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Search engine optimization is a really big topic right now for many online business designers. But before you can start working on it you have to understand some basic SEO terms, hence this SEO glossary.
But first, let’s explain one thing. There are hundreds of blogs focusing on different aspects of SEO, so I won’t get into very detail here, but let me just tell you that there are basically two ways of driving traffic (aka customers) to your site (which is the main venue for your online business).
There’s the “free traffic” way, and there’s the “paid traffic” way. Paid traffic deals with all kinds of advertising (PPC, banner ads, media buys, you name it). On the other hand, the most popular approach of getting free traffic is … SEO.
In this post I’m not going to give you any SEO techniques or tricks. I’m just going to explain a number of terms related to SEO, which I hope you’ll find very handy at some times. I think that understanding the language of the SEO community is the first step to learning the actual techniques and tactics.
(Note. This SEO glossary isn’t the only glossary on this blog. A while ago I published a similar one on WordPress. Feel free to check it out: Handy WordPress Glossary.)
1. 301 redirect
First let’s talk redirecting in general. Redirection happens when you visit one specific page and immediately after that you’re being automatically redirected to a different page (with a different URL).
Essentially, there are two types of redirection: temporary and permanent. From a user’s perspective there’s no difference between them, but there is one from a search engine’s perspective. 301 redirect is a permanent redirection. It informs search engines that the page they’re trying to access has changed its address permanently. This means that whatever rankings the page already has should be transferred to the new address (this doesn’t happen with a temporary redirection).
2. Alt tag
It’s an HTML attribute of the IMG tag. The IMG tag is responsible for displaying images. The alt tag/attribute is the text that gets displayed in case the image can’t be loaded (if the file is missing, for example).
To give you an example, here’s what a standard IMG tag could look like:
<img src="clock.jpg" alt="picture of a clock" />
Alt tags have some SEO value. The thing is that Google can’t (at least at the moment) see what the actual image presents, but it can read the alt tag. There’s no better way of informing Google what’s on your images than by using alt tags.
3. Anchor text
Every link consists of two main elements. There’s the web address that the link is pointing to (the destination) and there’s the anchor text. The anchor text is the text that works as the link.
The easiest way of explaining this is to give you an example. Here’s a link to my resource and education page: online business resources. The destination of this link is http://newinternetorder.com/tools/, and the anchor text is “online business resources”.
Anchor texts are particularly important for SEO. Whenever you’re trying to get a link back to your website it’s good to have a relevant keyword as the anchor text.
Backlink is simply a link placed on someone else’s website that points back to your site. Backlinks are one of the most important factors for SEO. Getting a lot of backlinks with relevant anchor texts is the shortest way of improving your search engine rankings.
5. Black hat SEO
Like everything SEO has its dark side too. Black hat SEO is the name for all SEO practices that are known for being manipulative or unethical, and in the long run can hurt your website, or even get it banned from search engines.
Of course, there’s a very thin line between “perfectly fine” and “unethical” … one day some SEO practices are OK, and the other they are suddenly black hat, so there’s no exact list of such practices.
6. Canonical tag
It’s an HTML link element that lets webmasters to inform search engines about some duplicate content pages they’ve created. The tag is placed in the HEAD section of the HTML structure. Here’s what it looks like:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/" />
This tag informs that the current page is a copy of the page located under the address set in the canonical tag (href).
The main idea is that when a search engine sees this tag it does not rank that page, but transfers all the rankings to the canonical page. So in essence it’s very similar to the 301 redirect.
7. Cloaking (page cloaking)
It’s a practice of taking a webpage and building it in a way so it displays different content to people and to search engines. That way, at least in theory, you can get good ranking for your desired keywords (by presenting an optimized page to the spiders) and then present real people with unrelated offers and content. While this might work from a marketing standpoint it can also get you penalized or even banned very quickly.
8. Deep linking
Let me quote Wikipedia here:
On the World Wide Web, deep linking is making a hyperlink that points to a specific page or image on a website, instead of that website’s main or home page. Such links are called deep links.
Deep links are particularly valuable for SEO. Linking to specific pages within your site with a good anchor text improves the rankings of these pages. Essentially, building deep links is where SEO game is won or lost.
9. Do-follow link
It’s a standard HTML link that doesn’t have the rel=”nofollow” attribute. Do-follow links are the most valuable ones from an SEO perspective.
