Google Glossary for Local Business Owners

A list of potential terms you may come across when working to improve your Google visibility.


For local businesses, it is crucial to get your website and listings to show up on Google for the searches being performed by your potential customers. The collective set of efforts to achieve this is called local SEO. There are plenty of how-to’s on SEO, but they can be confusing if you aren’t clear on the terminology. Below you will find a list of terms related to local SEO, with definitions and diagrams, so that you can get the most out of the SEO help available to business owners today.


SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. The goal of SEO is to get your website and other online assets to rank as high as possible in search results. You do this by optimizing these properties for search engines, hence the term search engine optimization. There are a number of optimizations that can be for search engines, so SEO isn’t just a one-and-done action; it’s a combination of one-time and ongoing efforts that need to be maintained over time.

Local SEO

Local SEO is the set of SEO practices that focuses on increasing your visibility for location-based searches and results (for example, “plumber Denver” or “hair salons near me”). Local search results are built-in, since Google can detect your location using an IP address. This means that Google will display local results whenever applicable, regardless of whether the searcher used a geographic modifier in their search.

Local results

When a person performs a Google search, the results page has many different sections. The local results refers to the section that contains a map and results located within that radius on the map. Google can read your IP address so whenever possible, it will show you results closest to you first.

SEO glossary local results



This is the word or phrase that people type into the search box whenever they “Google” something. Those words/phrases are known as keywords.


Keywords make up queries, the words/phrases that users type into a Google search box when they want to know something. With respect to SEO, businesses will target their website pages for specific keywords. These are the words for which they want to rank—ideally, for which they want to show up on the first page of Google.

Google My Business

This is Google’s online business directory. There is no Google My Business site where customers go to find businesses, such as with Yelp, Angie’s List, and other free business directories. Rather, Google business profiles show up in regular Google searches via Maps results, and Local results, and Knowledge Panel results.


Google My Business Profile

This is the free listing you create for the Google My Business database. In this listing, some of the information is directly provided by you, such as name, address, phone, hours, website, category, photos, and description. Some of the information is consumer-generated such as customer reviews, ratings, popular times, FAQs, and photos. Some of the information overlaps in these areas. For example, both you and your customers can add photos to your listing; and you can (and should) ask and answer questions in your Q&A section.

As mentioned above, your Google My Business profile can show up in three different places in search: Google Maps, the local section of regular Google Search, and the Knowledge Panel of Google Search.

google glossary GMB profile

Complete Google My Business profiles are designed to provide potential customers with all of the information they need in order to make a decision about your business—not just contact information, but photos, reviews, the atmosphere, busy times, and more.

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Knowledge Panel

This is the right side information panel that appears when you type a business’s name and its location into Google. It is your Google My Business profile, and displays all the information a potential customer needs to know about your business, including but not limited to:
Name, address, hours, website, phone number, category, offerings, reviews, photos, FAQs, busy times, and description.

seo glossary Knowledge panel

The Knowledge Panel also may include a call to action depending on the business type, such as to book an appointment, make a reservation, view menus, etc.

Google Q&A

This is the section of your Google My Business profile where customers ask—and you answer—questions about your business. You can also seed this section by asking and answering questions yourself. You’re basically creating an FAQ section for your profile that supplies potential customers with the information they need to make a decision about your business.

Featured snippet

The featured snippet (also known as “position zero”) is the answer box that often appears at the top search results, directly below the search box and before any ads or local results are displayed. It is a snippet from the web page that Google has determined best answers the question. The idea is to provide answers for the searcher before they even have to click on any one result.

google glossary featured snippet

Position zero

Position zero is the same as featured snippet. See above!

Answer box

This is the same as position zero and featured snippet!

People also ask

This is a section in Google search results similar to “related questions”. The difference is, each related question is displayed in accordion form, such that a click on the question reveals a snippeted answer from a website, similar to the feature snippet or position zero. Again, this enables searchers to find the information they’re seeking without even leaving results pages.


This is the set of rules and commands that tells Google what to look for on the web, how to categorize the content it finds, and in what order to rank its search results. SEO is all about aligning your online assets with Google’s algorithm. We won’t ever know exactly what that is (it’s proprietary and always evolving), but we do know the pillars it’s built on (speed, trust, and quality) and we do know some explicit ranking factors. And this is plenty enough to know how to optimize your website and listings accordingly.

Keyword research

Keyword research is the use of tools to find out the best keywords that your business’s website should target. The goal is to find out which terms your potential customers are using when they are searching for products, services, or information related to your business, so they can find you without knowing your business name.

