Is your head spinning from complicated search engine optimization terms? Do you get overwhelmed by acronyms like PPC, SEM, SMM, or confused by terms like anchor text, canonical URL, keyword stuffing, and duplicate content? Well this is the resource you've been looking for. In this guide we have compiled a comprehensive collection of SEO terms and practices that marketers, businesses, and clients have needed further clarification on.
If you love this SEO terminology guide and want it all for yourself, download the PDF here! If you’ve noticed that there is something we missed, kindly let us know and we will gladly add it.
To begin, let’s cover the basics of redirects. A redirection occurs if you visit a specific webpage and then are immediately redirected to an entirely new webpage with a different URL. The two main types of redirects are temporary and permanent.
301 redirects are permanent. To users, there is no obvious difference. But for search engines, a 301 redirect informs them that the page attempting to be accessed has changed permanently. These redirect should be used when you want to signify to crawlers that the content has permanently moved and must have its link juice, or ranking power, transferred to the new address.
302 redirects are temporary. This type of redirect does not transfer link juice to the new address. An appropriate time to implement a 302 redirect may be when a product on your site is temporarily unavailable, or if a page is under construction.
An affiliate site markets products or services that are sold by another website or business in exchange for fees or commissions. An example is a site that markets Amazon or eBay products on their own website. Affiliate sites often assist in increasing traffic to the site in which they are marketing products or services for.
An algorithm is a type of program used by search engines when deciding which pages to put forth as most relevant for a particular search query. For example, a recent and significant update to Google's algorithm is BERT. The update to the search engine's algorithm improves results for complicated search queries that depend on context.
Alt Tag (Alt Text)
An alt tag is an HTML attribute of the IMG tag. The IMG tag is responsible for displaying images, while the alt tag/attribute is the text that gets displayed if an image is unable to be loaded, or if the file happens to be missing. Alt tags are essential in web accessibility compliance which allows users of all abilities to access a website's content.
Here is what the standard IMG tag would look like:
<img src=”clock.jpg” alt=”picture of a clock” />
Alt tags have SEO value because it tells Google what the image is. The best way to help Google understand your images is by using alt tags. It also allows your images to be found through image searches.
A program which assists in gathering and analyzing data about website usage. Google Analytics is a rich, popular, free analytics program.
Every link consists of two main elements.
- The web address that the link is pointing to (the destination)
- The anchor text
The anchor text is the text displayed that works as the link.
Here’s a link to our SEO 101 blog post: SEO 101. The destination of this link is https://www.braveriver.com/seo-for-beginners-search-engine-optimization-101-seo-best-practices/, and the anchor text is “SEO 101.”
Anchor text is particularly important for SEO. Whenever you’re trying to get a link back to your website it’s good to have a relevant keyword as the anchor text.
Authority (Trust, Link Juice, Google Juice)
The amount of trust that a site is credited with for a particular search query. Authority/trust is derived from related incoming links from other trusted sites
An authority site is a website that has achieved multiple links from valuable and accredited websites. Having links from expert websites allows for authority websites to have a high level of trustworthiness, as well as a better PageRank and placement in the search engine results page.
Backlinks, also known as inbound links or incoming links, is a link on someone else's website linking to your website. Backlinks are one of the most important factors for SEO. Getting a lot of backlinks with relevant anchor texts from reliable sources is a quick way to improve your search engine rankings.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO refers to the type of SEO practice that is unethical and could be detrimental to the rank of your website. These practices go against search engine guidelines in an effort to rank higher in organic search results. It's important to practice SEO that does not involve manipulation, deceit, or cheating. See here for examples of black hat SEO practices.
Bot (Robot, Spider, Crawler)
A bot is a program that search engines use to scrape web pages and add to their index. This process lets search engines discover the pages on a website. Bad bots could be used by spammers with the intent of copying content, slow your site speed, and even crash your website. Preventative measures should be taken to avoid being a victim of bad bots.
A bounce rate is a measurement of the percentage of individuals who click on your website, do not engage with the page, and leave prior to visiting any other pages on your site. If the user does nothing, Google Analytics recieves a trigger and incorporates this into their bounce rate.
