SEO Glossary of Terms

Like many technology fields, SEO has a myriad of unique terms describing everything from the operation of search engines to the methods used to rank on them.

To better navigate the world of search engine optimisation, we have provided a helpful glossary of many common SEO terms that can impact search engine rankings.

Table of Contents

Search Engine Terms

Search engine terms are common SEO terms used to express search engine information and functions.

AdWords: Google AdWords is the advertisement platform of the Google search engine.

Algorithm: A program that performs complex mathematical computations. An algorithm is used to sort and rank web pages in a search engine.

Baidu: Often dubbed the Chinese Google. Baidu is the largest search engine in China, with roughly a 84.3% market share as of March 2022.

Bing: Bing is Microsoft’s search engine, with origins beginning from MSN Search. It functions the same way as Google, but with a far smaller market share. 4.6% market share in Australia as of June 2022.

Black Hat SEO: An umbrella term for any SEO practices that do not comply with search engine guidelines. Black hat SEO is commonly punished by deindexing websites that employ its techniques.

Caching: The process of storing assets locally or on another server to improve load speed and functionality.

Cloaking: The practice of presenting different content to users and web crawlers. Cloaking is considered to be black hat SEO and a violation of search engine guidelines.

Crawling: Crawling is the process of search engines discovering all available content on a website. They do this by following internal links and sitemap files using web crawler software known as a “spider”.

GA (Google Analytics): An analytics tool provided by Google to track various metrics on a website. It is currently the most widely used analytics tool.

Google: Google is the biggest search engine in the world, particularly dominant in the Western world, with around a 94% market share in Australia

Google Caffeine: Google’s current web search platform. It indexes website content much more often than its predecessor.

GMB (Google My Business): Google My Business is a crucial tool for local search discovery. It’s a free platform that allows users to submit a business. Via GMB you can control information about: Your business name, address, phone number & operational categories. As well as receive reviews, reply to questions and post updates.

GSC (Google Search Console): A free tool by Google that allows you to monitor a website’s search ranking in SERPs.

Indexing: When a page is crawled, it will also be rendered and analysed in an attempt for the search engine to catalogue information. This is the process of indexing. Crawling & indexing works hand in hand.

It Depends: Meme lingo used by SEOs to quickly describe that there is often not a one size fits all answer for SEO solutions.

Manual Actions: A penalty given to a website resulting in decreased visibility. They are generally applied due to a website employing black hat SEO techniques.

NAP: An acronym for “name, address, phone number”. NAP is a primary ranking factor in Local SEO.

Naver: The Korean Google, acknowledged as the default search engine for Koreans. 

Organic Links: Results on a SERP that are not paid advertisements.

Personalisation: Search engines like Google will personalise your search results based on your search history and location.

Query: A search term in a search engine.

Ranking: The position that a website is listed on a SERP.

Ranking Factor: A ranking factor in SEO is any element that contributes to how well a website ranks in organic SERPs. Such things include: backlinks, content optimisation and relevant keyword usage.

Rich Snippet: Rich snippets (or rich results) are extra bits of data added to Google results to provide more information about a page, such as the author, date, or rating, and can make the search result more visually appealing. You will often see rich snippets for ecommerce websites.

SERP (Search Engine Results Page): The listed results from a given query in a search engine.

SERP Features: A search engine result page (SERP) feature is an additional feature in search results outside of a typical organic link. They are elements that highlight specific information in a certain way. Some features include: Featured snippets, people also ask results, images and rich snippets that highlight reviews and product information.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): The practice of using knowledge of how search engines work to improve a website or web page’s visibility in organic search results.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing): The practice of using knowledge of how search engines work to improve a website or web page’s visibility in organic and paid search results.

Web Crawler: A bot used by a search engine that crawls and ultimately indexes websites. It is vital for SEO that a website is accessible to web crawlers.

Search Intent: Also called User Intent. The desired outcome for any given search engine query. User intent is divided into four categories: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional.

White Hat SEO: An umbrella term for SEO practices that comply with search engine guidelines.

Yandex: The Russian version of Google, and the 5th biggest search engine worldwide.

