Your complete A to Z guide to SEO terminology
Do you know your META tags from your backlinks, or your algorithms from your indexing? The world of search engine optimisation (SEO) is always changing and sometimes it can be hard to grasp the technical jargon.
That’s why this month we wanted to create a complete A – Z guide to SEO, in the hope that it’ll shed some light on some of the most commonly used phrases. Remember, these are common phrases, many of which we come across on a daily basis.
There are plenty more out there, but we wanted to make sure that we’ve got all the basics covered before we launch into too much detail.
In the wonderful (insert hysterical laughing sound here) world of search engine optimisation, algorithms play a huge part in the specific actions an SEO team will take throughout the year. Search engines such as Google or Yahoo use algorithms to determine the rank of a web page.
Algorithm updates are sometimes released without warning, or there can be a gradual trickle of information, causing SEO teams to come out all twitchy (anyone remember Penguin, Panda or the Doorway page penalties?)
A backlink is a link from an external website that links to your own.
For example, if you write an article on General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and link to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), you are creating a backlink to their site.
Sometimes known as robots, spiders or crawlers (sounds delightful we know), bots are programmes that perform a specific task in a near-autonomous state. Search engines use bots to find and add web pages to their search indexes (more on those later).
Bounce Rate is a term often used when working with Analytics and Visitor stats on your website. A bounce is triggered when a visitor comes to your site and then leaves again without navigating to another page or completing an action on the page they entered. It is measured in a percentage of your total site visits and Google suggests an average Bounce Rate of around 40% is acceptable in most industries. The lower the percentage the better!
Black Hat SEO
This might seem like a good thing, but it’s really not. Black Hat SEO tactics were used in the past to try and “trick” search engines into ranking a web page higher than it should have been. Black Hat SEO tactics include, but aren’t limited to:
- Unrelated keywords and keyword stuffing
- Tiny text, hidden text (containing keywords) and hidden links
- Duplicate content
- Buying backlinks
This really is as simple as it sounds. Conversion is how many people have converted from casual readers to a loyal customer. Conversions really are whatever you’d like them to be, whether this is making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
CRO is a fairly common practice and basically means that an SEO team will optimise your web page to improve your conversion rate (number of completed conversions in relation to the number of visitors).
Whether this is through amending pages titles and META descriptions, or adjusting the call to actions on a page, there are plenty of ways they can do it.
SEO teams will always look at the Domain Authority (DA) or a website before they try to get backlinks, as a higher DA shows that their site is trustworthy.
This search engine score is measured by Moz and shows how trustworthy they think that website is. A trustworthy site will usually rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This DA is scored out of 100, so the higher your score, the more authority your site has.
Defective (broken) links
Defective or broken links are pretty much what it says on the tin. They are links that don’t link anywhere. Links might break because content has moved, the end website has moved or even by programming errors.
If you have a lot of broken internal links, then bots are going to find it harder to index your content, which may have a negative impact on your overall SEO performance.
This one does tie into copywriting and blogging, but also plays a huge page in your SEO efforts.
The easiest way to imagine evergreen content is like evergreen trees. All year round their keep their leaves right? Well, evergreen content is relevant all year round. This blog post is evergreen content, as it hasn’t included any event or season-specific content.
This refers to a group of links that are pointing to your site at a specific point in time. This does take time to accumulate and involves a lot of hard work from an SEO team, as it’s the culmination of some serious back-linking exercises.
This refers to content that is delivered to a user via a special website or digital programme. The main examples you’ll know are Twitter and Facebook. Your feed is the updates your friends and family have uploaded, which you’ll then see in one location.
These are links that an SEO team have allowed to send link juice to their target web page or website. A followed link will have this attribute in the HTML code:
These are the kind of links that you’d want coming to your website, especially if it’s from a reputable source. For example, if you received a followed link from the BBC or The Guardian, that would be a good link to help increase your websites trust flow/domain authority.
Google My Business (Places)
This is a quick win that a company can use to help their SEO efforts. Listing your business means that search engines are able to show your business information and location to users, especially if they’re searching near your location.
It’s free to set up and can improve your visibility in Google Maps and Google Search, ideal if you’re target customers are in a certain location.
Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML)
HTML is the base computer language that the majority of web pages are created in. SEO and Web Design teams can combine forces to add Search Engine friendly formatting and functionality to the website by amending the HTML of a page.
This formatting can also be used to inform bots what a web page is about, helping them index the site as best as possible and positively impact your overall Search Engine performance.
