While there are plenty of great articles on the Search Engine Journal website that dissect current SEO best practices and provide excellent recommendations to current webmasters, all the advice in the world won’t make a difference in your website’s success if you don’t understand the terminology that’s being used in the first place!
So if you’re a new webmaster, don’t feel overwhelmed!
Use the following list of SEO lingo to get up to speed or as reference material whenever you encounter a word you don’t understand:
URL – A “URL” (or uniform resource locator) refers to the specific string of characters that lead to an internet resource. In most cases, the word URL is used to describe the letter-based web addressed entered into a browser in order to access a web page.
TLD – “TLD” stands for top-level domain and refers to the extension of a given web address. The most popular TLDs from an SEO perspective include .com, .org and .net, although dozens of other industry/country-specific options are available as well.
SEO / SEM / PPC – Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the on-page and off-page activities designed to help a website appear more prominently in the natural search results, while pay-per-click advertising (PPC) involves bidding for high placements within the sponsored search results provided by the search engines. Search engine marketing (SEM) incorporates both of these techniques to refer to a website’s overall promotional plan.
Links – A link (or backlink) is a connection between two websites that is built using HTML code and enables visitors to move between different web pages.
- Outbound Links – Outbound links refer to those specific backlinks which point away from a site and direct visitors to a page on a different website.
- Internal Links – Internal links are those backlinks that point between pages on a single website. Internal links can be used contextually within articles, as well as in the navigation structure of a site.
- Anchor Text – Anchor text refers to the “clickable” link of an HTML backlink – not the code that enables the link action to occur. Anchor text is often used by the search engines to measure link and content relevance.
- Link Building – Because the quality and quantity of backlinks plays an important role in SEO, link building – or, the process of acquiring more outbound links from other sites – is a big priority for most webmasters.
- Link Profile – A site’s link profile refers to the collection of outbound links from other sites that are pointing in to the site in question. The quality of a site’s link profile can vary widely, according to a number of different parameters.
- Link Juice – “Link juice” refers to the authority that is transmitted from one site to another through a backlink, in accordance with Google’s PageRank measurement system and algorithms.
- No-Follow / Do-Follow – No-follow and do-follow are specific tags webmasters can add to their links to control which links transmit link juice to their link partners and which links reserve this authority for themselves.
- Footer Links – Footer links are those links that appear in the bottom section (or “footer”) of a website.
- Link Bait – Link bait is intentionally provocative content that’s disseminated to encourage viral sharing and result in more backlinks than usual pointing at a site.
- Guest Posting – Guest posting is a popular link building tactic that involves developing content for other websites in exchange for a backlink pointing at your own pages.
Social Signals – Social signals are any factors that demonstrate authority and influence on popular social networking websites. A few examples include a person’s number of Facebook followers, how frequently his Twitter updates are re-tweeted and the number of times articles on his site are shared across the most popular social media sites.
Optimization – “Optimization” refers to the process of intentionally manipulating website content in order to secure higher rankings within the natural search results pages.
White Hat / Grey Hat / Black Hat – These three terms refer to the acceptability of various optimization techniques. “White hat” techniques are wholesome, search engine approved tactics, “black hat” techniques are those that intentionally mislead or subvert the search engines’ indexation processes (and that could lead to future penalties if discovered), and “grey hat” techniques are those that fall into the grey area between acceptable and unacceptable.
Organic Search Results / SERP – A search engine results page (SERP) is the specific set of website listings that appear whenever a user enters a search query into Google, Bing, Yahoo or any of the other lower-tier search engines. To secure maximum traffic and exposure, most webmasters use SEO in order to have their websites appear in the Top 10 results on any given SERP.
- Blended / Universal SERPs – Though past search results pages were composed entirely of links to text-based web pages, the current Google SERPs now contain links to video results, image results, shopping results and more – leading to what is now known as the “blended” or “universal” SERPs.
