What do doctors, lawyers, engineers, and digital marketers all have in common? The answer is that each industry has its own unique set of jargon, definitions, and terminology.
In the world of digital marketing, specifically the world of Search Engine Optimization, it is important to know the most important terms that you are likely to hear because SEO can be quite complex. Without a strong understanding of SEO terminology, it can extremely be difficult to navigate the ether and help your business improve its digital footprint. Without this understanding, you will not know how you to react to your data and measure success.
To help you understand the sophisticated world of digital marketing, here are 25 simple SEO terms and definitions that you need to understand before you start your marketing campaign.
Algorithm: A program used by search engines to determine what pages should be suggested for a given search query. Algorithms search for web pages that contain the keywords used in the search, then assigns a rank to each page based on several factors, including how many times the search term and keywords appear on the page.
Google’s PageRank is the most important search algorithm to be conscious of because it measures the importance of web pages in their search results. Although PageRank is not the only algorithm used by Google to determine search results, it was the first of its kind and makes up the backbone of the internet’s primary function. The most important thing to know about algorithms is that they require a lot of maintenance and updates to keep up with new content. Google frequently makes secret changes to their algorithms and will announce any major changes to the public as needed. To keep up with Google’s ever-evolving algorithms and receive the latest news, subscribe to Search Engine Journal.
Alt Text (Alternative Text): The description of an image, which usually isn’t displayed to the end user, unless the image or asset is undeliverable.
Alt text is extremely important for SEO because search engines can not distinguish one image from another and when executed properly, it is used to describe the associated image. Alt text is also especially important to the visually impaired population because they use special web browser programs to make sense of the image’s content through alt text.
Analytics: Free platforms that allow you to manage all website traffic and activity.
Google Analytics has become the most widely used analytics service on the web because it provides users with valuable insight. Nearly all businesses have some kind of online presence so it is important to monitor the success of your website and make sure that it’s infrastructure can facilitate a great SEO strategy. One of the most important metrics to monitor through analytics is Bounce Rate. Your bounce rate will tell you exactly how quickly someone enters and leaves your website. If you see a very high bounce rate that could be indicating that your website is optimized poorly and you need help from an SEO pro!
Backlinks: When someone purposely links to your website from their own.
You can think of backlinks as votes for your website. As more people vote for (link to) your web pages and infographics, that tells Google’s algorithms to notice your unique content and make it more visible in search results. Unlike a democracy, all votes are not created equal and any backlinks from a site that Google registers as “malicious” could have negative effects on your SEO.
Blog: A discussion or informational website that presents content in chronological order or a themed category.
When the first blogs hit the web they were often written by one person and covered a single subject or provided some sort of social commentary. As the internet’s popularity grew, so did the number of blogs and the variety of original content on the web. By 2010 businesses began to understand the importance of blogging for their business and started using their blog as a vehicle for their content marketing strategy. Today most blogs use a Content Management System such as WordPress and starting a great blog to support your SEO strategy is easier than ever.
Black Hat Tactics: SEO tactics that fall outside the industry’s best practices in an attempt to cheat the search engine’s algorithm and falsely improve search rankings.
Black Hat tactics are practices that go against search engine guidelines set by Google. These unethical tactics are used to improve a website’s ranking but typically result in penalties for improper optimization techniques. You can think of these tactics as the dark arts of SEO and it’s important to make sure that your SEO specialist isn’t using any of these techniques. Black hat techniques may include keyword stuffing and cloaking, but we’ll talk about those later in this post.
Cloaking: A Black Hat tactic performed by delivering content to the search engine based on the IP address or User-Agent HTTP header which is different than what is actually viewed by the user.
What was once an antiquated doorway page technique has now become a major SEO faux pas. All Black Hat tactics are frowned upon by legitimate SEO experts but cloaking is one of the most serious SEO infractions. When someone cloaks a web page, search engines can be deceived into displaying the incorrect result because the IP address or User-Agency HTTP have been manipulated. We warn you against using this tactic because it carries a virtual death sentence for your site and can ultimately get your business ousted from Google’s search results.
Doorway: A web page that is designed specifically to attract and redirect user traffic (excluding spiders) from a search engine.
A doorway page, also known as a gateway, redirects users to another site and is considered to be another form of cloaking. People often confuse landing pages with doorway pages because these pages fall outside the website’s core structure but the difference lies within usability and content. Doorway pages are typically designed to fool search engines and lack in user experience, best practice optimization, and relevant content. Be wary of anyone who recommends a doorway page instead of a landing page because they are designed to rank for specific keywords only.
Domain Authority: A calculated metric that measures a domain’s power or importance in search engine results.
