160 Essential SEO Terms You Should Know

Last Edited November 7, 2016 by Garenne Bigby in Search Engine Optimization

seo terminology checklist

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) terminology, it can sometimes feel like you are reading a foreign language. If you are not a tech person, some of the words can seem odd and completely foreign to you, but once you learn the tricks of the trade, you will be speaking the lingo in no time.

301 Redirection

Redirection is when you visit one site or page and are immediately directed to a different page, with a different URL. Redirection can be temporary or permanent. A 301 redirection is a permanent server redirection. There is not any difference if you are the user, but it does make a difference if you are the web developer. The permanent redirection is a way of telling search engines that the page the user is trying to access has changed its address permanently whatever page rankings the site already has in terms of SEO will be moved over to the new address. Please note this only happens with a 301 redirection and not with a temporary redirection.


Adwords

Adwords is a Google “Pay Per Click” advertising program. 


Adwords Site

An AdWords site is a Made for Google AdSense Advertisement or MFA web site that is designed from the ground-up solely as somewhere for Google AdWords advertisements.


Affiliate

Affiliate can mean many things in different contexts, but in terms of SEO, an affiliate site promotes services or products that are sold on other web sites or businesses in exchange for a commission or fees to do this service.


Algorithm

An algorithm or “algo” is a program utilized by search engines to determine what pages and sites to suggest when a user enters in a search query. You will hear the term used frequently when talking about the various programs, including Penguin and Panda, that search engines use to weed out “bad” sites that use tactics to improve their SEO ranking.


ALT Tag

An ALT tag is the HTML attribute of the IMG tag. What an IMG tag does is assist in displaying images. In the event, the image cannot be loaded, the ALT tag is the text that is displayed instead. ALT tags do have SEO value as they do inform search engines of what is on your images.


ALT Text

Like ALT tags, ALT text is a description of an image or graphic in your site’s HTML. It is not displayed to the end user unless that specific graphic is undeliverable. ALT text is important since search engines only read the ALT text of images instead of the actual images themselves. Otherwise, a search engine will not be able to differentiate between one graphic and another.


Analytics

This term refers to a software program that assists in gathering and analyzing data regarding a web site’s usage. Some programs do come at a cost, but others, such as Google Analytics, are free.


Anchor Text

Anchor text is the visible text of a link to a web site or page. It is when you enter a web address and it becomes underlined and blue. You may have seen it numerous times before but never knew the term of what it was exactly. Anchor text also the users to click on the text directly and be directed to the web page. The text describes what the page is about and what you will see if you click on the text.


Astroturfing

No, this term does not refer to the fake grass used so frequently in sports arenas. It refers to something that is consider the opposite of full disclosure. Astroturfing is when a site is trying to advance a commercial or political agenda while attempting to be impartial in a social group.


Authority

Authority describes the amount of trust a site is given for a search query. This authority comes from the related incoming links to the page from other trusted sites.


Authority Site

A site is considered an “authority site” when it has many incoming links from other related expert or hub sites. Authority sites have a higher pagerank and search results placement. The best example of what an authority site is would be Wikipedia.


B2B and B2C

These terms are similar and mean Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Customer (B2C).


Backlink

A backlink is any link into a page or site from another page or site. It is a link that is placed on another website that takes the user back to your site. Having a lot of back links with relevant anchor text is one of the best ways to improve your site’s search engine rankings.


Black Hat SEO

This term refers to unethical or manipulative SEO practices. These tactics go directly against the rules dictated in Google’s best practices. It can hurt your site and even get it banned from search engines.


Blog

This familiar term refers to a website that provides content on a regular basis. Blogs are utilized by companies as well as by individual users. Content is published through a content management system, such as Blogger or WordPress, and when posts are published, each post is considered a “new page” that a search engines sees.


Bookmark

Users will bookmark web sites if they wish to go back to the site later. By bookmarking, the site’s link is saved in your web browser for reference. Social bookmarking sites allow users to share different web sites with other users. Having links to your site on social networking sites boosts your SEO.


