Search Engine Optimisation, it’s often been the realm of part dark magicians, part tech types.
With SEO fast becoming the cornerstone of modern marketing, you’re likely to stumble across new words, confusing acronyms and a ridiculous amount of technical SEO terms.
That’s why we’ve created a comprehensive SEO glossary of the most commonly used terms from an insider’s perspective, so you can dispel the myths on what they mean and how they’re used.
404 Error #
Indicates the web page cannot be found. This often occurs when the page address moves, it is vitally important to SEO that in such scenarios the page is restored or redirected to the new page source.
301 Redirect #
Signals to Google that a permanent redirect is in place. As opposed to a temporary 302 redirect. 301 redirects pass 90-99% of the link equity of the original page and it’s always advisable to put one in place when a page original source is moving location or domain.
Started in 2011, AHREFs has fast become one of the most important tools in any SEO specialists toolkit. Their crawler processes over 5 billion pages a day and their proprietary metrics URL Rating and Domain Rating have become common domain metrics in the industry.
AMP Project #
Standing for Accelerated Mobile Pages. The AMP project was started by Google in 2016 with a goal of accelerating the transition towards a mobile friendly web. The AMP framework increases the speed and functionality of web pages at the cost of some features.
Alt Text #
One of the primary methods by which crawlers “see” images. The alt HTML attribute describes the image and it is an important element of SEO to markup your images to further help crawlers understand your pages.
Alexa Rank #
A proprietary tool used by SEO specialists to review website traffic data and other visitor engagement metrics. Due to the size of their database and history they are a great comparison tool for apple to apple engagement size comparisons of any two websites on the web.
Anchor Text #
The visible link text that is tagged with any link. From an SEO perspective, anchor text plays a part in defining the relevance of a link. A good anchor tells the reader exactly what to expect on the other side of the link.
Algorithmic Penalty #
Google manages website’s adherence to the webmaster guidelines through manual actions and automatically through algorithmic penalties. These are a set of hidden criterion whereby a domain is detected and flagged as breaking webmaster guidelines. According to Matt Cutts an average 400,000 websites a month are given algorithmic penalties.
Barnacle SEO #
An SEO strategy whereby branded content is attached to a larger property. The point of focus for barnacle SEO is usually around informational queries that exist around the core commercial queries relevant to a business, to search those results pages and engage in the sites that are organically listing.
Bing Places #
Bing’s local listings framework, the equivalent of Google My Business. Listing on Bing Places is an important checkbox for building local SEO authority.
Bounce Rate #
The percentage of web visitors who leave a page without staying longer than 30 seconds or engaging with the site. An effective measure of engagement for a website and minor indirect SEO ranking factor.
Blogger Outreach #
A link building technique whereby webmasters can work with bloggers to seed content around the web and garner valuable links.
A common term in SEO circles that describes SEO techniques which breach Google’s webmaster guidelines in an effort to enhance a website’s ranking.
Also known as a spider or internet bot, is a program or automated script which browses the web systematically. Google’s crawlers scour the web 24/7 indexing content, the data of which forms the basis for the Google search engine.
A Cascading Style Sheet, CSS style sheets contain the formatting for web pages and describe the presentation of visual elements as markedup in HTML. They allow for common stylistic elements to be tagged and repeated throughout a website easily.
Content Management System (CMS) #
A user interface for interacting with site content and code. Popular CMS platforms include WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Shopify & Magento.
Citation Flow (CF) #
A proprietary link metric coined by Majestic. Citation flow measures the volume of links linking to a website without factoring the quality of those links. High citation flow websites relative to trust flow typically have unnatural backlink profiles and a large number of backlinks to websites of low authority.
Canonical URL #
A reference to an original source URL. The rel=canonical attribute is an important technical SEO element that prevents duplicate content issues and points crawlers to the original source of content.
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) #
The practise of optimising web pages to better align with customer intent and improve conversion metrics. CRO is an important element in SEO as Google looks to rank websites that show high engagement signals.