Moz’s domain authority metric is based on three factors: the age of the website, popularity or relevance of the content/links, and size. Domain authority provides online marketers with a metric that gauges the quality of a site through a score between 1-100. But what does this score tell us exactly? The founders of Moz created this metric to estimate how competitive a website is on Google and why it ranks better than other domains. So if your older site receives a score of 60 or higher then your chances of ranking are significantly better than a new site with a score of 30.
Curious about your score?
External Link: A hyperlink that references a domain outside of its own structure.
Linking out to other website content is a great way to help search engines understand what your site is about but make sure that your external links are driving users to high-quality resources. If you link out to several sites containing sub-par content, some search engines may not rank your site as well as you hoped. Linking to quality, editorial content is the key to getting search engines to trust your website and linking to trustworthy material will ultimately improve your overall SEO performance.
Google Ads Keyword Planner: A research tool, created by Google, that estimates the popularity of a specific keyword search term, any related keywords, and any other relevant keywords that Google perceives as relevant to your on-page content.
This keyword research tool helps online marketers identify and select the most relevant keywords for their digital marketing campaigns. Selecting the right keywords for your business from Google’s results isn’t as easy as it sounds but this research tool provides marketers with clarity about what users are searching for. Keyword research tools are especially helpful when looking for new keywords and their bid estimates. Refreshing your keywords every few months will keep your campaign from going stale, help you identify the ones with the highest search volume, and boost your search engine rankings.
HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language): The standard code or “markup language” for creating web pages and web applications.
You can think of HTML as the native tongue of search engines. HTML was created prior to the Dot-Com Bubble and helped launch many successful, and not so successful, search engines during 1990s. The primary function of HTML is to be a text-based approach that describes how the content in an HTML file is structured and it tells a web browser how to display text, images, and multimedia assets on a webpage. As the internet flourished, HTML evolved and using HTML tags have become part of the backbone of SEO. Properly using HTML title tags, description tags, and header tags will help your web page content be seen and categorized by search engines.
Internal Link: A hyperlink from one related page to another within the same website domain.
Internal linking is important to your SEO strategy because these links will create an interconnected web of relevant content that search engines will view as trustworthy. Internal links help establish a hierarchy on your website, which allows you to award more value to the most important pages and posts. Blogs provide the most favorable environment for internal linking because it shows a deeper relationship between content and using this strategy can seriously elevate your SEO.
Keyword Cannibalization: Excessive use of the same keyword on several web pages within the same site making it difficult for search engines and users to determine how relevant a page is for the searched term.
Keyword cannibalization is one of the most damaging SEO mistakes that people make, and they often don’t realize that they have committed such a grievous error until its too late. Keyword cannibalization occurs when a website is flooded with the same keyword(s) over and over again, confusing search engines, and hurting your SEO. To prevent this from happening, use 301 redirects and relevant variations of the keywords that help Google know which pages are the most valuable.
Keyword Stuffing: A web spamming technique that inappropriately loads keywords on a page and inflates keyword density.
Keyword stuffing is one of the oldest forms of Black Hat tactics and SEO experts are glad to see this primitive technique finally start to die out. Back when the web was a Wild West information, keywords were stuffed into content in an attempt to trick search engines and they could even be hidden in plain sight from users by manipulating text colors. Naturally, this led to a crackdown on keyword stuffing and it was quickly penalized by search engines. So why did keyword stuffing become so popular? Well, keyword stuffing can create very impressive results but like all things that are too good to be true, the long-term negative effects outweigh the initial boost in SEO.
Local SEO: SEO that specifically optimizes a business’s online visibility in a local area.
Local SEO is extremely important to incorporate in your strategy because it will increase your chances of ranking on the first page of results when users search in a specific area. You can improve your local SEO by targeting keywords that are specific to your business’s location, setting up a Google My Business account, and making sure that all of your online location listings are correct. To help you manage your local visibility, third-party services like Yext have the ability to sync and validate all of your business information in one easy to use tool.
Long Tail Keyword: A longer, more specific search query that consists of at least three words or a phrase.
Long tail keywords are often used to target specific audiences instead of the masses. For example, a search for “red shoes” will populate a very broad result while a long tail search using “shoes with red soles” will produce results for a specific kind of designer shoe. The majority of all searches are long tails so make sure that you’re using the most specific and popular ones in your web page content to improve your SEO.
META Tags: Fragments of text that describe a web page’s content within the HEAD section of an HTML page but they do not appear on the page itself.
You can think of META Tags like invisible nametags for a piece of content until you examine the code further. It is important to have unique META Tags that accurately describe the content so search engines know what your page is about. METAs help create the first impression that users receive about your page within the SERPs so make sure that each one is unique. There are several kinds of META Tags, however there are four kinds that should be on every page: Meta Content, Title Tags, Descriptions, and Viewports.
