Grasping Fundamental SEO Terminologies (A Beginners Guide)

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The internet connects people and information more than ever. Whether you’re reading breaking news, staying in touch with college roommates, or streaming entertainment, virtually everyone is plugged in. So, understanding fundamental SEO terminologies is becoming increasingly essential to your online marketing efforts.

Enhancing your small business’s online presence takes more effort than slapping together a website and kicking back with your feet up. There are keywords to research and title tags include. You’ll need to embed outbound links via anchor text and write compelling meta descriptions for search engines. You’ll need to analyze the SERPs. Is your head spinning? What do these words and phrases mean? Where do you begin?

The entire idea of SEO is understandably overwhelming and can be very technical in nature. There are tons of factors at play in a fully SEO-optimized campaign. With that in mind, let’s not get ahead of ourselves–before you can be a master, you must understand the basics.

In this post, we’ll break down fundamental SEO terminologies and discuss the critical role each one plays in getting you connected to your target audience. You’ll also learn how to implement each element into your small business’s blog posts and begin closing the gap between you and your customers. Are you ready to learn all about the fundamental SEO terminologies?

We’ll start from the top. Let’s jump in!

Title Tags

Title tags are HTML components that define the title of a web page. Search engines, such as Google, display title tags as a portion of the search snippet in its search engine results page (SERP). Title tags materialize as clickable headlines for users and are vital for SEO, social media sharing, and user experience. The title tag of your web page should be a succinct and precise description of its content.

Why Is a Title Tag Important?

Title tags are typically the first thing users see when happening on your website, so it’s vital to make an alluring and engaging first impression. Perhaps more importantly, search engine crawlers use title tags to help decipher what the webpage is about.

You will use title tags to help bring attention to your page or post in three prominent locations:

  • Web Browsers
  • Social Media Networks
  • Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)

Title Tags in Web Browsers

In this scenario, the title tag will appear at the top of a user’s web browser, which is helpful when multiple browser windows are open simultaneously. Essentially, the title tag serves as a placeholder and helps people navigate back to your content easily when necessary.

Here is what a title tag looks like on a web browser:

example of web browser title tag

Title Tags on Social Media Networks

Social media networks typically use the title tag to determine what to show when you or someone else shares the page. However, certain networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, devise their own meta tags, which allows you to customize them for their platforms accordingly.

Here is what a title tag looks like on Facebook:

example of title tag on Facebook

Title Tags In Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)

Title tags determine what search engines display in their results pages and are commonly a searcher’s initial interaction with your website. A high-quality title tag is often the deciding factor in whether or not someone clicks through to your content–even if your page ranks well in the results pages.

Here is what a title tag looks like in the search engine results pages (SERPs):

example of title tag in SERPs

How To Write a Solid Title Tag

There are a few working variables to consider when creating an SEO-optimized title tag. When devising your title tags, you’ll want to keep it simple, include numbers, use trigger words, and place your keywords properly. 

Title tags cannot be too short or too long. Keep your title tags between 55-60 characters. Title tags that are too long won’t fully show in the results pages, and title tags that are too short don’t give crawlers enough information to determine the content of your page.

Furthermore, you’ll experience a better click-through rate when using trigger words like “WHAT,” “WHY,” “HOW,” and “WHEN.” Other enticing words to consider include “ULTIMATE,” “BEST,” “GUIDE,” and “REVIEW.”  You can also use your brand name as part of the title tag. 

Here are a few examples of great title tags:

  • How To Write the Perfect Meta Description for SEO – SEO Site
  • Understanding Long Tail Keywords To Gain an SEO Advantage
  • The 8 Best Software Programs for Small Businesses of 2022

Writing Title Tags: Key Takeaways

  • Use words like “HOW,” “WHEN,” “WHY,” and “WHAT.”
  • Use trigger words like “ULTIMATE,” “BEST,” and “TOP.”
  • Use your primary keywords
  • Keep title tags between 55 and 60 characters
  • Don’t duplicate or copy other ranking title tags
  • Less is more, so keep it simple!

Heading Tags

Heading tags help organize the content on your page and follow a hierarchical structure. These tags rank in order of significance, beginning with the H1 title tag and cascading down to H2, H3, H4, etc. H2 heading tags represent the main points of your content, with H3, H4, H5, and H6 representing less important subsections, respectively. HTML supports up to six heading tags to help you organize your content.

Here is an example of a basic heading tag hierarchical structure:

Why Are Heading Tags Important?