Verb form – The action of adding a web page to a search engine index
Noun – a collection or database of web pages and their content that is used by search engines to determine overall page ranking
3 guesses, go on…pages on a that have been indexed by an search engine, added into their (noun) index
Links from external sources that are linking to your website. For example, if you shared this article on Twitter using the buttons at the bottom of the post, then that would be an inbound link to our website (hint hint 😉 )
Basically, it’s any word or phrase that a user types into a search engine. SEO teams use keywords and phrases to optimise a web page or piece of content in aim to rank for keywords they feel customers would be using to find businesses/content like theirs. These will relate to the content on the page, and can either be long or short-form.
Here’re some examples, split into long form (see Latent Semantic Index) or short form:
- Web design (short form)
- Web design agency based in Hampshire (long form)
- Copywriting services (short form)
- Copywriting and web design agency in Hampshire (long form)
Keyword research can be a time consuming activity, especially when the SEO “Powers that Be” (Google, we’re looking at you) are slightly cagey with the data they give out.
Keyword stuffing (see also Black Hat SEO)
Simply put, keyword stuffing is bad. It’s the practice of throwing as many keywords as possible at a piece of content in the hope that it helps with overall Search Engine rankings. We’ve seen it in the past; it’s never ended well. It might have worked back in the early days, but definitely doesn’t now.
This tactic is definitely frowned on by search engines and ethical marketing agencies. Keywords should be used organically in a piece of text. Imagine you’re having a conversation; it should sound natural, not forced.
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
This might sound technical and all jargon-y, but here’s a breakdown. LSI means the commonly associated groups of words in a piece of content.
For example, LSI terms for “web design” can include:
- Design portfolio
- Web hosting
- Creative graphic design
- Web development
These terms are very important as it can be very hard to rank well for “web design”, but by showing Google the content on your page is relevant to the subject/industry it’s easier to rank higher in search results.
Link juice is a term often used to describe the value of a back link to a particular website or web page. Link juice is a non-technical SEO term, but it’s definitely something that SEO teams will consider.
For example, if a high domain-authority website such as Wikipedia created a back link to our website, some of their authority (juice) would flow to our site, helping to enhance our link profile (see below) and increase the trust that Search Engines have in our content.
Both inbound and outbound link information associated with your website is gathered in one digital “place”. Your link profile can have a large impact on your overall Search Engine rankings, so it’s worth investing time in improving it if needed.
META tags are included in the ‘<head>’ section of the HTML code on your web page. These tags give search engines information about what the content includes, but aren’t visible on the website.
It’s important that this information is accurate, as search engines will scan these tags when matching search results from a keyword search. We’ve listed two of the main ‘Meta Tags’ below.
These META tags are shown in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s that small paragraph of text you see in the search results under the META Title (See below) and URL.
The META description should include relevant keyword information, but also have key marketing messages to entice users to your website.
There are certain plugins (if you use a CMS like WordPress to build your site) that can be used to edit these META descriptions, including Yoast (see ‘Yoast’ further down).
The META Title tag is also shown in the SERPS. It’s the first bit of text a searcher will see relating to your site, so it needs to be eye-catching and enticing to help increase your click through rate (CTR). Try to include descriptive keywords that explain what the searcher can expect to find if they click on the link.
The exact opposite of ‘Followed Links’ that we mentioned earlier, the nofollow attribute tell bots not to pass any ‘Link Juice’ on to the other website. For example, a nofollow link might be used if a link is paid for, or the content could be classed as irrelevant or untrustworthy. The attribute looks like this:
Organic search results
These cover the ‘natural’ results that appear when you search for a term in search engines. This means they haven’t been paid for and although they often appear below the paid ads, research shows ‘Organic’ results on the first page usually (dependant on industry) have a higher CTR than those paid adverts at the top.
This is often because the organic results are more relevant to the searchers intent, although some people just refuse to click those Ads!
The organic results that appear at the top of the search results are the ones that have been optimised the best for the search term you’ve just typed. They ‘should’, if the search engines algorithms have worked as intended, be the most relevant to your query.
Tying in nicely to the organic search results is on-page optimisation. This covers the actions that a SEO team will take to ensure that the page is appealing to readers and search engines. These actions can include (but not limited to):
- Keyword copy optimisation
- Adding Alt text to images
- Formatting headings (H1, H2, H3) with relevant keywords
- Relevant internal linking
- Mobile and Speed optimisation
As well as on-page, off-page optimisation plays a big part in your overall search rankings.
Off-page optimisation is the action of trying to influence the reputation your website has elsewhere on the big World Wide Web. Backlinks are the main source for this but making sure you have active, up to date, Social Media platforms can help as well.