Algorithm Terms

This section breaks down the types of algorithmic updates Google has released over the years, as well as a summary of of other factors that help Google determine which results to return for a given query.

Core Algorithm Updates: Since 2017, Google has been releasing “core algorithm updates”. These  are changes to the search engine’s ranking algorithm that are designed to improve the quality of search results. These updates are notoriously vague, with Google’s own advice typically being “do nothing”. That said, these updates address specific issues, such as reducing the ranking of low-quality websites or increasing the visibility of high-quality websites. Most SEO’s monitor keyword fluctuations & SERP results post a core algorithm announcement.

Google Panda Update: Google Panda focuses on penalising low quality content. Low quality content = spun, duplicate, plagiarised and keyword stuffed copy. This change to Google’s search results algorithm was first implemented in February 2011. Google Panda is designed to lower the ranking of low-quality sites and increase the ranking of high-quality sites.

Google Penguin Update: Google Penguin targets spammy and/or irrelevant links. This change to Google’s search results algorithm was first implemented in April 2012. The change was designed to lower the ranking of sites that were violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines when it comes to link building

Google Hummingbird Update: First implemented in September 2013, the Google Hummingbird update was designed to improve Google’s understanding of queries. Through developments in natural language processing (NLP), Google was able to rank results based on topical relevance, not just keywords alone.

Google Mobile Update (Mobilegeddon): Google’s mobile first update in 2015 was famously referred to as “mobilegeddon”. This is due to the fact that this update focuses on Google ranking websites predominantly based on their mobile performance. Websites with a poor mobile experience lost value. Subsequent mobile updates came in 2018 and 2020.

Google RankBrain Update: Launched in 2015, Google RankBrain is an AI system part of the Hummingbird algorithm that helps Google better interpret the meaning behind user queries. Rankbrain is used as a way to interpret user queries that are difficult for Google to understand, and it also helps to provide more relevant results for those queries.

Google Medic Update: The Google medic update is a broad algorithm update that was first rolled out on August 1, 2018. The update seems to be focused on health-related websites and is aimed at ensuring that these websites are providing accurate and up-to-date information. The update has caused a significant shake-up in the SERPs, with many health-related websites seeing a drop in traffic.

Google BERT Update: BERT is a major Google  algorithm update that was released in October 2019. It is designed to better understand natural language queries and relationships between entities. This update has major implications on website copy.

E-A-T:  E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness & Trustworthiness. It’s a major quality rater that Google uses to determine the value & quality of a website.

Meaning: To Google, meaning is all about understanding intent. Google’s algorithms understand that keywords and search intent are related. They use meaning to connect users with the appropriate content.

Relevancy: Google assesses the relevance of content on webpages by matching topical information with search queries. The most basic signal search engines use here are keywords.

Quality: After identifying relevant content, search engines aim to rank those that seem most helpful. Quality here is determined by a balance between relevance and authority. Google looks at many factors on-page and off-page to determine the quality of a website.

Usability: Usability is a relationship between design and development, with the aim of serving a great content experience to users. Google states that “When all things are relatively equal, content that people will find more accessible may perform better.”

Context: Context is key when creating content for search queries, as Google uses your country and location to deliver the most relevant content. The search term “Football” will serve vastly different results in England and America. Google understands context in this sense and will structure their SERPs accordingly.

Keyword Terms

Discovery and usage of keywords are an integral part of SEO. Here we take a look at some common phrases you’ll hear in the SEO space around keywords.

Keywords: Words and phrases included in the content on a webpage to cause a webpage to place on SERPs for a related search query.

Keyword Competition: This metric is typically determined by the volume of paid search bids on a keyword. The higher the number of people bidding, the higher the competition.

Keyword Difficulty: Refers to the possibility of a page ranking for any given keyword. It is a function of competition and user search volume for the keyword.

Keyword Density: The number of keywords divided by the length of the content. Many keywords in a short paragraph give a high keyword density.

Keyword Stuffing: The outdated act of attempting to fit as many keywords in a paragraph or other section of content as possible, to the detriment of readability and user experience. Innovations in search engine algorithms have caused this practice to be ineffective.

