Are you starting to educate yourself about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or Search Engine Optimisation, as it’s spelt in different regions, and you’re not sure about what all the jargon and acronyms mean?
Here is a sure-fire guide to the most commonly used search engine and SEO terms and their meanings. SEO is a vast and complicated field but the best place to start your understanding is by first learning what the top industry terms mean and how they are relevant to you and your website.
301 status code
A 301 status code or a 301 redirect is referring to a URL redirection and has been permanently moved. This often happens when a new domain name has been acquired for a site or if two web pages are now merged as one. A 301 status code is seen as the most search engine-friendly redirection available in today’s SEO world.
302 status code
A 302 status code is another way of URL redirection but unlike a 301 redirect, a 302 is only a temporary redirect and is often seen as spammy. There is little reason to use a 302 redirect and you must be aware that many search engines automatically see a 302 redirect as spam.
404 status code
A 404 status code is a standard HTTP response code indicating that a page cannot be found or it’s a ‘dead link’. There can be several reasons for this code to appear. The most common is that the page has been moved, the user typed in the wrong URL or it is simply a dead link. It is also quite common to create a custom 404 error page on each website that allows the user to navigate to the correct page either by listing a sitemap or giving the option to search within the domain for the correct page.
A search engine algorithm is a set of rules or formulas created by each individual search engine to determine the relevance and value of each web page. The algorithms are in constant update to ensure that the most relevant web pages are being displayed for each search query. While the exact formula for each search engines algorithm is safely guarded, there are a few factors that websites can consistently expect the algorithms to test; accuracy, relevance, importance and popularity.
An image alt tag or HTML alternative text tag is the text used to describe an image within a website. These tags are used for both the visually impaired as well as serve as a way for search engines to “read” your image. The proper use of this tag is important and should use relevant keywords to accurately describe each image on your website.
An anchor text refers to the clickable (hyperlinked) portion of text within a webpage. The words used as the anchor text are generally relevant keyword phrases to whatever page they are being linked to. Anchor text has also become a valid technique for inbound marketing in an effort to raise the relevance of a webpage for a certain keyword phrase. Anchor texts are also used internally within a website to help a user navigate from one page to the next with ease.
Auto-generated pages are created using a script or computer program to generate thousands of irrelevant and keyword-stuffed pages that have no value to the human reader. These auto-generated pages are often used as a black hat SEO tactic to quickly increase a client’s web traffic by using the auto-generated page as a doorway which is then redirected to the actual website. Using a tactic such as this can result in heavy penalties from search engines and can often leave you blacklisted.
Backlinks, or inbound links, are incoming links from other websites that have mentioned your company or used your company as a source of authority. Building a strong link profile consists of obtaining inbound links from credible and relevant sources that will boost your quality score and/or PageRank. Backlinking is often referred to as the ‘backbone of SEO’ as each backlink serves as a ‘vote’ for your site and, in turn, works to increase your site’s visibility in the SERPs.
Bad link neighbourhood
This is a group of non-related sites all linked together in an attempt to weaken a website’s link profile or build PageRank. The links often include pharmacies, porn sites, casinos, and so on. These are often created with link farms or low-quality directories and can easily and quickly get your site penalized or blacklisted.
Bing is the self-advertized ‘decision engine’ powered by Microsoft and serves as Google’s closest competitor in the Search Engine world. Launching in June 2009, Bing has continued to promise to deliver the most relevant search results to its users. While it’s still lagging in many parts of the world, it has increasingly gained in popularity in the U.S. with its ‘Bing It On Challenge.’ Also in 2009, Bing struck a 10-year deal with Yahoo! to power all of its search engines and search partners which is why you often see very similar results from the two search engines.
Black hat SEO
Black hat SEO is the use of unethical web tactics to improve a website’s presence in search engines. While many of these tactics are simply ‘old school’ SEO practices, they have long since been banned for ethical reasons as it’s seen as ‘cheating.’ While many black hat tactics may give you an initial boost in rankings, penalties will very soon follow and could even cause your domain to become blacklisted by search engines. Black hat tactics can be done both on-site and off and you should make sure that you understand the ins and outs of any SEO program being implemented for your website.
