5 SEO Terms You Should Know

“You’ve explained things to me that I’ve never understood before, ” the CEO of a local CPG company said to me yesterday after a brief phone conversation. We hear this a lot.

One reason is that SEO, like every other field, involves a lot of jargon. Jargon is special language that people use to refer efficiently to things and ideas that are special to their field or topic. It’s very useful when you’re talking to others in your own field. You can use one word instead of a long explanation. It’s less useful when you’re talking to people outside of your field. If you don’t know the terms “CEO,” “CPG,” and “SEO,” this post may not have made much sense so far.

Differences in terminology can make it hard to communicate. Since only 20% of Americans (according to a survey) even know what “SEO” means, you might find it useful to have control of some SEO jargon when you’re looking for an SEO firm or meeting with your SEO team.

Here are 5 SEO terms you should know.

Basic SEO vocabulary

  • SEO: search engine optimization

Some would say that this is not the best possible term for what we do. We’re not optimizing search engines. We’re optimizing websites for search engines: making them work with search engines as well as possible. That’s not the same thing, exactly. However, this is the term we use for this process. It’s about helping your website communicate well enough with search engines like Google that your potential customers, clients, and patients can easily find you.

  • Keywords: the words and phrases people use when they search for the goods and services you offer or the problems you solve

The main goal of SEO is to make your website show up when people who need you search for you. So, if you’re an optometrist, you might want to rank (see below) for words like “eye doctor,” “optometrist,” “vision care,” “contact lenses,” “dry eyes,” and so forth. As you show up well for one group of keywords, you can move on to another. Since people search for many different terms, keyword research should be ongoing.

  • SERPs: search engine results page, the page you see when you search for a term at Google.com or a similar search engine

When you Google something, you see the results on the SERPs. The screen shot below shows the search engine results page for one keyword phrase.

  • Ranking: being within the top 10 results on search engine results pages

Most clients want to be in the top three, but anything you’re on the front page for is a keyword you rank for. Some SEOs use the term even more broadly, but generally, you can claim that you rank for a keyword if you show up, on average, in the top 10 results. If you don’t rank for any keywords, that means that you are not showing up well for any search terms. Google’s Search Console will show you which terms you rank for.  The screenshot below, from the Search Console positions report for our lab site, is listing all the search terms (keywords) people have used to find the website recently, and the average position for each.

That doesn’t mean that we’ll see our lab site first if we go search for “robot themed classroom” right now (I just did, and Pinterest was ahead of our site). Google shows different things to different people in different times and places, based on many different factors. However, we can feel confident that we rank for these keywords.


  • Algorithm: a set of rules used to arrive at a consistent result; in the context of SEO, Google’s set of rules used to choose which website to show someone searching for information

If you’re not completely clear on what an algorithm is and would like to know, read “What the Heck Is an Algorithm?” Google’s search algorithm uses a couple hundred different factors. Content and links are the most important, but error-free writing, quick page load time, a mobile friendly site, and secure hosting are also factors in the algorithm. Plus a couple hundred other things.


It’s useful to know some basic SEO terms when you’re doing research on the subject on your own. If your SEO firm or the team member in charge of SEO can’t explain their work in terms you can understand, though, that could be a source of concern. Jargon should never be used to mask the truth.






One response to “5 SEO Terms You Should Know”

  1. Emmerey Rose Avatar

    Awesome post Rebecca. This is a great article for beginners. Would love to share this to my friends 🙂

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