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Do you dream of your company website appearing at the top of Google results? You're not alone. Today, having a working knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) is non-negotiable if you want your business to rank on page one. But, if hearing SEO lingo sounds more like Greek, don't get frustrated and throw in the towel. We've created this glossary to help.

When it comes to SEO for beginners, it’s hard to have an idea of where to start with your planning and strategies if you don’t have a solid idea of what key terms mean. In this blog, we'll go through the 20 most important and most commonly used SEO terms to help you get started, including:

    1. Search engine optimization (SEO)
    2. On-page SEO
    3. Off-page SEO
    4. Keywords
    5. Long-tail keywords
    6. Keyword density
    7. Keyword research
    8. SERP
    9. Page rank
    10. Meta descriptions
    11. Indexing
    12. Internal and external links
    13. Link building
    14. Link bait
    15. Landing page
    16. Search engine marketing
    17. Pay-per-click (PPC)
    18. Responsive web design
    19. Image alt-tags
    20. ROI


Now, let's dive in!

Common SEO Terms Explained:

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO for Beginners | Search engine optimization | optimization on keyboard

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the most important term that is all-encompassing and represents the ability of your website, web page, and blogs to rank in search engines. It is also a key component of all of your digital marketing efforts.

SEO involves the process of optimizing or altering the content on your website in a way that enables web users to quickly find your company on Google when they search for terms relevant to what your business offers. To do this, keywords and phrases should be incorporated on your website that appeals to both web users and search engines.


2. On-Page SEO

This is a specific form of search engine optimization that represents all of the activities that take place on a website. This can include optimizing the content on your website with targeted keywords, the HTML code, image alt-tags, and meta descriptions, as well as your website navigation and even the custom page URL.

For the difference between on-page and off-page SEO, check out our blog here for a breakdown.


3. Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO tactics are tasks that happen outside of your website. It includes link building and social media marketing, as well as influencer, email, and content marketing too. It’s everything you do to get people to know who your brand is, thus driving them to your website.


4. Keywords

SEO for beginners | keywords | virtual search bar with "trends"

You’ll hear this term a lot when it comes to talking about search engine optimization. These are words or a grouping of words that represent the terms people type into search engines to find the products and services they need.

Keywords are used in every facet of on-page SEO as they help people find your site. For example, if you have a construction company, you may have keywords such as “home renovation” or “kitchen remodel” included on your website. When a person types these search terms into Google, by having these keywords on your site, the Google searcher is more likely to find your company listed in their search results.


5. Long-Tail Keywords

These are longer keywords that generally combine three or more words together. Sometimes, they can be questions such as “Where can I find a contractor near me,” or they can include geographical components such as “home renovation in Charlotte, NC.” It’s important to use them on your website because there’s less competition for longer keywords than for smaller keyword phrases. And that increases your chances to rank higher in search engines.

Here's an example - many (if not all) home construction companies use the term “contractor”, but not every competitor uses “bathroom renovation contractor”. That means your chances to rank for "bathroom renovation contractor" will probably be higher.


6. Keyword Density

Not so long ago, companies creating websites would pack hundreds of keywords onto pages in the hopes of getting Google’s attention. Google caught on. Now, they want to rank websites by how useful they are to the end user, which means a website needs to contain quality information, not just a bunch of keywords.

Keyword density represents a unique combination of important keywords and quality information. Generally speaking, you don’t want to have so many keywords present that it’s hard to read and understand. There’s no specific percentage that’s perfect, though. The key is to think of your audience always, the readability, and the overall value of the content.


7. Keyword Research

SEO for beginners | keyword research | typing on laptop

The goal of keyword research is to find the best, most relevant keywords with a high monthly search volume and low competition score. There are numerous keyword research tools available that can help you, including UberSuggest, Moz and Keywords Everywhere. The goal of these tools is to help you to learn what people are actually searching for to find the solutions they need.

If you are successful in your keyword research, you'll end up with a solid list of keywords to incorporate into your website content and hopefully start ranking on page one of search engine results.



A search engine results page, or SERP, is the page of results that is populated after a web user searches for something on Google. That first page is prime. In fact, according to a recent article, 75% of people don't scroll past the first page of search results. Search engine optimization is your chance for your business to get on this page.


9. Page Rank

Page rank is where your website lands on a search engine results page for relevant search terms. The higher up on the page your website is, the more likely someone will click on it and visit your site.

Page rank is all about whether Google sees your web page content as the best answer to a user's question or search query.


10. Meta Descriptions

This is a description of what’s on a specific webpage (and that includes blog pages too). It’s the little blurb of 155 characters or less that will appear on the search engine results page under the webpage title. When writing a solid meta description, keep in mind that this is your chance to get people to click on your page link. So, make sure that what you write is compelling and accurately explains what a web visitor will see on the page. Your meta description is also an opportunity to incorporate the focus keyword for that specific page. Let's look at an example. We searched "what is a meta description" on Google and this was the first result:

SEO for beginners | Meta description screenshot | Yoast

As you can see "meta description" is the focus keyword and is included in the description below the page link (a few times in this example).