Mobile Optimization: The process of adjusting your website design and content to ensure that visitors can access the site from all devices and view it properly on different screen sizes.
We cannot stress this enough! Mobile optimization is VERY important for SEO because we live in a mobile-first world and your website’s performance is a huge part of SEO. In 2018, Google made an announcement that they will index websites that are mobile-friendly, meaning that they will use the version of the website that properly responds to mobile devices and screen sizes. When websites fail to do this, the images, content, and functionality becomes compromised and renders the site nonfunctional. Although rankings don’t completely hinge on mobile optimization it is very important to have mobile-friendly content for a better user experience.
Nofollow Link: A command found in the HEAD section of a web page or within individual link code, which instructs bots to not follow any links on the page or the specific link.
Nofollow links are caused by nofollow tags that notify search engines to not count the page’s content or link. The need for nofollow links comes from the chaos that ensued when PageRank made its debut and the internet went crazy with link spamming. Nofollow links technically provide little SEO value but that doesn’t mean that they’re useless, even though they do not count as a vote in the page’s favor, boost PageRank, or help a page’s placement in the SERPs. Although nofollows aren’t a perfect SEO solution, they get the job done and basically serve as a link condom.
Pagerank: Google’s proprietary algorithm, named after co-founder Larry Page, that assigns a score between 0 and 1 based on link popularity, trustworthy content, and other unknown factors.
Pagerank is one of Google’s methods for measuring how important a website is by quantifying how valuable and trustworthy the links are on a page. The patented PageRank formula and scoring are expressed as a rather mysterious numeric value between 0 and 1. A score of 0.5 is the most common score but what does a score of 0.5 mean exactly? Well, it means that there is a 50% chance of a user clicking on a link and getting directed to that specific page. Any score that is more or less than 0.5 will either increase or decrease the page’s chances of a user clicking on it.
Page Authority: A score developed by Moz to predict how well a specific page will perform in the SERPs.
Simply put, page authority measures the predictive ranking strength of a single page on a website. Improving your page authority can become a tricky game because Moz’s algorithm receives constant updates and that can cause your score to change. The number of quality links, root domains, and subdomains from other websites are just some of the factors that are calculated in your page authority. However, it is important to frequently check your page authority performance and see how Moz is predicting the power of your web pages.
Redirect: Methods used to change or forward one URL to another when a site is moved to a new domain.
There are a variety of redirects but they all accomplish more or less of the same function, reroute user traffic and search engines to another destination. The most commonly seen redirects are 301, 302, and META Refresh but how do you know which redirect is the right one for your website? 301 redirects should be used when you need to permanently redirect a user to a new URL. The most common use case of 301s is when a webmaster has purchased a new domain and needs to redirect users from the old URL. Using a permanent 301 will help search engines decipher the new URL from the redirected URL that was typed in. By doing this you will maximize your domain authority and make it that much easier for a search engine to follow along with your content and avoid penalties.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing): The coined acronym in digital marketing that describes the process associated with researching and optimizing a website within search engines to achieve maximum visibility through paid advertising.
You can think of SEM as the promotion of your website through paid marketing tactics. The main driver of SEM is using great keywords from your research and following SEO best practices but it also includes paid listings and other search-engine related services that can increase a website’s digital footprint and boost traffic. Google Ads, formerly known as AdWords, is by far the most popular SEM tool used by online marketers and running ads on their platform, or with their direct competitor Bing Ads, will help your business get in front of new customers on search engines.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization): The coined acronym in digital marketing that describes the process for search engine optimization, the process of increasing the number of visitors to a website through free/organic tactics.
When you log on to one of the major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, you will see the primary search results just below the paid ads when performing a search. These organic results have been placed there because the search engine’s algorithm perceives this result to be the best response to your search query. As the internet becomes more saturated, it’s important to make sure that your business’s website stays afloat and doesn’t get buried in other content. Implementing SEO best practices on your website will ensure that your site is visible to a search engine and your audience. Although it can be tricky, it is the most cost-effective method and SEO can improve your online visibility thus help your website get indexed favorably.
SERPs (Search Engine Results Page): The multi-page list of websites populated in response to a specific word or phrase query on a search engine.
There are three main types of results on a SERP: pages that the search engine has crawled and indexed through SEO, pages that have been manually added to the search engine’s directory, and pages that are part of paid advertising. The highest-ranking results usually link to the information that the search engine deems most useful to your query and the links can become less relevant as you click throughout the pages of listings. Because there is so much information on the web, it is common practice for users to not click past the first few pages of search results so it is everyone’s goal to be on the first page of search results for a specific keyword search. The higher a website ranks, the greater the chance that users will click on their link so it is important to work with savvy website designers and SEO experts that can help your business’s webpages appear at the top of a SERP.