January 3, 2022

A Conclusive SEO and SEM Glossary: Digital Marketing Terms to Understand

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder

January 3, 2022 | 5 Min Read

Article updated on April 11, 2023

The language of marketing is teeming with jargon and acronyms. This SEO and SEM glossary will define many of these terms. Some of the entries will have links to other resources (on this website and elsewhere) to help further develop comprehension of these concepts. There are hundreds if not thousands of terms in the marketing vocabulary. This glossary is by no means exhaustive. No time to review the entire glossary? Contact Pedestal and speak to one of our digital marketing professionals

 SEO versus SEM

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is an umbrella term that encompasses all search engine marketing strategies a business may implement to make changes or see results. Within SEM is search engine optimization, or SEO, which focuses more specifically on search engine strategies to improve organic visibility and traffic. While SEO uses resources that don’t need to be paid for, such as evergreen content, webpage optimization, and metadata tactics, SEM will often include paid strategies such as PPC ads. The main similarity is that both initiatives are at the marketing level to improve search engine results. They differ at the granular level where SEO focusses on long-term effects as opposed to quick, paid effects.

SEO and SEM glossary


301 redirect:

In the circumstance of a website moving to a new domain from the one that is registered on search engines, a 301 redirect is used to forward users and search engines to the new domain smoothly.

404 error:

An error displayed in a web browser that refers to missing content. If this appears after clicking a link, it means that the content was removed, or the URL is incorrect.


Above the fold:

The portion of a webpage that the user sees upon loading, but prior to scrolling. See also: below the fold.

A/B testing:

An online marketing method of measuring user engagement with changes to website design or copy. This test will determine if the modifications improve the user experience. Generally, 50 percent of the website traffic will be directed to the unmodified site (referred to as the “control”), and 50 percent will be shown the variation. Engagement data of both groups will be collected and analyzed. If the users engaged more positively with the modified variant, it will be implemented as the new design.

Acquisition channels:

The channel through which a website visitor navigated his or her way to the site, e.g., from a link on social media, a Google search, an ad, or by typing the URL directly into the browser.


A PPC advertising service that is offered by Google. The service allows webmasters to bid on keywords. When users search for those keywords, ads will appear above and below the organic results on the SERPs. These ads are nearly identical to the organic results, differentiating themselves only by a small, yellow “ad” icon.

Affiliate marketing:

A marketing model wherein an advertiser will attempt to reach a new, specific audience through an affiliate (a website, for example). The affiliate will publish the advertiser’s ads on its website and will be paid a commission every time they drive traffic to the advertiser.

Affinity marketing:

A marketing strategy where one business with a large customer base will offer some form of added value or incentive, supplied by a second business, to its customers. This benefits both companies. The first business builds brand loyalty by adding value, and the second business increases its brand awareness with a new audience.


A formula that search engines like Google use to index online content and determine how to rank the most relevant results to a query.

Alt text:

An HTML description of an image that can be embedded in the code on a website. Search engines can’t “read” pictures. Alt text informs search engines about what the content of the image is.


Software that measures user engagement and key performance indicators on a website. Some of the key data the software can track are: Measuring analytics presents a number of benefits to a business including improved audience targeting and enhanced user experience and engagement. A popular analytics platform is Google Analytics.

Anchor text:

Anchor text is the word or words that are underlined in a clickable hyperlink to another web page or a different section of the same page.


The “importance” of a website from Google’s perspective. Sites that Google considers more authoritative or trustworthy will rank better on the SERPs. Publishing unique content and building inbound links from other authoritative websites can improve a site’s authority. Website age and traffic trends can also impact authority.



An acronym that represents the phrase “business to business”. This means that a B2B company markets its products or services to other businesses, rather than consumers.


An acronym that represents the phrase “business to consumer”. This means that a B2C company markets its products or services to consumers rather than other businesses.

Below the fold:

The portion of a webpage that the user cannot see upon loading, but is only seen by scrolling. See also: above the fold.

Black hat SEO:

An aggressive form of SEO tactics that are implemented to drive heavy traffic to a website for short-term gains. This will often involve keyword stuffing, page swapping, duplicate content, comment spam, and other strategies. The intent is to trick search engines into giving the site a high ranking on the SERPs. Black hat SEO goes against search engine guidelines.


A website, or section of a website with regular posts on specific topics that are generally presented in reverse-chronological order. These can be personal reflections or stories, experiences, advice, or other topics. Blogs often contain images and links to other content.

Bounce rate:

The percentage of website visitors that navigate away from the site having only viewed the page that they originally landed on.

