Digital Marketing Terms Series – SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Terms
Photo courtesy of Flickr and © SEO Link Building.
This is the fourth in a series of Internet marketing term blog posts that we’ve been posting throughout the summer to help clients understand the marketing terms that are used for each aspect of digital marketing. Today, we’re focusing on SEO (search engine optimization) terms.
Algorithm – Typically refers to a “search algorithm”. The term search engines use for the complex formulae they implement to determine which pages appear in the search results and which order they appear in. Search engines will send a Spider through a website every so often to “look” at all its information. Their programs will then assess what was viewed along with other data to assign value to your website and whether or not your website will show up in various searches, as well as how high or low they will appear in searches. These can be complex algorithms (Google alone uses 106 distinct variables) and search engines safeguard their algorithm formulas as trade secrets. The SEO industry gives nicknames to various Google algorithms like Penguin (which inspects the quality of links leading to a particular website) and Panda (which evaluates the quality of a website’s content). The primary ranking algorithm in SEO is called “the core algorithm”.
Algorithm Update – Refers mainly to an adjustment/update made to a Google algorithm. Updates usually affect websites’ search rankings. Google makes numerous algorithm changes year-round, in addition to several key updates each year.
Alternative text, ALT text or ALT Tags – HTML term for the tags/block of text/words added to HTML code that describe the images or videos on a webpage and are displayed whenever those images or videos are moused-over. Search engines basically lack the ability to view images and videos or recognize any text that might exist within them. Using an ALT tag helps search engines can label or otherwise categorize that image or video. Therefore, it is a standard SEO rule that all images and videos on a website should be accompanied by alt text and that the text should describe the image or video. (Images shared on social media sometimes have alt text as the default post description.) This particularly helps vision-impaired website visitors with details about the contents of a picture or video. There has been discussion that all business sites will be required to use ALT tags for all images to meet specific American Disability Act requirements.
AMP – Acronym for the Google-sponsored Accelerated Mobile Pages Project that Google announced in October 2015. It was created as an open standard for publishers to design quick-loading webpage content on mobile devices. AMP is made up of three parts: AMP HTML, AMP JS & Google AMP Cache. Visit the AMP Project website for more details.
Anchor Text – The active portion (clickable text/words) of a hyperlink/of a hypertext link (which will show up as the underlined blue portion in typical Web design). This can be overdone, as with most things in SEO. But typically, using the essential keywords in the anchor text is highly beneficial. In SEO, anchor text hints to a search engine (like Google) how to rank a website by providing background information concerning the destination website. For example, if several sites link to a single, specific site using “free stock images” as the anchor text, the search engine uses that detail to figure out that the destination website likely has a large supply of free stock images. Hypothetically, that could help the stock images website rank in a search engine for related stock photography keywords.
Black Hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – The very opposite of White Hat SEO, these SEO strategies are (tried but failed) ways to deceive the search engines to improve rankings for a site. Using black hat techniques will ultimately (if not instantly) get your website severely lower rankings or permanent exclusion from search engines. There are ways to boost rankings that are entirely legal and ethical. Create and promote your website mainly for human beings instead of the search engines’ crawlers/spiders, and you should be fine.
Broad Match – The default keyword matching option for bidding on keywords for search engine ads. With this bid match category, your ad might appear for words that are exactly the same or similar to your keywords, as well as for related searches, phrases and/or variations. This bid match type works best when attempting to reach as many people on search engines as you potentially can with your chosen keywords.
Crawler/Spider/Robot/Bot – An automated search engine program/software (often called a “search bot/robot” or “search spider”) that visits and scans/reads websites and makes copies of them in order to record and categorize listing information, which will then allow the website to be ranked and added to search engine indexes. The name is a reflection of how the software will “crawl” through the website code; this is why it is sometimes also called a “spider”. A spam bot/crawler visits and scans websites for negative purposes (which often appears as junk traffic in Google Analytics).