10. Domain name (and hosting)
Domain is your unique address on the internet. For example the domain of this blog is newinternetorder.com. You can get a shiny new domain at GoDaddy for just $6 or so.
Hosting, or a web host, is where your website is kept/stored on the web. You need a web host to be a website owner. You can get really affordable hosting at Host Gator for $3.96 a month.
11. Duplicate content
If you have two separate pages within your website that have the same content on them (or very similar content) then you have duplicate content. Duplicate content is believed to be a bad thing for SEO. Google doesn’t like sites that use the same piece of content over and over again, and they often penalize them for it.
If you think that you are safe then think again. Let me give you an example. If your site runs on WordPress, and if you’re using similar categories and tags (like for example a tag “business” and a category “business”) then the listing pages for your tags and categories will probably be very similar if not exactly the same. That is a prime example of duplicate content.
There are many definitions of keywords. Let me share the one that matters for SEO.
Keywords are single words or whole phrases of a particular SEO importance for a given page or website.
For example, if I’m writing an article about choosing the best gardening equipment, my main keyword could be “gardening equipment“. It is the keyword I want to rank for because I want people to find this article when they input “gardening equipment” into Google.
Another example is this very list. The main keyword here is SEO glossary. I want people to find this post by putting “SEO glossary” into Google.
13. Keyword density
Keyword density is a number describing how often does a specific phrase appear in a piece of text. To calculate it you just have to divide the number of times your keyword appears in a piece of text by the total number of words this piece of text has, and then multiply the result by 100. The final result will be expressed as a percentage score.
Keyword density is believed to have an effect on SEO. The reasoning behind it is that if a given phrase has a high density score then it means that the text is clearly about that phrase, so it probably should get good rankings for it. Unfortunately this practice doesn’t work so well like it used to in the past.
14. Keyword stuffing
If you take a random piece of text in English some words will occur more frequently than the other. For example, words like: and, or, it occur very frequently, while words like: powerhouse, mushrooming occur very rarely. Keyword stuffing is a practice of taking a word or a phrase and repeating it very often in a piece of text. Usually to the point where the text no longer looks natural, all for the purpose of increasing keyword density of your desired phrase.
While working on keyword density is no longer believed to work, keyword stuffing does work, but it works against you. Stuffing your text with keywords is sure to backfire.
15. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
The standard definition of LSI is truly impossible to understand so I’m not going to bring it up here. Instead here’s a more digestible one.
LSI is considered to be an important factor for search engines when ranking your page. It’s said that search engines analyze the content on your page and search for LSI keywords supporting your main keyword. If they find such keywords your page gets a boost in rankings for your main keyword.
LSI keywords are keywords that are similar to your main one – keywords that are usually found along your main keyword in the natural language.
For example, if your main keyword is “gardening equipment” and you’re using it a lot in your article it would be great to use some LSI keywords as well, such as: “plants“, “garden“, “vegetables“, “planting“, etc. These are the keywords that would be mentioned naturally in a genuine conversation.
In other words, LSI is a way of checking whether the text is genuine or just stuffed with random keywords purely for improving rankings.
It’s like fishing bite only for links. Basically, it’s a piece of highly viral content. Content that is most likely to attract a lot of links, hence – linkbait.
Creating linkbait content is usually very hard even though the principles are simple. There are a couple of ways you can choose: (1) create something really funny, (2) create something of exceptional quality, (3) create something that brings a lot of value for free.
Linkbait content is not only text. Videos, pictures, graphics, and audio work equally well.
17. Link building
This is one of the biggest SEO terms. Link building is simply a process of getting backlinks to your page. For example, if you’re publishing articles on ezinearticles.com with a link to your site then you’re doing some link building.
One more thing. Link building is considered to be the most important element of every SEO strategy. If you want to have a well ranked page you have to get backlinks to it.
18. Link farm
It’s a network of websites that link to each other for the sole purpose of increasing their rankings and PageRanks. Let me give you an example. If you ware to create a link farm (don’t!) you could launch 4 different websites, for example. Each on a different server. Then you would link page #1 to pages #2, #3, #4. Page #2 to pages #1, #3, #4, and so on. Basically, every page links to every other page. Such a network isn’t very powerful when it contains only 4 sites, but when they’re hundreds or thousands of them (which isn’t uncommon) then it’s a completely different story. BUT!