Breadcrumb navigation:

A navigation format that can be implemented on a web page, and appear under the link on a Google results page. It is a hierarchy of links descending from the parent page. For example, Home > Artists > Bruce Springsteen > Albums > Born in the USA. The advantage of breadcrumb navigation is that if a user arrives on the “Born in the USA” page, and decides they want to learn more about Bruce Springsteen, they can easily click back to the Springsteen parent page, rather than having to locate it by restarting the process.

Buyer personas:

Marketers use buyer personas as a personification of, and a way to visualize, their ideal target. This characterization will include demographics, psychographics, interests, and motivations. These criteria tend to be based on data from past or current customers.



A temporary data storage space that browsers use to improve the efficiency of navigation. For example, when clicking back on a browser, the application will retrieve the data saved in the cache, rather than having to connect to the server again. This will speed up navigation.

Call to action (CTA):

A submission form, link, or button that attempts to prompt a specific action from the site visitor. Booking a consultation, or opting in for a newsletter are both examples of these desired actions.

Cascading style sheets (CSS):

CSS is a file that manages all of the elements of the design and layout of a website. The file is used to control colours, fonts, spacing, and other components across every page of the site. CSS can also be used to define alternate display styles for different devices. An advantage of this tool is that design changes can be made and applied to the entire site, rather than making the changes to each page manually.

Churn rate:

The attrition rate of a company’s subscribers over a specified period of time.


An online reference to a business’s information including name, address, phone number, and website. These citations are found on local listings such as Yellow Pages. Citations are beneficial to local SEO efforts. See also: NAP+W.

Click-through rate (CTR):

A metric that is measured frequently in online marketing campaigns, CTR determines the percentage of users that click a specific link/ad, out of the overall users that are displayed the link/ad.


The practice of displaying different content to Googlebot than to website visitors. This is considered a black hat SEO technique.


See content management system.

Content management system (CMS):

A platform that publishes digital content (like a blog) to a website. Normally, the CMS can be accessed by any necessary employees at a business so that they can all publish or edit content. WordPress is a popular example of a content management system.

Content marketing:

The practice of publishing content on a website with the intent of attracting web traffic.


A website visitor taking the desired action. A consumer signing up for a newsletter, requesting a consultation, or even calling the business would be considered a conversion.

Conversion form:

Often found on a “contact us” or landing page, a conversion form is generally a text input box where site visitors can submit their information (name, phone number, email) to a business. This could be done to request more information, request a consultation, subscribe to a newsletter, or collect an offer. When a consumer performs this task, they have been “converted” into a lead. The business will then use the information gathered to engage with the lead in an attempt to further convert them into a customer.

Conversion funnel:

The process of using content to guide a website visitor through the stages of the buyer’s journey toward a conversion or a sale. Different forms of content and different tones may be used to target consumers in different phases of the cycle. A blog might be used to attract the attention of those in the awareness stage, a free ebook offer for those in the consideration stage, and a landing page with a conversion form for those in the decision stage.


A small piece of data that is shared between a website and a browser. These are used to identify and track site users.

Cost per acquisition/action (CPA):

This acronym refers to two distinct terms. Cost per acquisition is the overall amount of money a business spends to acquire a new customer. Cost per action is an online marketing approach wherein the advertiser will be charged a specific amount every time a potential customer takes a specified action like a form submission or a click.

Cost per click (CPC):

The price an advertiser pays when a targeted user clicks their ad in a PPC ad campaign.

Cost per thousand (CPM):

The most common pricing structure for publishing ads online. An advertiser will pay a specific rate for every thousand impressions of their published ad. The M in the acronym refers to “mille” which is Latin for “thousand”.


See cost per acquisition/action.


See cost per click.


See cost per thousand.


Linking between the different pages of a single website. An example of cross-linking would be a link from the homepage to the “contact us” page.


See cascading style sheets.


See call to action.


See click-through rate.

Customer Match:

A retargeting strategy offered by Google AdWords. Customer Match allows a business to upload its database of customer/lead email addresses. Customer Match will then remarket to these accounts across search, YouTube, and Gmail, provided that the users are logged into their Google or YouTube accounts. The benefit of this approach is that it helps to keep the consumer aware of a brand they’ve already shown interest in.



The process of segmenting the day into different sections for advertising purposes. An advertiser will select strategic times of the day when an ad will be displayed to the target. The advantage of this is that the advertiser doesn’t waste ad spend by displaying an ad at a time of day when the target is unlikely to see it or be converted by it.