Bot

Bot refers to a program that performs a task autonomously. Robots, spiders or crawlers are the most commonly used bots. Search engines will use bots to find and add sites to their search indexes.


Bounce Rate

The percentage of users who enter a site and immediately leave without clicking on additional pages on the site is referred to as “bounce rate,” meaning the rate at which users will bounce in and out of your site.


Bread Crumbs

Hansel and Gretel used bread crumbs to find the way back home, and in a similar fashion, breadcrumbs are a way the user can understand where they are on a site and know how to get back to the root area or where they started.


Canonical Issues

Essentially canonical issues refer to duplicate content. It an issue that is difficult to avoid at times, but these issues can be resolved by using the noindex meta tag and 301 server redirects.


Canonical Tag

A canonical tag is an HTML link element that informs search engines about duplicate content pages’ web developers have created. It is placed in the HEAD section of the HTML structure. It informs the search engine that the current page is a copy of the page located under the address set in the canonical tag. The tag transfers all rankings to the canonical page.


Canonical URL

This URL is the best address on which a user can locate a piece of information. You may have more than one page that could refer to this information, but by specifying which URL is the canonical one assists search engines in understanding which address directs a user to the best source of information.


Click Fraud

Click fraud refers to improper clicks on pay-per-click advertisements that are normally done by the publisher for the purposes of undeserved profit. Telling people to merely click on the advertisement just to accumulate clicks and profit lowers the advertiser confidence that they will be getting a return on the investment they have made in their advertisement space purchase.


Cloaking

Cloaking is taking a web page and building it into a way that displays different content to people and to search engines. It is a way of fooling search engine spiders into getting rankings for certain keywords but then giving users completely different and unrelated content. You could end up being completely banned from search engine results if you are caught cloaking.


CMS

CMS refers to a content management system. The best example of a CMS would be Blogger or WordPress, both services that allow content creation for publishers who are not exactly well-versed in coding skills and website development.


Code Swapping

This type of bait and switch practice is when a developer changes the site’s content after higher rankings are achieved.


Comment Spam

You will see comment spam frequently when you come across comments under a specific post or story for something that has absolutely nothing to do with the content above. Spam usually directs users to a completely different site or link.


Content

Content is the part of a web page that provides the substance and is of the most interest to the user. It is the text or copy in the site itself.


Contextual Advertisement

This type of advertisement is related to the content on the site.


Conversion

Conversion is seeking one’s quantifiable goal on a web site, whether that goal be number of clicks, subscriptions, signups and sales.


Conversion Form

Conversion forms allow the developer to collect information about the site visitor. The information helps you follow up with the leads you get from users clicking on your site.


Conversion Rate

This refers to the rate or percentage of users who “convert.”


Cost Per Click (CPC)

Cost Per Click is the rate that is paid to a Pay Per Click Advertiser.


CPM

A CPM or cost per thousand impressions is a statistical metric used to quantify the average cost or value of a PPC advertisement.


Crawler

Crawler is a type of program that “crawls” or moves through the Internet or a specific web site by way of the link structure to gather data.


Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

CSS is the part of the code that describes how different elements on your site look, such as the design style of your links, text, headers, etc.


Deep Linking

Deep linking is making a hyperlink that refers to a page or image within a web site. This page is otherwise “deep” within the page itself and is not the main or home page of the site. Utilizing deep linking by linking to specific pages within your site with anchor text will improve the ranking of these pages.


Directory

Directories are a lot like phone books for web sites. You submit your site to a directory to help people find your site. The most popular of these types of sites are Yahoo! Directory and Dmoz.


Dofollow Link

Dofollow links are standard HTML links that do not have the rel=”nofollow” attribute. They are very valuable from an SEO perspective.


Domain

A domain is the unique main web address for your web site. You normally register for a domain for a monetary value and renew the domain periodically to keep it from being picked up by someone else. Search engine rankings do favor web sites with longer registrations as it shows stability in the site.


Doorway

A doorway or gateway is a web page that is created to attract traffic from a search engine. A doorway page is used to redirect users to a different site or page and is also known as implement cloaking.


Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is content that is similar or identical in substance to content on another site or page. The more duplicate content a page has is noticed by search engines but not in a positive manner. It does reduce the trust from the search engine. Sites like Google do not like sites that utilize the same piece of content repeatedly.


E Commerce Site

These types of web sites are those devoted solely to retail sales.


Feed

Feed refers to content that is delivered to the user via special programs or sites, such as news aggregators.


Free for All (FFA)’

FFA is a page or site with many outgoing links to sites that are unrelated or provide the user very little unique content. These are also known as link farms and are created for the solely purpose of boosting rankings. They provide little valuable and are looked upon unfavorably by search engines.


The Fold

Like a newspaper, the “fold” refers to the point on your site where the page is cut off by the bottom of a monitor or browser window. The fold is known as the part where users do not continue unless they find the content that would be read by scrolling through the site of value. Search engines give value to content above the fold as this information is the first thing a user sees when visiting your site.


Frames

Frames involve a type of web page design where two or more documents show up on the same screen within their own frame. Frames can be bad for SEO because bots sometimes fail to correctly navigate them. Also, it reduces the type of text and makes it difficult to read the content for most users.


Gateway Page

A gateway page is the same thing as a doorway page, which is a page that is designed solely to attract traffic from a search engine and redirect it to another site or page.


Gadget or Gizmo

Gadgets or gizmos are small applications used on sites for specific functions, such as an IP address display or a hit counter.


Google Bomb

Google bombs are ways to change Google search results for the purpose humorous effect. Typing in the phrase “miserable failure” and coming up with results of a politician’s name would be one such example.


Google Bowling

No, this does not refer to actual bowling but rather a way to lower a site’s ranking by sending it links from the “bad neighborhood.” It is unknown if this works, but it is an unsavory way to boost your own rank.


Google Dance

When SERPs were changed, this caused a major disruption in the Google algorithm. The Google dance described the huge shift that came because of this change or the period when a Google index is updated when various data centers have different data.


Googlebot

Googlebot is Google’s version of the spider program.


Google Juice

Not a beverage, google juice is the amount of trust or authority a site gets from Google, which comes from the outgoing links to other pages.


GYM

GYM is the “big three” of search engines and includes Google, Yahoo! And Microsoft.


Headings

Headings are text on your web site that is placed inside of a heading tag, H1 or H2. The text is larger and bolder than other text on the page and meant to stand out.


Hit

A hit occurs when a server sends an object, graphics, files or documents. It used to be the sole measurement of web traffic, but it is no longer as relevant.


Hub

A hub is an expert or trusted page that provides high quality content included in other related pages.


Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML)

HTML is the code part of your web site that search engines read. You should keep the HTML clean so that search engines can easily read your site. Put as much of your layout code in your CSS instead of your HTML to accomplish this objective.


Impression

An impression is also known as a page view or an event where a user visits a web page one time.


In-bound Link

These types of links are the source of trust and pagerank. An inbound link to your site from another trusted site will boost your SEO and ranking.


Index

As a noun, an index is a database of web sites and their content used by search engines. As a verb, to index means to add a web page to a search engine index.


Indexed Pages

Indexed pages are those pages on a site which have been indexed and are stored by search engines.


Inlink

An inlink is the same thing as an incoming or inbound link, meaning the links come from related pages that are sources of trust and boost your page’s ranking.


Internal Link

An internal link is a link from one page to another within the same web site.


JavaScript

JavaScript is scripting language that allows web administrators to apply special effects or changes to their site’s content as users browse in it. JavaScript is not always readable by search engines which can cause some difficulty when content is in JavaScript.


Keywords/Key Phrase

This refers to the single word or whole phrase a user will enter a search engine to find information on a specific topic.


Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization is the excessive reuse of the same keyword repeatedly on many pages within the same site. It can cloud search engines from determining which page is most relevant for the keyword.


Keyword Density

The percentage of words on a page which are the same keyword is known as keyword density. Like cannibalization, keyword density can hurt a site more than it can help.