A company blog is an important part of an SEO strategy. As well as being able to add fresh, updated copy to a website, you can create blog articles that target relevant keywords for your website. A blog also allows a company to have an interactive forum with their consumers, something that can’t be duplicated on a static web page. Blogs have also become increasingly popular as social networks serve as an easy avenue for blog articles to be shared and discussed.
A bounce rate is the percentage at which people exit a website after only viewing one page. This, in terms, means that the landing page through which a person entered the site was not what the person was searching for and therefore ‘bounced’ off the page. This metric is used to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors. While there are several indications that could result in an increased bounce rate, it is generally important to have as low of a bounce rate as possible.
In SEO terms, this refers to the way search engines “memorize” or “take a picture” of web pages, allowing you to quickly navigate to the cached version of a page. If a webpage is in your cache then the next time you go to open the page, you are actually opening it from your computer’s last memory of you visiting that page. This help saves time and can save you time when opening a page. Having said that, it is also important to frequently empty your cache so as to not overwhelm your computer.
Call to action
A call-to-action is the copy or text on a web page or advertisement that encourages the user to complete an action. Anything from asking a user to sign up for your newsletter to asking them to give you a call is considered a call-to-action. This is, arguably, the most critical point of advertising because it is the point that will determine if a user leaves your page or converts into a customer. Each action is determined by the individual website and can come in many different forms depending on the overall goals of the webmaster.
Citations or directory listings are defined as “mentions” of your business name and address on other web pages. The goal of citations is to let the search engines know that your site is out there and to increase the number of inbound links pointing back to your site. While the importance of citations/directory listings has decreased over time, they are still an important part of your overall SEO process and can serve as valuable links and ‘votes’ for your website.
Cloaking is a technique used in search engine optimization where the content put forward to the search engine is actually a different version shown to the web user. It is considered a deceptive practice (black hat SEO) and could result in the site being banned or penalized.
The term CMS stands for Content Management System. It is basically web-based computer software that allows the publishing of content online. The content can be edited and modified by the administrator. CMSs have been designed to make it easier for non-technical users to make changes to their web-based content.
Web content is the visual part of the user experience when looking at a website. It can include text, images, sounds, video and more. Web content is still one of the most important SEO tools with text content really valuable in search engine terms.
Conversions in SEO look at the keywords which are converting via your website, whether this is by getting in touch, making a purchase, or subscribing. Assigning monetary values or goal completions in Google Analytics will assist in determining the conversions.
When a search engine spider visits your site they are said to “crawl” your site. This is the process of collecting data and returning it to the Search Engine. The more frequently you update your site, the more spiders are encouraged to visit and index new pages.
A standard link which hasn’t been nofollowed. This type of link will pass PageRank, link equity or link juice to another website or page on a website.
A doorway page is a black hat SEO strategy whereby a page is created on a website that has no useful content and exists only to redirect visitors to another area of the site. This is not be confused with a targeted landing page which is a white hat SEO technique.
This is content that is duplicated on other web pages and/or other sites. If you have duplicate content on your website for a legitimate reason, you can use robot.txt to direct search engines not to index those web pages.
An inbound link to your site from another domain on the web. If another site links to your site, that is an external link.
A common feature of blogs. This allows readers to subscribe to frequently updated content by adding the feed to their reader software or email client (e.g. Outlook). Feeds are typically created in a format called RSS.
Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash) is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to Web pages. Although search engines have become better at understanding the content of Flash files, most SEO companies would be reluctant to recommend creating a website that consisted entirely of one Flash file. Flash is now considered old technology and browsers are ceasing to support it.
Footer navigation is displayed at the bottom of the page on every web page. Typically, it appears as a block and is in a different colour to differentiate it from the rest of the site.
Currently, the web’s largest and most influential search engine that accounts for the great majority of searches performed. Google helps the user find websites based on keyword searches and is well known for returning relevant results to the user.
This is one of Google’s flagship products and offers pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and site-targeted advertising for both text and banner ads. It is located on the right-hand side of the page in Google searches.
A popular analytics tool created by Google to monitor your website statistics. You can measure how visitors are using your site, how they came to be there, sales, conversions and a lot more. Customized reports are also available so you can view data that suits your requirements.