Criteria for segmenting a population or target audience with regard to age, sex, race, income, education, family size, etc.

Disavow links tool:

Google created the Disavow Links Tool in response to fears about negative SEO tactics. Businesses that feel that their website has been unfairly targeted by spam links from low-quality sites, and have significantly decreased in rank as a result, can leverage this tool. Simply put, the tool allows a business to upload a list of websites linking to their site. Google will then ignore these links when determining rank on the SERPs.

Domain name:

The name of a website. “example.com” would be the domain name of “www.example.com”.

Duplicate content:

Identical content that is published on different pages of the same website. Websites with duplicate content may be penalized by Google.

Dwell time:

The amount of time a user spends on a particular section of a website, or the site as a whole, before navigating away.


Earned media:

Any published content about a business written by an external source not affiliated with the business. Tweets, reviews, and news articles would all be considered examples of earned media.


Fetch as Google:

A tool featured in the Google Search Console. The tool allows a webmaster to submit a link to Google, to check how Google will crawl the content of that page.


Websites that facilitate discussions on particular topics. Many forums require users to register, however, there are forums that allow users to post content as a guest. Posts generally include text, images ,and links.



Leveraged often in PPC strategies, geo-targeting allows marketers to target ads to users in specific geographic locations. This is particularly beneficial for businesses that are trying to market to people in their local community.


Also referred to as a spider, Googlebot is what crawls published website content so that Google can understand what a webpage is about. This is how Google provides relevant links to consumer search terms.

Google Display Network:

A PPC advertising platform. The Google Display Network displays an advertiser’s ads across a network of more than two million websites and mobile apps. Ad placement can be customized by topic or context (placing an ad on a website with relevant material), geographic location, or specific audiences. GDN can also increase brand awareness with a remarketing campaign.

Google Search Console:

Google’s webmaster portal, which allows users to manage settings and submit pages for indexing. Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools:

Former name of Google Search Console.

Grey hat SEO:

SEO techniques that fall somewhere between white hat and black hat SEO. Techniques that are not necessarily positive or negative, but which aren’t covered by best practices or negative SEO material published by Google.



Style elements for publishing content. The tags used in HTML are H1-H6, with H1 being the largest/most important, and H6 being the smallest/least important. One would use H1 for a headline, and smaller headings for titling different sections and subsections of a page’s content.

Head terms:

See short-tail keywords.


Hypertext Markup Language is the code that is used to publish text and images online. Browsers read this code to understand how to display the content properly.



A display or view of an ad, regardless of whether or not it is clicked.

Inbound link:

Inbound links are links pointing to a website from other, external sites. If a website references a statistic found at www.example.com/stats by linking to it, that would count as an inbound link for www.example.com. Inbound links, particularly if coming from authoritative websites, will increase a page’s authority.

Internal links:

These are links that connect pages within a particular website. For example, a blog that links to a services page, or a homepage that links to the “about us” page.


Generally, a full-page advertisement that appears between the navigation from one page to another. Interstitials will often show a short (five to ten seconds) countdown before displaying a link that reads “click to continue”.


Key performance indicators (KPIs):

Metrics that businesses use to quantify the success of a business, campaign, or website objectives.


Keywords are single words or short phrases that users input into search engines when looking for products, services, or information. Marketers will build keywords into the content on their websites to attract organic, qualified website traffic. Keywords are a way of bringing businesses and consumers together.

Keyword planner:

A tool offered by Google AdWords which helps users to create alternate keyword options.

Keyword research:

The practice of compiling a list of keywords or phrases a user might search for when looking for specific services, products, or information.

Keyword stuffing:

The practice of padding website content with keywords in an attempt to game search engines for higher rank on SERPs. Often, this does not read like natural language and is becoming less effective as search engines grow more sophisticated with regard to language. An example of keyword stuffing would be “Shop for moisture-wicking athletic socks at our moisture-wicking athletic socks store. Consult with our moisture-wicking athletic socks experts to get your moisture-wicking athletic socks!” This is a black hat SEO tactic, and because it does not read naturally, may be considered spam and be penalized by Google.


See key performance indicators.


Landing page:

The page a user arrives on after having clicked a link or an ad.

Lead generation:

The process of attracting qualified leads. In the past, this was often done through email marketing and telemarketing. Today, however, it is frequently done through conversion forms on websites, and through social media. Generally, the goal of lead generation is to acquire the contact information of a consumer. This will normally be followed by the sales staff contacting the consumer in an effort to nurture them toward a purchase.