Keyword Cannibalisation: An effect caused by having multiple pages on a site ranking for the same keywords.

Keyword, Branded: Search terms that are brand specific. For example, “Nike” or “Just Do It”.

Keyword, Non-Branded: Search terms that are not brand specific. For example, “football boots” or “running gear”.

Long-tail Keywords: Long-tail keywords are usually five or more words and target users looking for a specific search result. They are typically derived from head keywords and are most commonly used on eCommerce pages as they represent transactional user intent.

Short-tail Keywords: Also known as head terms, they are short keywords, usually only a single word or two. Short-tail keywords target users who are researching broadly on a topic.

Technical SEO Terms

Technical SEO generally happens behind the scenes, where the users do not see, and involves the HTML tags and script that runs a website. It also includes tracking the efficacy of SEO strategies.

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages): A service by Google to enable faster web page load speed on mobile devices.

Anchor Text: The text portion of a hyperlink that a user clicks on to be directed to another page.

Async (Asynchronous): A function of programming languages that causes a website to load faster by allowing multiple elements to load simultaneously.

Breadcrumbs: A visible directory that allows users to navigate back through parent pages. It is a recommended element to be included for user experience. It also improves crawl rates.

Broken Link: A link that leads to a webpage that no longer exists, resulting in a 4XX message. They should be fixed by either removing them or redirecting to a working page with a 3XX code.

ccTLD:  A ccTLD is a country code top-level domain name that is assigned specially to countries. Some examples: .com.au for Australia. .co.uk for the United Kingdom. A ccTLD requires individuals and businesses to show proof of residency or operations.

Canonical tag: Also called canonicalisation, using a rel=canonical tag informs search engines about the main page for a given topic. This prevents duplicate content from appearing in a SERP. A canonical URL is considered the original version.

Crawl bloat: Crawl bloat is when search engines spend extra time discovering and crawling pages that are either not indexable, broken or redirected. Time spent crawling these pages detracts from time that could be spent crawling pages you want indexed.

Crawl budget: The amount of time search engines assign to crawl a website. Crawl budget is a finite resource that is used to crawl web pages, which can be adversely impacted by crawl bloat.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheet): A sheet style language that enables developers to allocate a uniform style to a site. Its use makes a website more accessible to web crawlers, ensuring that it is indexed thoroughly.

Deindexed: When a web page is excluded from search results.

DNS: DNS stands for Domain Name Server. It is a system that converts human-readable website names into computer-readable numeric IP addresses.

DOM: A document object model (DOM) is an interface that parses HTML in a tree-like structure representation of a document. For a webpage this means the node in the tree represents a part of a DOM tree: HTML > Header > Title element. Here is an image example of a DOM.

Domain Name: The web address of a site. For example, in the URL ‘intellar.agency.’, intellar is the domain name.

Domain Level: Refers to a segment in the URL. The top domain level is the suffix of the address, for example, .com or .net. The second listing is the domain name, where the website is hosted. The third level is the subdomain, usually ‘www.’.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language): The language basis for websites. Web crawlers are built to navigate HTML markers to index and evaluate a webpage.

HTTP & HTTPS: HyperText Transfer Protocol and HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure are used for transferring information over the internet. HTTPS is an innovation on HTTP, with added security by encryption. HTTP based websites are considered insecure.

Hyperlink: Also referred to as simply Link. A clickable feature on a webpage that directs the user to a different webpage or a different location on the same webpage.

Image Compression: The act of reducing image file size, usually by converting images into formats optimised for load speed.

Information Architecture: In SEO, information architecture (IA) refers to how the URLs on a website are structured and categorised to support discovery for both users and search engines. Creating a logical URL hierarchy is considered good IA.

Internal Linking: A clickable link that takes the user to another page on the same site. It improves the readability of a website and helps web crawlers index it.

NoFollow: A link with the HTML tag rel=”nofollow” attached. The tag informs a search engine to ignore the linked page. A page can still be crawled from a different link that is untagged.

NoIndex: A page with a NoIndex meta tag or header prevents search engines from indexing it so that it won’t show up on SERPs. It is useful to avoid keyword cannibalisation or competing pages.

