The Top 15 Search-Related Terms All Businesses Need to Know

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Does your organization have a comprehensive SEM plan that utilizes SEO, PPC, SMM, and content marketing paradigms to boost conversion rates and bring about both a higher on-site ROI and greater website profits?

Does any of that even make sense to you?

If you find yourself falling behind when it comes to discussing online marketing plans and practices, you’ll want to brush up on the following search-related phrases. Digital marketing isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon, so get familiar with these words, as well as what they could mean for your business!

Term #1: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one type of online promotion that seeks to increase traffic flow from the results provided by the search engines to individual websites, as the result of user engagement with the lists of results provided by individual engines.

To achieve these results, SEO may include on-site activities (for example, enhancing website content or improving page meta tags) and off-site actions (in the case of backlink building, which is discussed below).

Term #2: Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

An alternative to SEO, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising involves purchasing website visitors through programs like Google Adwords.  Advertisers using this program are able to bid the amount they’re willing to pay each time a search engine user clicks through from the sponsored listings area of the search results to a website.

Term #3: Content Marketing

Content marketing is an inbound online marketing technique that relies on populating a website with high-value, highly-shareable content. The goal of these particular advertising campaigns is to build brand awareness and perceived authority through the distribution of content marketing pieces, which should ultimately result in increased repeat sales and a greater number of customer referrals leading to sales.

Term #4: Social Media Marketing (SMM)

One final digital marketing strategy employed by many organizations these days is social media marketing (SMM)—the practice of building a dynamic, engaging presence on popular social networking websites with the intention of driving website traffic and customer relationships. SMM campaigns typically make use of sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ in order to connect with customers in a value-added and non-threatening way.

Term #5: Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

While you’ll likely hear the previous four terms thrown around in any discussion about the best ways to attract website visitors, you may also see the phrase, “search engine marketing” or “SEM.”  SEM is a general term, encompassing all of the above strategies and referring to an organization’s online marketing plan as a whole.

Term #6: Algorithm

Every search engine maintains a separate index of all the different webpages it’s identified online, which is populated by the data generated from the engine’s automated indexing bot programs.

However, since manually sorting through all of this information in order to return the best possible results whenever searches are run would be extremely time-consuming, the search engines rely on complex sets of algorithms in order to parse their indexes and return results based on a number of different criteria.

The exact workings of each engine’s algorithms are never fully revealed (in order to prevent manipulation), though enterprising SEOs often identify ranking factors on their own through experimentation. As seen in Google’s recent Panda and Penguin changes, search engine algorithms are constantly being updated—much to the chagrin of SEOs.

Term #7: Keyword

A “keyword” or “search query” represents the string of words search engines users type into the search boxes on their browsers. If a woman types, “women’s shoes size 9” into Google, this phrase will be used by the search giant to determine which indexed pages will provide the most relevant information for her query.

Because websites receive little natural search traffic if they aren’t featured in these results listings, many organizations choose to focus their digital marketing efforts on targeting particular keywords with their individual web pages. A “good” keyword is one that meets the organization’s standards of competitiveness and relative search volume, both pieces of data that can be found using popular SEO keyword research programs.

Term #8: Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

When users type search queries into the engines, the results that are displayed are referred to as the “search engine results page” or “SERP.” The websites displayed in the natural SERPS (as in, the results that are displayed separately from the engine’s sponsored PPC results, where applicable) are shown as the result of each engine’s complex ranking algorithms.

If you hear a digital marketer refer to the difficulty of obtaining a page one SERP ranking, know that he’s having trouble deploying SEM best practices in a way that ensures his site is displayed in the top position whenever search users enter his target keywords into the engine.

Term #9: Conversion

A conversion is a completed action that occurs on a website that indicates a meaningful, measurable connection has been formed with a website visitor. On most websites, tracked conversions consist primarily of product sales, though you’ll also find sites that track lead gen form submissions, email newsletter subscriptions, document downloads, or video views as conversions.

Term #10: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Conversion rate optimization, or “CRO,” refers to the process of improving the number or quality of conversions that occur on a website.

As an example, if your company’s website measures success in terms of the number of new customers who purchase your products, a good CRO plan might include testing new traffic sources, improving your site’s introductory content or crafting more appealing offers to encourage new website visitors to buy.

Term #11: Split Testing

Split testing is one common tool used in CRO plans. The process involves installing programs that randomly serve up different webpage variations in order to determine which variant performs better.

Split testing may be carried out using “A/B” protocols, in which two page versions are served to visitors with only a single variable changed, or it may use a “multivariate” setup, during which several variables have been altered across 3+ webpage variants.

