To meet the demands of increasingly sophisticated search engine algorithms, SEO is becoming more and more complex. In fact, it’s so complex now that a whole new vocabulary had to be invented just to talk about it… which means that most business owners are left in the dark when SEO guys start talking. So, what do all these terms mean?

This post offers a brief introduction to some of the most important buzzwords in SEO as of 2017. Give it a read, and if I missed anything feel free to let me know!

1. SERPs

What are the SERPs? ‘SERP’ is an acronym for Search Engine Result Page, so the SERPs are all the pages of listings that a search engine returns for any particular search, or keyword. When you search a term, the first thing you see is the first SERP. If you click to the next page, that’s the second SERP, and so on.

A high position in the SERPs ensures that your website will get more views from people who are searching for that keyword; a lower position means less or even no views.

The purpose SEO is to place you at the top of the SERPs so that your website will get the most views possible. The first page of the search engine results gets 91% of the traffic for that keyword, the second page gets only 4%, and the rest of the SERPs split the remaining 5% of traffic. Usually, businesses that haven’t invested in SEO wind up on page 2, 3, or worse, and as a result have almost no online presence, even if their website is entirely Google-compliant and modern.

2. On-page SEO

On-page SEO covers optimizing the content on your website to ensure that it will rank well. On-page SEO tactics include analyzing copy to ensure it contains the right keywords, making sure you use proper page structure and styling your text correctly.

Beyond visual appearances, on-page SEO also involves making sure your meta tags (pieces of content that Google sees, but not the people visiting your site) are correct. Meta tags help inform Google what your site is about, and are a critical part of helping people find your business online.

On-page SEO is a crucial part of any online marketing campaign, as it will enable search engines to not only find your website but also put it in front of the right people.

3. Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is a catch-all phrase that refers to the rest of the search engine optimization process. Things like making sure you have a strong backlink profile, that your business’s citations are done correctly, that you are in the appropriate directories, and that your social media profiles are set up all fall under the umbrella of off-page SEO.

Think of off-page SEO as a rocket booster for your SEO. It’s crucial to escape the gravitational pull of the bottom of the SERPs, but you only need it when you have a rocket (your on-page SEO).

4. Backlink profile

The term “backlink profile” refers to all the links your website has collected in its time online. Whether they are from your social media profiles, articles written about your business in local magazines, your listing in Yelp, or any other kind of website, each of the links you receive becomes a part of your backlink profile.

Your backlink profile is the primary data that Google uses to deduce how much authority your website has for a particular keyword, and thus where to place you in the SERPs. The more websites that link to you, the larger and more varied your backlink profile is, the more Google will be able to understand your website and know that it is trusted.

5. Social media and ‘social signals’

I’m sure you already know what social media is, but what you may not know is how large of a part it plays in optimizing your website’s SEO. Google and other search engines love to see your website being shared, liked, retweeted and pinned because it means that real people are interacting with your website, which means it’s more likely to be a relevant site, and not scammy or so outdated that nobody’s heard of it.

Remember, Google’s job is to sort out which sites are really about a particular keyword so that it can show the most relevant sites possible when somebody searches for that keyword. Having lots of social signals is a fantastic way to show that your website is both current and important.

6. Directories

Directories are lists of websites in a particular industry. Google loves to see your site listed in directories because it sees directories as trusted — it knows that real people curate them. If a human has already OK’d a site, Google is more likely to OK it as well.

Yelp,, Google Places, and Manta are all directories.

7. Citations

A citation is created when your site is listed on another website, along with the address of your place of business, your business telephone number, and sometimes other information such as your opening hours or holiday schedule.

Google relies on citations to provide information on businesses to people that search for them directly. Plus, a citation usually comes in the form of a valuable link to your website, which expands your backlink profile and gives Google a further reason to trust you.

8. Blackhat and whitehat SEO

Blackhat SEO is the process of lying to Google, trying to trick it into giving your website a ranking out of proportion to how trustworthy it is. SEO companies will only employ black hat tactics when they want to rank a website quickly and temporarily, and don’t care about its long-term credibility. Many SEO companies that promise you fast first-page or first-result ratings are using this strategy. Avoid blackhat tactics like the (black) plague. They might seem to work in the short term, but will always come back to bite you!

Whitehat SEO, what we do at Oxbow, is mostly about creating valuable content and feeding Google info relevant to your business. Things like your business address, phone number, stuff that somebody would want to know if they were looking you up. It can only increase your credibility with Google, and although it’s slower than blackhat SEO, it will never injure your standing in the SERPs.


Now that you’ve read this, you’ll be able to talk SEO with the best of them! Or at least carry on a basic conversation with an SEO geek, like ones here at Oxbow. 🙂 It should also give you an idea of what to avoid when choosing an SEO company: remember, you only want whitehat SEO.

If you have more questions, please feel free to shoot us an email or give us a call anytime. The best way to learn about SEO is to talk to an SEO expert!

Speak soon,