Click-Though Rate #
A measure of engagement in a website from a search engine rankings page. Calculated in Google Analytics as impressions divided by clicks on a search result. Expected click through rate vs actual is a minor search rankings signal.
The Document Object Model. A tool used by Google to explore and analyse web pages. An especially important concept in the conversion goal markup of websites when setting up attribution.
Duplicate Content #
Website content which in largess is similar. Duplicate content can be flagged both internally and externally, internal duplicate content issues should be resolved with the rel=canonical tag, where-as content needs to be viewed as at least 35% unique to be seen as unique content externally by Google.
Direct Traffic #
A site visitor that has come directly to the website without having clicked on a link or searched through a search engine. This is most commonly done through explicitly entering the site URL into a browser.
A common SEO penalty for websites that are repeat offenders of breaking webmaster guidelines. Deindexation is usually done through manual action and is a final consequence of multiple warnings.
Exact Match Domain #
A somewhat antiquated approach to branding businesses and their respective host domains. Exact match domains look to stuff relevant keywords into the URL, however as search engines have become more sophisticated at understanding relevance this tactic has become increasingly less effective.
Fred Update #
A term coined by Google’s Gary Illyes as a joke. To the search community this term now encompasses many of the minor ‘quality’ updates that Google pushes into their search algorithm on a regular basis.
Google My Business #
Google’s local search listings engine. A company’s Google My Business listing is often the cornerstone of local SEO search visibility. It’s an important local SEO fundamental to maintain NAP consistency that reflects the information provided to Google My Business.
Google Bot #
See ‘crawler.’ Google bot is the official Google crawler scouring the web for new content to index into it’s search engine.
Google Analytics #
Google’s proprietary web analytics suite. A goto for most webmasters to help understand their web traffic in detail.
The HTML tag that denotes the language of a page. An important SEO consideration for multi-language sites.
The collective title for a 2013 wholesale revamp of the Google search algorithm that gave rise to semantic search. Effectively the Hummingbird algorithm update gave Google’s search engine an understanding of context which pushes web content towards being deep and holistically answering a query to rank over keyword stuffed and fluff.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is a more modern variant of the HTTP protocol that adds a layer of security through a Secure Socket Layer (SSL). SSL is generally seen by the SEO community as being a minor ranking factor as Google is a well known public advocate of the technology.
Interstitial Penalty #
In 2017 Google started penalising sites that loaded interstitials within their search algorithm, think anything that obscures or interrupts page content. The motive was to advocate for a better user experience from publishers
Informational Search #
Search queries that look to answer informational questions about a product, place or topic. These types of queries are often asked early on in the customer journey as the customer looks to gather information about what at that point might not be a clearly defined problem to them.
Information Architecture #
The structure of content within a website on both a page and domain level. The practise of mapping an information architecture is vitally important in modern SEO to ensure that a website accurately meets the user intent it was built for.
From a Google Analytics perspective an impression is made when a website is served in a search result to a user.
A HTML document embedded within another HTML document. Iframes aren’t considered best practices within the SEO community and are best avoided as even in 2019 Google Bot has difficulty crawling and understanding them.
Google’s search engine as we know it is based on an indexing algorithm. Billions of search queries are asked of that index each day.
John Mueller #
Currently the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google. A central public facing figure within the Google search team. A recommended Twitter follow for any SEO professional.
Keyword Research #
The practise of matching relevant customer intent with relevant search queries. How do customers answer commercial search queries relevant to your business? There are a number of highly effective tools such as Moz, AHREFs & SEMRush, however a strong basis is always to start with Google’s Keyword Planner.
Keyword Stuffing #
The dated SEO practise of inserting as many keywords and keyword phrases as possible into content as to improve their relevance to target keyword searches.
Knowledge Graph #
A knowledge base embedded within Google search results utilising data from the semantic web. Knowledge graph works towards creating a zero result web, where search queries are answered in results page. See Google’s official video on Knowledge Graph https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmQl6VGvX-c .
