We have provided a brief yet succinct SEO glossary and guide to help you navigate your way through the complex world of SEO terminology. Don’t get confused by the jargon spoken by search engine help articles and service providers. Use our definitions guide below to make your life easier when trying to sift through the technical speak of good and bad SEOs and their techniques and spin.
Knowledge is power. Armed with the definitions in this SEO glossary, you will also help yourself to choose a better quality website ranking service, by knowing what to look for in a quality SEO, and better establish their credibility.
Feel free to contact us with any additions of terms or jargon you are unfamiliar with.
Adwords – Google’s Pay Per Click contextual advertisement program, a very common way of basic website advertisement – The banner ads on the side (and sometimes above) of “organic”/normal Google search page results, often highlighted with a cream/yellow background.
Algorithm (algo) – The mathematically programmed system used by search engines calculating many hundreds of factors to determine what pages to suggest/show for a given search query for any given position.
Analytics / stats (Google Analytics) – A website program which assists in gathering and analysing data about website usage and visitor data and statistics. Google analytics is a feature rich, popular, highly detailed analytics program showing daily hits data, how people found the site, how long they stayed on each page, and much more.
Anchor text – The text of a link on any website (for example in this sentence the 4 words: Control Alt Elite SEO is the “anchor text” for a link/backlink pointing to the Control Alt Elite website). Search engines use anchor text to partially indicate the relevancy of the referring site and of the link to the content on the landing page. Ideally all three will share some keywords in common. For example for a site selling “widgets” to rank well it should gain a certain amount of links from other sites with anchor text containing the word “widget”, from another page/website about widgets. If you have the right amount and ratio of links with anchor text “widgets” vs a competitor who does not, or has too few, Google has much more chance of ranking your site higher for “widgets” as it the anchor text and links are a large part calculated by the Google algorithm to determine where your website ranks in Google for particular keywords. If it sees you as the authority on widgets, you will rank very well for the word “widgets” in Google.
Authority – (trust, link juice, Google juice) A general term indicating the amount of trust that a site is credited with for a particular search query. Authority/trust is derived from high quality related incoming links from other highly trusted sites, and quality content.
Authority site – A website which has many high quality incoming links from other related expert/hub sites. Because of this simultaneous citation from trusted hubs an authority site usually has high trust, PageRank, and search results placement. Wikipedia, is an example of an authority site.
Backlink (link, links, incoming link, inbound link) – Any external link from an external page or external 3rd party website to one of your websites own pages/site. i.e. a link to your website from an online news article, or directory etc is usually counted as a backlink.
Banner Blindness – It is very common for users eyes to become so familiar with ads (text or otherwise) and their position on a page, that their brain automatically subconsciously filters them out of sight/skips over them, never to be seen/read, only noticing true natural/organic content.
Black hat – Search engine optimization tactics that are counter to best practices such as the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Often deemed SPAM, and usually created with automated software to mass blast many websites at once with junk machine generated, often nonsensical gibberish content to gain a low quality link. Blackhat SEO can often result in no boost, or actually negative/penalties of a website’s rankings.
Blog – A website which presents content or articles in a more or less chronological series. Content may or may not be time sensitive. Most blogs use a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress rather than individually crafted webpages. Because of this, the blogger can chose to concentrate on content creation instead of having to code each page. With a blog setup, a user can very easily create new website pages / “blog posts” without much knowledge of coding required, and easily add new pages to the site for news and special offers, and helpful articles etc.
Bot (robot, spider, crawler) – A program which performs a task more or less autonomously. Search engines use bots to automatically find and add web pages to their search indexes. The Google bot follows links from other existing pages on the internet, to find every other new page on the internet, including new pages on your own website.
Bounce rate – The percentage of users who enter a site and then leave it without viewing any other pages.
Click fraud – Ads/PPC Only – Improper clicks on a PPC advertisement usually by the site publisher, sometimes with software, done on purpose for the reason of creating undeserved earnings (or from competitors of a business attempting to use up the advertising budget of their competitors as each click is paid for by the business). Click fraud is a huge issue for ad agencies like Google, because it lowers advertiser confidence that they will get fair value for their ad spend.
Cloak – The practice of delivering different content to the search engine spider than that seen by the human users. For example white text on a white background, or more technical hiding tactics such as certain redirect techniques. This Black Hat tactic is frowned upon by the search engines and caries a virtual death penalty of the site/domain being banned from the search engine results.