A breadcrum trail, also known as "breadcrumbs," refers to the scheme of navigation that allows for a user to recognize their location on a website and how they got there.
Breadcrumbs are often shown in a horizontal display above the main content to help users understand how to get back to the root location.
An HTML link element that allows webmasters to inform search engines about any duplicate content pages that they created. The tag is placed in the HEAD section of the HTML structure. Here’s what a canonical tag looks like:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/” />
This tag informs that the current page is a copy of the page located under the address set in the canonical tag (href).
The main idea is that when a search engine sees this tag it will transfer all of the rankings to the canonical page. In essence, it is very similar to the 301 redirect.
Click fraud refers to the act of repeat clicking on a PPC advertisement to generate higher revenue for the business or website. Click fraud is a “black hat” SEO technique often carried out via automation and can ultimately result in penalty from Google.
Cloaking (Page Cloaking)
Cloaking is the practice of taking a webpage and building it in a way so it displays different pieces of content to users versus search engines. With cloaking, you can technically rank for keywords by putting forth a fully optimized page for spiders, while also presenting ads and unrelated content to actual users. This is another “black hat” SEO tactic that can harm your website or get you banned from a search engine.
CMS (Content Management System)
A CMS serves as a collaborative resource used for implementing and modifying the digital content on a website. Content management systems offer a user-friendly front-end editing experience. Individuals with little to no expertise in web design are equipped with the ability to chage content, title tags, meta tags, and meta descriptions without outside assistance.
WordPress is a widely used CMS, however, Brave River has our very own content management system that has been carefully constructed to streamline the editing experience for businesses. Every Brave River website comes equipped with a custom CMS.
Content (Text, Copy)
Content is the most valuable portion of a webpage. Anything that could be considered as valuable to a user that is placed upon a webpage is content - from text, to imagery, and more. High quality content can do wonders for SEO.
Maximize your content's SEO potential by providing useful information that your audience is seeking and is of better quality than the competition. Having a blog is essential as it's a great opportunity to post fresh content with strategic long tail keywords to boost your organic rankings. Content development is the heart of your digital marketing strategy, and a service we provide often.
Advertising, branding, boilerplate, and navigation do not fall under the category of content.
A conversion occurs when a user completes a specific action on a site. It's the achievement of a quantifiable goal on a website. Conversions can include sales, sign-ups, form submissions, and ad clicks.
Percentage of users who convert. See conversion.
CPC (Cost Per Click)
In PPC (or pay-per-click) advertising, advertisers are only charged when a user clicks on the ad. CPC (or cost per click) is the rate that advertisers pay on a PPC advertisement.
CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions)
CPM is a metric used by marketers that calculates the average value or cost of a pay-per-click or PPC advertisement. The “M” refers to the Roman numeral for 1,000.
Crawler (Bot, Spider)
A crawler is a program that moves through a website by way of the link structure to gather data. Search engines “crawl” websites to discover and access web pages. A robots.txt file lets search engines know what should or should not be crawled on a website.
Websites that are easier to crawl are favored by search engines than those that are not. Crawlers also read the internal linking and external linking of a site to determine credibility and quality.
Deep linking refers to the process of using a hyperlink within your website to link to a specific piece of content or area on your website. A few examples would be linking to a certain webpage like a blog or an image on the site.
Deep links are of great value in the world of SEO. Having links within your website to specific pages and pieces of content with proper anchor text helps you improve upon the rankings of the page listed.
A site devoted to directory pages. The Yahoo directory is an example.
With the ever advancing search engine algorithms, links from a web directory listing are less effective than valuable linking from relevant and trustworthy sites.
That’s not to say that links from a web directory are useless - Google My Business could be considered an essential web directory for local businesses.
A do-follow link is one of the most valuable types of links in SEO. Do-follow links are a standard HTML link that don’t have the rel=”nofollow” attribute, allowing for search engines to crawl or index the content.