Pagination: When a page has multiple sub-pages of the same content. For example, an eCommerce store that has numerous pages of products listed for a given search. It is generally done with a page number tracker at the bottom of the page.

Redirects: A technical implementation that sends users and/or search engines from one webpage to another. There are multiple types and use cases for redirects.

Robots.txt: A text file used to instruct web crawlers to navigate and index a website.

Schema: Also known as Schema Markup, it provides additional information about a web page on a SERP. The schema is usually used for ratings, product costs, or reviews but can include many options.

Site Architecture: The layout of a website concerning the links between pages. This concerns both a logical content hierarchy for users to flow through and a URL structure for search engine bots to navigate.

Sitemap: A representation of all pages of a website, created as a file. This file is read by search engines as a way for them to discover and index pages on your website.

Status Codes: HTTP status codes represent the simplistic way that a web browser communicates with the server. They are three-digit codes from 1XX to 5XX.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator): Also called the Web Address. It is the domain name and the HTTP together. A URL allows a browser to find a given website.

Content SEO Terms

SEO content is information on a page that is structured and written to be easily indexed by a search engine web crawler and appeals to the user.

B2B (Business-to-Business): Content directed to another business.

B2C (Business-to-Consumer): Content directed to consumers.

Blog: A series of posts where SEO content can be continuously added to generate engagement, page views and domain authority.

Click Bait: Click bait refers to deceptive content titles used to attract clicks or views. The substance of the content often has little to do with matching the title.

Content Organisation: How the content of a web page is presented, usually from a template. Content organisation fundamentally changes how users interact with a website.

Content Promotion: Also referred to as Content Marketing. It encompasses any promotion of content divided into three categories; Earned Media, Owned Media, and Paid Media. It is an essential part of SEO to get page views.

Infographic: A colloquial term for an informative image. They are widely used due to the understanding of how users consume information.

Landing Page: A page optimised to rank for specific search terms, with a format made to funnel users into performing a single action. The goal is usually to collect email addresses or subscribe users to a service.

Scraped Content: The practice of copying content from another website. Due to changes in search engine algorithms, it is entirely ineffective and detrimental to SEO.

Thin Content: A colloquial term for not having enough content on a page to rank on a SERP. Thin content is associated with giving little to no value to a user or a search engine.

User Persona: A model created to represent a demographic of people. User personas are generated to create personalised content.

On-Page SEO Terms

On-Page SEO terms are related to on-page optimisation and a webpage’s appearance in SERPs.

Body Copy: Paragraph text on a landing page that forms up the bulk of content on a landing page.

Header Tag: An HTML feature that tells a page what style to display a portion of text. Web crawlers use them to categorise a website, and so it is a critical location to include keywords. They are generally used as an H1, H2, or H3.

H1 Tag: An H1 tag is used to communicate to users and search engines what your webpage is all about. It is best placed up the top of a webpage and is considered an important on-page ranking factor.

H2 Tag: Consider an H2 tag as a subheading. H2s are best used to break up your content by highlighting new subtopics. Similarly to an H1, including keywords in an H2 is a great tactic.

H3 Tag: Used much the same way as an H2, H3s are utilised to further segment your content. H3s are great for UX as they improve how scannable your webpages are. Important when most are scanning as they read online anyway!

Image Alt-Text: Text describing an image, primarily for accessibility purposes. Web crawlers use it to understand the context of an image.

Link Accessibility: A link’s difficulty in being found by a user or a web crawler. Good link accessibility is essential for web crawlers to index a website properly.

Link Volume: The number of links on a page.

Meta Description: An HTML element that summarises the contents of a webpage. It appears under the Title Tag in a result on the SERP. Not a ranking factor but can positively influence CTR.

Thumbnail: A small version of a larger image, used in place or alongside text for a hyperlink.

Title Tag: An HTML element that dictates the link text in a SERP. It is also the name of an individual page and is the leading resource for instructing a web crawler of a webpage’s context.

Off-Page SEO Terms

Off-Page SEO refers to any activity that aids in discovery on your website that takes place outside of your own website. Some common off-page SEO methods include link building, citation building and brand awareness campaigns via PR & Social Media.