This is considered as a “black hat” SEO technique. Don’t take part in it unless you want your site to get penalized.
19. Link sculpting
By using the “nofollow” attribute of a link you can make some of the links on your site unimportant from an SEO point of view. Therefore, by using this attribute skillfully you can “sculpt” the PageRanks of certain pages within your website. You can increase the visibility of some pages by granting them with follow links and decrease the visibility of others by using nofollow links.
This whole technique requires a lot of practice and knowledge to do it properly. What’s more, many people believe that it’s no longer that effective due to Google’s new approach for handling nofollow links.
20. Meta description
It’s a short description of a blog/page/post used mostly by search engines. This description is not displayed anywhere on the blog.
Here’s how Google uses it. Whenever someone googles a specific keyphrase Google makes a decision which websites should be displayed and in what order. For each website Google displays a title and a short description. Google has two ways of putting this description together:
- If the meta description of the website contains the keyphrase used by the user then Google displays the meta description.
- If the meta description doesn’t contain the keyphrase then Google displays a fragment of the website’s content that does contain it.
If you’re using WordPress then meta description for each page or post can be set using the All In One SEO Pack plugin.
21. Meta keywords
It’s a list of keywords and keyphrases for each blog/page/post used mostly by search engines.
Nowadays, many people think that the major search engines don’t pay any attention to this element while ranking websites. And it’s probably the case. Nevertheless, setting proper keywords won’t do you any harm.
Therefore including your main keyword on the meta keywords list might be a good idea. For this post, I’d include SEO glossary and SEO terms.
If you’re using WordPress then meta keywords for each page or post can be set using the All In One SEO Pack plugin.
22. Meta tags
Meta tags consist of two main elements: meta description, and meta keywords. Meta tags are placed in the HEAD section of the HTML structure of your page. The information contained in those tags is usually not meant for the users but for the search engines. It helps them determine what the page is about. Therefore it might be worth to set them manually for each page or post within your blog.
If you’re using WordPress then all meta tags for each page or post can be set using the All In One SEO Pack plugin.
23. Natural links
All links your page has acquired naturally without you actively building them.
For example, if you’ve written a great post that gets viral on twitter and a lot of people end up linking to it because they like it so much, all those links are natural links.
“Nofollow” is a very popular term in today’s SEO. When in fact it’s just an optional attribute of a link. However, its “optionalism” doesn’t make it unimportant. In fact, it’s the most important attribute from a SEO standpoint.
By default every link is a follow link. This means that whenever a search engine encounters a link, it follows it. Checks where it leads to, and basically takes it as a vote. A vote by the linking website to the website that is being linked to. The nofollow attribute notifies the search engines that they shouldn’t even pay attention to such a link – no vote, no link juice.
From a user’s perspective nofollow links look exactly the same as their follow brothers and sisters.
In order to create a nofollow link just add one extra attribute to an HTML link:
An example nofollow link:
<a href="http://wikipedia.org/" rel="nofollow">Wikipedia</a>
25. Off-page SEO
The are two main elements of SEO: “on-page” and “off-page”. Off-page practices are everything you do outside your page to improve its rankings.
Basically, the main element of off-page SEO is link building.
26. On-page SEO
The are two main elements of SEO: “on-page” and “off-page”. On-page practices are everything you do on your page to improve its rankings.
This includes things like: tuning the HTML structure, improving title tags and descriptions, making your site load faster, checking the keyword usage and density, improving the internal linking structure (the way your pages are linked to each other), etc.
27. Organic search
You’re doing organic search when you visit Google, input a phrase and push the search button.
28. Organic search results (natural search results)
When you do a search on Google the results will most often come in two columns. The column on the right presents the paid results (AdWords ads that someone has bought). The column on the left presents the organic search results.
Getting high rankings in organic search results is what the SEO game is all about.
PageRank or PR is an algorithm first created by Larry Page (one of two founding fathers of Google) to calculate (although “estimate” might be a better word here) the importance of a given website. No one is 100% certain about how it actually works or what all the factors are because Google is not very open in that matter. However, one of commonly believed opinions are that one of the deciding factors is the number of backlinks a site has and the PageRanks of the sites linking to it. So basically, the more links you have, and the better PageRank these linking sites have the better your PageRank will be.
It’s not surprising but pages with highest PageRanks are usually ones that are highly recognizable and popular around the internet. For example, Google.com itself has a PR of 10. Facebook is PR9 website. Yahoo – PR9.