Latent Semantic Indexing. A mathematical method for analysing the ‘closeness’ of terms in an informational retrieval mechanism. LSI has been a component of the Google algorithm for a number of years and is a further facet of its development from understanding webpages as ‘strings to things.’
Long Tail #
A term that encompasses compound search queries. Long tail search terms often include a number of descriptive parameters ‘head terms’ don’t and extend into phrases 3+ words long.
The rebranded and updated version of Google’s pagespeed insights. Used to audit web page quality on speed, performance, accessibility and more.
Landing Page #
The page that a user “lands” on post-click on a google search results page. It is important to customise the user experience of a landing page to match the user intent of a searcher’s query.
Local Search #
The practise of optimising search engine visibility to specialised hyper-local queries. Think ‘plumber *suburb*.’ Local search is heavily reliant on signals of locality such as NAPs, local authority and address markup within web assets.
Manual Action #
A scenario where a human review at Google has been tagged to review a web domain and deemed that domain not compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines (https//support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769#quality_guidelines).
A 2015 algorithm update that coupled with an official Google announcement signaled the shift towards the mobile first index. Google was pushing webmasters to create mobile friendly sites and improve their mobile user experiences. Since the announcement mobile traffic has surpassed desktop as the dominant web user base.
Maccabees Update #
A late 2017 algorithm update that focused primarily on thin content and low quality links.
Medic Update #
A 2018 major Google algorithm update that hit the pharma and payday loans segments particularly hard. These segments had been notorious for their abundance of competitors using black hat tactics to rank, with the update objectively showing a stronger focus from Google on relevance and trust.
A SaaS company based in Seattle and founded by Rand Fishkin. Moz was at the forefront of qualitative domain analysis in the era post Google sunsetting the Page Rank metric where SEO specialists were looking for new tools to better understand domain quality.
Common measures of SEO performance. Some of the most popular SEO metrics include keyword rankings, organic traffic and domain authority.
Meta Keywords #
A no longer relevant meta markup, the meta name=”keywords” tag was used as an additional meta signal to Google to help identify which search queries a website was relevant to. In 2012 Matt Cutts announced that Google no longer reads the meta “keywords” attribute.
Meta Data #
A series of tags such as but not limited to robots, alt, heading and canonical which signal a search engine how to read and understand a webpage. Implementing a ‘best practise’ meta data structure is key to an SEO friendly website.
Meta Description #
The sub-text of a search result on any search result. The meta tag content gives webmasters the opportunity to display up to 155 characters of text outlining to the searcher the purpose of the page. A key SEO consideration, meta descriptions should be written for all core pages with copy that entices searchers to click through.
No Index #
A value attached to specific URL’s within the robots.txt document that specifies these pages shouldn’t be indexed by search engines. A common example is transactional pages within a website or the CMS login portal page.
No Follow #
The rel=”nofollow” attribute within a link indicates that the site does not wish to pass link equity along with the link. No follow links were introduced in response to the abundance of blog spam that occurred in the formative years of SEO and a natural part of any backlink profile.
Short for Name, Address, Phone Number. NAP listings are critical to a site ranking well in local search. This listings include business directories, social bookmarking sites, social media, essentially any major web authority where business names, addresses and phone numbers are listed.
Over Optimisation #
The excessive use of on-page SEO techniques when building a website’s content and content structures to the point that they negatively impact user experience and even ranking, as Google flags the site as manipulatively breaking webmaster guidelines.
Organic Traffic #
Traffic that has come ‘organically’ to your web page, either from a web search or via direct URL lookup. The scaling of organic traffic is the core objective and measurement metric of search engine optimisation.
On-Page Optimisation #
The optimisation of both structured and unstructured content on a webpage to improve web rankings.
An external piece of 3rd party code ‘plugged in’ to a website. Plugins are often embedded into a website to enable a new feature set within that site but can come at the cost of bloated site speed and security risks. It’s an important SEO and webmaster consideration to streamline to the absolute minimum the number of functional plugins within a site.