Domain Name (and Hosting)
A domain is your unique address on the internet. For example, the domain of this blog is braveriver.com. Hosting, or a web host, is where your website is kept or stored on the web. You need a web host to be a website owner. You can get a shiny new domain with hosting at Rackspace, or receive the exceptional support, security, and backup services that Brave River web hosting clients experience by hosting your website here.
A web page that is designed specifically to attract traffic from a search engine. A doorway page that redirects users, but not spiders, to another site or page is nearly a form of cloaking.
If you have two separate pages within your website that have the same or very similar content, then you have duplicate content. Google is not partial to websites that continuously repeat content across its pages, and has no problem penalizing you for it. So, duplicate content is believed to have an overall negative effect on SEO.
It may be wise for you to reevaluate your web content to make sure you don’t have an issue with duplicate content. Specifically with a WordPress website, it is very easy to use categories and tags that are all too similar. Using the term “business” for both the category and tag sections is an example of serving duplicate content across a WordPress site.
A website that is devoted to retail sales.
Gateway Page (Doorway Page)
A gateway page is a webpage that is created to redirect search engine traffic to an alternative site or page and receive a stronger tanking for a certain search query. Gateway pages work similarly to the effects of cloaking in the aspect of serving alternative content than a user originally anticipated viewing, and participating in “black hat” SEO practice.
Google Ads, a PPC contextual advertising program, is one of the most common avenues for basic website advertising.
Google Juice (Trust, Authority, PageRank)
Google juice is trust or authority gained from Google that flows through outgoing links to other pages.
Google’s spider program.
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
HTML, or hypertext markup language, is a standardized system of directives used to format or structure plain text on webpages. HTML is often referred to as code.
Impression (Page View)
In advertising, an impression refers to the instance of a user viewing a webpage.
Inbound link (Inlink, Incoming Link)
An inbound link, also known as an inlink, is a link placed upon a website that points traffic to your website or one of your webpages. This can lead to an increase in PageRank if the website who created the link is credible and of high regard.
A database of webpages and their content, used by search engines.
Adding a webpage into the index of a search engine.
The pages on a site which have been indexed.
When a webpage or website is indexed, it is added into the search engine’s database also known as an “index” and will be displayed on the search engine’s results pages.
Inlink (Incoming Link, Inbound Link)
An inbound link is a hyperlink from another credible website that points to your site or one of your webpages. Inbound links that come from trusted or popular websites can assist you in increasing your PageRank.
*See Inbound Link
A keyword is a word or phrase that is used when attempting to rank a website or webpage for a particular topic.
For example, the main keyword for this blog is SEO Glossary. We want people to find this post when they search SEO Glossary on google, so we have incorporated the keyword in appropriate spaces often while including relevant like-terms to indicate to search engines what this article is really about.
Keyword cannibalization is the act of reusing a particular keyword repeatedly and excessively throughout or across too many pages on a website. By doing this, search engine’s struggle to recognize the differences between your content and which pieces of content are most relevant to a user conducting a search based on the keywords you are overusing.
Keyword density refers to the amount and occurrence of a particular phrase of keyword within a webpage. Keyword density is said to have a high influence on SEO. If you have a high-density percentage than it communicates that the text is relevant to the keyword. However, you must give and take with this practice, as search engines do not want to see you engaging in keyword stuffing.
To calculate keyword density:
# of times the keyword appears in the text / total # of words in the text = result à result x 100 = final percentage score
Keyword research is the process of determining which keywords are appropriate for targeting. The keyword research tools we used by the SEO team at Brave River include SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, and Google Search Console.
Keyword Spam (Keyword Stuffing)
Inappropriately high keyword density.
Keyword stuffing refers to the act of literally “stuffing” your on-page content with specific keywords, solely with the intent of increasing your PageRank. Keyword stuffing is considered to be a “black hat” practice and can ultimately hurt your website. If your content does not read naturally due to the density of keywords included, then you’re more than likely engaging in keyword stuffing.
Try the Natural Understanding tool by Watson to see how well your content reads.
Avoiding keyword stuffing will not only keep you in the clear from the Google police, but will also help you serve more valuable content to viewers. Would you want to read content that is jam packed with the same term in every sentence?