Link building:

The practice of acquiring inbound links from external sources to increase website authority, and improve organic search ranking.

Local SEO:

A variant of SEO that targets consumers in the geographic area of a business. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, including:

Long-tail keyword:

Search queries that consist of three to seven words. Long-tail keywords generate more targeted results than short-tail keywords because they are so specific. While a short tail keyword search for “dogs” would bring up very general information about what a dog is, a long tail keyword search for “golden retriever dog breeders Toronto”, would provide the searcher with much more relevant information. The advantages of long-tail keywords for businesses are that they are less competitive than short-tail keywords, and that, while they attract less traffic, the traffic is far more qualified.


Meta description/tags:

A short description of what the particular web page is about. This will be displayed on the SERPs under the website title. While these aren’t necessary, they do give the searcher a good idea of what can be found on the site. If meta description is omitted, Google will automatically fill up the space under the title with the first sentences of copy (or a portion of the copy containing the searched keywords) on the page. The disadvantage of this is that there is only so much text that can fit in the area, so a sentence may end up truncated by Google. Including a meta description gives the webmaster control of exactly what the searcher will see on the SERPs.


Measurements used by analytics software to evaluate various characteristics of a website or campaign. Among the most valuable metrics measured for SEO and SEM are:



An acronym that stands for Name Address Phone + Website. This is a standard for submitting business information to online local listings called “citation sites”. Order and spelling must remain consistent on all listings submissions so that Google can verify the information. Yelp and Yellow Pages are examples of citation sites. Submitting business information to these listings is beneficial to local SEO efforts.

Negative keywords:

Negative keywords can be included in a PPC campaign. The purpose of these keywords is to avoid paying to show ads to irrelevant search queries. For example, a bakery that offers vegan, but not gluten-free products, could add “gluten-free” as a negative keyword for their AdWords campaign. This would ensure that the ads in this campaign would not be displayed to people using “gluten-free” in their search. This improves ROI because it filters out unqualified traffic.

Negative SEO:

The harmful tactic of pointing many, spammy links from low-quality websites to the site of a competitor, in an attempt to destroy the competitor’s site authority, and push it far down on the SERPs. The effectiveness of this is questionable, however, Google responded to fears about negative SEO by designing the disavow links tool.


Off-page SEO:

SEO efforts to increase ranking on the SERPs, including link building, social media, and social bookmarking.

Online reputation management (ORM):

The strategic process of improving the online reputation of a company by publishing content that will rank higher on SERPs than any negative material. Essentially, ORM pushes negative content about a business (bad reviews, criticisms, etc) further down on SERPs so that it is not likely to be noticed by the general public.

On-page SEO:

SEO efforts to increase ranking on SERPs, including naturally weaving keywords into website copy, improving site navigation, and the use of meta tags and descriptions.

Organic search:

An online search for products, services, or information wherein the results displayed are relevant to the search terms. Often referred to as natural or earned results, an organic search uses keywords to provide the searcher with the information he or she is looking for. These natural results are not PPC ads. Websites that are well-optimized for SEO will receive a higher ranking on SERPs.


See online reputation management.

Outbound link:

A published link that directs the user to a page on an external website.


Paid search:

See pay per click.

Pay per click (PPC):

An online marketing and advertising structure wherein advertisers pay a certain price every time a user clicks on the ad. Google AdWords is a popular advertising platform that allows advertisers to buy ads that are published on SERPs and across the Google Display Network.


Portable document format is a representation of a printed page in a digital image. The file is interactive and can include functional hyperlinks.


Search engines may issue a manual or algorithmic penalty to any websites they deem to be spam-like in nature. These penalties make it difficult for the site to rank well on SERPs. Algorithmic penalties are often lifted once the site makes the necessary corrections. Manual penalties may require the webmaster to submit a request to the search engine to be re-evaluated. Websites are not notified if they have been penalized. It is best to monitor website ranking for this reason. If a site is penalized, run a penalty and recovery audit to determine how to solve the issues.


A permalink refers to a URL for a page that will be published, but eventually archived, like a blog post or a news story. The permalink allows the page to be bookmarked or accessed by users at any time.


See pay-per-click.


Criteria for segmenting a population or target audience with regard to lifestyles, activities, opinions, and interests.


Qualified traffic:

The percentage of website traffic that is likely to convert or buy. Visitors to a website that are already interested in the products or services being offered.

Quality content:

Content that is clear, written in a natural language, and is not stuffed with keywords.


The keywords typed into a search engine.



Refers to the position a website receives on the hierarchy of a search engine results page.