The process of breaking down large pages of content into many sub-categories as relevant.
Possum Update #
A 2016 update to the Google search algorithm, the Possum update addresses local seo targeting businesses with multiple affiliate GMB locations listed in the same building/area in an effort to clean up local listing spam.
Pigeon Update #
Believed to have begun rolling out circa 2014, the Pigeon update refocused local search results on locality and relevance. Giving local area service providers an upper hand in hyper localized searches over large corps or aggregator sites.
Penguin Update #
Launched in 2012 and rolled out over a 4 year period in various iterations, the Google Penguin update addressed the various black hat link building techniques that had become popular in ranking websites. As of today, the Penguin update runs concurrently with the core Google search algorithm and assess link structures and quality in almost real time.
Panda Update #
Rolled out over a 2 year period starting in 2013 the Panda update targeted thin and un-informative content. It was a direct reaction to a business model of gaming the search algorithm called ‘content farms’ that had arisen in the late 2000s and began to dominate the search index.
Page Rank #
The foundational algorithm behind the Google search engine named after Google co-founder Larry Page. The name also represented an open metric shown by Google (PR) to evaluate page value up until it was removed from Webmaster Tools in 2009. All patents behind pagerank algorithm expired in Sept 2019 (https//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank).
A user defined term that is typed into Google’s search bar to satisfy a question or needs.
Quality Update #
An unannounced update looking at rewarding sites with high quality content and user experience.
Rand Fishkin #
Founder of Moz.com and key personality behind Moz’s Whiteboard Fridays (https//moz.com/blog/category/whiteboard-friday) weekly SEO tutorial video series. Rand is known for his expertise in all things SEO and his haircuts. One of the big personalities in the SEO arena and a regular speaker of the US digital marketing conference circuit.
A text document deposited within a domain’s root folder entitled robots.txt which instructs crawlers which pages they can and cannot crawl. It’s vital to have a valid robots.txt file on a domain to ensure it is easily crawled.
Rich Snippets #
Rich snippets are another form of metadata that ‘enriches’ web pages with information for web crawlers. These include product ratings information, availability, pricing and more. As with other forms of metadata, this information is described within the code and isn’t visible explicitly on the page in most circumstances. Rich snippets (when Google chooses to display them) have a net positive effect on SEO as they make a webpage’s search listing more appealing to users.
Introduced in 2015, Rankbrain converts search strings into contextual vectors. It’s a watershed moment in the Google search algorithm as it introduces machine learning for the first time into the core algorithm’s operation. Using machine learning and contextual vectors the search engine got a big push towards understanding the web as a semantic web and moving from ‘strings to things.’
Usually given as a number; the position in which Google returns your website within their search results page for a given user search query.
An SEO term for content or websites that has been deliberately over optimised in an attempt to manipulate search engines into ranking a property highly. There are many forms of spam and they vary in means from directly hiding or over optimising content on a page to placing hidden links directly on a site or on linked properties.
Framed within its most popular application (Google Analytics) a session is defined as the length of time a user engages with a website. By default, session time is framed to 30 minutes and GA will track all engagements (page flow, conversion actions e.c.t) with that session time frame.
SERP (Search Engine Results Page) #
The page that is returned with a search query. Ranking highly on SERPs for competitive terms is one of the core performance metrics in SEO.
A popular SEO tool founded by Oleg Shchegolev and Dmitry Melnikov in 2008. The SaaS company has been aggressively expanding their product in recent years moving beyond domain qualitative and quantitative analysis, into SEM intelligence, content marketing, Local SEO listing management and lead generation.
Search Engine #
A program that compiles and organises a database of web pages and returns detailed information on those pages based on a user’s query. The most popular search engines in the world include Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, DuckDuckGo, Ask and AOL.
The common SEO practise of using crawlers to ‘scrape’ important data from the internet and compiled into databases for analysis. Common data fields that might be ‘scraped’ include URLs, descriptions, addresses, sitelinks and many more.