This is a social media website which integrates with your existing Gmail account. However, Google Buzz has since then been retired and no longer exists.
Google Keyword Planner
A popular tool used to find keywords. Find out about other popular keyword research tools.
Google My Business
Formerly known as Google Places, Google My Business listings are different to organic or pay-per-click listings in a Google Search. These listings typically show in Google searches in the form of a Map Pack, when the user types a service-oriented or local query, or a business followed by the city for their search, such as ‘hairdressers Philadelphia.
In some search results, Google lists multiple deep links under an organic result rather than one single link.
A file placed on your Web server and submitted to Google indicating which pages on your site need to be indexed. There are various types of sitemaps including XML sitemaps for the use of crawlers and HTML sitemaps for the use of people visiting the site. See XML sitemap.
Google Social Search
When you are logged into your Gmail account, it combines search engines results with your social media networks such as Twitter, Digg and blogs.
Google’s search engine program which visits your site and returns data to Google. Also known as bots, internet bots, web robots and web crawlers.
Headings (heading tags)
In the context of SEO, heading tags can be used to seamlessly insert keywords. Heading tags are constructed in HTML using an H1 to H6 tag. Styling can be modified using CSS. Headings are also important for the readability of a web page and for breaking up text.
Stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and is one of the most popular programming languages to develop websites.
Stands for image Search Engine Optimization and is important for optimising your images. Search engines cannot read images, they can only read text.
An external link from another site to your site. The amount of quality inbound links to your site is one of the most important criteria used by Search Engines to rank Web pages.
A search engine’s database in which it stores textual content from every web page that its spiders visit.
Links from a page on your site to another internal page on your site. Internal link building is important in building a natural link profile. Search Engines also use internal text links to crawl pages within a website.
International SEO, otherwise known as global SEO or multilingual SEO, is an important component of an effective global internet marketing campaign. Find out more about international SEO.
This is the black hat SEO technique of adding keyword-stuffed text in the same colour as the background onto a webpage, so it is invisible to human readers but not to search engines, in an aim to improve rankings. This is not recommended as part of an effective or quality SEO strategy and can lead to penalisation.
Keyword density is an SEO term and refers to the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page.
Keyword research is an SEO practice used to find and research actual search terms people enter into search engines to locate services or items. There are keyword tools to assist you to find the right keywords and monitor your ongoing keyword strategy. Find out more about keyword research tools.
Creating keyword-rich copy can help to improve rankings, however, the aim of any good SEO copywriter is to achieve a balance of using keywords in a natural, seamless way within the text.
Keyword stuffing is when keywords are inserted too frequently, unnaturally and out of context on the web page for the purpose of artificially boosting the page’s ranking in search engines. This can lead to penalties if a website is seen to be manipulating the search engines.
Keywords are sometimes called search engine keywords. These are the words or phrases (long tail keywords) that web surfers type into a search engine.
Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPIs, help an organization define and reach its goals. KPIs are benchmarks set by a company to measure performance. They are quantitative and qualitative measures used to review an organisation’s progress against its goals.
A landing page in the context of SEO, is a page created on a website which targets a specific keyword(s). A landing page will typically include the keyword phrase in the title, description, headings, links and body content of the page. Read more about how to optimise landing pages.
Link bait is any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website. It is designed to tempt other web pages to link to that site.
Link building is the process of acquiring relevant inbound links to your website to create a natural link profile. This is an essential part of your SEO strategy.
Link equity is the number of inbound links going to any given page on your website. Link authority is the value of those links. Link equity is also known as page rank and is an important part of off-page SEO
In SEO, a link farm is any group of websites that all hyperlink to every other site in the group for the purposes of inflating link authority/equity. This is known as a blackhat SEO strategy and is generally frowned upon.
Not all links have equal value and this is where link juice is very important. It is the value a search engine places on a link to your site. Some links will have a significant effect on your rankings e.g. from a high authority, trustworthy and quality site, while other links will have no value at all.
LinkedIn Corporation is a social networking website for people in professional occupations, a business-oriented social networking site that was founded in December 2002.