11. Indexing

Indexing is the process of adding your website pages to search engines like Google. This occurs after Google has crawled your website, which basically means they have followed your links and gone through the contents of your site and created an index.

It may seem odd, but there are times when you want to "no-index" a web page, so Google does not list it in search results. A thank you page that appears after a web visitor has downloaded an offer is one of those cases. After all, this is not a page that you would want someone to find and click on before visiting any other pages.

In HubSpot, to "no-index" a page is as simple as adding a little bit of code under the "Advanced Options". Don't worry if you're not an HTML master. HubSpot makes it really easy. Here's a snapshot of adding that code into HubSpot.

SEO for beginners | No-Index on HubSpot

See? Easy!


12. Internal and External Links

A healthy combination of internal and external links on your site is a great search engine optimization best practice. Generally speaking, links are the underlined phrases that are clickable and direct users to another web page. More specifically, internal links are links to other pages on your website.

External links, on the other hand, are links used on your website that direct to other (external) sites.

SEO for Beginners Pro Tip:When incorporating external links on your site, make sure that the website is considered to be a reputable source of information. Otherwise, it could negatively affect your SEO rankings.


13. Link Building

One way to boost your website SEO rankings is through a process called link building. This is basically when another website adds your link to one of their web pages. For instance, let's say you've written a blog about kitchen design trends, and HGTV linked to it on one of their pages. That would be amazing for many reasons, but the main one being that search engines look for trustworthy sites linking to your website. If they are trustworthy (and HGTV definitely is), that can seriously boost your SEO rankings.

Although getting HGTV to link to your website may be a difficult goal to achieve, there are lots of other trustworthy sites out there. To be successful in link building, you'll need to do some outreach efforts, partnerships, and of course, publish high-quality content that's worth linking to.


14. Link Bait

According to Moz, link bait is the act of "providing valuable content on your website so that other sites will naturally reference or link to it without you ever having to ask (like with link building). Linkable content can be anything from an in-depth research project to an evergreen guide, to a popular video". The key is in the content's level of value. And it has to be super valuable to achieve link bait status.


15. Landing Page

A landing page is a web page that visitors land on once they click on a link they find on other sites or through search engines. Does this sound similar to all the other pages on your site? Here's what makes a landing page different - landing pages include a form that is used to gain leads. Visitors fill out the form to receive some sort of value, typically in the form of content, but not always. A landing page form can also be used to schedule a free consultation, meeting, etc.


16. Search Marketing

Search marketing is a term that describes all the ways you can increase the visibility of your website through the use of both paid and unpaid methods. Paid methods are typically referred to as search engine marketing or SEM and involve paid search advertising through avenues like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads).

Unpaid methods, on the other hand, involve SEO best practices and organic or free listings.


17. Pay Per Click (PPC)

Pay per click, or PPC is a method of paid search marketing that allows your site to rank in search results for a certain amount of money that is paid every time someone clicks on your ad. Your ads don't necessarily have to look like ads though. In Google Ads, for example, you can easily create PPC ads that mimic the look of normal organic search results. You have total control over your messaging and the keywords that you want to target.


18. Responsive Web Design

SEO for beginners | Responsive web design | Man using smart phone with laptop in background

Responsive web design is a method of designing your website to make it easily viewed on computers, tablets, and mobile phones. It is also a term used to describe making your site easy to navigate so when a visitor gets to it, they can find what they need and take action. It's all about creating a positive user experience!


19. Image Alt-Tags

Including images on your website pages is a best practice for making your site engaging and look great too. But, Google crawlers can't see the images you've included. That's where image alt-tags come into play. By adding an image alt-tag, you can describe the image and include the focus keyword as well for SEO purposes. It's a much better alternative and descriptor for Google than "IMG_001".

Here's an example, let's go back to the kitchen design trends blog we mentioned above, and say we've chosen to include the image below. The image alt-tag could be "family in beautiful kitchen | kitchen design trends". It includes both a description of the photo contents and the blog keyword.

SEO for Beginners | Image Alt-Tag Example | Family in Kitchen


20. ROI

Return on investment, or ROI, is always important to business leaders. They want to see a significant return from marketing tactics, even SEO practices. This means getting enough leads to make the purchase of paid search and SEO efforts worthwhile. To ensure you can analyze and prove the ROI, make sure to monitor your marketing strategies to ensure they are creating the leads you need to meet your company goals.



Take Your SEO Strategy to the Next Level

You now have a go-to glossary of terms that details SEO for beginners. With these 20 terms in hand, you're ready to start tackling all things search engine optimization (SEO). Remember, ranking on page one of Google doesn't happen overnight. It'll take time and some SEO best practice finessing to improve your rankings, and ultimately boost website traffic and leads.


Search engine optimization is the key to your website being found on search engines, but what other website best practices are you missing out on that could be bringing in more leads? Grab a copy of our free guide to find out.

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Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie is the Senior Editorial Content Manager at LAIRE and helps ensure clients' content is engaging, precise, and designed to generate growth. With content marketing experience in the medical, legal, SaaS, construction, and manufacturing industries (to name a few), she brings a well-rounded knowledge base and skill set to the team. When Stephanie's not writing or editing, she's doing keyword research and helping clients improve their SEO.