The page that a user lands on when they click on a link in a SERP (search engine results page).
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
Latent Semantic Indexing, also known as LSI, refers to the process of search engines analyzing webpages based on the inclusion of similar key terms (LSI keywords) that support and are relevant to your main keyword, which can ultimately lead to a boost in rankings should said terms exist. The use of LSI keywords will allow search engines to understand whether your content is valuable and relevant, rather than over-optimized to increase rankings.
For example, the main keyword of an article might be “gardening.” So, rather than using it excessively, it would be beneficial to use LSI keywords, or closely related terms that support the keyword. Including terms like “planting,” “seeding,” “bedding,” or “transplanting” can boost rankings for “gardening.”
A link is an element placed onto a webpage that directs a user to a different website or webpage when clicked.
Linkbait is putting forth content of high value that is used to attract viewers that will hopefully link to said content.
Viral linkbait can range from content that is hilarious, to content that provides exceptional quality to the viewer, free of charge. Videos, infographics, or even blog posts are all examples of content that can serve as linkbait.
However, link bait has had a past of being used with negative intent. Be mindful of “black hat” SEO principles when deciding whether your use of content is ethical or not.
Link building is the practice of working to increase the amount of quality links, or backlinks, pointing to your website. From an SEO perspective, having high quality backlinks to your website is a substantial factor used in ranking. An example of link building would be publishing a blog post and sharing the link to your site on an article sharing platform such as Medium.
A link farm is a group or network of websites/pages that interlink to each other with the intent of achieving higher PageRank. This is another “black hat” SEO practice that you should not engage in, as you may be penalized for doing so.
For example, you would be creating a link farm if you were to create multiple websites and place them upon different services. With those sites, you’d include links on each one to every page of every other site and all of their pages.
Link sculpting refers to the process of implementing “nofollow” attributes to certain links on your site so that you can signal to search engines that links without the attribute on your site are open to receiving rank. Using a “nofollow” attribute indicates that certain links are less important from an SEO perspective than others. You can “sculpt” the PageRanks for a specific set of pages across your website by engaging in this practice.
You can increase the visibility of some pages by applying follow links and decrease the visibility of others by using nofollow links. This whole technique requires a lot of practice and knowledge to do it properly. Many people believe that it’s no longer effective due to Google’s new approach for handling nofollow links.
Link text is also known as anchor text and is used by search engines to specify and understand the relevance of the content that is being linked. Link text is the text that users will see as a clickable link.
“Long Tail” refers to a type of keyword that consists of multiple terms, rather than just one or two. Long tail keywords are specific and allow for marketers to connect to their target audience more directly than with broad keywords or terms. A higher percentage of searches are made using long tail keywords.
For example, the term “IT specialists” is not a long tail keyword, but the term “IT specialists in Warwick, Rhode Island” is.
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing)
Latent semantic indexing, or LSI, refers to the indexing of commonly associated word groups (“long tail” keywords) within a page or document.
Every search conducted generally contains three or more terms, making it almost impossible for a site or page to rank well for a one-word search, but more realistic to rank for a multi-term search.
For example, it would be significantly more difficult to rank for the term “web designer” rather than for “best web designer in Warwick, Rhode Island.”
A meta-description is a brief description of a webpage used mostly by search engines but also by viewers to understand the content of a site prior to clicking.
Whenever someone searches for a specific keyphrase, Google decides which websites should be displayed, and in what order. For each website, Google displays a title and a short description (this is the meta description). Google has two ways of organizing this:
- If the meta description of a website contains the keyphrase used by the user, then Google displays the meta description.
- If the meta description doesn’t contain the keyphrase then Google displays a fragment of the website’s content that does contain it.
Meta keywords are a list of keywords and keyphrases for each blog/page/post, mainly used by search engines.
In this day and age, major search engines such as Google have opted to rid meta keywords as a ranking element for websites. However, incorporating relevant keywords certainly won’t harm your website.
For example, for the meta keywords I would include for this blog post would be “SEO Glossary” and “SEO Terms.”