In SEO terms, this is generally considered to be inbound links to your site. In basic terms, a search engine considers a link as validation of your website and factors this into its ranking algorithm.
‘Authority’ is gained by a webpage through quality incoming links. This is for instance expressed in the PageRank given by Google. Also referred to as link equity.
Long tail keywords
Using long tail keywords is the strategy of targeting less competitive niche keywords rather than the hugely competitive broad keywords. An example of a short tail keyword is ‘gyms Phildelphia’ while a long tail keyword is ‘female only gyms Bondi’. Long tail keywords usually have a lower search volume but a higher conversion rate. Read more about how to optimize pages for long tail keywords.
The meta description provides a summary of the page content. Search engines often use the meta description to display in their search results just below the title tag.
Meta keywords are a list of keywords relevant to the page which search engines read and use in various ways. Google has openly said they do not use the ‘keywords meta tag’ in their Web search ranking however people tend to still add them.
Meta tags (Metatags)
HTML code which search engines use to display search results and determine the relevance of the page to the search. Meta title and description tags should include targeted keywords and entice the searcher to click through to the page. Some meta tags are no longer considered relevant for SEO e.g. the meta keywords tag which carries little or no weight.
Mozilla Firefox is a free and open-source web browser that has steadily grown in popularity over the last few years. It is the third most used web browser with roughly 20% market share.
A link which includes the rel=”nofollow” attribute in the HTML. The nofollow attribute was devised by search engines as a way for webmasters to link to other sites but without endorsing that site. In other words it removes the value of the link. A common application is applying to blog comments to combat comment spam.
Organic or “natural” refers to search results that exclude paid, local, image, news, video or other blended search results. In other words, it is the pure search results for your website based on the search engine’s algorithm.
As defined by Google, PageRank reflects their view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that they believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results. However, Google no longer uses this metric.
A drop in your search engine rankings or total removal from their index when you have used techniques which do not comply with their guidelines e.g. by trying to manipulate the search results or artificially boost your rankings.
PPC (Pay per click)
Pay Per Click is the process of placing a paid advertisement (text or image) in search result pages. The ranking and placement of the ad will depend on how much you bid per click and various other factors that evaluate the quality of your ad. Also known as Paid Search. Google’s PPC system is known as Google Ads. PPC can work in conjunction with SEO campaigns although organic search results can often have a better conversion rate than PPC.
The position a web page occupies on a Search Engine Result Page (SERP) after performing a search for specific keywords, as determined by the search engine algorithm.
The practice of linking to another website in exchange for them linking to you. Although in some cases could be considered appropriate e.g. exchanging unique and useful content containing a link with a relevant site, reciprocal linking is generally considered to be outmoded and ineffective SEO.
A robots.txt is a text file that is used to instruct search engines on which web pages of a website you want to be indexed or ignored. The file must be placed in a website’s root directory.
ROI (return on investment)
The benefit gained in return for the cost of investing a budget into advertising or a project is expressed as a percentage or ratio. To calculate ROI, use the following formula: “Total Revenues (generated from campaign or project) minus cost of investment divided by cost of investment.”
This stands for Rich Site Summary or Rich Site Syndication. RSS feeds can be read using software called an RSS reader or feed reader which can be web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-device-based.
Search Engine banning
This is when your website has been removed from a search engine index. Do a site search in Google by typing in ‘site:yoursite.com’ and see if Google returns any results.
Search Engine Optimization (also spelt optimization)
In basic terms, the process of optimising a page through its on-page content, structure and link profile to rank highly for specific search queries. In broader terms, SEO can increase revenues & profits for businesses marketing their products or services online.
A search engine is a web portal to find information on the internet by using keyword searches. Major search engines include Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Stands for Search Engine Marketing. This is a form of Internet marketing which includes all aspects of building traffic through search, including natural (organic) Search Engine Optimization and PPC (pay-per-click) search engine advertising.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) focuses on natural (organic, unpaid) search engine rankings. SEO is the process of improving a website’s ranking and visibility in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
An SEO Audit is a health check for your website. It looks at the technical infrastructure of your website, the on-page elements and off-page essentials to optimise Search Engine visibility, usability and conversion.
