What Is SEO? Your 101 Guide to Search Engine Optimization

09/23/2015 12:18 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2016

When I list "SEO" as one of my offered services as a digital media consultant, most people get tripped up. SEO is a buzzword that often throw around amongst those in the marketing and new media crowd, but have you ever wondered what exactly it means? Never fear, today, I've decided to break it down for you so that you'll be able to confidently use this term correctly.

SEO stands for search engine optimization. On the most basic of levels, it refers to a process used to most ideally advance your rankings and search capabilities online. For example, if you've written a blog post, you probably want to get the highest chance of readership possible, right? Increasing the odds of someone stumbling across your post on a search engine would be using SEO. In order to do that for a blog post, you'd want to use a Google-friendly title, use tags and keywords in the CMS or backend system where you submit your posts, use images and photos in your post heading, and have the URL link for your post be short and include keywords.

It sounds a lot more simple when you break it down, right? SEO can get technical, but for most things it just takes a little bit of extra work in the backend to ensure that your content is optimized for consumption. Otherwise, why even bother creating content if no one is going to see it?

Since SEO has many different functions and there are numerous amounts of SEO services you can both offer and purchase, let's take a closer look at seven SEO-related terms and break them down.

1. Hyperlinking
A hyperlink is simply a link that you insert into text or a post of some sort, in order to give your post credibility, give your readers a resource, or cite your sources to prove validity. Hyperlinks are important to SEO because the more hyperlinks you have in a post, the better optimized it is. Also, linking the right words matters, as hyperlinking words people are more likely to search for, like searching on Google for instance, raises the likelihood that your post will show up high in the search results for that phrase when people search for it.

2. White Label Link
A white label link is a web page that was built by a secondary source and then branded by another company or website as its own. Think of it like outsourcing; it's sort of just like hiring someone else to do the backend work for you. Companies do this in order to expand their reach online and also maximize their resources; many organizations don't have the funding to do this sort of work in-house, since it involves a lot of time, expertise, and expense.

3. Affiliate Marketing
With the popularity of blogs, you've probably come across this term before. It refers to an advertising campaign that works in collaboration with an affiliate that uses said person to drive traffic to their website. For example, many beauty companies will use affiliate marketing with beauty vloggers on YouTube in order to give their products maximum exposure. That person will then leave a link in the description of their video to the product, which is what is used to connect said affiliate back to the advertiser's site and accurately measure data.

4. SERP
This is an acronym that stands for search engine result page, which is the resulting page of search results that comes up when a term is searched for. Very simple to understand, but a commonly-used acronym that is good to know.

5. Meta Description
This is something that is often found on the backend of blogs or websites and is a description of a piece of content on a web page. The reason it's important is that the description is what shows up underneath the title of a search. Ever come across those sentences that are below the search term? That's a meta description. If yours is awkward, isn't clear, or worse, isn't something you chose, your link is a lot less likely to be clicked.

6. 301 & 404
These are two numerical terms you'll frequently come across in SEO. 301 refers to a page redirect, which is when a web URL automatically takes the user to another website or page upon entering it or clicking it. 404 refers to an error page, which is what comes up if there is something wrong with your website or there is a problem with it's functioning.

7. Keyword
Keyword is a keyword in SEO, as almost everything revolves around them. For SEO purposes, a keyword is defined as "an abstraction that we extrapolate from multiple search queries." So, it's a word people are searching for on search engines. If you're marketing a cleaning product, your keywords are going to be identified by when you want your product to come up in people's searches.

See, isn't SEO a little easier than it first seems? This is just the tip of the iceberg though, so if you want to better understand SEO functioning and purpose, do some searching of your own on Google (get it?)!