If you’re using WordPress, the meta keywords for each page or post can be set using the “All in One SEO Pack” plugin.
A meta tag consists of meta keywords and a meta description. Meta tags are used to describe the content of a page and are included in the “head” element of your HTML structure.
The information contained in a meta-tag is meant mainly to help search engines determine what a webpage is about. Therefore, it might be worth your time to write them manually for each page or post within your blog.
A mirror site is a webpage that is identical but has a different web address. Mirror sites are used to distribute traffic loads across different web servers. Using mirror sites to rank for different keywords for duplicate content is a "black hat" SEO practice that can result in penalties.
Natural links are links to your page that were organically acquired, and not gained through the act of link building.
Here is an example scenario:
You’ve written an amazing blog post, and now it has gone viral on social media. Individuals share your blog post because they find it so valuable—these are natural links.
One of the most well-known terms in SEO is “nofollow.” Nofollow and follow attributes are critically important from an SEO perspective, as they both provide instruction for search engines to recognize if a particular link should be eligible to receive ranks.
All links are acknowledged as follow links, by default. Unless a nofollow attribute is present, search engines will register any link they encounter as eligible for rank. With a nofollow attribute, you inform search engines to disregard a certain link and where it leads to so that it does not receive any link juice.
To create a nofollow link, include this additional attribute to an HTML link:
Below is an example of a nofollow link:
<a href=”http://wikipedia.org/” rel=”nofollow”>Wikipedia</a>
Pages you may want include nofollow attributes for include login/account pages, thank you pages, admin pages, and internal search results pages.
The noindex command is a directive for search engines bots to not include a particular webpage in their search engine results page. Unless otherwise noted, all webpages are set to index by default. This command can be placed in the head section in the HTML of a web page, or in an individual link code.
Pages you may want to include noindex commands for could include affiliate sites where you wouldn't want to pass link juice to.
Off-page SEO refers to anything that is done outside of your website to improve upon its ranking. Link building is among the most common practices associated with off-page SEO.
On-page SEO refers to anything that is done on a webpage to help improve its rankings. Improving your site through on-page SEO can include a number of practices, such as enhancing meta-descriptions and title-tags, bettering page load speeds, creating a clear linking structure for pages across your site, or even managing keyword density.
An organic search is when someone inputs a keyword or phrase into a search engine (like Google or Bing) and then finds your website naturally based on the results in the SERP.
Organic Search Results (Natural Search Results)
Organic search results are any of the options displayed after running a search that appears on the left-hand column that don’t have an “ad” icon. It’s better for SEO to have your webpage rank organically rather than paid.
PageRank is an algorithm that was first created by Larry Page, a founder of Google. PageRank was created to more or less calculate the approximate importance of a website, however no one besides Google is entirely certain of how this process works as it has been a highly guarded algorithm since inception.
One of the most commonly held opinions is that the number of highly rated backlinks a site has can lead to a higher PageRank overall.
Pages with the highest PageRank are generally those with the highest esteem or popularity across the internet. The PageRank for Google is 10, while Facebook ranks in at 9. Recognizable and well-known sites are more likely to have a higher PageRank than others.
PPA (Pay per Action)
With PPA, advertisers only pay when a specific action occurs. For example, when an individual fills out a contact form or makes a purchase. PPA is also known as CPA (Cost per Action).
PPC (Pay per Click)
With PPC, advertisers pay ad agencies every time someone clicks on an ad. Examples of PPC ads include display and banner ads.
PPC is a contextual advertising technique where advertisers pay ad agencies, such as Google, whenever a user clicks on their ad. Google Ads is a common agency used for PPC advertising.
When a user goes to one web address but is brought to another - this is known as a redirect. If you change a URL, or move the content from one page to another, you would want to implement a redirect. Behind the scenes, redirects help search engines recognize who to pass the ranking power to. This is one of the best practices to engage with in SEO.
The most common type of redirect is a 301 redirect, which is used when a URL has changed permanently but you still want to maintain the same amount of ranking power.