Domain Authority – A score ranging from 0 – 100 that is essentially an educated but estimated guess on how a website will likely perform/rank on search engines. It is commonly used by SEO specialists to compare one website to another in addition to tracking the progress over time. The concept of main authority was developed by the company Moz.
Exact Match – The most specific bid match category. With this bid category, your ad only appears if the search term/phrase contains your key terms precisely as they’re written.
Exit rate – A website traffic analysis term describing the percentage of site visitors who intentionally click away to another site from a particular page, after potentially having visited any of the other pages on the website. This is repeatedly confused with bounce rate, which is where a visitor views only one page on a website and then leaves without visiting any other pages.
Google Algorithm – Sometimes also referred to as the “Core” algorithm, this is a formula that decides site rankings (i.e. where sites will show up on Google SERPs (search engine result pages)) for any given number of user search queries. Google’s algorithm is updated continually (between 500-600 times a year, or twice a day). These updates can have varying effects on websites rankings worldwide. The algorithm specifics are purposely kept a secret to prevent webmasters from nefariously interfering with the system to game and gain rankings. That said, Google has plainly stated their recommended “best practices” for higher-ranking websites in search results.
Googlebot – Google’s search bot software that gathers web documents in order to create a searchable index for the search engine.
Google Hummingbird – The digital marketing/SEO nickname referring to one of the first significant shake-ups to the main Google search algorithm. Unlike other Google algorithm updates such as Penguin or Panda, Hummingbird was intentionally created to entirely update how Google understands user search queries. Prior to this algorithm update, Google results were typically presented based on particular keyword matching within the user search query. Now, a search for “Best ways to make smoothies without using dairy” will show search results directly related to that search query. Before, users might have seen results including dairy as a recipe ingredient.
Google My Business – A free Google Maps business listing that helps businesses and organizations with their online presence by allowing them to enter information in order to appear for local search results (including map packs, specified location searches, and more). A business’ name, address, phone number, hours of operation, website link, and reviews can all be easily handled and edited through this platform. Google My Business is extremely important to local SEO campaigns because of the direct correlation to location-based searches. You can help clients/customers locate your business and tell your business’ story when you edit and verify your business’ information.
Google Panda – A Google algorithm update released in February 2011 that centered on evaluating and rating the relevance and quality of a website’s on-page content. Panda would find out if a site’s page content was relevant to the queries it was appearing for, and adjust the site’s rankings as necessary. Websites with poor quality content (such as lack of content or thin content, badly written content, or unoriginal content (i.e. the same exact content or very similar) content) saw a substantial decrease in search result rankings due to being devalued with this algorithm update. Panda was revised periodically after its release (much like Google Penguin), reportedly up until July 2015, and has since been incorporated into Google’s main search algorithm, evaluating website content value in real time.
Google Penguin Update – Released in April 2012, this update was Google’s way of derailing the efforts of websites that might have taken part in “black-hat SEO” methods involving suspicious link building tactics (e.g. buying backlinks or creating them through private blog and/or link networks) which altered search rankings by creating website links in an irregular fashion with the intention of controlling and changing search engine rankings. Penguin accomplished this by focusing on evaluating a website’s backlink profile quality as well as the quality of links directing traffic to a specific site to see if the links are helpful to users, or if they merely exist to rig search rankings and alter a site’s standing in its own favor. Penguin was revised periodically after its release in the same manner that Google Panda was, and continued to be revised until 2016 when it was finally incorporated into Google’s main algorithm. Therefore, it is important that sites refrain from using these tactics both now and in the future. Google approximates that 3.1% of all English-language searches are affected Penguin, which is a fairly large percentage for a single algorithm.
Google Pigeon – An algorithm update released in July 2014 that centers on producing locally targeted and relevant results for searchers by locating nearby businesses through broad keyword searches. For example, a search for “Dominican restaurants in Manhattan” will provide results that are mainly located around that area. Additionally, Google can figure out a searcher’s location when they enter a search, allowing Google to then display to them businesses in and around their location even if they don’t use localized keywords. The Pigeon update significantly increased the possibility for nearby businesses to show up in search results.