Two free and simple keyword tools we’d recommend are AnswerThePublic, Google Search Suggest, and even the “People Also Ask” feature of regular Google search.

Search volume

More advanced keyword research tools include this metric, which refers to the number of times a term is searched per month. When deciding on which keywords to target, you’ll want to go for terms that get large search volume but also maintain relevance to your business. The idea is to target terms that are popular to the people in need of your products or services.

Broad keyword

Broad keywords are very general terms, like “yoga”. These search terms typically have extremely high search volumes but that’s because so many different groups are searching this term. Businesses shouldn’t target broad search terms but more specific ones like “prenatal yoga Denver” or “all levels yoga studio Chicago”.

Long-tail keywords

This is the name for the more specific keywords mentioned above. Long-tail keywords can get pretty long, such as “best type of massage for pinched nerve” or “top rated physical therapists in Seattle”.


This is another metric commonly found in keyword research tool data. It measures how hard it will be to rank for a particular term on Google. For broad keywords with high volume (such as “dry cleaners”), the difficulty of ranking is going to be high (versus a lower volume keyword such as “dry cleaner with drive through near me”). Ideally, you want to target keywords that have high enough search volume (such as over 100 per month) but low enough difficulty (less than 75, for example). This way you can ensure that you’re casting a wide but realistic net.


This term refers to how high up in search results Google places your website or listing for a particular query. Your ranking is determined by a number of factors, including the quality and relevancy of your page with respect to the keyword being searched, as well as the speed of your site and accuracy of information.

Organic results

In Google search results pages, organic results is the list of website pages that appears below the local results section; these pages are not sponsored or paid, they are “organically” deemed by Google—apart from advertising, bidding, etc.—as the best results for the given query.

Paid results

These are the web pages that appear at the top of Google search results, with the word “ad” next to them. While businesses do pay to have these pages appear first, Google has an algorithm for paid results as well, so quality, relevancy, and trustworthiness are still factored in.

google glossary serp

On-page SEO

The changes you make to a website page itself to optimize it for search engines. Some of the elements are visible to a page viewer: like the content of the page, the images, and the headings; other elements are not visible to a page viewer, like the meta title, meta description, and image alt tags.

Off-page SEO

This term refers to the set of efforts you can implement apart from your website to help it to rank higher on Google. Off-page SEO primarily involves getting other high-quality sites to link to your website from theirs. You can get increase your chances of backlinks by publishing useful content and encouraging your audience to share it; or you could take a more purposeful approach by directly reaching out to influencers or complementary businesses within your niche.

Meta description

This is the description below your website page listing when it appears in a Google search results page. It gives searchers a snapshot of what the page is about and influences whether they click on your result. Within your content management system (WordPress, for example), you can write the meta description for each page, but sometimes Google overrides your decription with its own, based on what a user is searching.

google glossary meta descriptions

Title Tag

This is simply the title of your web page. Visitors will see this title on the page itself. This is different from the meta title, which is the title of a page as it appears in search engine results (see below).

Meta title

This is the title of your website page as it appears in search engine results pages. The meta title will default to the title of your page, but in your content management system (CMS; WordPress, for example) you will have the option to change the meta title if for some reason you want it to be different from the page title.

For example, you might want the page title to be different from the meta title in this manner:

Meta title: How to Rank Higher on Google Maps [2019]  | ThriveHive

Page title: How to Rank Higher on Google Maps

Adding the date and brand to the meta title may help the page to stick out in search results and attract more clicks, but you may not necessarily want that long of a title in the page itself.


The URL is the complete address of a web page. It is the domain name plus the “slug”. For example, if you have a page , your domain is “” and your slug is “/products-and-services/”

Each page on your website has a unique slug, and therefore a unique URL.

URLs appear below the meta title in search results. So it’s important for your URLs to be simple, straightforward, and relevant to the page.

seo glossary URL

Alt tags

Google cannot read images. When you upload a picture to your website via your CMS (content management system, like WordPress), you have the option to assign an alt tag. Alt refers to the “text alternative” of an image. The alt tag tells Google what the image is about. This helps Google to further confirm that the image is relevant to the page and therefore that the page is even more relevant to the terms it’s targeting; this also helps Google to index your images and display them for Google image search results.

google glossary alt tag

Hopefully this Google glossary has given you a better understanding of local SEO and search results so you can have a clearer picture on exactly what you’re working on and why. Let us know if you have any questions!

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