This is by no means an exhaustive list of SEO/SEM terminology, but it includes many of the important  terms used on this site and elsewhere when talking about SEO and SEM. Hopeful this will help more people have a better understanding of digital marketing. Terms are listed in alphabetical order in each section.

The Dreaded Acronyms

CTR (Click-Through Rate)

The percentage of all the people shown an ad or link that click on it. For example if 100 people are shown an ad online, but only 3 of them click on it, than the CTR is 3%

CMS (Content Management System)

Any type of software that someone uses to upload and manage text, images, video, and other media onto their website. Common examples are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Blogger, and Shopify.

HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) & HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure)

HTTP is the common format used across the internet that allows your browser to display any web site. HTTPS is a updated form of HTTP that adds data encryption to secure (that’s what the S stands for) the data transferred between a website and a web browser. Google favors sites with HTTPS compared to to HTTP sites because they are considered safer for users.

PPC (Pay Per Click)

Probably the most common form of online advertising, PPC is where businesses are charged every time someone clicks on one of their ads.This is unlike traditional advertising (such as TV or newspapers), where businesses are usually charged by the number of people are exposed to the ad.

SEM ( Search Engine Marketing)

Using search engines like Google to marketing products or services. This can include running ads(like PPC below) on search results page or  using various optimization methods to try to get more traffic from the unpaid search results.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

The process of adjusting the properties of a website to make it more attractive to search engines. Search engines look at numerous factors (it is estimated that Google uses about 200) to make decisions on which search results to show at the top of the page. SEO is an ongoing process as websites are updated and search engines change how they calculate the ranking of search results.

SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

What comes up on after you run a search on Google or another search engine. This includes sections such as advertising, shopping, maps, news stories, answers, and organic search results.

Example of a SERP page

Other Important Terms

Backlinks

Backlinks are links on another website that lead back to your site. Getting a lot of quality backlinks is one of the top factors search engines use in deciding the ranking of search results.

Crawling

If a site is crawled, that means a piece of software (often called a bot or spider) did an automatic scan of the pages, content, and links on a site. Search engines regularly crawl new and existing sites across the internet so they have the most current search results.

Conversion Rate

The percentage of all users who visit a site that complete a desired action. For example, if a website gets 50 visitors, but only 2 of them make a purchase on the site, that would mean the site has a conversion rate of 4%.

Digital Assets

A catch all term for websites, social media accounts, and any other online properties that have value for a business
 

Indexing

When search engines crawl various websites, it adds the data it collects to a master list or database called an index. The index is where all search engine results are drawn from.

Keywords

The simple definition of keywords are words or phrases on your website that search engines use to match your site with relevant searches. For example, if someone is searches for “seo services”, the results would show modemseo.com in the search results since we offer seo services and use those keywords multiple times on our site.

Keyword Research

The process of discovering new keywords that could be used to try to bring in new traffic and sales. This involves using various tools to see how  much traffic volume a keyword receives and what keywords competitors are ranking for.

Link building

The process of getting other sites to link to your site (also see backlinks) to drive more traffic to your site. There are many different strategies and techniques for link building, if you would like to know more check out this in-depth guide from Backlinko.

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-Tail Keywords are based around the idea that instead of focusing your marketing efforts on only a few high traffic keywords where competition is high, that you are better off using a larger number of longer and more specific keywords that are more targeted and less competitive. For example, instead of trying to rank this site for the keyword “SEO”, which would bring up a wide range of results, a better option might be to use “SEO consultant des moines”, which is more specific. The term “long tail” was popularized by the book “The Long Tail” in 2006.

long tail graph
Graphic via raventools.com

Meta tags

Meta tags are extra information, such as keywords or descriptions, that is not displayed on the website itself but can be read and used by search engines when they crawl the site.

Organic search results (aka natural search results)

The search results that arise naturally from search engine’s ranking system, as opposed to paid advertising. Ad results are usually displayed above or to the side of the organic results and are labeled as ads or sponsored content.

Ranking

The order in which search results are shown. Ranking first or second for search term is usually the best position to be in, as they generally get the most traffic. 95% of people using a search engine find what they need on the first page, which usually shows the top 10 ranking results.

Traffic

This usually refers to the flow of people as they visit different webpages online. Getting more traffic generally means that more people are looking at your site. 

White/Black hat

A term that describes whether someone is performing their work ethically (white hat) or dishonestly (black hat). For example, black hat SEO sometimes involves creating fake networks of blogs that backlink to a target site to try to trick search engines to give the target site better rankings.