CMS Content Management System – Website backend creation programs such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. A much more modern system for creating websites which separate most of the mundane webmaster tasks/coding from content creation so that a publisher can be effective without acquiring or even understanding sophisticated coding skills if they so chose. Content can easily be created without much technical knowledge, yet technical users can redesign themes and add special code if need be. The whole site is also much easier to manage, as code and content can be managed from one place, without needing to scan thousands of files and code.
Comment spam – Posting blog comments for the purpose of generating an backlink to another site. The reason many blogs use the “nofollow” link attribute.
Content (text, copy) – The main text part of a web page that is intended to be most relevant for and be of interest to the user. Advertising, navigation, branding and boilerplate text are not usually considered to be content.
Contextual advertisement – Advertising which is related to the content.
Conversion (goal) – An achievement of a quantifiable goal on a website. Hits, enquiries, sign ups, and sales are examples of conversions.
Conversion rate – Percentage of users who convert to a goal – see conversion.
CPC Cost Per Click – the rate that is paid per click for a Pay Per Click Advertiser. For example an amount such as $5 per click is paid by the advertiser for each person who clicks on an Adwords advertisement
CPM (Cost Per Thousand impressions) – A statistical metric used to quantify the average value / cost of Pay Per Click advertisements. M – from the Roman numeral for one thousand.
Crawler (bot, spider) – A program which moves through the worldwide web or a website by way of the link structure to gather data.
Directory – A site devoted to website/business directory pages, equivalent to an online phone book. An example of this is TrueLocal, Hotfrog and Yelp.
Directory page – A page of links to related WebPages.
Dofollow link – A link that passes authority/juice. The opposite of a nofollow link (see nofollow).
Duplicate content – Content which is similar or identical to that found on another website or page. A site may not be penalized for serving duplicate content but it will receive little if any trust from the search engines compared to the content that the SE considers being the original.
E commerce site A website devoted to retail sales and selling products online from a web store.
Feed – Content which is delivered to the user via special websites or programs such as news aggregators.
FFA (Free For All) – A page that anyone can gain a backlink on, which usually results in many spammy outgoing links to hundreds/thousands of unrelated websites, containing little if any unique content. Google will give a site less or no value if anyone can (and everyone has) put a link on the page, compared with a high quality page from an authority site, with only a few outgoing links to high quality sites. Rarer links from a quality site that not just anybody can put a link on are therefore much more trusted and powerful. Thus FFA links are usually ignored or penalized by the search engines.
Flash – Adobe Flash is common proprietary software code used on many webpages to produce fancy highly visual/animated text and picture/photo animations, sliding images and webpage games and videos. Flash is not standard website code, and does not work at all on many Apple devices like Iphone and Ipad, and software must be downloaded to use it on other browsers. Google cannot properly read/scan any Flash code on a website, so such pages often appear blank / irrelevant as Google can not read any content on the page, thus dramatically effecting search engine ranking potential.
Fold (the fold) – The fold (as in a newspaper), is the part of a webpage that is visible on the screen, without needing to scroll down or across (to move past “the fold”). Content that is “above the fold” has much greater chance of being seen than that “below the fold”.
Frames – An old fashioned web page design where two or more documents appear on the same screen, each within its own frame that can be separately scrolled. Frames are bad for SEO because spiders sometimes fail to correctly navigate them. Additionally, most users dislike frames because it is almost like having two tiny monitors neither of which shows a full page of information at one time.
Google bomb – The combined effort of multiple webmasters to change the Google search results usually for humorous effect using SEO/backlinks. The “miserable failure” – George Bush, and “greatest living American” – Steven Colbert Google bombs are famous examples. Many years ago anchor text of “miserable failure” was created and used on many external websites to point links to the official government Whitehouse website, thus Googling “miserable failure” at the time used to display the Whitehouse website as the #1 result (back in 2004).
Google dance – The change in SERPs caused by an update of the Google database or algorithm, or Google caching new backlinks or site alterations. A Google dance can happen very frequently over several days or weeks causing a website to bubble up and down in Google several pages for the same keyword search query in short periods of time. The cause of great angst and consternation for webmasters who slip in the SERPs. A Google dance resulting in a lower result, can often dance back up to a higher result days later, as the new algorithm changes settle. Also the period of time during a Google index update when different data centres have different data.