An SEO consultant is a business analyst with specific knowledge, experience and expertise in all aspects of Search Engine Optimisation. A consultant will work with you to help your website increase its online visibility and achieve revenue goals.
SEO copywriting is copy written for a webpage that has a balance between keyword richness and copy that reads naturally. Ultimately SEO copywriting is designed to be seen as valuable and worth crawling to search engines, but also be compelling and interesting for human readers.
Toolbars that can be downloaded and integrated seamlessly with your Web browser to give you essential SEO resources that are right at your fingertips to optimise your website and analyse your own and your competitor’s websites. Many are available free to download and can give you instant snapshots of a website’s metrics, links and more.
This stands for Search Engine Result Page. This is the list of websites and their descriptions listed by a search engine in response to a keyword/phrase query.
A sub-category to Social Media that allows you to share, organise and manage your bookmarks, or favourite websites Share them with other users that use the same social bookmarking tool, such as Delicious, Stumbleupon and Digg. Many of these sites allow you to vote for your favourite and have a ranking system of their own as well.
This is sometimes described as Web 2.0 and used to describe websites that are largely built around user-generated content and blogs that encourage engagement and allow interaction. Popular sites include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blog sites as well.
A sub-category of social media encompassing ‘networking’ activities and includes social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The actions/tasks taken by users of these sites are the networking activities defined by social networking.
Sometimes called search engine spiders, bots, robots and crawlers. These are programs developed and programmed to scour the web automatically for various reasons most notably they are used to index web pages, for spam detection, and the like. They are also known as web robots, web crawlers, bots, and internet bots.
Technorati is one of the biggest blog search engines on the internet. It features top news of the day, top blogs ranked by its own internal algorithms and more. Technorati also features guest bloggers from time to time as well.
This is also known as the meta title. It is shown at the top of a browser window and is considered to be one of the most important signals for search engine rankings, and thus highly important to SEOs. Best practice recommend the Title Tag contain no more than 65 characters and begin with the most appropriate keyword phrase for the page. Many SEO’s also add the branded term of the website a the end of the tag as well.
This refers to the number of visitors to your website. A program like Google Analytics can help you monitor traffic on your website. Traffic can come from a wide range of sources, Google and Bing can deliver organic traffic from search engines, paid traffic through ads and referral traffic through maps or social platforms. Referrals can also come from other sites as well. The more traffic you get, usually the better the site is performing but where that traffic comes from is important to know as well.
Twitter is a popular social media networking site founded in 2006 that lets you write and read messages of up to 140 characters in length. Most messages include shortened links as well as hashtags and in recent months, the platform has allowed images and videos as well.
This stands for Uniform Resource Locator. This is the web address of a document/webpage and an important on-page element for Search Engine Optimization.
This stands for Video Search Engine Optimization and is the process of optimising videos to drive traffic to your website. Websites like YouTube, Vimeo and Daily Motion are popular video hosting websites that also allow you to embed videos on your own webpages as well.
This refers to social media websites which encourage user-generated content and social interaction online. Popular sites include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and blogs.
This is a process of boosting your search engine ranking by using methods approved by search engines. In other words, not trying to force or trick a search engine into ranking a webpage.
WordPress is an excellent open-source web publishing system or content management system (CMS). The system was first developed as a blogging platform and soon turned into a feature-rich (with thousands of plugins available) content management system that is used by many web developers and blog owners around the world.
An XML sitemap contains a list of pages you want the Search Engines to find. This is created in XML format and submitted to the search engines via webmaster tools (such as Google and Bing) and also linked to from the robots.txt file. Both these files are highly important for search engines to know what to do on a website and where to find the web pages you want them to find.
One of the oldest and most established search engines in the world. Yahoo! has had a lot of difficulty keeping up with the search engine race and in recent years ‘sold/partnered’ its search engine results pages and engine to Bing. Nowadays Yahoo! is a very popular news and media ‘network’ still used by millions of people across the world.
A video hosting website that was bought by Google. YouTube has also grown to become one of the biggest search engines in the world with millions of users uploading, watching and commenting on videos hosted by the site. YouTube allows you to also embed favoured videos onto your own web pages as well.