SEO Glossary: 35 SEO Terms to Know [2015 Edition]

It’s no secret that SEO is a fluid and evolving industry. Naturally, with this nature comes a glossary that continues to grow and evolve each year. In 2015, a few obsolete SEO terms have been booted from the glossary and many terms have been added. Keep in mind that some of the terms related to SEO may actually mean something slightly different in the context of SEO than they do in your everyday tech world (“hyperlink” and “spider” are great examples).

Below is a list of all the terms you should know and understand by category this year and as we gear up for 2016. We’ve left out some of the most obvious, but by and large this list should help get you through an interview (whether you’re conducting or answering) as well as help you improve your general SEO knowledge:

13 General SEO Terms to Know

Analytics. This refers to all of the data regarding your website. Google Analytics is the most popular tool to help you track anything and everything referring to your website—which ads are getting clicked most, which pages are sending visitors to your website most, where users are coming from before they visit your page, how long someone stays on your website, etc.

Algorithms. In reference to search engines, and algorithm is something that the search engines use to make decisions about what to look for and where to organize all of the different websites and webpages on the web. Technically, it is a process or set of rules that are followed. For example, let’s say Google makes backlinks more important than internal links. This is because they told the algorithm to follow that rule.

Backlinks. Backlinks are links around the web that are pointing back to your website. For example, if Forbes was to write an article and include a link to an article you wrote, that would be a backlink. Sometimes companies actively try and build backlinks through guest blogging because they improve your SEO. Of course in 2015 there are now things to keep in mind with this technique, which you can learn about here.

Bots. The bots are also sometimes referred to as spiders and/or crawlers. They are essentially text files that run through all webpages and read them and then interpret and make analysis about what the page is about (which is why SEO indicators even exist). The technical name for them is “Robots.txt files.” In general, bots are usually preceded by the search engine they work with, so Google bots are different that the Bing bots which are different than the Yahoo bots.

Citation. This refers to whenever your site is mentioned online using your business name, address, and/or phone number (known as NAP information). Citations not only include whenever someone mentions your website with your NAP information, but also whenever you do personally such as on your social networks, on your local accounts, or on your actual website. Just make sure everything is perfectly consistent!

Disavow. When you disavow something, you are denying responsibility and saying that you were not involved. In regards to SEO, disavow is used most often with the Google Disavow Links tool. When you use this tool, you are telling Google that you had nothing to do with and do not want to be associated with certain links.

Google Panda and Penguin. These are the names given to the most major algorithm updates. When Google makes a change to their algorithm then what ranks where could change because Google is trying to offer the best results to users possible. Panda refers to whenever Google makes a change referring to content, and Penguin refers to when Google makes changes to combat spam. These are the two terms used most often in the news.

Index. Think of an index like you would the index of a book. Google has an index where they store a copy of all the pages online so that they can sort through and decide what pages they should put on a results page for users to see. Indexing, on that same note, refers to what Google does when it crawls websites—it’s indexing pages and adding them to their index, or database.

Landing Page. When someone clicks a link you’ve built, an ad on Google, an article you shared on social media, etc., they are sent to what you call a landing page (aka, that’s where they will land). This means that a landing page can be absolutely anything and is always changing based on what it is you’re talking about. In some conversations the landing page being discussed is a Thank You page, in other situations it is a product page, and so on.

Link Juice. Links almost always have some sort of affect on where your website is ranked for certain queries, or words and phrases users type into a search engine box. However, links often have different values. For example, earning a link from Forbes is going to have very positive affects because it is so widely accepted and popular. This means that link will have a lot of link juice, or it will help a company look good in the eyes of the Google bots and therefore improve rankings faster.

Long Tail Keywords. This refers to very detailed keyword phrases that have a low search volume, but there is a good chance they will help bring you conversions. For example, something very specific like “purchase hypoallergenic red dog bed in Chicago” is a long tail keyword that probably doesn’t get a lot of searches, but those who search for that keyword are probably ready to buy; thus helping you see conversions.

Traffic (Direct, Referral, and Organic). Traffic refers to the number of visits to your website. You can split up this metric into both direct and referral traffic; direct meaning the number of users who type your URL into their browser, and referral meaning how many people visited your site by clicking an external link. Organic traffic, on the other hand, is the number of people who visited your website after finding it on a search engine results page.

White and Black Hat. These are two terms used to refer to different SEO methods and approaches. Any SEO tactic that Google deems as OK is considered a white hat tactic, and everything that is forbidden by Google is a black hat tactic. Different SEO techniques might be labeled black hat because they are trying to trick the reader and/or Google bots, so if you use one to try and improve your rankings you will end up getting penalized eventually.

For a list of all the different black hat tactic terms, visit here.

4 Website Structure and Usability Terms

301 Redirect. This is a technique that you use if you are permanently moving one of your webpages or even a website altogether. It tells Google that your page is no longer in one place and is now moved to another page or domain. This helps make sure that your link juice is transferred (aka, all of the backlinks you’ve built are still earning you credit), and you do not get hit with any duplicate content penalties.

302 Redirect. This is a temporary redirect. It lets Google know that they should not start indexing the pages that you’re publishing because they are not going to be permanent. This is most often used during a redesign or an A/B test.

404 Error. An error page will show up for a user if the webpage cannot be found. This usually happens automatically and is not something a Webmaster puts out there on purpose. A webpage may not be able to be found because of a broken link or a dead link, meaning the Webmaster removed the page. As a Webmaster, you should constantly try and check your pages and make sure you’re not associated with any 404 errors.