- Personalized SERPs – Personalized SERPs refer to search results pages that incorporate a user’s personal preferences and relationships (typically pulled from his Google profile) to create a custom results listing page.
Algorithm / Algo – Each of the search engines maintain their own algorithms, which are the sets of calculations that weigh different factors in order to automatically determine which websites should be displayed in the SERPs. Algorithms (frequently abbreviated in the SEO world as “algos”) are constantly being updated, which makes it important for webmasters to stay on top of SEO industry news.
Search Engine Spider / Crawling / Robots – In order to display your website in the SERPs, the search engines must first capture the content that’s stored on your site in order to determine what it’s related to and how it should be ranked – a process that’s referred to as “indexing” or “crawling.” To accomplish this task, the search engines use automated programs known as “spiders” or “robots” to assess and index the text-based content on your website.
Keyword / Keyword Phrase – Keywords and keyword phrases are the specific combinations of words that users enter into the search engines. Because having your site appear for specific keyword SERPs results in a number of different website advantages, webmasters must invest time into keyword research to find the exact keyword combinations to target with their sites, based on the overall search volume each keyword receives and how competitive its SERP is.
Keyword Stuffing – Keyword stuffing refers to the process of incorporating target keywords into website content or code sections in order to increase rankings. Many specific keyword stuffing methods (for example, stuffing the meta keywords tag or CSS pages) have been detected and accounted for in the search algorithms. For this reason, it’s best to focus on providing quality content to readers, instead of optimizing website text to a specific keyword density.
PageRank (PR) – PageRank is a value assigned to every web page in the Google index, based on the page’s relative merit. A number of different factors contribute to a page’s PR, including site age, number of inbound links, inbound link quality and more. Though actual PageRank is constantly being updated by Google’s algorithm, these calculations are not made public. Instead, the PageRank scores pushed out to PR measurement tools are known as “Toolbar PageRank” and represent only a general approximation of a page’s actual PR.
Navigation / Site Architecture – A website’s navigation structure or site architecture refers to the specific way its pages are set up. For best results, it’s important to use a “wide” navigation structure (in which every page on your site can be reached within three clicks) instead of a “deep” architecture.
Analytics – Website analytics refers to the process of tracking website usage data and analyzing relevant metrics to determine how well a website is performing. Google Analytics is the program used most frequently for this pursuit, though there are several other options for obtaining website data. The following are a few specific metrics that can be tracked through website analytics programs:
- Bounce Rate – A “bounce” is recorded whenever a visitor lands on your website and leaves without clicking on a link to view another page. In general, a bounce rate under 50% is considered ideal (and may play a role in how well your site ranks in the SERPs).
- Page Views / Impressions – Page views or impressions indicates the number of times each of your website pages is viewed, as well as the number of pages each of your visitors takes in while on your site. “Average views per visit” is a commonly-tracked website metric, with higher average views demonstrating a more engaged audience.
- Conversions – A conversion occurs whenever a visitor on your website takes the specific action you desire, which could be purchasing a product, opting-in to your email newsletter or viewing an embedded video on your site. Having a conversion rate optimization plan in place to increase your total number of conversions is an important part of maximizing your website’s success.
Usability – Compared to site indexability, usability refers to how easy it is for people to engage with your website. Site design, browser compatibility, disability enhancements and other features all play a role in improving usability and making your site accessible for as many people as possible.
HTML Tags – HTML tags represent specific website code elements that can be manipulated in order to improve a site’s SEO.
- Meta keywords – The meta keywords tag is a specific tag that can be added to the “head” section of an HTML document. Although this tag was originally intended to inform the search engine spiders on a website’s topic, its past abuse through keyword stuffing means that it is no longer weighted in most search engine algorithms and can therefore be disregarded.
- Meta description – Meta description tags allow users to provide a description of each page’s content in the “head” section. This content is not used in the SEO algorithms, but is often displayed as part of the “snippet” that appears in the search results. To encourage clickthroughs from the SERPs, make this description engaging and include a call to action.