Keyword Research

This type of research involves determining which keywords are appropriate for targeting a certain audience.


Keyword Spam/Keyword Stuffing

This is the practice of using the same keyword excessively within a site.


Landing Page

A landing page is the page a user will “land” on when they click on a link in their search results.


Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

LSI means that search engines will index commonly associated groups of words in a document. Not all searches involve one specific word, and most them will consist of at least three together. Search engines will analyze the content on your page and search for these groups of similar words to support your main keyword, and this will help boost your ranking.


Link

A link is an element on a web page that, when clicked on, directs the browser to another page or another part of the current page.


Link Bait

This practice involves attracting links through use of highly viral content. This content can be audio, video, images, graphics or written content.


Link Building

Link building is the practice of getting more inbound links to your web site for improved search rankings.


Linked Condom

This colorful term refers to methods of avoiding passing link love to another page. You do not want to endorse a bad site by including an outgoing link, and you want to keep out link spam. A linked condom is the best way to avoid this type of activity.


Linkerati

Linkerati are Internet users who are the targets of link bait, including forum posters, resource maintainers, blogger, content creators or others who are most likely to create incoming links generating traffic.


Link Exchange

A link exchange is reciprocal linking, many times facilitated through sites that are devoted to directory pages. Unlike directories, link exchanges allow links to site that are of no to little value and do not monitor for quality assurance.


Link Farm

Link farms are groups of web sites which all link together for the sole purpose of improving rankings. These entities are considered “black hat” SEO techniques and are highly frowned upon for ways of boosting your SEO rank.


Link Juice

Link juice is another word for trust, authority or page rank.


Link Love

Who does not need a little love every now and then? Link love refers to an outgoing link that passes trust to your site through another.


Link Partner

Two sites that are linked to each other solely for page ranking are known as link partners. They are synonymous with link exchanges or reciprocal linking.


Link Popularity

This term refers to a measure of the value of a web site based upon the number and quality of sites that link to it.


Link Sculpting

Link sculpting is done by using the “nofollow” attribute of a link to make some links on your site unimportant from an SEO aspect. You can then sculpt the page ranks of certain pages within your site, making some stand out more amongst the others when it comes to SEO.


Link Spam

Link spam is also known as comment spam, and these comments are the ones you see where the poster includes unwanted links or unrelated text.


Link Text

Also, known as anchor text, this text is what is visible to users. Search engines utilize anchor text to determine the relevancy of the referring site and link to what is in the content on the landing page.


Long Tail

These types of searches include a longer, more specific set of search queries and are more narrow in nature. When someone is entering in a long tail search they are looking for highly specific information and are often considered more qualified. A great majority of searches are long tail in form.


Mashup

A mashup is a web page that includes mostly single purpose software or other small programs, including links to such programs. They are popular with users and lead to good link bait.


Metadata

This data tells search engines what your web site is about for future searches.


Meta Description

This term refers to a brief description of no more than 160 characters about the contents of a web page and why a user would want to visit it. Meta description content is normally displayed on search engine results below the actual page title as a sample of the content on the page.


Meta Keywords

No longer used by major search engines, meta keywords were once used in the 1990s and early 2000s to help determine what the web page was about, no replaced by meta descriptions.


META Tags

Meta tags include both the meta description and meta keywords. They are placed in the HEAD section of the HTML structure of your page and include information meant for search engines and not users.


Metric

A metric is a standard of measurement used by an analytic program.


Made for Advertisements (MFA)

These types of sites are designed as a venue for advertisements.


Mirror Site

These sites are identical sites that are located at different addresses.


Monetize

To monetize from a site means to extract income from that site. One prime example of this practice is AdSense.


MozRank

MozRank is a logarithmic ranking established by SEOmoz. The ranking goes from 0 to 10.0 depending on the quality and number of inbound links pointing to that page or site with 10.0 being the best ranking.


Natural Links

These are all links that your page has acquired naturally without you having to build them yourself.


