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Jargon sucks

But there’s so much of it about, especially in our industry.

Whether it’s a buzzword, an abbreviation, a portmanteau, a re-appropriated term stolen from another industry or a good old-fashioned acronym, sometimes even a rudimentary search on Google can’t help cut through the crap.

Within the world of digital marketing, there are few areas with as many complicated and obscure terms as SEO.

Here I’ll be presenting a dictionary of as many SEO terms as I feel are relevant and important to a digital marketers’ understanding of this most vital of skills.

I originally wrote this guide last year and it has become somewhat out of date now, so this is a revised and updated version of that previously published post. 

Algorithm

If you are deep into the world of SEO you’ll hear this word a lot. Basically an algorithm (which I find impossible to spell without Word automatically correcting me) is a programme used by search engines to determine which pages are the most relevant to a certain search term.

Google has an algorithm that’s complicated, ever-changing and impossible to second-guess. It regularly updates its algorithm and even introduces completely new ones with very little forewarning. 

These tend to be codenamed cute animal names like Panda or Penguin. The latest iteration is called Hummingbird.

Again, it’s impossible to ascertain exactly which elements Google prioritises over others when it comes to ranking search results. The only thing that SEO experts can be sure of is that the quality of a website’s content will always be the top priority. The production of relevant, entertaining, helpful content at a regular rate is the only consistent good practice in SEO.

Authority website

An authority website is a site that is trusted. It’s trusted by its users, trusted by industry experts, trusted by other websites and trusted by search engines. 

A link from an authority website is very valuable, but in order to get one you’ll have to be creating content that’s at last equal to the quality being created by the authority site.

Black hat SEO

Black hat SEO covers the practices that Google explicitly states will earn you a penalty or ban from its results pages. These practices include artificial growth hacking, link schemes, scraping, keyword stuffing.

I explain these practices more in depth in Navigating the murky world of black hat and white hat SEO 

Click fraud

A company can bid on certain search terms on a search engine network, and therefore pay to appear higher in sponsored listings on the SERPs, however if your costs are greatly exceeding your expectations or regularly coming from the same ISP and without a conversion, this could be click fraud.

The most likely perpetrator of this is your competitor, who has decided to drive up your adspend and force you out of the search engine market.

Crawling

Google sends out Googlebots (or Spiders) to fetch information on new and updated web pages. This is known as crawling and will lead to your website’s inclusion in search results.

This is a fully automated process and happens on a regular basis. You don’t even need to submit your web page to Google in order to be included. Although you can ask Google to crawl a URL if you wish for it to be indexed sooner.

Google AdWords

AdWords is Google’s own advertising product. It offers PPC and CPM advertising as well as site targeted banner, text and rich media ads. AdWords is also Google’s main source of revenue.

If you use its service you will be able show your ads on one or both of Google’s advertising networks:

  • The Google Search Network, featuring the standard Google Search, Google Shopping, Maps and its various search partners. 
  • Google Display Network, which is any website that partners with Google, and other Google sites such as Gmail, YouTube and Blogger.

With AdWords, if you choose PPC, you can set your bid (the amount you’re willing to pay for each click) to manual or automatic. With manual you choose your bid amounts, with automatic Google chooses the bid amount for you within your budget. With CPC and CPM you can set your maximum bid amount.

Googlebot

This is the cute sounding software that Google sends out to collect information about new and updated webpages on the internet, which it then adds to Google’s index.

I am happy to believe that they really do look like the Smash robots.

Internal links

Linking to content within your own site is a great indicator to search engines that your site has value. Two or three good quality internal links to relevant content, using accurate anchor text, spread throughout the article is considered best practice.

See what we did there.

Link building

Google treats a link from another website to your site as a vote of confidence. Google will therefore rank you higher based on that vote. Therefore the more good quality links the better. 

Not all links are born equal though. One link from a high authority site is much better than many links from a bunch of low authority sites.

Meta description

The meta description appears as the two or three sentence description used in search results under the page title.

This is what searchers will read and their decision to click-through to your site will largely be determined by how relevant and readable this description us. Keep it plain, brief and most of all readable.

nofollow

This is a command that you can manually add to a link on your website within the HTML that will instruct a Googlebot not to pay attention to that link.

It looks like this: rel="nofollow" 

This is essential if a link is paid-for and considered best practice if a link points towards untrusted content. Perhaps if you’re writing an article on an untrustworthy website and want to show it as an example, but don’t want to vouch for it.

Off-page SEO

These are methods that you can use to raise the ranking of a website through off-site, promotional means beyond its code or design. For instance, link building or via social media.

