Being a savvy marketer, you know the importance of having an SEO and SEM strategy in place, however, it’s easy to get confused about the many related terms that fall under either or both of these tactics. To give you a better understanding of how search engine activity (organic and paid) may affect your site’s rankings, we’ve defined the top 20 terms you need to know.

SEO: (Search Engine Optimization) the practice of increasing quantity and quality traffic to your website through organic search results. SEO helps to ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be indexed and ranked favorably on search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

SEM: (Search Engine Marketing) the promotion of your website on search engine results pages through paid advertising to increase exposure and traffic to the site.

Keywords: words or phrases relating to a specific content topic or page topic. These are typically words relevant to a potential visitors’ search. Keywords are critical to both SEO and SEM strategy.

SERP: the search engine results page that appears after someone types in a search engine.

Crawl: the process of a search engine, program, or ‘bot’ examining a website and web page’s backend code and the frontend (what is displayed to visitors) for the purpose of indexing.

Indexing: when search engines and databases save copies of webpages during a crawl to keep a directory of the pages that can later be accessed and ranked in search queries. The search results are based on the keywords and meta data (like, meta description and alt tags) present in the pages.

Meta description: provides the content or snippet that appears directly below the title tag on the SERP. Optimized descriptions should be 55-300 characters long and include relevant and ranking keywords. The sentence should encourage searchers to click on the link, improving click-through rates on SERPs, traffic, and prospective business.

Alt Tags: the text and title tag in the HTML that describes the image. This text is in the backend code of the page and appears to viewers in the absence of the image. Thus, the text should describe the image in the same way it would if displayed and include any relevant keywords connected with the content or page to help increase SEO.

Backlink: a link on a page that directs a visitor to a site or web page.

Dofollow backlink: a backlink that allows Google to follow and rank it. The more quality dofollow links a site has the higher it’s PageRank and placement in SERPs.

No follow backlink: a backlink with an HTML attribute value indicating search engines not to rank on the hyperlink. These do not contribute to page’s rank or placement in SERPs.

PageRank: is an algorithm used by Google to measure the importance of website pages and how they will appear in SERPs. Google keeps the algorithm protected from public information, however ,it is said to take into account the domain authority, quantity, and quality of links, and structure of the site. PageRank is displayed as a number between 0-10.

Domain authority: a search engine ranking score based out of 100 and is calculated by Moz, an SEO tool provider, based on the domain age, popularity, backlinks, and size.

Duplicate content: is when the code or content is too similar (or identical) on more than one page of the same site. Search engines may ignore or penalize duplicate content.

404 error: the HTTP response code to signal that a URL was deleted or moved and now unavailable. The error code can also appear if the link is broken. 404 errors are bad for SEO as they interrupt the visitor’s experience and can affect the PageRank score.

Reach: number of unique users exposed to an ad.

Impression: when someone views a web page or ad.

Click through rate: the percentage of visitors clicking on a link divided by the number of people who saw the link or ad.

Conversion: the desired action that is often measured, taken by a website visitor, such as downloading a file.

PPC (pay-per-click): a form of internet advertising in which the company only pays when a visitor clicks on their ad. Google Ads and Bing are examples of platforms with this type of advertising.

Now that you have a better grasp of these terms, you should start by troubleshooting your site to better understand potential strengths and weaknesses before launching your next SEO and SEM strategy.

An SEO audit of your site will help you prioritize what changes you should make to rank better in organic search results and a media audit from an expert, or marketing agency, can help to ensure your paid search campaigns are well optimized. Having a more thorough understanding of the terminology will help you formulate what needs to be done so you can incorporate successful SEO and SEM strategies into your digital marketing plan.

(Updated July 2018 to reflect Google’s change of Google AdWords to Google Ads.)