Heading tags are one of the most important SEO terminologies to understand. These tags help organize the content of your page and allow readers to navigate its content easily. Internet reading differs from curling up on the sofa with the latest fantasy novel. People are actively skimming for the information they want and doing it fast. Your audience will likely seek alternate sources if the information cannot be found quickly on your webpage.

Meta Description

A meta description is a summary of what a web page is about. Search engines display them under each page or post’s title tag. 

Why Is a Meta Description Important?

Regarding SEO terminologies, the meta description affects a page’s click-through rate. When the meta description clearly explains to users what they will find on the page and piques their interest to click on the page to learn more, this interaction tells Google and other search engines the content is relevant to that search.

Here is what a meta description looks like on Google’s results pages. It appears right under the title tag.

example of a meta description in Google SERPS

How To Write an Effective Meta Description

The meta description is your chance to stand out from the competition within search results pages. Write meta descriptions that:

  • Summarize what the page is about in roughly 160 characters
  • Pique interest by telling users what makes your content unique and what users can gain from learning more
  • Include a call to action to urge users to click on the page
  • Avoid listing keywords; instead, use them naturally within the description.

Anchor Text

Anchor text refers to clickable words that contain a hyperlink. The text often stands out from other words by being in a different color or underlined.

Why Is Anchor Text Important?

Anchor text is important for helping users and search engines. This type of content determines what a linked page is about and improves user experience by quickly allowing readers to find relevant links to further information.

How To Select Effective Anchor Text

When determining what words to use for anchor text, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Use words that help give a general description of what the page linked will be about
  • Use short phrases, about 3-5 words, instead of a single word to provide more clarity.
  • The surrounding words can provide further context to the link and anchor text.
  • General anchor text such as “click here” gives no context and is poor practice.

Alt Attribute Text

Have you ever had an image not load on a page and instead see a short descriptive phrase? That is the alt attribute text (or alt text). Alt attribute text is the HTML textual description of an image.

Why Is Alt Attribute Text Important?

Many site owners overlook alt attribute text, which is likely one of the more understated SEO terminologies you will encounter. However, using alt attribute text can be an easy way to help boost SEO. Although often hidden from users, alt attribute text helps a site be more accessible. Alt text ensures all users, including users with disabilities, and search engine bots can understand an image even when they can’t see it.

How To Write Alt Attribute Text

Writing good alt attribute text is all about describing the image. Think about what objects and actions are being portrayed. You don’t want to be too general, for example, describing an image as a “cup.”  Instead, short phrases are better, like “steaming cup of coffee on a wooden counter.” You can skip writing “picture of” or “image of” since this is implied. Lastly, it’s always good to use a keyword if you can.


You’ve probably heard the term keywords even as a novice in the realm of SEO terminologies. Keywords can be described as both search terms (the words input into a search engine) and words that indicate the overall content of a site or page.

Keywords written out in scrabble tiles

Why Are Keywords Important?

Simply put, if a user’s search terms and the keywords on a page line up, search engines suggest that content to the user. Keywords allow a site or page to be found, and choosing the right ones can be crucial to getting your content in front of the right audience.

How To Select the Right Keywords

Keyword research can be overwhelming at first, but a good place to start is looking over some free guides and resources, like Google’s Keyword Planner, about choosing keywords.

In general, keywords should have three qualities:

  1. Be relevant to your business
  2. Don’t have a lot of competition
  3. Have a sufficient amount of search volume

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are very specific keyword phrases. They typically are about 3+ words, have low search volumes, low competition, and can better indicate the intent of a search query. 

For example, searching for “dinner recipes” versus “easy and quick dinner recipes to make in the summer.”

Why Are Long-Tail Keywords Important?

With low search volumes and low competition, long-tail keywords are often easier to rank for. They also show the intent of a search query, allowing businesses to understand the customer’s needs. Targeting the right long-tail keywords can help increase search visibility, which brings in new customers and improves conversion rates.

How To Select the Right Long-Tail Keywords

A good place to start is learning what your target audience might naturally type into Google when looking for your product or service. Think about what your target audience might ask and what questions you already answer. Google’s autocompleting suggestions and related searches are great for ideas.

Keyword Density

Keyword density is the number of times you place keywords within content compared to the overall total of words on a page.

Why Is Keyword Density Important?

In the early days of SEO, keyword density was an important ranking factor; however, that led to keyword stuffing (bonus term: this is the practice of overloading content with keywords attempting to rank higher), and Google does not like keyword stuffing. It’s not an official factor anymore, but it is important in helping search engines understand your content.