The robots.txt file is used by website owners to instruct robots where to visit on their site. This is an important file to use for SEO, as you are able to keep certain pages on your site (such as admin pages, login pages, or pages with duplicate content) from being indexed.
ROI (Return on Investment)
ROI stands for “return on investment.” This is a common ratio used to determine and quantify cost vs. benefit on an investment.
One use of analytics software is to analyze and quantify ROO and thus cost/benefit of different schemes.
Sandbox, Supplemental Index
Google is said to have something called a “sandbox” or a supplemental/secondary index. When someone conducts a search, Google returns select results from its index. This supplemental index is thought to have websites that don’t have much value as those in Google’s main index but are kept on file in the event that any of them become worthy of being placed in the main index to be displayed in the SERP.
*See Supplemental Result
The act of collecting or extracting content from websites across the internet, an often automated process carried out by bots.
A search engine is a software application used to conduct searches online. Search engines are built to scour the internet and return listings most relevant to any given keyword or phrase. Each search engine holds an algorithm which determines which sites are most relevant based on a search query. These algorithms are not public knowledge, hence why marketers must assume the best practices and hope for a positive result.
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and is the process of marketing via search engines. SEM involves the promotion of products and services through search engines to expand reach and connect more directly with target audiences.
With SEM, you can advertise above or below the organic results on the SERP as a sponsored listing, or you can optimize your website to organically reach one of the top slots.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the practice of improving a website or webpage rankings in the search engines based on particular keywords or key phrases. SEO best practices are ever changing, therefore, the work involved is ongoing.
*See On-page SEO
*See Off-page SEO
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page (SERPS – Search Engine Results Pages). The SERP is what is displayed upon conducting a search on Google or other search engines.
Spider (Crawler, Bot, Robot)
A spider is a program that scours the internet for new and updated websites. Spiders obtain information about websites to store in the search engine index.
For Google, you can manually fetch the Googlebot within Search Console to crawl your website if you update a certain page or add one.
SMM (Social Media Marketing)
Social media marketing (SMM) is a type of marketing that is most commonly used to promote a brand or website. Marketers use mainstream channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube to increase online visibility. SMM and SEO can work together to boost a website’s organic traffic.
A static webpage has fixed content that is written in plain HTML. Unlike dynamic pages, static pages do not include complex scripting languages and are easier to crawl. These pages are faster to load than dynamic pages.
Supplemental results are webpages that rank in Google’s secondary or “supplemental index.” These types of results are ranked as less important or valuable by Google but will display in the search engine results page should there not be enough pages to return from the main index for a particular search.
A link that is displayed only by hyperlinking to text only. Text links do not involve any rich media or special coding.
Time on Page
Time on page is exactly as it states, the amount of time a visitor spends on a webpage before they leave. Time on page is an indicator of relevance or level of quality the content provides for visitors.
A title tag is an element in the HTML structure that expresses the title of a specific page. For example, the Brave River homepage page title is Brave River | Web Design - Software Development - IT Services.
This is shown on the SERP as the clickable header on each result.
The title tag is also visible in the title bar on your browser.
Title tags are a very important SEO factor. The best way to help search engines recognize what certain webpages are about is by putting forward a descriptive title tag with keywords.
A URL is the address of a particular webpage.
For example, the URL of the post you’re currently reading is:
Web 2.0, also known as “social web,” was a progressive movement in which world wide web websites began to encourage user-generated content and participative interaction.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO involves any practice that search engines suggest you participate in. Black hat SEO is known as the type of SEO that could be harmful to your rank or is punishable by the search engine. There isn’t an official list of all the best practices that fall under white hat SEO, so it’s important to keep up with updates from the major search engines.
An XML sitemap is a file, usually noted as sitemap.xml. XML sitemaps are comprised of a list of URLs and all of the on-page content (including posts and archives) from your website. XML sitemaps are created so that search engines can index your site quicker.
Ready to take the next step?
Now that you've become familiarized with the world of SEO, it's time to think about how getting started with SEO could benefit your business. Work with our team of SEO Specialists to create a marketing campaign personalized to your individual business needs. Contact us today to begin your journey in SEO.