Natural Search Results

These search results are the ones that are produced when conduct a keyword search and do not have any sponsorship or are not paid in any way.


Nofollow

Nofollow is a command found in the HEAD section of a page or within the individual link code that instructs bots to not follow any either links on the page or specific link.


Noindex

This command is found in the HEAD section of a web page or within the individual link code that instructs bots to not index the page or the specific link.


Nonreciprocal Link

When one site links to another but the second site does not link back to the first, the link is considered nonreciprocal. Less value is given to non-reciprocal links in terms of SEO value.


Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO practices are things you do outside of your page to improve your rankings, such as link building.


On-Page SEO

On-page practices are everything you do on your page to improve your rankings, including tuning the HTML structure, improving title tag and descriptions, checking keyword usage and improving internal linking structure.


Organic Link

These links are published only because the webmaster deems to add value for users.


Organic Search and Organic Search Results

An organic search occurs when you visit a search site like Google, enter in keywords and hit search. The results that appear from this search are organic search results.


Outlink

An outlink is another word for outgoing link.


Page Rank

Page rank (PR) is a value between 0 and 1 and is assigned by the Google algorithm. This value quantifies link popularity and trust among other factors.


Page Title

This is the name you give your web page and should generally contain keywords related to your business.


Panda

Pandas are more than just cute zoo animals. They are a series of updates released by Google to weed out shady or bad practices in SEO.


Pay for Inclusion (PFI)

This is the practice of charging a fee to include a web site in a directory or search engine.


Pay Per Action (PPA)

This function is like Pay Per Click (PPC) with the exception that publishers are paid only when the “click” results in an actual conversion.


Pay Per Click (PPC)

Pay Per Click is a contextual advertisement structure where advertisers pay ad agencies whenever a user clicks on their promoted ad. One example of PPC is Google Adwords.


Portal

A portal is a web service that offers features to entice a user into making that portal as their homepage. Think of Yahoo! and MSN as good examples of portals.


Proprietary Method

These are sales terms used by SEO service providers to say they can do something special to achieve top rankings.


Ranking Factor

A ranking factor describes one element of how a search engine ranks a page. This could be the contents of the title tag, the meta tag or number of inbound links, among other factors.


Reciprocal Link

Known as a link exchange or link partner, a reciprocal link is when two sites link to each other. They are not viewed upon highly by search engines because of the incestuous nature of connection.


Redirect

When a site is moved to a new domain, the old site domain will need to redirect the user to the new domain. This method is called a redirect.


Referrer String

A referrer string is when a piece of information is sent by a user’s browser as they go from page to page on the web. This information includes what sites the user was on before finding their site, and it helps developers understand just how users come to their site.


Regional Long Tail (RLT)

An RLT is a multi-word keyword term that includes a location, city, region, or any other geographical indication.


Robots.txt

This is a file in the root directory of a web site, and it is used to restrict content and notify search engines which areas of your site are restricted for them. It allows you to exclude certain pages from spiders.


ROI

ROI stands for “Return on Investment,” which is a use of analytics software to determine return on investment, weighing the cost and benefits of different SEO schemes.


RSS Feed

RSS stands for “really simple syndication,” which is a subscription to get updates on new content as it is posted to a site. If you have a blog, many readers will subscribe to your site via an RSS feed so that they will be alerted when you have posted new content.


Sandbox

It is not just a place for children. Rather, it is a theory that Google puts all new sites into a “sandbox,” which prevents them from being ranked well until a certain period has passed. However, this is more of a conspiracy theory than anything.


Scrape

Scraping is copying content from a site, which is often done by automated bots.


Search Engine (SE)

A search engine is a program that searches a document or group of documents for matches associated with a user’s keyword phrase, giving a list of matches based on these searches.


Search Engine Spam

Pages that are created to deceive search engines to give inappropriate or non-relevant content because of a keyword search.


SEM

SEM stands for search engine marketing, which describes the acts involving researching, submitting and positioning a site so that it will achieve maximum exposure. Paid listings and functions to increase exposure and traffic to your site are examples of SEM.


