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SEO Terms and Meanings

SEO Terms & Meanings

Learning the basic terminology within the SEO world can be difficult, so we put together a cheat sheet for you to reference while you work toward improving your search engine optimization. Please let us know if you come across other SEO terms that should be included in this list!

On a different note, if you’d rather just hire someone to perform your SEO work for you, check out What Does An SEO Management Company Do and How To Choose The Best SEO Company. Otherwise, enjoy the list!


Basic SEO Terms

Black Hat is a set of practices that go against search engine guidelines, which is used to get higher rankings in search results. Going against these guidelines can result in the site being banned from the search engine and all other sites associated with. These practices may seem short-term to gain traffic to your site but when building a long-lasting business the penalties can have devastating effects on your ranking and traffic.

The following SEO strategies are considered Black Hat techniques. You should avoid using these tactics if you want to stay honest and open with Google and other search engines: 

  • Hidden Text or Links 
  • Keyboard Stuffing 
  • Cloaking
  • Link schemes 
  • Article spinning
  • Doorway Pages 
  • Sneaky Redirects 
  • Guest Posting 
  • Farm Links, Link Wheels, Link Network

Crawling is the process by which search engines send a bot to a web page and “reads” the page. This is the first part of having a search engine recognize your page and show it in search results. First, the web page must be crawled and then indexed.

De-indexed is when a page or group of pages being removed from Google’s index.

Featured Snippets are selected search results that appear at the top of Google’s search results and aim to quickly answer a searcher’s queries. Being featured means getting more clicks through the search results. 

Types of featured snippets are:

  • Paragraph (the answer is given in the text) can just be text or can be text with a picture. 
  • List (the answer is given in a form of a list)
  • Table (the answer is given through a table)

Google My Business Listing is a free listing for local businesses to have important information in front of the eyes of prospective customers looking for your local business online. This valuable tool helps give a chance to engage with your customers more often and keep customers up to date with key information. 

Image Carousels are image results in some SERPs that are scrollable from left to right.

Indexing is the process of storing and organizing content found during crawling. The process will enable a super-fast response to queries. 

Local Pack is a group of usually three local business listings that appear in response to search queries for products or services provided by local businesses. It also features a map of the business locations that are listed.  

Organic is earned placement in search results, as opposed to paid advertisements. With organic search engine optimization, people will easily find your website on search engines while looking for the product or service you provide. 

People Also Ask Boxes are search results from search engines that will display a box of questions that other searchers have asked related to your original search.

Query: Words and phrases that are typed into a search box in order to pull up results. 

There are three different types of search queries:

  • Navigational search queries
  • Information search queries
  • Transactional search queries 

Ranking refers to your content’s placement on the search engine results page. A higher ranking means that when people search for a specific term your website will be higher on the search results than other websites that have a lower ranking. 

Search Engines are computer programs that search for items throughout the internet that match the request input by the user. Examples are Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

SERP stands for search engine results page, which means the page you see after conducting a search. 

Traffic is visits to a website from people who typed a keyword or query into the search engine, looked through the results and clicked on your website.

URL: Uniform Resource Locators are a location or addresses for individual pieces of content on the web.

White Hat is a set practice that improves your search rankings on a search engine page while playing by the rules set by Google and other search engines. 

Some white hat strategies would be: 

  • Play by Google’s guidelines 
  • Create content that people will actively want to read
  • Create a website that stands out from other websites

How Search Engines Work

2xx Status Codes are a status code that indicate the request was successfully completed.

4xx Status Codes are a status code that the site or page couldn’t be reached.

5xx Status Codes are a status code that is a valid request made by the client but the server was unable to perform the request.

Advanced Search Operators are special characters and commands that you can type into the search bar that can help get more relevant search results.

Algorithms are the process used to retrieve data from its search index and quickly deliver the best possible results for the query.

Backlinks (also known as inbound links) is a link made when one website links to another. Backlinks are important because these “inbound links” show search engines that others vouch for your content. Websites with a high number of backlinks tend to have high organic search engine rankings.

Bots are also known as crawlers or spiders, these are automated software that scours the internet to find content and figure out how high the website should be displayed.

Caching is a saved version of your web page that Google creates and stores after they have indexed a page. This process is important because it will make your website faster and increase user satisfaction which will lead to a better SEO score.

Citations are online references to a local business’ name, address, and phone number.

Clocking is presenting different content to search engines than you show human users.

Crawl Budget is the number of pages a search engine bot will crawl on your site on any given day. The number of pages a search engine will crawl is determined by the size, the health, and the number of links on your site.