An approximation of the total number of targeted consumers that will observe a specific ad or campaign.


An advertising strategy that uses cookies to target consumers with a company’s ads after they have visited and navigated away from the company’s website. The advantage of this method is that the ads remind the consumer of products or services they are already interested in. Google AdWords Remarketing is a popular retargeting service.

Return on investment (ROI):

ROI measures the ratio of a business’s gain compared to the resources invested. For example, in an advertising campaign, if the business found that it was making ten dollars in sales for every dollar invested in their ad spend, that would be their return on investment.

Rich media:

A digital ad that can incorporate music, video, or animation to make the experience more dynamic and interactive.

Rich snippet:

A form of structured data markup that can help Google to index data, and will modify how a link will appear on SERPs, making them more attractive to the searcher. Rich snippets are available for the following categories:
  • events
  • news
  • products
  • recipes
  • reviews
  • software applications
  • videos


A small text file that informs search engine spiders about how to interact with the website. For example, the file can be added to any page on a website that includes private information, to instruct the spider not to index the content.


See return on investment.



The practice of copying content from one website to another. Scraping is considered a black hat SEO technique. It can be done either manually (copy and paste) or through software.

Search engine marketing (SEM):

SEM refers to the online marketing and advertising strategy that allows advertisers to place ads on SERPs. In this model, the advertiser is only charged when a consumer clicks on an ad. See also: PPC.

Search engine optimization (SEO):

The process of optimizing website content and architecture to increase visibility in search engine results. SEO implements keywords relevant to the website topic, or the products, services, or information offered. When a consumer searches for similar terms, a well-executed SEO strategy will cause the website to rank higher on SERPs. This can produce better quality website traffic.

Search engine result pages (SERPs):

Also referred to as search engine rankings pages, this is the page that is displayed after typing a search query into an engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. This page produces the most pertinent results to the keywords searched, ranked in order of relevance and authority.


See search engine marketing.


See search engine optimization.


See search engine results pages.

Short-tail keyword:

Also referred to as “head terms”, short-tail keywords are made up of only one or two words. These search phrases tend to be used by searchers looking for very general information on a particular topic. Short-tail keywords are often very competitive because they are broad and somewhat vague. An example of a short tail keyword could be “dogs”. This query would provide information on what a dog is, and perhaps breeds of dogs, but the searcher would need to use a long-tail keyword if they wanted more specific information about dog breeds, dog foods, etc.


The section at the end of the URL that is compiled of easy-to-understand keywords. For example, in this link, www.example.com/definition-of-a-slug, “definition-of-a-slug” would be the slug. Words in the slug should always be separated by dashes.

Social bookmarking:

Websites that allow users to bookmark pages to read at another time. Many of these platforms also invite users to annotate, edit, and share these pages. Unlike bookmarks added to a user’s browser, these sites (and therefore these bookmarks) can be accessed from anywhere, on any device. Popular social bookmarking sites include Stumbleupon, Delicious, and Google itself.

Split testing:

See A/B testing.



The visitors to a website.



An acronym that stands for uniform resource locator, the URL is the website address that is displayed in the browser’s address bar. Typing a URL into a browser is a quick way to access a web page directly. An example of a URL would be http://www.example.com.


Refers to the ease of website navigation. Websites that are designed for effective usability make it easy for visitors to find the information they are looking for and/or perform a desired action.

User experience (UX):

The overall experience that a user has when navigating a website. Not only will a negative UX deter a user from returning to the site, but it can also affect SERP ranking. Some of the most significant components of UX are:


See user experience.



Similar to a blog, a vlog is the same concept except that the content that is published is video rather than text and images.



A seminar that is hosted online for users to stream live, or watch at their convenience. Webinars are typically a video or a screencast.

Website audit:

There are a variety of different types of website audits. The main purpose of these, however, is to detect any technical problems with the site and to discover ways to improve the overall site health, performance, and user experience.

White hat SEO:

SEO techniques that are in line with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.


WordPress is a free, open-source software platform that allows for publishing blogs online. However, it also functions as a content management system (CMS) for managing all of the content on a site.


SEM, SEO, SEO Basics

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt

CEO & Founder

Aaron Levenstadt completed his degree in Statistical & Data Science at Stanford University. That focus has given him an unparalleled data-driven approach to search engine digital marketing. Prior to founding Pedestal Search, Aaron worked at Google at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View California. At Google he worked on the Organic Search, Paid Search and Google Analytics products, which equipped him with extensive knowledge of the mechanisms driving Google’s algorithm and other internet search engines.