Google Reviews – These are reviews left through the Google My Business platform. Reviews are rated on a 1-to-5-star scale and include a message about the business that is written by a current or former client. Reviews can appear in the Google searches knowledge graph and have proven to have a positive effect on SEO rankings.
Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) – A free Google tool for webmasters. Within it are several sections that include a site’s search performance data. Search Console is unlike Analytics in that it doesn’t measure site traffic. Instead, it determines a site’s search page visibility as well as indexability by Google spider bots. Metrics that Search Console measures include the number of indexed pages, the number of dead links (AKA 404 pages), click-through rate (CTR), and more.
Header – Refers to one of two things: the top section of a webpage that usually contains the company logo and site menu, or the segment of HTML within a website’s code that holds essential information with regard to the site.
Header Code – Certain code on a site is positioned within the universal header segment so that it will be available across all site pages. Things like AdWords Code, Analytics Code, Schema Markup, and other site data-tracking tools are usually located in the header code. These tools are put in the header code so that they can be made available immediately and begin tracking information as the website loads.
Header image – The main full-width picture at or near the top section of a webpage, social media account or email message.
Header (or Heading) Tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) – HTML heading and subheading tags are crucial elements of search engine marketing, as both are usually graphical, making them unreadable to search engine crawlers. Ideally, page titles should be included as well to clearly explain the page’s theme and intent. All header tags should be employed in relation to their relevance, with the most noteworthy titles using "h1", sub-headers using "h2", etc. Header tags are utilized in HTML for classifying a page's text headings. Basically, they're the titles and most important subjects of a webpage and help specify for site readers as well as search engines what the webpage is about. Header tags use a branched-out layout where a webpage should have just one H1 (main title), but there can be several H2s (subtitles) under it, and each H2 can have H3s (sub-sub titles) under them, and so forth.
-H1 is used just once on a webpage to show the most significant title
-H2 is used to show the foremost subtopics of a particular webpage
-H3 is used to show the foremost subtopics under an H2 tag
HTML – Stands for HyperText Markup Language, the programming language used in sites and code used to create webpages. HTML is a group of codes that are used to communicate to a web browser how to show a webpage. Each separate code is called a tag either or an element. HTML has a beginning and ending component for most markups. Web developers use other HTML-friendly languages (meaning they can be easily read/understood by HTML) to broaden what they're able to do on the Web. Keep in mind that because HTML doesn't use any variables it's not a coding language.
Hyperlink – Universally nicknamed as “links", hyperlinks are a way to let a user visit other websites with a quick click of their mouse. Text (which typically highlighted in blue and underlined) or images on one webpage can be hyperlinked to take a user to other webpages.
Index/ Indexing – Used as a noun, this refers to all the webpages that a search engine's spiders/crawlers have crawled, gathered information from, and then stored to show to its searchers. With spider-bot-based search engines, the index is usually made up of duplicates of every webpage that bots have found through crawling the Web. With directories managed by actual people, the index contains brief overviews of all the previously cataloged sites. When used as a verb, the index it refers to the organizing of information that happens after spider-bot-based search engines employ their bots to crawl and duplicate webpages to then place in their system so that it begins to show up in search results. Note that a webpage needs to be "crawl-able" before indexing can happen. So, it's essential to ensure that all your site's pages are available to search engine spiders for crawling.
Internal Linking – Putting hyperlinks on a webpage linking to other webpages on the same site. This helps visitors/users easily find additional information. It also improves website interaction as well as SEO efforts.
Keyword – Nearly exchangeable with Search Term, keywords are any word/term or phrase that is telling of the main theme in a content piece and used in search engine optimization (SEO), specifically words that a someone might search for in a search engine. Common usage is to “optimize a webpage for a specific keyword”. That means you would change different portions of the webpage to use a specific keyword, say “iPhone”, so your webpage would appear whenever an individual does a word search for “iPhone”. Keywords also refer to the terms that are bid on through SEM (search engine marketing) in an attempt to draw visitors into a site or landing page. Part of effective SEO is including keywords in a website's content/copy and Meta Tags. When someone searches for a particular thing in a search engine, they type in a keyword or phrase and the search engine provides related results for that keyword or phrase. One main SEO Goal is to set your site up to appear in searches for as many keywords and/or keyword phrases as possible without keyword stuffing (see definition below).