Crawler Directives gives a guideline to the crawler regarding what you want it to crawl and index on your site.

Distance refers to the location of the searcher and the location specified in the query.

Engagement is data that represents how searchers interact with your site from search results.

Google Quality Guidelines have published guidelines from Google that outlines the strategies that are forbidden because they are intended to manipulate search results and gain more traffic.

Google Search Console is a free service provided by Google that allows site owners to monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot their site.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the language used to create a web page.

Index Coverage Report shows you the indexation status of your site’s page found in Google search console.

Index is a database of all the content search engine crawlers have discovered and considered good enough to present to searchers.

Internal Links are any link from one page to another page on your website.

Manual Penalty are given when a human reviewer has determined that your website is found to be doing something against Google’s quality guidelines.

Some violations that you would receive a manual penalty:

  • Virus infection
  • Cloaking
  • Redirects
  • Buying Links

Meta Robots Tag are pieces of code that tells search engine crawlers how to crawl and index your web page.

Navigation is a list of links that help visitors get from one page to another page on your site. These will often appear at the top of your website.

Noindex means that a web page the search engine is on shouldn’t index the page and therefore shouldn’t be shown on the search engine.

PageRank is an algorithm used by Google that estimates the importance of a web page by measuring the quality and quantity of links

Prominence refers to businesses that are well-known and well-liked in the real world.

Relevance is how well a local business matches what the searcher is looking for.

Robots.txt is a text file that tells web robots which pages on your site to crawl and which pages to not crawl.

Search Forms are search functions or search bars found on a website that help users find pages on that website.

Search Quality Rater Guidelines is a document given to human raters that work for Google to decide the quality of the web pages.

Sitemaps are blueprints to help crawlers discover and index your content. A sitemap will enhance the navigation capabilities for the user, making your website more user-friendly.

Spammy Tactics are methods that violate search engine quality guidelines to boost a site’s rankings among SERPs. Overall, these methods hurt your site’s performance and if caught, search engines will get your site penalized or even banned.

URL Folders are parts of a website occurring after TLD like .com, separated by slashes. An example is, “webcitz.com/blog” the “/blog” can be a folder.

URL Parameters is information following a question mark that is attached to a URL to change.

X-Robots-tag provides crawlers instructions for how to crawl or index web content on your page just like meta robot tags.

Related: Outdated SEO? Tell-Tale Signs You Need to Invest In a New SEO Strategy.


Keyword Research

Ambiguous Intent refers to search phrase where the goal of the searcher is unclear and requires further specification.

Informational Queries are when the searcher is looking for information, such as the answer to a question.

Keyword Difficulty is a metric used to determine how difficult it is for a site to outrank its competitors. This will determine whether or not it’s worth your time and money to improve an organic page for that keyword or bid on that keyword in a Google Ads campaign.

Keyword Explorer is a research tool that helps you find profitable keywords and organize your keywords into lists.

Local Queries are when the searcher is looking for a business, product, or service in a specific location.

Long-tail Keywords are longer queries that usually contain more than three words. Usually, visitors are more likely to use more specific keywords when they’re closer to the point of purchase.

Navigational Queries are when the searcher is trying to get a certain location through their query, such as the WebCitz blog.

Regional Keywords refers to keywords unique to a specific locale.

Search Volume are the number of times how many people are searching for a certain query. Many keyword research tools show an estimated monthly search volume.

Seasonal Trends refer to the popularity of keywords over time, such as “Christmas lights” in late November, early December.

Transactional Queries are when the searcher wants to take an action, like making a purchase.


On-Site Optimization

Alternative Text is the text in HTML code that describes the images on the web.

Anchor Text is a text you click which will link you to another page.

Auto-generated Content is content that is created programmatically via code for the purpose of publishing and indexing big amounts of pages in SERPs.

Canonical Tags (rel-canonical) are a way of telling search engines which version of a web page is the original and which are the duplicates.

Duplicate Content is content that’s copying another website or on a different page on the same website. Large amounts of duplicate content on a website negatively impact Google’s rankings.

Geographic Modifiers are terms that describe a physical location or service area. Instead of typing “plumber near me” a geo-modified term would be “Plumber Appleton”

Header Tags are an easy way for you to improve your homepage’s technical by using designated heading on your page.

Image Compression making image sizes smaller without degrading the image quality to make the web page faster.

Image Sitemap is a blueprint containing only the image URLs on a website.

Keyword Stuffing is when someone attempts to control their position in the search results by overusing important keywords and having the same keywords follow one another too closely.

