SEO 101: 10 Basic SEO Terms Every Business Owner Must Know

SEO 101: 10 Basic SEO Terms Every Business Owner Must Know


Today’s online marketing has so much jargon – that unless you focus on the right SEO terms you are left out of the conversation.  There’s an iconic song from the 80s, with the phrase, “I said, ‘Do you speak-a my language?’”

Good question.  When it comes to keeping up the ever-changing world of digital and online marketing, not being able to speak the language can be problematic for business owners trying to compete this crowded, noisy and overwhelming environment, dominated by rankings, keywords and content.  That’s why having a basic understanding of the language of online marketing is essential.  Here are 10 basic SEO terms every business owner needs to know in order to get in the game – and stay there.

SEO Terms that pay HUGE dividends

1. SEO:

An acronym for Search Engine Optimization.  SEO is the process of fine-tuning the visibility of a website or webpage in the search engine results (also known as ranking). This process includes using tools such as content, backlinks and keywords.

WHY it matters:  Gone are the days of placing a few ads here and there and waiting by the phone for clients to come to you.  To be relevant today, your brand and your business must have an online presence.  Millions of searches are performed daily, but if you don’t have a website, no one will find you. Understanding SEO terms is a critical piece of your marketing strategy, enabling  you to be competitive in today’s digital marketing.  You can’t call yourself a runner if you haven’t put the effort into training for the race.  

2. Rank / Ranking:  

The position your website achieves for a particular term in a search engine’s pages.  

WHY it matters:  Search engines do exactly that: they search for the terms and phrases most relevant to an inquiry.  More often than not, a search produces multiple pages of results – sometimes, hundreds.  People are more apt to choose a result from the first page of the search results, meaning you want your brand front and center.

3. Keyword:  

A specific word or phrase used to describe the “ingredients” of a webpage.  Keywords also act as shortcuts that summarize that page.  According to,  “Keywords form part of a Web page’s metadata and help search engines match a page with an appropriate search query.”

WHY it matters:  You may have a state-of-the-art, visually enticing website.  Great videos.  Great images.  Great content.  But without keywords as virtual breadcrumbs, search engines don’t know where you are, which means you stay lost in the virtual forest.

4. On-Page SEO:

 The strategy of optimizing individual web pages in order to produce higher ranking and earn more relevant traffic in the search engine process.  The strategy refers to using page content and HTML code during optimization.

WHY it matters:  A website with rich content is not only helpful to potential clients and current customers; search engines will reward you with better rankings, thus more traffic.  More traffic usually means potentials clients become purchasing customers.  Being able to utilize on-page SEO to link one of your web pages to another not only yields monetary results, but enables your customers to stay loyal to your brand.  You’ve made it easy for them to find the information they are looking for.

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5. Off-Page SEO:

The activities and strategies done away from your website to improve the ranking of a given web page within a search engine.  These include (but are not limited to): guest blogging; leaving a comment; videos; social media posts and reposts; and links to external authority articles (Wikipedia, for example).

WHY it matters:  Simply put, all these external activities tell Google what people think of your site. Google likes that.  It is looking for content rich sites that keep folks coming back for more. Off-page SEO is the electronic version of word-of-mouth, giving your website the figurative thumbs up or thumbs down by sharing your content – or not – through various channels.

6. HTML:

Acronym for HyperText Markup Language.  HTML is a computer language built to allow website creation, and is a standardized system for tagging text files for color, font, hyperlinks and graphic effects on the web.

WHY it matters:   While we read words to understand function, meaning and context, computers read coding.  HTML is the foundation of all the information created and seen on the internet.  Without it, websites, and all the things they are comprised of (content, videos, links, images) would not be able to exist.

7. Meta-Description:

A short blurb (approximately 160 characters), tagged in HTML, that summarizes a page’s content.  If a searched phrase is contained in this description, search engines will show the meta-description in the search results.  Optimizing the meta-description is essential in on-page SEO.

WHY it matters: Meta-descriptions enable you to advertise your content before the visitor clicks through to your website, essentially a summary of a page’s content.  Optimizing the meta-description is a very important aspect of on-page SEO.

8. ALT Text:

(Also known as Alternative Text)  A word or phrase inserted into HTML code describing the appearance and function of an image on a web page.

WHY it matters:  ALT Text is another one of those essential SEO terms.  It’s primary function is to describe images to those who are unable to see them – those who are visually impaired, or who systems have trouble loading the images from your website.  Because search engines can’t “see” your images,  the ALT Text descriptor you use to identify the  specifics about it must be clear and concise.  Otherwise, you risk being mis-ranked, ranked for the wrong keyword, or worse – miss out of being ranked at all.

WHAT it looks like:  Here is an example of an ALT Text descriptor:

seo terms, alt text description, alt text, seo

A better ALT Text descriptor would be:

<img scr=”classic Ford Mustang.png” alt = “classic Ford Mustang”>

And even better still:

<img scr=”Classic 1969 Ford Mustang Grande indian fire red.png” alt = “1969 Ford Mustang Grande indian fire red”>

Other tips to keep in mind when writing ALT Text include using one or two keywords in the text, keeping the description short, and making sure the description is relevant to what it is describing.

9. Content:

Content is the meat of your brand messaging; it is both communication and information about your brand and your business.  It is the stuff that websites are made of, and includes the words that make up web pages, blogs, and emails, as well as visual products like videos, infographics and images.

WHY it matters:  Content is what search engines “crawl” in order to rank information.  That’s why having relevant content written in the language of your target audience is absolutely essential.  Technical jargon, while seemingly appropriate, may confuse your readers, spurring them to move on to a more understandable website.  And search engines may not pick up the right information at all.

WHAT it looks like:  Perhaps the best way to describe this is to image a meringue cookie and a slice of cheesecake.  Both use eggs as a main ingredient, but the end result is vastly different. In terms of content, the meringue doesn’t offer much substance – it is made of very few ingredients, with little variation.  On the other hand, a slice of cheesecake is rich and filling.  Its content includes a variety of ingredients, resulting in a substantive slice of goodness, which is enjoyable and leaves you wanting more.  The content you offer on your website is no different. You want it to offer substance and enjoyment to keep your audience coming back for more.

10. Backlink:

A backlink is a hyperlink connecting one web page to another.  Hyperlinks essentially enable users to move from one web page to another, both within the same website (internal), as well as from one website to another (external).

 WHY it matters:  Quality backlinks are excellent building blocks for your SEO.  The keyword here is quality.  Having quality backlinks attract more visitors to your site, and Google gives your site more credit if they reside on your site.  Keep in mind that, just as it with keywords, adding a backlink just for the sake of having it doesn’t mean it will help your ranking.  In fact, if you’re not careful, reckless backlinking can actually harm your ranking.  If you are a bakery trying to building credibility, using backlinks that take your visitors to the site of a dog breeder does you absolutely no good.  It may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised.

While you’re investing in your brand and your business, invest in your online acumen and understanding of SEO terms.  There are plenty of online resources that can provide insight into and education about what SEO terms actually mean.  Even better, ask a trusted marketing consultant.

At FireRock Marketing, helping business owners navigate the maze that is digital and traditional marketing is one of our priorities.  We are in the business of growing your business!


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