Backlink: Also called Inbound Links. A link from one website to another.

Citation: A citation is similar to a Backlink. However, citations are primarily used for Local SEO, as they include name, address and phone number (NAP) information about a business.

Co-Citation: When two websites are mentioned together on a third website. Search engines use this association to identify similar content.

Disavow: A disavow is a request a user submits to Google to have a backlink omitted from a website’s link profile. It is often used to remove spam. See more here.

Domain Authority (DA): The trustworthiness and usefulness of a website, as perceived by a search engine. News sources and educational websites have high domain authority. Backlinks from websites with high domain authority generally have high link equity.

Editorial Link: A backlink included manually by the author of a web page. Editorial links generally have high link equity.

Guest Posting: Usually a blog post or an article written by a guest, with the intent of directing traffic back to the author’s website.

Link Building: The practice of gaining backlinks with high link equity.

Link Directory: A list of links to other websites. This process provides low link equity. Directories were once important for SEO, but they are now considered a spammy link building tactic

Link Equity: Also colloquially referred to as Link Juice. A metric used to determine how much Domain Authority/SEO value  is gained from a backlink.

Link Exchange: The act of two websites providing a backlink to each other. This is against Google’s guidelines

Purchased Link: A backlink that is paid for.

Page Authority (PA): Similar to domain authority but relating to a single web page.

Reciprocal Link: Similar to a link exchange, but in a situation where the link occurs naturally. This can be typical of relevant sites referencing each other. Google is smart enough to detect how natural these links are.

SEO Measurement Terms

Average Lead Value (ALV): Average lead value (ALV) is the revenue generated by all leads divided by the total amount of leads generated. This is a KPI for lead gen focused businesses, such as mortgage brokers or plumbers.

Average Order Value (AOV): Average order value (AOV) or average basket size,  is the average amount of money each customer spends during checkout. This is a KPI for ecommerce websites.

Average Rank: A metric utilised by Google Search Console and other ranking tracking tools to showcase the average rank of a keyword over a given timeframe.

Average Session Duration: The average amount of time users spend on your website.

Bounce Rate: A metric that shows how many users immediately click away from a page when visiting it.

Buyer’s Journey: The process a consumer goes on when researching an online purchase. It is divided into three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

Clicks: The number of times a user clicks on a landing page in SERP results.

Click to Call: An action taken by users on a mobile device where they click on your phone number. This can be done on a website or on a Google My Business listing.

CTR (Click-Through-Rate): A metric that shows how many users click on an advertisement or organic search result.

Conversion: In SEO, a conversion is when a user takes an action. That could be: buying a product, submitting an enquiry or downloading a form. Conversion tracking is typically set up within Google Analytics.

Conversion Path: A self explanatory metric that outlines a user’s journey to conversion. An example would be: Paid search > organic search – meaning a user has clicked a paid ad as a first point of interaction, then returned via an organic click, then converted.

Conversion Rate: A metric that shows how many users perform an action encouraged by a webpage.

CPC (Cost Per Click): A metric that shows the click-through rate as a cost factor. It is generally used for paid advertisements.

Dwell Time: A metric that shows how much time a user stays on a webpage before returning to the SERP.

Impressions: The number of times users see a given page in SERPs.

Organic Traffic: Organic traffic refers to the visitors that come to your website as a result of unpaid (or “organic”) search results. Measured as the number of click-throughs from a SERP that are not derived from paid advertisements.

Page Depth: The number of clicks required to reach a given page from the website’s homepage. A low page depth helps SEO, so a flat site architecture is essential.

Position: Your ranking position within a search result.

Referral Traffic: Website traffic from anywhere other than a SERP.

Traffic: The number of users accessing a page.

User Experience (UX): A broad term that refers to how user-friendly any given service is. User experience is a significant factor in ranking on SERPs.

Qualified Traffic: Website traffic from users who are already informed or interested in a website. It generally refers to users beyond the first step in the buyer’s journey.

Conclusion

A lot to cover! I’m sure we’ll add to this SEO glossary over time. Hopefully you found at least one helpful answer in here.

If you found this glossary helpful, we would greatly appreciate a share! 

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