SEO

SEO is short for search engine optimization, which is the process of increasing the number of visitors to your site and achieving high rank in search results.


Search Engine Ranking Page (SERP)

After you type in a search query into a search engine, the results you receive are listed on an SERP or search engine ranking page.


Sitemap

A sitemap is a special document created by a webmaster that details a map of all pages on a site. This sitemap makes it easier for users to navigate through the site.


Slapping Myself with Celery (SMWC)

SMWC is essentially a “spit take” but of the vegan variety. It is another phrase like “ROTFL” or “WTF.”


Social Bookmark

This type of bookmark is a form of social media where users’ bookmarks are collected for public access.


Social Media

Sites or media created to share information among individuals, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are examples of social media. Search results now show up in search results so it is important to keep your site updated with links throughout social media.


Social Media Marketing (SMM)

SMM involves promoting a brand or website through use of social media.


Social Media Poisoning (SMP)

SMP involves a black hat technique that attempts to implicate a competitor as a spammer, thus hurting their trust or reputation online.


Sock Puppet

A sock puppet is an online identity that is intended to hide a person’s real identity or establish multiple user profiles.


Spam Ad Page

A spam ad page is a “made for advertisement” page that uses machine-generated text for content and offers zero value to users.


Spamdexing

Spamdexing is the practice of modifying web pages to falsely increase the chance of being ranked higher in search results.


Spammer

A spammer is a person use uses spam schemes.


Spider

A spider is more than a scary bug. It also is a computer program whose purpose is to scan the Internet, collecting information about web sites.


Spider Trap

Spider traps are endless loops of useless links created for the sole purpose of trapping a spider program.


Splash Page

Splash pages are graphics pages created to be flashy to users but dead ends to search engine spiders.


Splog

Splogs are spam blogs containing little to no value to human users and involve generated or made-up content.


Static Page

A page that has no dynamic content or variables are known as static pages. These types of pages are good for SEO due to their friendliness to spiders.


Stickiness

Web developers seek to reduce the bounce rate on their site, and one way to do this is to improve the site’s “stickiness,” meaning keeping users on the site longer.


Supplemental Index or Results

Search results that have lower rankings but are relevant to a search query appear in a supplemental result in the SERP are listed in the supplemental index or results.


Text Link

A text link is a plain HTML link that does not include graphic or special code.


Time on Page

How long a user stays on one page before clicking to another is known as the time on page. This measurement indicates the quality or relevancy of that page’s content.


Title

The title is what appears in search engine results and is the first thing a user sees when entering a search query. It is what is included in a <title> HTML tag.


Title Tag

The title tag is only visible in one specific place to the user: your browser’s title bar.


Toolbar Pagerank

A toolbar pagerank is a value between 0 and 10, which is assigned by the Google algorithm. This number quantifies the page’s importance. However, it is not as reliable as a simple pagerank. Rather, this type of ranking is only updated periodically through the year and is not considered a reliable indicator of status.


Traffic

The number of visitors coming to your site is known as “traffic.”


Traffic Rank

Traffic rank is the measurement and comparison of how much traffic your site gets, comparing them to all other sites on the Internet.


Trust Rank

This type of ranking is a method of differentiating between spam and valuable pages. The ranking indicates the level of relationships between trusted human evaluated seed pages.


URL

A URL or Uniform Resource Locator is the web address of a page on your site.


User Generated Content (UGC)

User generated content is a source of content for social media, wikis and blogs, content created by the actual user himself.


Walled Garden

A walled garden is a group of pages that link to each other but are not linked by other pages. A walled garden tends to have low page rank.


Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is a type of web activity that encourages user interaction.


White Hat SEO

While black hat SEO practices will hurt your site, white hat SEO techniques only improve your site by following best practice guidelines and less manipulative practices.


Widget

A widget is another word for gadget or gizmo, which are small applications used on web pages to provide specific functions. They are often considered “link bat,” and provide functions such as hit counter or IP display.


XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is a file whose main function is to give search engines a map of the URLs your blog contains.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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