Canonical Attribute. Often confused with a 301 redirect, a canonical attribute will tell Google that you may have multiple pages with the same content but you only want one of those pages indexed. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making a permanent move, you just may have more than one page that is very similar for readers because of location, demographics, etc.

7 On-Page SEO Terms

Above-the-Fold. This refers to everything that someone sees on a webpage before scrolling down. In other words, it’s the view you get of a website—content, design, ads, etc.—that someone sees right away.

A/B Testing. When you’re testing two things, such as two website designs for example, then you run what is called an A/B test meaning you have version A and you have version B. Some visitors are sent to A and other visitors are sent to B so that you can see which version earns you more traffic, time on site, where users are clicking, etc. A test like this can therefore help you optimize your page.

You can learn more about A/B testing and how to get started here.

Anchor Text. This refers to the text that is connected with a link. In the above A/B testing explanation the word “here” is the anchor text because it is connected with the link.

DoFollow and NoFollow Attributes. Any Webmaster has the power to use a dofollow or nofollow attribute. Dofollow is generally the default and it means that the bots can crawl and index a page, which means that the link will pass link juice where appropriate. A nofollow link of course means the opposite. Sometimes high authority websites like to use nofollow links to combat spammers and make sure that the links people are trying to place on their website (even in the comments) are not just for SEO purposes.

You can learn more about DoFollow and NoFollow attributes here.

Internal and External Links. Both of these links refer to the links that you are finding on your own website. For example, if you just published a blog post, you may want to link to another blog post on your same website that you have written. This is an internal link because you’re linking within the same domain. The “here” link above is an example of an internal link because it points back to another article published on HigherVisibility.

An external link is when you refer to another website through a link on your actual website. If you look at the link mentioned under the A/B testing section above, you’d notice that the link is pointing to HubSpot. This takes you away from HigherVisibility, so it is an external link.

Keyword Density. This refers to how often your keyword appears on a page and/or a piece of content. Keyword density is usually measured in terms of percentages. In the past your goal was to have a keyword density of 2%, but now it is recommended you not worry about keyword density, just the fact that your piece is relevant to readers and maintains a common theme. This then gets into semantic SEO, discussed below.

Semantics. This is a newer term in the SEO world. Semantics refers to synonyms and different phrases that you can use to talk about the same subject or same word (which is what “semantics” means in any context). Google now focuses on semantic SEO, meaning similar words and meanings of phrases will be considered part of your keyword usage and will be taken into account when the bots analyze a page.

You can learn more about semantic SEO and how to get started here.

4 Tags Not to Miss

Alt Image Tag. Google bots cannot look at images to determine what they mean, so you have to add an alt image tag to describe your image. Once Google knows what the image is all about, they can categorize the image and therefore make it available in search results.

H1 Tag. You can add this tag to your posts and your pages so that search engine bots will know what your content is all about and be able to identify different sections of a webpage (a communication tool if you will). An H1 tag is always the main headline for a page and should only be used once, and H2 tags, H3, H4, and so on are expected to also be used as a way to split up different sections of a website.

Meta Description Tag. This tag is actually a small description (usually 160 characters) that once again tell Google what the page is about. This description shows up under each search engine result when someone searches for something on Google, so it’s just as much a way for you to draw in Google users as it is for the bots.

Title Tag. Similarly to the H1 tag, a title tag also tells search engine bots what the page is about and is used in the title section. This tag is also seen in the URLs, in browser tabs, and used as a headline on a Google search engine results page.

7 Abbreviations and Acronyms

CMS. Content Management Systems. WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are the three most popular CMS systems. In other words, a CMS is something you need to house and publish all of your content and create a design and publish a website in the first place.

CTR. Click Through Rate. This refers to how often someone clicks on one of your links. Usually this is a term used when talking about your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, or your paid campaigns through AdWords. You calculate this metric by diving the impressions on your ad by the number of clicks your ad received.

CTA. Call to Action. This can refer to a button you put on your website asking someone to sign up for your newsletter, an ad that asks people to “like” your company on Facebook, a paragraph that asks people for a testimonial, etc. Whatever it is that you do to get people to do something (or take action) is your call to action.

KPI. Key Performance Indicators. This refers to all of the different factors that were key, or crucial, to accomplishing a goal. For example, hiring a content manager might be a KPI when thinking about the company’s objective to reach a profit of $1 million in one year.

ROI. Return on Investment. This is usually a number that indicates how much you earned (return) in relation to the amount of work you put in (investment). For example, if you invested $40,000 per year on a social media expert, how many leads did you get in return? This question is a question of your ROI.

SERP. Search Engine Results Page. When you type something into Google there will be a page that pops up full of results. This is considered a search engine results page. You can use the term SERP for any search engine—Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, YouTube, etc.—but it is most commonly used when referring to Google.

UX. User Experience. This one is pretty self-explanatory. However the user feels when they use a tool, try to navigate your website, visit a page to buy something, etc., you often think of the experience the user might be having.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most important terms to know in SEO. For many, knowing these terms will be enough to be successful in SEO and be able to talk knowledgably about the subject to any SEO pro.

We’ll keep updated this page when needed, but is there anything you would add to the list? Any terms that you still have questions about? Let us know in the comments below.

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