Google juice (trust, authority, pagerank) – The trust / authority from Google, which flows through outgoing links to other pages.
Googlebot – Google’s spider program
Google Maps – Google’s geographical representation of streets, places, businesses, especially those websites with SEO’d Google Places profiles. (See “Places / Google Local+” for more).
Google Places / Google Local – Google’s directory for businesses to add a profile linked to a map. Helps local customers find local businesses. Places profiles can be optimized with SEO to rank on Page 1 of Google for target keywords.
Google+ – Google’s social media platform, competitor to Facebook. Individual users and businesses can set up a profile, and users can follow other profiles and interact with and follow other users/businesses.
Hit (hits, pageviews, impressions) – The standard by which web traffic is often judged. A hit happens each time that a user visits a webpage.
Hub (expert page) – A trusted page with high quality content that links out to related pages.
HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) – Webpage code / directives or “markup” which are used to add formatting and web functionality to plain text for use on the internet. HTML is the mother tongue of the search engines, and should generally be strictly and exclusively adhered to on web pages.
Impression (page view) – The event where a user views a single webpage one time. A visitor may create multiple hits by repeatedly visiting a page in the same day or other defined period, “unique hits” is a more accurate indicator.
In bound link (inlink, incoming link, links) – See backlink.
index Noun – A database of WebPages and their content used by the search engines.
Index / indexed Verb – When a web page is discovered and then added to a search engine’s index.
Indexed Pages – The pages on a site which have been indexed in a search engine.
Keyword – Key phrase – The word or phrase that a user enters into a search engine / The main relevant targeted words for a website.
Keyword density – The percentage of words on a web page which are a particular keyword. A keyword mentioned 1 time in 100 words on content = 1% density. If the density value is unnaturally high (the keyword is overused on the page) the page may be penalized, else if it is not used enough, the page may not be deemed relevant for that keyword.
Keyword research – The critical upfront analysis and initial work of determining which keywords are most appropriate for targeting. Finding out the best keywords for a website to target, by researching how many people are searching for those keywords/phrases each day/month. Not only determining the highest volume keywords, but also determining which of these keywords will likely bring the best results (conversions), as well as determining how much competition each keyword has, thus how hard it will be (or easy) to rank in Google for these keywords.
Keyword spam (keyword stuffing) – Repeating a keyword too often, and unnaturally frequently in a webpage’s content, resulting in an inappropriately high keyword density.
Landing page – The page that a user lands on when they click on a link in a SERP
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) – Put simply, this means when the search engine’s index commonly associates related groups of words in a page (related keywords and similar themes of text content). Words used in the same context can often have similar meaning. The significance is that if your page is about “mortgages” you may also easily rank for “home loans” as Google’s algorithm already knows these are related keywords due to other websites using these keywords in a similar context.
Link – Any element on a web page that can be clicked on to cause the browser to jump to another page or another part of the current page. A link can be text or a picture.
Link bait – A webpage with the designed purpose of attracting incoming links, often mostly via social media, often using viral, humorous, compelling or controversial content.
Link building – Actively cultivating backlinks to a site. When high quality backlinking is performed by an expert SEO link building is a major source of SEO ranking improvements.
Link exchange – A reciprocal linking scheme often facilitated by a site devoted to directory pages. Link exchanges usually allow links to sites of low or no quality, and add no value themselves. Quality directories are usually human edited for quality assurance.
Link farm – A group of sites which all link to each other, or a group of seemingly random sites controlled by one person that artificially link to the same sites. Such amateur artificial patterns are easily detected and have their SEO value discounted by search engines.
Link partner (link exchange, reciprocal linking) – Two sites which link to each other. Search engines usually don’t see these as high value links, because of the reciprocal nature.
Link popularity – A measure of the value/authority of a site based upon the number and quality of sites that link to it
Link spam (Comment Spam) – Unwanted links such as those posted in user generated content like blog comments.
Link text (see Anchor text)
Long tail / long tail keywords – longer more specific search queries with multiple words that are often less targeted than shorter broad queries with less/single keywords. For example a search for “widgets” might be very broad with many results and also highly competitive while “red widgets with reverse threads” would be a long tail search. Much less search volume than a general keyword, but very highly targeted (usually convert better), and likely have less competition so be easier to rank for. A large percentage of all searches are made up of long tail searches.