Link Accessibility is to help human visitors and crawlers easily get to your site.

Link Equity is a search engine ranking based on how certain links can pass value to it’s destination.

Link Volume the quality of links on a page.

Local Business Schema is a structured data markup that you can add to your business’s web page that makes it easier for search engines to understand information about your business.

Meta Descriptions are HTML elements that help describe your page. Search engines will sometimes use these snippets of text in the description line in the search results.

Protocol is the “http” or “https” ahead of your domain name. This controls how data is relayed between server and browser.

Redirection is a way to forward a person from a URL that may be temporarily or permanently unavailable to another URL that is relevant. Redirects are used to provide a good experience for users.

Scraped Content is data that is stolen off your site and then published on their website as their own.

SSL Certificates (Secure Sockets Layer) are used to encrypt information passed between the web server and browser of the searcher.

Thin Content is content that has little or no value to the user.

Thumbnails are visual snapshots of your video. For image thumbnails are a smaller version of the larger image.

Title Tags are HTML elements that state the title of a web page. These tags are displayed on search engine results pages.


Technical Optimization

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are designed to give mobile users a lightning-fast viewing experience.

Async (asynchronous) refers to the process by loading individually the resources of a web page so the browser doesn’t have to wait for a task to finish before moving in the next one while building your web page.

Browsers are software programs, like Chrome or Firefox, that allow you to access information on the web. When a request is made, you’re instructing your browser to retrieve the resources necessary to deliver that page on your device.

Bundling is combining multiple resources into a single resource.

ccTLD is short for “country code top level domain,” ccTLD shows users and search engines where a domain is registered.

Client-side & Server-side Rendering refers to where the code runs. Client-side means the file is rendered in the browser. Server-side means the file is performed at the server and the server sends them to the browser in their fully rendered state.

Critical Rendering Path the collection of steps a browser goes through to convert HTML, CSS, and JavaScript into a viewable web page.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) is a code that makes a website look a certain way, like fonts and colors.

DNS (Domain Name System) provides a way to match names to the address for the website. DNS translates domain names into IP addresses so that browsers can load the page’s resources.

DOM (Document Object Model) is the structure of an HTML document. This model is what Google uses to analyze and understand web pages.

Domain Name Registrars are businesses that handle the reservation of internet domain names.

Examples: HostGator, GoDaddy, Bluehost.

Faceted Navigation refers to how Ecommerce websites offer a number of sorting and filtering options to help users find the exact product they are looking for. Like ordering by price, filtering by size available, and sorting by color.

Fetch and Fender Tool will show you how Google sees a web page, this tool can be found within Google Search Console.

File Compression is the process by reducing the size of the file so they take up less space.

Hreflang is a tag that indicates what language the content is in and helps Google serve the correct version to their users.

IP Address (internet protocol) is a unique string of numbers that is specific to each website. The internet needs these numbers to find websites, so we assign domain names to IP addresses to make it easier for humans to remember.

JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) is a format preferred by Google for structuring your data.

Lazy Loading is a technique that allows you to defer the loading of an object until after you page has rendered. This method is used to improve pages speed.

Minification is the process of removing the data in a resource as much as possible without altering how the resource renders or behaves on the browser at the user’s end.

Mobile-first Indexing means Google uses the mobile version of your page as a starting point for indexing and ranking your content. In 2018 Google made a change to crawl and index your page based on their mobile version instead of their desktop version.

Pagination is the process of splitting a page into multiple parts so users don’t get lost. This can be very helpful on large pages to improve your readability score for your content.

Rendering is the process of a browser turning a website code into a viewable website. All information Google collects during this rendering process is used to rank the quality and value of your content.

Render-blocking Scripts forces the user’s browser to wait until all the scripts load, then your site will become visible.

Responsive Design allows the website to adapt to fit different size screens that it’s being displayed on.

Rich Snippets are the title and description preview that search engines show on the results page. Therefore a rich snippet is an improved version of the normal snippet. Usually, rich snippets contain other elements like images, prices, and rating stars.

Schema.org is a structured data vocabulary that helps provide additional information about your web page to the search engine. Schema vocabulary includes formats for organizing data around people, places, and things on the web.


Link Building & Establishing Authority

10x Content was created by Rand Fishkin to described content that is ten times better than anything else on the web for that same topic.

Amplification is the process of helping your content reach a larger audience by publishing, promoting, and distributing content. This is often used for social media, paid advertisements, and influencer marketing.