Paid search results
As we briefly touched on in organic search results, paid search results are the ones that appear right at the top of the SERPs. These are adverts that companies have paid the search engine for.
They can work for increasing traffic, but there is usually a lot of competition for a small amount of space.
Google AdWords and Bing Ads are the two main players when it comes to Paid Search results; they both work on a PPC (Pay Per Click) basis, meaning that you pay a set amount every time someone clicks on your advert.
The amount you pay depends on the keyword you are targeting and how much competition there is for it.
A query is just a fancy word for the search term a user enters into search engines. You can research what the best queries might be for your content during the keyword research stage of a project, which will give you an indication of the competition and monthly searches for each query.
The added bonus: you can use Google Search Console to see what queries people have used when they have visited your website through Google, ideal if you’re planning on re-optimising content or running a new advertising campaign.
These are quite simple really. Reciprocal links refer to the process of someone who links to your site, in return for a link to theirs. If you ever get an email with the general tone of “if I link to you will you link to me?” – that’s a reciprocal link. This is still a bit of a ‘Grey Hat’ tactic and is sometimes seen in the same way as paying for a link so we don’t suggest this method unless it makes sense for both websites.
Redirects are where you tell search engines and browsers to redirect users from one URL to another.
Redirects are usually set up because you’ve changed the web address (URL) of a landing page, or a website has moved to a different domain.
Have you ever seen those “Whoops this page can’t be found” notices when you click a link? That often happens because someone hasn’t set up a redirect.
This stands for Search Engine Result Pages. Simples!
Trust rank is similar to ‘Domain Authority’ and a search relevancy algorithm that gives more weight to links that are coming into your website from other relevant, trusted websites.
This does have an impact on your SEO efforts, as the more trustworthy your site appears to be to the search engines, the higher up in the SERPs your pages may appear.
One of the top tips we can give you to improve your trust rank is to create interesting, useful and relevant content that other ‘trust worthy’ sites can’t help but link to.
Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) are the web addresses of each page on your website. They’re very important for your SEO efforts, because they have to be optimised and SEO-friendly.
This means choosing a relevant keyword (which you’ll have chosen from your keyword research) and using it in the URL. You shouldn’t over-optimise or keyword stuff though, that could be deemed as Black Hat, resulting in your site being penalised.
Unnatural links (another Black Hat method) are backlinks that search engines see as trying to manipulate search engine rankings. For example, in the early days of the Internet, companies could buy links from 3rd party websites to appear trustworthy.
Nowadays, the Search Engine Gods are very strict about unnatural links and if they deem that you have a lot of them linking to your site, you will be penalised.
Honestly, this is just the amount of visitors that you get to your website. These can be tracked using Google Analytics and can be filtered by unique visits, repeat visits and even through social media referrals.
White Hat SEO
The exact opposite of Black Hat SEO (remember that at the top?), White Hat SEO are the actions SEO teams take to enhance the organic Search Engine rankings of your website.
These are ‘by the book’ practices that aren’t penalised by search engines and help to contribute to a website’s performance over time. Unfortunately no ‘Instant wins’ here!
A few White Hat SEO tactics include:
- Keyword research and copy optimisation
- Image optimisation, including Alt text
- Inbound and outbound linking to reputable sources
- Optimising a site for page loading speed
A widget is a small programme that can be installed to display certain pieces of information on the front end of your website.
For example, you may have a widget installed that shows your most recent blog posts, a social media feed, or the total number of visitors that your website has received (that last one’s a bit out-dated but we won’t judge you…much).
Similar to the main navigation bar of your website, the XML Sitemap helps users and search engines understand what pages your site consists of and it’s hierarchy.
Yoast is an extremely popular plugin that many WordPress websites use to set the title and META descriptions of website pages and blog posts. It also lets you create XML sitemaps, whilst verifying your Google and Bing webmaster tools, amongst other nifty bits and pieces that make an SEO’s job just that little bit easier.
This isn’t an SEO by any stretch of the imagination, but Zen is the feeling of calm an SEO team will get once they’ve finished a particularly complicated project.
Whether they’ve finished optimising content or they realise they’ve survived the most recent algorithm update, it doesn’t matter.
They’re not stressed, it’s the calm before the storm and they can lay their weary heads down for five minutes.
There we go, our A to Z guide to SEO. We know it’s been a bit of a slog getting through the list, but hopefully, you’ve found this blog useful. In the future, if you do hear any technical SEO-jargon, you might just remember something that you’ve read today.
Remember, if there’s anything we can do to help your own search engine optimisation efforts, then make sure you give us a call on 01489 232 312. Our team are always looking for ways to showcase our client’s websites in the ultra-competitive, digital world.