On-page SEO

These are all the elements on your web page that you can control in order to make it visible to search engines. For instance: the use of a search engine friendly URL with relevancy to the content, good internal linking, fast loading pages, logical and clear navigation and the use of Sitemaps.

Organic search results

These results are also known as free, unpaid or natural. 

When you type in a search phrase into a search engine, the organic search listings appear below the paid-for ads.

You may remember that Google used to highlight the adverts on its results pages in a slightly cream coloured box. It doesn’t seem to do that anymore, which somewhat obscures the fact that the top results are often paid for listings.

The organic results that appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) are, in theory, the pages that have been optimised the best for that particular search query. Although this is a huge generalisation, as rankings can appear based on anything from the relevancy to the individual user, location to search history. If you’re signed in to Google, it knows your information and will provide results based on this.

The quickest and best way to check how your website is ranking for a particular search term is to use incognito mode or a private mode. This will give you a more realistic view of the SERP.

Paid search

If SEO is meant to help your web pages from ranking higher on SERPs, then paid search blows that out of the water. You can just pay to have your website rank at the top of the first SERP.

Going back to the sheds…

It’s an advert-fest. The top box shows results that companies have to paid to submit to Google Shopping, the boxes below and to the right feature results that have been paid t appear based on the search term I just entered.

Basically, Garden Buildings Direct and Shed Supermarket have decided that they want their results to appear if a searcher types in ‘cheap sheds’. They pay for this privilege using a PPC or CPM programme through the Google AdWords service.

  • PPC: Pay-per-click – an advertiser pays the search engine for every person that clicks on their advert
  • CPM: Cost-per-impression – an advertiser pays the search engine for every 1,000 times your ad appears on the page The user doesn’t have to click-through, it’s just about page impressions. You may have learnt nothing new from this other than the fact that the M in CPM means 1,000.

SEM

Search engine marketing is about making your website visible to search engines like Google and Bing, in order to attract new and returning visitors to your site with the most relevant information available, through both paid and organic search.

SEO

Might as well start logically. SEO is the acronym for search engine optimisation, but then you probably already knew that. Here for the newbies however: search engine optimisation is the process of optimising your website and its content so that it can easily be indexed by search engines. 

Using this indexed information about your website, search engines can provide searchers with the most relevant results based on their search terms. These listings are known as organic search results.

SERP

A search engine results page. So this page that you’re used to seeing everyday…

Spider

The other name for a Googlebot, which makes them seem less cute than the Smash robots.

Spiders crawl your new and updated webpages so Google can add them to its index. Google uses a huge set of computers to fetch (crawl) billions of pages from the internet.

White hat SEO

White hat SEO is about best practice. It’s about making your website more visible and accessible for the user, in a fair and transparent way.

Most importantly ‘white hat’ is about optimising your website for a human audience, not to manipulate search results for ill-gotten gains.

For example, coercing a searcher into visiting a site that they may think is valuable because it’s ranked at the top, but is actually a site full of artificial link-building, keyword stuffing and badly written content.

XML Sitemap

This is a document hosted on your website’s server that lists every page on your website. It’s a way for webmasters to inform search engines when new pages have been added or updated.

This is particularly useful if your site has pages that aren’t easily discoverable by Google – pages with few links or pages with dynamic content such as Flash.

If you have a WordPress site, you don’t need to do a thing as a Sitemap is automatically generated and regularly submitted to search engines for you. If you need to make your own, here are some formats and guidelines that will help you.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 6 August, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

686 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

Camilla Carboni

Camilla Carboni, Founder at Create-The-Dream

Awesome list Christopher!
I've got one to add = Relevancy. I know you touch on it in the article a few times, but I think it's so important and relevant (!) in our age where content marketing is king, that it might need it's own special category ;)
The move away from keyword stuffing toward relevant, good content that aligns with the business' objective is so awesome to see - I feel as though it has helped add a human touch back to the digital age.
Thanks again!
Camilla

about 1 year ago

Vladas Sapranavicius

Vladas Sapranavicius, Consultant at Webconsulting

I teach marketers in seminars about SEO and I also have a vocabulary for them, but only with abreviations (http://www.webconsulting.lt/santrumpos-naudojamos-interneto-rinkodaros-seminaruose/)
I would add some more phrases what marketers usually do not know when they come to my seminars:
Alternative Description
Anchor Text
Canonical tag
Domain Authority
Juice / Passing Juice
Keyword Stuffing
Link Spam
Page Rank
Penalty
Redirect 301/302
Referring Domains
(Not) Sitewide Backlinks
Signals / Social Signals
Title or Meta Title

I would say, that these are the most important candidates for the next version of your list.
All the best!

12 months ago

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