Keyword Density – A percentage signifying the number of times a keyword shows up on a webpage relative to the total number of words on that webpage.
Keyword Difficulty – A metric that is often implemented in search engine optimization that decides the amount of off-site link building and on-page targeting that will be necessary to rank for a certain phrase. Also regularly referred to as KPI, the majority of monitoring tools used for keyword difficulty implement a percentage scale of 1-100, with phrases arranged in their descending order of difficulty. So, a search phrase that calls for more effort to achieve a top search engine ranking – resulting in a high keyword difficulty – will usually be given a score that is closer to 100 (or 1.00), while a search phrase that calls for less effort to achieve a top search engine ranking will have a keyword difficulty score that is closer to 0 (or 0.00).
Keyword Phrase – A set of two or more words used in a search engine query in order to find information. Every now and then, when searching for something, a single keyword won't deliver the information a searcher wants or needs, whereas a keyword phrase lets someone string together a series of words to find better details on that topic.
Keyword Stuffing – When a keyword or phrase appears on a webpage too frequently or needlessly, with the purpose of unfairly influencing search engines in its own favor. During the early stages of the Web, as search engines were beginning to grow in popularity, some clever but deceitful site owners discovered that the search engine algorithms strongly favored some Meta Tags. So they began stuffing what were often a bunch of irrelevant keywords with high search volumes into their sites' titles and descriptions, as well as keyword tags. Sites immediately shot up to the most prominent SERPs. But shortly after that, the search engines altered their ranking algorithm and the websites at fault were downgraded into lower positions or were completely banned. This tactic is not tolerated and can result in either a drop in search rankings or a manual Google penalty.
Keyword Tags – HTML tags which describe the keywords used on webpages. Meta keyword tags used to be quite relevant with some of the more established search engines until they figured out how spammers were using this tactic and altered their algorithms. Google is now officially on record stating that keyword tags have no relevance to their search ranking algorithm.
Landing Page – The destination webpage/first webpage that appears to someone after clicking on an advertisement or link. This can be any page on a site, including the home page. Landing pages can be created with the intention of either lead generation or directing the flow of website traffic. Nearly any time someone is directed to a site from an ad or link, they should be sent to a customized landing page with specific information that is designed to increase the landing page conversion rate.
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) – A search-engine-indexing practice that creates an association between words and phrases in order to better comprehend a text’s theme. LSI helps search engines offer results to search queries with greater accuracy.
Link – A string of HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) structured text that is used to connect (or "link") to webpages on the internet. Also sometimes called a hyperlink. There are two types of links: internal links that direct users to other webpages on the very same website, and external links that direct users to webpages on a different website.
Link Authority – The ‘vote’ given to a page on a website whenever a different website (or a page within that same website) links to it. These ‘votes’ are included in search engines' ranking algorithms.
Link Building – The process of getting hyperlinks (also known as links or backlinks) from a website back to your website. Link building is crucial for effective SEO. Because of algorithm changes, link building has become especially challenging. In the past, link building lazily with random, irrelevant links used to work, but search engines like Google will now punish your site for doing the same today. Link building now must involve white-hat strategies only. Links should always be earned gradually and naturally (through routine practices such as content creation) from industry-related sites. Getting relevant links from high authority websites will be beneficial to your site's SERPs rankings.
Link Juice – The equity given to a website by way of internal or external links. High traffic websites with high authority have more link juice, which will influence your site rankings in a more positive way than a low traffic website with low authority would. And the more link juice a website has, the better viewed it is by search engines.
Local Business Listings – Every major search engine provides local business listings that show up near maps at the top of many locally targeted search pages. A business might either put in new local listing requests or take ownership of existing local business listings that have already been added by the search engines to the listing results. Having a website for your business is not mandatory in order to have a local business listing.
