coherent navigation, wide reputation for quality and high visibility in search engines.
  • Search Engine – A site (,, etc.) that matches search terms/queries to web page content.
  • Search Term/Search Query – The word or phrase a user types into the search engine’s search field to find content online.
  • Search Engine Algorithm – A formula set by the search engine to provide the most relevant search results to a user’s search term.
  • Search Engine Results (SER) – A listing of web pages or documents returned in a search engine based on the relevancy of the user’s search term.
  • Search Engine Results Page (SERP) – The place where a user lands after the search term has been submitted (This is a listing of SERs).
  • Organic Search Results – The listings on search engine results pages (SERPs), based on the constantly evolving search engine’s algorithm. Details about each search engines’ algorithms are intentionally kept secretive to avoid any trickery or deception. But content relevancy is the main deciding factor.
  • Local Search Results – Geographic-specific search returns that are pulled from the search engine’s database, as well as other local business listing databases. Local results include a Google Maps result on the right-hand side along with a listing of Google Pins within the organic search results.
  • PPC/Text Ads – These are paid text ads targeted toward selected search terms. Text ads are usually part of a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign. There are 3 premium positions at the top of the page above the organic returns, and multiple others in the right margin of the page.
  • Quality Score – This is an algorithm used by search engines that influences both the ranking on the SERP and the cost-per-click (CPC) of ads. The search engine gives each ad a quality score, which determines its positioning/placement. Content relevancy (search term, ad copy and destination page content) is the main factor of the quality score, but search engines use other proprietary metrics as well.

In-Page Terms

  • Source Code – This is the infrastructure that makes up each web page (the skeletal system).
  • Meta Data – This refers to data that provides information about the content of your site. The usefulness of raw data is greatly increased by organizing the content and marking up the data for the search engines.
  • Page Title – A <title> tag declares to the search engine what the page is about. It is the starting point for search engines to match content relevancy with the search term submitted. Many search engines also use page title as the title line of search listings on the SERP. The page title has a pixel width limit of 512 pixels and, as a general rule of thumb, you should not use more than 60-65 characters in the page title.
  • Meta Description – The <meta content=”description”> tag describes your page to search engines. Furthermore, it helps explain the page’s content to the user. While the page title is the headline of the SER listing, the meta description allows you to go into greater detail to captivate users. The meta description has a 156-character limit. The meta description is also the short description returned by search engines in their SERPs
  • Header Tags<h1> to <h6> tags are used to define and prioritize page headings in HTML, with <h1> being the most important and most prominent heading.
  • Alt Tag/Attribute – (X)HTML tags provide alternative text when non-textual elements – typically images – cannot be displayed. The browser will instead display that image file’s alt text. This is also a usability aid for the visually impaired.
  • Micro-formats – This markup allows software to better recognize and use useful information typically intended for the user (e.g. phone #, emails, location address). Allowing this information to be crawled and indexed by the search engine robots helps your pages’ visibility and will display differently in local search returns.

Site-Wide Terms

  • XML Sitemap – A sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site – along with additional metadata about each URL – to help search engines intelligently crawl the site. XML sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engine robots about pages on that are available for crawling.
  • Inbound Links/Backlinks – These are links at another site that lead to your site. The number and quality of backlinks are important factors in determining a site’s value. Backlink value is determined partly by the ranking of the linking site, which is also determined partly by the quality of its backlinks.
  • Outbound Links – This is a link on your site that leads to an external site. Providing high quality, relevant links to other reputable sites increases the value of your page.
  • Google Analytics – This Google application generates detailed statistics about your website’s traffic. Its capabilities range from, but are not limited to, tracking traffic sources, site conversion goal and sales. As a free service, it’s the most used website statistics service today.
  • Google My Business – Formerly called Google Places for Business, Google My Business is a free service that helps your business’s physical location(s) be found in Google. Also, verifying with Google My Business helps your business become more visible in local search results.
  • Google+ – This Google-based social networking site integrates with other Google applications (Google My Business, Gmail, Google Maps, etc.) to help your business be found in Google’s searching options.

We hope this answers any terminology questions you may have about SEO, and will help you better understand our upcoming blogs.

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Ed Sharp

Ed brings 15 years of traditional and digital media sales experience to the agency, giving us a perspective most agencies don’t have. When he’s not working or seeking new knowledge, Ed hangs out with his wife, two kids, two dogs, one cat, and a hamster. And yes, the cat and hamster are best friends.

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