What does SEO Really Mean?

SEO Definitions from the Google Dictionary

Assuming you’re not Amish, you’ve probably noticed that the world has gone and gotten itself into one big hurry these days (yes, that’s an homage to Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption, and yes, I have nothing but respect for the Amish – though I doubt any will read this). Why spend precious time saying “by the way, I’m rolling on the floor laughing and I can’t get up” when you can say BTWIROTFLAICGU? So it goes (yes, that’s Kurt Vonnegut) – the long, slow accretion of civilized language almost instantly devolves into acronym soup. Or evolves, depending on your taste. Problem is, acronyms don’t always go before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) before use, so they can stand for whatever anyone says they stand for. Take SEO, for example – it means these things, too:

  1. Software Executive Official – This is the kind of title they make up and give you in lieu of an actual pay raise.
  2. Survivability Enhancement Options – Helmets? Seatbelts? Earplugs for Neil Diamond concerts? (Really, couldn’t they find anyone better this season for an Idol mentor? I would have much preferred Neil Young.)
  3. Synthetic Engine Oil – From what I hear, this is actually a good thing, especially when Wired just predicted $7 per gallon gas coming up.
  4. Symbol-Error Outage – Is this when a power plant operator confuses “O” and “I”?
  5. Site Enhancing Oils – Why bother with a web designer or SEO when you can just pick up a bottle of Formby’s Site Enhancing Oil (with bonus foam applicator) at Home Depot?

Five alternate meanings for SEO and here are more courtesy of The Free Dictionary:

  • Science and Education Outreach
  • Seasoned Equity Offering
  • Security Engineering Officer
  • Senior Executive Officer
  • Shutdown Electrical Operator (US Navy submarine watchstation)
  • Sociedad Española de Ornitología (Spanish bird society)
  • Society of Education Officers (UK)
  • Software Engineering Organization
  • Source Election Official
  • SouthEastern Ohio
  • Special Equipment Operator
  • Special Equipment Option
  • Special Exemption Order (UK)
  • Sponsors for Educational Opportunity
  • State Engineers Office
  • Synchronous Equatorial Orbiter
  • Systems Engineering Office/Officer
  • Systems Evaluation Office
  • Server Extension Objects
  • Subscriber End Office

*Someday Soon, Everything Will Be Acronyms

Emory Rowland

I'm editor and keeper of the flame at Clickfire, fanatical social media blogger and builder of Internet things from way back. My love for social media and success with organic search led me to start my own consulting company. Apart from the Internet, I could be considered pretty worthless. More...


  1. David Temple

    Nice list Emory, should add to the confusion. Here’s one you left off the list, Sewage Enforcement Officer. And by the way, you can become SEO certified in that field.

  2. Emory Rowland

    That’s a real pearl, David. Sewage Enforcement Officer sounds kind of like SPAM reporting.

  3. Luis Gross

    I never knew there were so many, the only ones I considered all started with “search engine” and ended with, optimize or optimization. I use the “SEO” acronym in my posts tags, and as keywords in my meta tags, along with the complete “search engine optimization.”

    I guess I should stop this?

    Do you think this could lead to displaying non-relevant ads? I mean, I do include the written out version just in case. The reason I use the acronym is to catch the traffic from people who don’t bother to spell the entire word out.

    Any thoughts?

  4. Emory Rowland

    I think you’re fine in this case, Luis. Nowadays the Google algorithm is sophisticated enough to be able to discern the type of SEO that you’re referring to, search engine optimization, the more popular SEO, at least for now :)

  5. Luis Gross

    Ah music to my ears! Got a little concerned there for a second, thanks Emory great post!

  6. Scott

    great list. I think my resume just expanded. Instead of spelling out Search Engine Optimization I think I’ll just list SEO and watch my job prospects go wild.

  7. Inet Global Solutions

    Great List!!

    Till date i have told to many co-workers about my job which is of seo, so now i think in which category they must have assumed. LOL!!

    Thanks for the share.

  8. Arul

    Great effort. Keep doing on Emory.

  9. Webbastard

    So I like the webmaster post, sorry to cross over threads, but I wanted to say that. I also use the word SEO for (super easy oddly) somehow everyones ontous and maybe (search each other) for all the missing links that is :)

  10. Ashley

    Great post. As a SEO people, i just know SEO means Search Engine Optimization. After seeing the list i just wondered they are so many abbreviation for SEO.

    Just i look Wikipedia now,there are some more terms for SEO, i like to share that,

    Site enhancement oil, a liquid substance used by bodybuilders to increase the apparent size of some muscles

    Socio-Economic Objective, an Australian Standard Research Classification from the Australian Bureau of Statistics

    Spanish Ornithological Society (from the acronym for the Spanish Sociedad Española de Ornitología)

    Thanks for sharing..

    • Emory Rowland

      Even more SEO meanings, wow. Nice finds Ashley!

  11. Hello..
    Can I use image name and alt attribute both different like image name is web-templates.jpg and alt is “web designing india”
    is this right way to optimize
    can any one help pls ?

    • Emory Rowland

      Yes Ravi, that shouldn’t be a problem. However, you’ll want to be as descriptive as you can with the alt attribute. If your image is of a web template then you should describe that image as such. Make sure that your alt attribute accurately describes the what the users see.

Leave a comment