Local Search – A massive and growing percentage of the SEM (search engine marketing) industry that helps individuals find businesses and websites within a particular (local) geographic area, which includes local search features on search engines and yellow page websites. Optimizing for local search calls for methods different from traditional SEO methods.
Local Search Engine Optimization (Local SEO) – is very much like (national) SEO in that it too is a process affecting a site's or webpage's visibility in the unpaid results portion of a web search engine — usually called "organic", "natural", or "earned" results.
Long Tail Keywords – An SEO term that refers to any keyword or “key-phrase” with more than three words and very particularly matches a user search query. A long tail keyword, which can count for up to about 60% of a website’s search traffic, have a lower monthly search volume than regular keywords. But long tail keywords have a higher search intent, and usually convert much better than the more basic keywords and have less competition from other businesses seeking to provide content for that search query. So, instead of only targeting the most frequently used keywords in your industry, also focus on these more specialized search terms that are typically longer phrases but are also easier and faster to rank well for in the search engines. For example, a typical keyword might be “Columbus web designer” but a long tail keyword would be “inexpensive Columbus Ohio web designer that creates WordPress sites”.
Meta Description – A segment of the HTML or XML of a webpage giving an overview of the webpage in 160 characters or less. This description is an important part of a page because it's what shows up in Google searches as well as other search engine results. The meta description is a lot like a title tag, yet appears in search results just beneath the title tag.
Meta Keywords – A certain type of meta tag that shows up in a webpage's HTML code and shows the particular keywords addressed on a page, as well as telling a search engine what the page topic is. Because meta keyword markup was misused on some sites, listed keywords are no longer important to page categorization by Google and other search engines.
Meta Tags – HTML tags which describe the keywords used on webpages in a way that's relevant to search engines and their crawlers, but is typically hidden from your website visitors. Search engines use metadata in order to determine what webpage information should appear in their results. Header Tags, Alt Tags, the site author, the page's published date, and image descriptions are examples of meta tags. The value that meta tags have been given by both search engines (see Keyword Stuffing) and internet marketers has fluctuated. But meta tags are still essential in SEO. Meta keyword tags used to be quite relevant with some of the more established search engines until they figured out how spammers were using this tactic and altered their algorithms. Google is now officially on record stating that keyword tags have no relevance to their search ranking algorithm.
NoFollow Link – An SEO term for an HTML link format that signals to search engines and web crawlers that they shouldn't transfer SEO equity to the link's destination webpage (i.e. it shouldn’t give much [if any] SEO benefit/authority to the recipient/webpage it's linking to). A NoFollow link gives significantly less page authority to the webpage it's leading to than a regular link would send. NoFollow links are used by some site publishers as an attempt to lessen the amount of page authority they send from their own site to other websites. As stated by Google’s guidelines, any unnatural link (such as a link to a paid-for press release, or a journalist receiving an incentive for writing about your business' products or services) should have a NoFollow tag.
Organic (Traffic) – Any traffic to a site that arrived by clicking on a non-paid search engine result. Organic traffic is a key SEO campaign measurement and increases along with a site's improved keyword ranking or when a site ranks in search engines for more keywords or key phrases.
Outbound Links – Any webpage link that directs to another webpage within the same site or an entirely different website.
PageRank – Google-assigned value for Google-indexed pages and websites, based on all its algorithm factors. Google does publicize an external PageRank scoring pages from 1-10, which you can review for any website. But this is NOT the same as the internal PageRank Google utilizes to decide search engine results. Every independent search engine has its own form of PageRank.
Permalink – A specified Internet file's permanent address.
Phrase Match – This match category is more precise than broad matching but less specific than exact matching. This bid category lets your ads appear for phrases with your exact keywords or very similar variations.
PBN (Private Blog Network) – A group of private sites all linking to one another. This is also called a link network. These networks' intentions are to use search engines to their own advantages by adding large quantities of new links to a site’s link profile.