How To Determine Proper Keyword Density in Your Content

This simple formula can help calculate the keyword density in your content:

(Number of times a keyword is used / Total word count) x 100.

According to Matt Cutts, a former Google employee, there is no ideal keyword density percentage. Most SEO experts suggest using your keywords in your title, meta description, and a few times throughout your content naturally.

Internal Links

An internal link will bring users to another page on the same site. Internal links can refer to links within content and navigation menus too.

Why Are Internal Links Important?

Internal links help build out your site structure and organization, which is important for search engines to understand your site and how pages relate to each other. Good internal linking also enhances user experience by quickly allowing users to find more content on your website.  

How To Place Internal Links in Your Content

You’ll want to place internal links throughout your content to help navigate users to your high-value pages and naturally move them through your sales funnel. Think about how you want users to move throughout your site and how your pages relate. From there, you can build your internal links to reflect that.

image of chain links

Outbound Links (External Links)

There are various SEO terminologies for this, although they mean the same thing. When you link to another site’s page from your site, this is called an external (or outbound) link.

Why Are Outbound Links Important?

Outbound links don’t make a difference in search rankings, but they are still good practice. They can help boost the perceived credibility of your content by backing up your information, and it adds value to your content by providing further resources to your audience. The more value you bring to your audience, the more likely they will come back since they can rely on you for good information.

How To Place Outbound Links in Your Content

Place outbound links in your content when it makes sense to. If an outside website provides helpful content and adds value to your audience, link to it. 

Backlinks (Inbound Links)

Similar to external links, there are different SEO terminologies for this, although they mean the same thing. A backlink (or inbound link) is the opposite of an outbound link, it’s when someone else’s website links back to your website.

Why Are Backlinks Important?

Backlinks are often compared to votes or likes on the internet. Quality backlinks show you have authority and prominence in your related niche or industry. When someone else links to your website, this shows search engines you are providing quality content.

How To Earn and Acquire Quality Backlinks

Earning backlinks will take time, and the overall best strategy is simply to provide high-quality content people want to link to.

  • Here are some other tactics you can start with:
  • Guest blogging about your niche or industry
  • Look up listicle resource pages in your industry and ask to be mentioned on those pages
  • If you have any partnerships with other businesses, ask them to link to your site
  • Contacting sites with broken links on their pages and ask them to link to your relevant site content instead             

Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)

Once a user inputs a search query into a search engine, they are brought to the search engine results page (SERP), which lists relevant content on the internet. SERP is another of the essential SEO terminologies you should understand as you embark on your journey to understand best practices.

Why Are SERPs Important?

SERPs are how others find your site; the higher you rank, the better. Because of this, SERPs provide insight into how specific content and sites rank over others in searches and are a highly useful tool for SEO research.

Google Logo appearing in a person's eyeball

How To Analyze SERPs for Keywords

Conduct a search for the keywords you are targeting and ask these questions:

  • What content is ranking for these keywords? Is the search intent relevant to the type of content you provide?
  • If the content that’s ranking isn’t relevant to what you provide, are there any other related keywords you could target instead?
  • How difficult would it be to rank for these keywords? Who are you competing with, and how would you improve upon the content provided already?
  • If you already rank for a keyword, how can you improve your content to rank #1?

Call To Action (CTA)

A call to action tells a user exactly what the site wants them to do next. Common CTAs are “learn more” or “buy now.” They are short phrases that elicit a specific action for the user to take.

Why Is a Call-To-Action Important?

If you are putting all your effort into SEO best practices and driving people to your site, I’m sure you also want to convert those visitors into leads or customers, and a CTA is how to do that. Of all the SEO terminologies, this is the most important in directing your audience on what to do next.

How To Write an Effective Call-To-Action

To make sure your call to action has high conversions, you’ll want to:

  • Use strong action verbs. Let the user know what desired action you want them to take.
  • Be simple and to the point. You can get creative, but you don’t want too much ambiguity that the user gets confused and isn’t sure what will happen when they click next.
  • Give them a reason to take action. Create urgency or provide a benefit (people love freebies)

Final Thoughts

Understanding fundamental SEO terminologies are essential to getting your small business’s website in front of the right audience. From title tags and internal linking to an effective call to action, each element plays a crucial role in the overall success of your campaign.

Don’t let the somewhat consuming nature of SEO terminologies hold you back. You can reference this resource at any time to help you. There are also plenty of other free resources available online.

Did you find this article helpful? What other SEO terms have you baffled? Let us know in the comment section, and we’ll get your questions answered.

You can also check out a slew of other helpful information and resources on the Word Allies Blog.

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