A semantic vocabulary of tags which helps search engines understand how to read and represent your pages externally to your site. A common list of schema attributes can be found at the governing organisation (https//schema.org/docs/schemas.html).
Search Console #
Google’s proprietary tool for helping webmasters manage their search visibility and crawlability. The Search Console is the only property that when connected to a domain shows vital direct SEO query data from searchers interacting with relevant searches.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) #
Can be broadly defined as increasing the quantity and quality of traffic reaching a website organically. The commercial value in doing so gave rise to the role of the SEO specialist who’s role has many facets including, CRO, copywriting, data analytics, keyword research, link building, user experience, information architecture mapping and many more.
Transactional Query #
A search query that indicates an intent to complete a transaction and that the user is at the business end of the conversion funnel. Transactional queries may include keywords such as brand names or even terms like “buy” or “purchase”.
Trust Flow (TF) #
A proprietary metric from Majestic SEO. Trust Flow is a qualitative analysis metric that predicts how trustworthy a page is based on how trustworthy the inbound links are. A high Trust Flow and high TF/CF ratio is a great metric to aim for in SEO.
A grouped term that defines all the users that visit a webpage. Traffic can come from a number of sources, social, paid, organic, referral and direct. SEO’s primary role is to boost organic and direct traffic sources, however it’s important to see SEO as just part of the greater user journey and its role as intertwined.
Title Tag #
A HTML element that specifies the title of a webpage. Title tags are displayed in search results and are a major factor in helping search engines understand the relevancy of a web page. It’s a best practise in SEO when writing title tags to balance keyword optimisation with defining points of difference.
User Journey #
The user journey represent the series of steps users take before they reach their end goal on a website, whether it’s purchasing a product or find opening hours. This journey often consists of several website pages and touchpoints that carry users from one step to another.
User Interface (UI) #
At its simplest form, UI is the human-computer interaction that focuses on the cosmetics aspect of a product – the look and feel, presentation and interactivity.
User Flow #
User flow can be thought of as a ‘mini user journey’ and is typically focused on one task or goal through your product or service, such as making an online payment or submit an enquiry. The goal is to optimise users’ experience on each task with your product with as little friction as possible.
User Experience (UX) #
While UI represent the cosmetic aspect of a product, UX focuses on the functionality, usability and ease of use in the interaction between the customer and the product.
A user is the individual who utilises a website, network or computer service.
The shortening for uniform resource locator and represents the address of a web page. Along with your title tags, link anchor text, and the content itself, search engines use your URL to understand what the page is about. URLs that contain keywords relevant to your site’s content are friendlier for users navigating your site.
Voice Search #
Voice search allows users to speak into a device instead of typing keywords to generate results and has become an important part of the SEO process. Siri, Google Assistant and MIcrosoft Cortana are all ‘digital assistant’ voice search platforms.
The most powerful and widely adopted content framework on the web. A goto content management system for most web developers with a number of SEO friendly native features & plugins.
Whiteboard Fridays #
A weekly video series where Moz founder Rand Fishkin, other Mozzers or guests untangle a new complex SEO concept, using a whiteboard. Each video usually runs for about 8-12 minutes but pack in a lot of information, leaving viewers with specific actionable advice.
White Hat #
White hat refers to SEO techniques and practices used to improve your search rankings without breaking search engine rules (as opposed to black hat). By creating quality content, you’ll show the search engines that your site is unique and appropriate to display.
Webmaster Tools #
The former name for Google’s Search Console tool, prior to its 2015 rebrand and revamp. A key tool for webmasters looking to interact with Google on their indexing status and search visibility.
Web 2.0 #
The second edition of the word wide web does not refer to any technical upgrades of the internet as such, but rather a shift in how it’s used. It’s characterised by greater user interactivity, collaboration and allows user to actively participate in the experience instead of acting as passive viewers of the information,
XML Sitemap #
A site outline attached to your website in XML format which allows Google crawlers to quickly find and index the essential pages on your website.