LSI (see Latent Semantic Indexing)
META tags – Statements within the HEAD section of an HTML page which provides information about the page to search engines. META information may be in the SERPs but is not visible on the page. It is very important to have unique and accurate META title and description tags, because they may be the information that the search engines rely upon the most to determine what the page is about. Also, they are the first impression that users get about your page within the SERPs. Once deemed very important in ranking for some search engines such as Yahoo many years ago, however META keywords and META description are now no longer used as ranking indicators with Google, so have practically 0 influence on SEO and ranking (however the description is what users can read and influence click rates).
Monetize – To extract income from a site. Selling a product direct on the site, or affiliate sales and ads are an easy way to monetize a website.
Natural search results – See “organic search results”.
Nofollow – A “nofollow” link is effectively useless. NOFOLLOW is a tiny command/piece of code within individual link code added by the webmaster/site owner, which instructs robots to not follow either any links on the page or the specific link. A backlink from a website with a “nofollow” attribute code (which many blogs and small and large websites such as Facebook, Wikipedia and some directories and many other websites use) does not pass any link juice/authority for SEO/SERP ranking. The nofollow code is sometimes used by webmasters on their sites to avoid possible detrimental results of indorsing a bad site by way of an outgoing link, or to discourage link spam in user generated content. Dofollow is the opposite, although not required to be coded as such – it is a link that does pass authority.
Non reciprocal link – When site A links to site B, but site B does not link back to site A, then the link is considered non reciprocal. Search engines tend to give more value to non-reciprocal links than to reciprocal ones because they are less likely to be the result of collusion between sites, thus have more trust as being valuable/authority.
Organic search results – The search engine results which are not sponsored, or paid for in any way (at least can’t be paid for to search engines but can be achieved with good SEO). Organic results are the real/natural search engine results shown on a search engine results page (SERP). They are not the ads/Adwords/CPC shown on the side and top/often with a cream coloured background). Organic results are the webpages that rank naturally (or with SEO). Organic results are often displayed in a block of 10 (and can include Google Places/Maps/Local results).
Pagerank (PR) a value used in the Google algorithm between 0 and 10 (or N/A), and assigned to each page by the Google algorithm, which quantifies link popularity and trust among other (proprietary) factors. No to be confused with the top 10 ranking (A PR4 page can rank #1), PR is an indicator (only visible with certain tools and browser plugins) to show how powerful/trusted relative to other pages that individual page is. Gaining dofollow links from a high PR 5 page can pass on a lot of PR/juice (thus potential ranking authority to your own site), thus be much more valuable than a link from a page with PR0.
Penalty – A website can be penalized and it’s rankings can suffer/site can be banned if Google determines bad practice / cheap bad quality / automated / blackhat / SPAM types of SEO were used.
Places (Local) – Google Places/ Google+ Local – See “Google Places”
PPC (Pay Per Click) – A contextual advertisement scheme where advertisers pay add agencies (such as Google) whenever a user clicks on their ad. Adwords is an example of PPC advertising.
Reciprocal link (link exchange, link partner) – When two sites both link to each other. Search engines usually don’t see these as high value links, because of the reciprocal and potentially contrived nature.
Redirect – Any of several methods used to change the address of a landing page such as when a site is moved to a new domain, or new page.
Regional long tail (RLT) – A long tail keyword which contains a city or region name. This is especially useful for targeting keywords for the service industry. E.g. “cheap blue widgets Toorak”
Robots.txt – A file in the root directory of a website use to restrict and control the behaviour of search engine spiders to index certain pages, not others, and other such behaviour.
ROI (Return On Investment) – To make more money back in return from your investment in a service such as SEO or advertising campaign compared to more in sales and profits. A good ROI, regardless of initial cost can show how beneficial a service is.
Sandbox – When Google puts sites into a “sandbox” artificially preventing the site from ranking well for anything until a set period of time has passed / their authority/value is proved. The existence or exact behaviour of the sandbox is not universally accepted among SEOs.
Scrape – Copying content from a site, often facilitated by automated bots
SE (Search Engine)
Search engine (SE) – This is a search program/website such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, which searches a document or group of documents for relevant matches of a user’s keyword phrase and returns a list of the most relevant matches. Internet search engines search the entire internet for relevant matches.
SEM – Search Engine Marketing, SEM is a focus on setting up and tweaking paid/ad listings in Google such as Adwords and other search-engine related services and functions that will increase exposure and traffic to your Web site with online advertising (not organic SEO), usually using CPC/PPC.