Rank/Rankings/Position – How well a specific page or site is listed/positioned in a search engine’s results for a particular query. For instance, a webpage about oranges might be listed as an answer for a query for “oranges.” But “rank” shows precisely where this webpage was listed – whether that's on the first page of search results, the 14th page or even the 190th page. Generally speaking, stating that a webpage is “listed” just means that the page can be located within a search engine as a query response, not that the page inevitably ranks well for that search query. A website’s “ranking” might fluctuate over time for various search terms or queries. Ranking is particular to each keyword, so a site might have certain keywords that rank on the first search results page, while other keywords simply don’t.
RankBrain – Another significant Google algorithm update. Google stated in October 2015 that AI (Artificial Intelligence/machine learning) had been embedded into their search engine and that it is purportedly the third most crucial search ranking factor. Moving past keywords alone, Google strives to understand the various ways in which people utilize search engines to address their queries.
Ranking algorithm – The unknown formula controlling how your webpage or site ranks for a particular keyword. Google has a single algorithm. Yahoo! has their very own algorithm. Microsoft (Bing) does everything they can to emulate Google’s algorithm.
Redirect – A method where a web browser automatically directs a user from the initial page to a different page without a user's click or user input. There are numerous types of redirects which have various purposes. (The 301 redirect is the most used redirect.) Usually, these redirects help improve user experience throughout a site. However, some redirects will take users to questionable sites (such as malware or phishing sites) or sites they normally would not visit (such as "Dark web" sites). Some redirects are also used to manipulate search engines.
Robots.txt – A text file used to prevent webpages from being indexed, or to indicate to a search engine indexing robot crawler which pages should be indexed. This file is located on a site’s server and lets a web designer explicitly allow (or disallow) specific files and folders to be seen by a bot crawler, which can keep your indexed pages restricted solely to the pages you desire.
Schema Markup – A snippet of code that can be added to a webpage’s HTML to aid search engines in understanding a website's theme and the sort of information it contains (i.e., search engines will receive more relevant information from that site about a business, product, service, place, person, etc.). Also called "structured data" or "rich snippets". Essentially, you tell a search engine what your site is about directly through bits of code that the search engine crawler robots can read, and then process and use to provide more detailed results to users. The schema markup then matches words with explicit values that assist search engines with properly labeling and indexing your site content. For instance, if you’re an allergist or a "Mom & Pop" store you might want to indicate that using the appropriate tags so you won’t be forced to depend on keywords alone.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – All types of search engine marketing, but primarily SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Paid Search Marketing. This term is also used to refer solely to Paid Search (i.e. PPC [pay-per-click]), but it might also be used to refer to an individual or business that does SEM (either SEO, Paid Search, or both). No industry standard currently exists to determine which of these definitions is correct.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – The undertaking of improving a site’s functionality and standing in non-paid search engine results through several methods, including content production (creating new content), content improvement (editing/updating old content to keep it fresh), technical and code improvement, and proper link acquisition. Simply put, it's the practice of creating or modifying a website to be search-engine friendly and rank as high as possible in all of the major search engines' organic search results. SEO is usually difficult to do alone, particularly considering the increasing difficulty and distinctions among all search engines. The two most important, prominent ranking factors for all major search engines are relevant content (how appropriate and applicable your site's information or a specific webpage's information is to a search query) and link popularity (how many sites link back to your site, as well as how well ranked those sites are).
Search Engine Results Page (SERP) – The webpages presented by any search engine (Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go, etc.) for any search query. They show both unpaid/organic listings as well as pay-per-click ads. Your site's position and where your ad appears is contingent on SEO and paid SEM respectively.Title Tag – An HTML component that is used to describe a webpage's particular topic. More specifically, the segment of code on a webpage that explicitly states what text will be displayed at the top of that page's browser window, and that will show up in the top line of text in the search results' page description. Title tags appear in a web browser's tabbed top bar. It is best practice in SEO to have detailed title tags featuring our site's focal keywords instead of something too plain, like "home".