Domain Authority (DA) is a Moz metric that is used to see how successful a site is when it comes to search engine results.

Directory Links refer to links that start in a web directory that acts as a list or catalogs of a website, usually including each business’s name, address, phone number, and other information.

Editorial Links is a link that is earned from having good content and marketing techniques. These links are not paid for or directly requested.

Follow is the default state of a link, “follow” links pass PageRank.

Google Analytics is a free tool that helps website owners and marketers get insight into the traffic patterns of their website and user demographic information.

Google Search Operators are special text that help you narrow down the search results you are looking for.

Guest Blogging is when someone writes content for another company’s website. Usually, guest bloggers will write similar blogs within their industry to attract traffic back to their website.

Link Building is the process of earning links to your pages on your website to help them rank higher in Google search results. It’s important to build links them because the most valuable page on any topic would get the most links and then rank #1 in Google.

Link Exchange is also known as reciprocal linking, a link exchange is when two sites agree to link to each other.

Link Explorer is Moz’s tool for link discovery and analysis.

Link Profile is a term used when inbound links are directing to select domain, subdomain, or URL.

Linked Unstructured Citation references to a local business’ complete or partial contact information on a non-directory platform.

MozBar is a free chrome extension that makes it easy to view metrics for the selected page, like DA, PA, title tag, and more.

Nofollow are links that with a rel-“nofollow” HTML tag, which tells search engines to ignore that link. The no follow links do not pass PageRank. When a link is paid for, Google encourages the use of these.

Page Authority (PA) is a score that predicts how an individuals page will rank on search engine result pages.

Purchased Links come from exchanging money or something else of value, for a link. When a link is bought, it constitutes an advertisement and should be used with a nofollow tag, so search engines ignore the link and it doesn’t pass PageRank.

Qualified Traffic is when the visit is relevant to the intended topic of the page, which means the visitor is likely to become a customer and find the content useful.

Referral Traffic is Google’s method of reporting traffic sent to your website from other websites. You can check your referral traffic in your analytic console.

Resource Pages typically list helpful links and resources for a specific topic to other websites. These pages are commonly used for the purpose of link building.

Sentiment is positive, neutral, and negative emotions people have about your content.

Spam Score is a percentage of sites similar risk of being penalized by Google by using a series of flags that agree with other penalized sites.

Unnatural Links are links that are mainly intended to manipulate a page’s ranking. Google describes unnatural links as “creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page.” This is a violation of their guidelines and could result in a penalty.


Measuring, Prioritizing, & Executing SEO

Application Programming Interface (API) allows the creation of applications to access data and features of other applications, services and operating systems.

Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors that viewed your page but there was no secondary action. This means someone visited your homepage and then left before viewing any other pages.

Channels are different vehicles, such as organic search and social media, that bring traffic into your website.

Click-through Rate is the measure of people that click a link to the total number of people who came across your link that appeared on the search engine results page.

Conversion Rate is a ratio of actual visits to conversions happening on your webpage, like visitors filling out forms, calling, and signing up for your website newsletter.

Qualified Leads are relevant prospects that have a good chance of becoming paying customers. Normal “leads” are every contact that you receive and not all of those leads will become customers.

Google Analytics Goals track and report how often visitors on your site take specific actions. You can set goals up in Google Analytics to track your conversion rate.

Google Tag Manager is a tool for managing multiple website tracking codes.

Googlebot / Bingbot: How search engines like Google and Bing crawl your website. They are called “crawlers” or “spiders.”

Pages / Session is an average of the number of pages viewed during a visit to your site. Pages per session measure how compelling users find your content and how easy it is to access.

Page Speed is the amount of time it takes a webpage to load. The page speed is made up of several different factors, like a site’s server, page file size, and image compression.

Pruning is usually editing or removing low-quality pages in order to make the site stronger.

Scroll Depth measures how far users are scrolling down on your pages.

Search Traffic are visits to your website from search engines.

Time on Page is how much time someone spent on your page before moving on to the next page. Google Analytics tracks time on a page by when someone clicks to the next page.

UTM Code (urchin tracking module) is a code that is added to the end of a URL to track additional details about the click like its source, medium, and campaign name.

Related: Cheap SEO Services – Why Investing In Them Is A Bad Idea.

Disclaimer: WebCitz, LLC does not warrant or make any representations concerning the accuracy, likely results, or reliability of the information found on this page or on any web sites linked to from this page. This blog article was written by Hope K in his or her personal capacity. The opinion(s) expressed in this article are the author's own and may not reflect the opinion(s) of WebCitz, LLC.