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation is the process of increasing the number of visitors to a Web site by achieving high rankings in the organic search results of a search engine for the best keywords. The higher a Web site ranks in the results of a search, the greater the chance that users will visit the site. It is common practice for Internet users to not click past the first few pages of search results, therefore high rank in SERPs is essential for obtaining traffic for a site. SEO helps to ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be indexed and favourably ranked by the search engine.
SERP – Search Engine Results Page (i.e. a Google search results page after searching for a particular keyword)
Site map – A page or structured group of pages which link to every user accessible page on a website, aimed at improving site usability by clarifying the data structure of the site for the users and also for search engines to discover every page easily for proper indexing. An XML sitemap is often kept in the root directory of a site specifically to help search engine spiders to find all of the site pages.
SMM (Social Media Marketing) – Website or brand promotion through social media
Social Bookmark – A form of Social Media where users bookmarks are aggregated for public access on a site specialising is social bookmarking such as Digg and StumbleUpon . Any webpage can be publicly bookmarked on a social bookmark site, which often contain decent authority and get indexed quickly (although are often nofollow).
Social Media – Various online technologies used by people to share information and perspectives. Facebook and Twitter are famous social media sites, as are Google+, Pinterest and Instagram. Blogs, wikis, forums, social bookmarking, user reviews and rating sites (Delicious, StumbleUpon, Reddit) are more examples of Social Media.
SPAM – Often cheap, automated, low quality, machine generated content, seen as blackhat. SPAM techniques are used to mass advertise via websites or email products and services. Often spammers will try to take advantage of others legitimate webpage’s authority by spamming/attempting to backlink their own website on it with comment SPAM or other techniques. Such links are usually worthless (as they can receive thousands of automated spammers), and even penalize a site’s rankings. A common technique by cheap offshore SEO service providers is to sell such links, unbeknownst to most people. Google does not value such SPAM “SEO”, and if detected can give your site a penalty, thus being a complete waste of time and money.
Spammer – A person who uses spam technique to pursue a goal.
Spider (bot, crawler) – A specialized bot used by search engines to find and add web pages to their indexes.
Splash page – Often animated, graphics and intro pages without significant textual content (commonly made in Flash – see Flash). Splash pages are intended to look flashy to humans, but without attention to SEO may look like dead ends to search engine spiders, which can only navigate through text links. Poorly executed splash pages may be bad for SEO and often a pain in the ass for users.
Splog – Spam Blog which usually contains little if any value to humans, and is often machine generated or made up of scraped content.
Static page – A web page without dynamic content or variables such as session IDs in the URL. Static pages are good for SEO work in that they are friendly to search engine spiders.
Stickiness – Reducing the bounce rate. Website changes that entice users to stay on the site longer, and view more pages improve the sites “stickiness”.
Submission – Cheap SEO providers often claim they can (for a small fee) complete submissions to submit your site to “1000’s of search engines”. There are literally only a few search engines worth being in, of which Google gets around 90%+ of the traffic in Australia. Yahoo and Bing are helpful too, but that’s about it. Manually submitting a site to search engines is unnecessary (it usually happens automatically), and no matter what, does not help rankings at all. Only good quality SEO can get you ranked for good keywords.
Text link – A plain HTML link that does not involve graphic or special code such as flash or java script.
Time on page – The amount of time that a user spends on one page before clicking off. The length of time spent is an indication of quality and relevance.
Unique Hit – A unique hit means 1 single hit counted for all the visits from a single person/computer. A visitor may hit the page 10 times in a day, but a “unique hit” measurement in analytics software ensures they are only counted once.
URL – Uniform Resource Locator – AKA Web Address: http://www.controlaltelite.com.au
Web 2.0 – Web 2 point 0 – Characterized by modern websites which encourage user interaction, including most social media websites such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook etc.
White hat – SEO techniques using approved methods which conform to best practice guidelines of the search engines, thus is most valued, and does not attempt to illegally/unscrupulously “game” or manipulate SERPs using poor SEO technique. Manual, high quality original content on quality sites, not automated junk SPAM SEO aka blackhat that often results in penalties, or does not work at all.
Widget – 1). (gadget, gizmo) small applications used on web pages to provide specific functions such as a hit counter or IP address display, or any other functions. These programs can make good link bait. 2). a term borrowed from economics which means “any product or commodity” often used as a non-specific keyword purely for the purposes of example.