This is a file. One that’s particularly important for SEO. It notifies the search engines which areas of your blog are restricted for them. Restricting search engines from accessing some of your pages might not sound that tempting at first but in fact it’s a valuable thing. First of all, you can exclude all your admin pages from indexing (for example, pages in the wp-admin section of your WordPress blog). You can also use it to prevent search engines from seeing duplicate content on your site. What you do, for example, is prevent them from accessing the category listings on your blog, so only the tag listings are indexed, or the other way around. Very useful file. You can (and should) learn more about it here:
31. Sandbox, supplemental index
Google is believed to have a second index called the sandbox (or the supplemental index). Not every new page appears in the main index straight away. Some of them are put into the sandbox until Google decides that they are worthy of appearing in the main index – the one you see whenever you do a standard search on Google. Websites that are placed in the sandbox don’t appear for normal searches. This means that being in the sandbox is the worst that can happen to your site.
32. Search engine
What you see at google.com is a search engine. Essentially, search engines are software applications. Their main task is to search the internet for a given phrase. Search engines have specific algorithms for doing this. These algorithms have a way of deciding which sites should appear first in the search results (which sites are the most relevant).
The exact algorithms search engines use are not shared to the public. That’s why everybody involved with SEO can only guess what needs to be done to improve site rankings.
No surprise here, the biggest and most respected search engine is Google.
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. In other words it means “marketing via search engines”. Marketing or promoting your products or services via search engines can be done in two main ways. You either optimize your site so it appears at a high spot in organic search results, or pay for the clicks directly, in which case your site is listed under the “sponsored listings” section.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a practice of improving site’s rankings in the search engines for given keywords. When doing SEO you need to take care of both on-page and off-page SEO. The actual tasks that need to be done are changing almost every day. What was working perfectly yesterday may not be working at all tomorrow. That’s just the reality of SEO. It’s why SEO is never a one-time task but an ongoing work.
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page (SERPS – Search Engine Results Pages). This is a page that gets displayed when you search for a keyword on Google or other search engine.
36. Spider (crawler, bot, robot)
Search engine spider is a special piece of software that browses the web, looks for new sites, checks what’s going on on them and sends the data back to Google (or other search engine) so they can index and rank these sites.
37. Supplemental result
Let me quote Wikipedia on this one.
Supplemental Result is a URL residing in Google’s supplemental index [i.e. sandbox], a secondary database containing pages of less importance, as measured primarily by Google’s PageRank algorithm. […] A supplemental page will still rank in search results, but only if there are not enough pages in the main index that are returned within the search.
38. Title tag
Every page has a title tag. From a user’s standpoint the title tag is visible only in one place – your browser’s title bar.
For example, the title tag of the page you’re reading right now is: “SEO Glossary – 41 SEO Terms Explained“. It’s a very important SEO factor. There’s no better way for search engines to find out what the page is about than by looking at the title tag, that’s why you need to spend a moment on coming up with a good title tag.
How to set up a title tag.
If you’re using WordPress then the whole thing is rather simple. First of all, every new post receives a title tag that’s the same as the title of the post. However, if you want to change the title tag you need a plugin – All In One SEO Pack, for example. This plugin provides a really simple way of changing the title tag of any page or post on your blog.
39. URL (URI)
Not getting into boring technical details it’s simply the address of a specific web page.
For example, the URL of the post you’re currently reading is:
40. White hat SEO
As opposed to the black hat SEO, white hat SEO is a set of all SEO practices that search engines encourage you to use. Of course, there’s no official reference place or ranking for SEO practices, so in order to be up to date with what’s recommended and what isn’t, you have to constantly read the most popular SEO blogs, and some in-house Google blogs like these two: Official Google Blog, Official Google Webmaster Central Blog.
41. XML sitemap
It’s a file (usually sitemap.xml). Its main function is to give search engines a map of all the different URLs that your blog contains (all pages, posts, archives, etc). With such a thing they can index your blog a lot quicker.
If you’re using WordPress you don’t have to create this file on your own. There’s a plugin for that: Google XML Sitemaps. I you aren’t you can visit a site like XML-Sitemaps.com and get one built there.
Is everything here?
Most certainly … not. I’m more than happy to expand this list even further. So don’t hesitate to shoot me a comment if you like to add a term of your own.
Head illustration by Icons8