Term #12: Backlink

A backlink is simply an HTML connection between two webpages. Backlinks can be either internal (connecting the pages within a single URL) or external (connecting pages on two entirely separate URLs).

The number and quality of external, inbound backlinks pointing at a website plays a major role in its relative SEO value, as the search engines treat backlinks as editorial votes. The engines’ algorithms are set up to view backlinks as votes of confidence between sites, which is why it’s so important for webmasters to attract a number of high-quality links.

Term #13: Anchor Text

The anchor text is the text-based element of a backlink that appears on the referring page. For example, if you see a website using the text, “Click here,” as a directive encouraging visitors to move to a different page on the site, the words, “Click here,” represent the link’s anchor text.

The specific words used in the anchor text of the external, inbound backlinks you create plays a role in your website’s off-site SEO, as the search engines use keywords found in this area to determine link relevancy. However, don’t go overboard by using the same target SEO keyword in the anchor text of every link you create, as this may be deemed spamming and lead to penalization. Instead, aim for a natural blend of SEO, branded and non-optimized anchor texts.

Term #14: PageRank

PageRank is a measure of page authority, as developed by Google. The system assigns every webpage online a score from PR0-PR10, based on a logarithmic scale that accounts for the number and quality of external backlinks pointing at a site.

Though you may see this term referred to as a means of reporting site authority, keep in mind that it’s only one of more than 200+ ranking factors considered by Google’s algorithms. A high PageRank is good, but won’t automatically translate into better online performance.

Term #15: Meta Tags

Meta tags are pieces of HTML code that can be added to a website that provide information to the search engines, but that aren’t visible to site viewers.

In the past, tags like the “meta keyword” and “meta description” codes played a role in on-site optimization, though these have since been devalued in response to widespread manipulation. Today, SEOs see better results from providing helpful information through the page title tag, image ALT and description tags, and the “rel=author” tag.

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list, as putting together a document containing all the different bits of industry jargon used in the digital marketing world would be nearly impossible. However, if you have questions about specific search-related terms you’ve seen online, feel free to share it in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / scyther5

Sujan Patel
Sujan Patel has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has helped hundreds of clients increase web traffic, boost user acquisition, and grow their... Read Full Bio
Sujan Patel
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12 thoughts on “The Top 15 Search-Related Terms All Businesses Need to Know

  1. Thanks for putting this together, Sujan. Your concise definition of each these terms remind me that there’s a whole lot that can be done for ROI. Understanding the purpose of these terms will help anybody maximize integration for branding and marketing.

  2. very interesting article for newbies. you have explained these basic terms properly. this is my first visit and I read several articles. great work and keep it up!

  3. Thanks for this list! This is some stuff I’m learning in my digital marketing course, but my professor keeps saying that a lot of professionals don’t know about any of this!

  4. Good definition for conversion rate optimization (CRO). Have not looked that definition up on Wikipedia yet. Terminology is always something that should be offered and taught by an SEO company.

  5. Thank you, Sujan ! Nicely put the detailed description ! These are really something to know and follow as well for any online business owners no matter they really do SEO business but for every type of business.

  6. Great post Sujan,
    I’d probably replace split testing with “Crawlability (or accessibility, depending on what you call it)”. If your website cannot be crawled, then there is little point in having a website. I find that this is key when prioritizing SEO tasks (make the site accessible!) and getting senior management on board.

  7. This is a great summary/glossary of search engine related terms. I will surely send this to people with whom I cooperate. It’s not always easy to explain them what I’m trying to do for them… Thanks for that again.

  8. Great list will be doing nice presentation and showing this to our car salesmen hopefully blowing their minds trying to explain what us boffins do all day while they chat to car buyers and read the paper!

  9. For me, the Conversion Rate Optimization is the most important thing to do if you would like your business to be alive in the future. There are very few companies that run SEO business at the right way.
    Thanks for the article..

  10. That list makes a lot of sense for the common man. I would like to add another point here – Landing page. Many businesses still don’t know what is a landing page and how it can be used. I know many of them using the homepage of their site as the landing page irrespective of their campaign.

    For the convenience of everyone who follows this post is would explain it briefly.

    A landing page is a website page that allows you to capture a visitor’s information through a lead form. A good landing page will be targeted to a particular stream of traffic – say from an email campaign advertising a particular whitepaper – and, because it is targeted, and because it has an interesting offer behind a lead capture form, you will convert a higher percentage of your website visitors into leads with which you can follow up.(hubspot)

  11. Everything you described above is terribly important for anyone running an online business.
    Without understanding each and every term mentioned above, you will be lost. Your strategy needs to include all of the info you discussed.

    Most important factor, in my opinion, is conversion. People assume that just getting visitors to their site will benefit them. The truth is that you need to convert those visitors into customers.