- Page title – A web page’s title appears at the top of the browser window whenever the page is opened and does play a role in a page’s SEO score. Incorporate your target keyword here and – for best results – keep your total title between 60-70 characters.
- Image ALT – Image ALT tags are used to provide a description of each image on your site that can be interpreted by visually impaired visitors using adapted technology. Incorporating your target keyword here may convey a small SEO benefit, but it’s important to avoid keyword stuffing and include your chosen keywords only if you can do so in a natural, valuable way.
- Headline – Headline tags (including h1, h2, h3, h4, h5 and h6 tags) allow you to separate your website text into sections. Headline tags should be used naturally and should incorporate your target keywords where relevant, as doing so may provide a small SEO benefit.
Google Panda – Google Panda is a major Google algorithm update which was initially rolled out in February 2011 (though several subsequent updates have occurred since then). The stated goal of Google Panda was to rid the SERPs of the low-value content provided by sites deemed to be “content farms.”
Google Penguin – Google Penguin is a more recent algorithm update (initially launched in April 2012) that was designed to penalized over-optimized sites. Specific factors that may have implicated over-optimized sites include low-quality backlinks, keyword stuffing and consistent evidence of on-page optimization schemes.
CTR – “CTR” stands for clickthrough rate and indicates the percentage of visitors that click on a given link out of the total impressions the link receives. This metric is used in a number of different circumstances, including the total clicks a PPC ad receives compared to its total views and the number of times an in-article link on a website is clicked compared to the site’s total number of visitors.
Penalties – Search engine penalties may be assessed to discourage webmasters from acting in ways that violate the search engines’ terms of service. Penalties may be manually assessed on a site-by-site basis, or they may occur automatically as a result of algorithm changes. Penalties can be temporary or permanent in nature, and they can be assessed in various degrees of severity, from a loss in SERPs rankings to total removal from an engine’s index.
Webmaster Tools – Google’s Webmaster Tools page offers website owners a number of helpful features, including the ability to monitor sites for indexing errors and site speed. These pages are also used to communicate penalty notifications to webmasters, when appropriate.
Google Dance – The “Google Dance” refers to the variability in SERPs rankings that occur whenever a new web page is added to the Google index or whenever new link building campaigns are carried out. The specific rankings of these new pages may vary by as many as 300-800 positions in the SERPs as Google determines where exactly the page should fall, with the process typically leveling off within a few weeks.
Google Sandbox – The “Google Sandbox” is an often-hypothesized, never-confirmed phenomenon that prevents new websites from seeing the full benefit of their optimization efforts within the first few months of their lives. Typically, this effect is witnessed most often with young sites targeting competitive keywords and can only be overcome when the site surpasses Google’s trust barrier.
Landing Page – A landing page refers to the first page a new visitor sees when he arrives on your website. Any page on your site can be a landing page for traffic from various sources, although the specific term “landing page” is often used to refer to specially-designed pages that are constructed to encourage new visitors to take a specific action right away.
Opt-in Form / Email Marketing – Email marketing is the process of capturing visitor email addresses for future solicitations, which is carried out through the use of opt-in forms. These forms enable specific pieces of information (for example, visitor name and email address) to be automatically added to list management software for future follow-up and can be optimized to increase sign-ups in a number of different ways.
Microdata / Rich Snippets – Microdata is a method approved by Google, Bing and Yahoo for adding extra information to the HTML of a website for use in indexing by the search engine spiders. The information captured by microdata (as described on the Schema.org website) may be displayed in the SERPs, resulting in an enhanced listing known as a “rich snippet.”
Split Testing – Split testing refers to the process of producing multiple variations of a web page and displaying them randomly to website visitors in order to determine which specific combination of elements is most effective at increasing conversions. Split testing can be carried out using the A/B format (in which only two versions testing a single element are displayed) or conducted as multivariate tests, in which several variables are tested at once).