A guide to SEO terminology
Business owners are great at their niches, and generally they have a broad range of skills from accounting to IT and even product design. And it’s true, it takes a lot of skills and knowledge to run a business successfully. However, you can’t run your business all on your own, and you WILL need help from others somewhere along the line.
You just can’t be good at everything (and if you are, you’re just annoying!) For many people, their problems occur with technical aspects of their business like website development and IT engineering. And SEO is a technical minefield. Fundamentally, do you know how to optimise your website and achieve better rankings in Google? If you can’t answer that question, hiring/outsourcing SEO work to experts is probably the best thing you can do. Working with an external agency can have its problems though, so this guide will help you understand what we’re talking about.
A lot of people ring us and ask “how much does your SEO service cost?” Now, everyone has a different level of knowledge on SEO and what they want to achieve for their website when they make an enquiry. Unfortunately, the word SEO alone does not explain the many aspects involved with the vast search engine optimisation universe. Some people may simply want to rank higher for their brand name, and others may have much more complex problems like Google penalties which need recovering. To better understand what we’re talking about and what your problem may be, here is a definitive list of SEO terminology.
You may hear us saying: *“your current site traffic is a little
low, to boost it we would suggest investing less in AdWords and
concentrating on organic traffic.”**
Description: AdWords is the
platform used to run Pay Per Click campaigns, otherwise known as paid
You may hear us saying: “There have been fluctuations in your
site’s traffic which suggests a change in Google’s algorithm.”
Description: Google has developed a highly complex set of algorithms to
deliver search results to people making search queries based on more
than 200 “clues” that help the system guess what you might be looking
for. In SEO terms Google’s algorithm is what we rely on to identify
ranking factors for your website. And it is constantly changing.
You may hear us saying: “the alt text you are using is
over-optimised, consider changing it so it has more variation.”
Description: Alt text is an attribute in HTML that is used to describe
the contents of an image to website visitors.
You may hear us saying: “Your analytics is showing a reduction in
bounce rate after making changes to your landing page”
Analytics is used by Webmasters to monitor traffic to their website. It
measures hundreds of variables such as number of visitors (new, unique
and returning), average time spent on page, the most popular pages of
your website and much, much more.
You may hear us saying: “We are going to change your anchor text to
make it more relevant to your keywords”
Description: The Anchor text is the visible text users can see online
that has been hyperlinked. Usually, this is highlighted in the websites
choice of colour, like this.
You may hear us saying: “We try and earn links only from authority
Description: Offline, authorities can be experts in their field,
professors or organisations. Online authorities are sources of
information that Google trusts. The website has many relevant,
high-quality incoming links from other trustworthy sites. Examples include bbc.co.uk, gov.uk, telegraph.co.uk etc.
Black hat tactics
You may hear us saying: “It looks as though previous SEO work on
your site used black hat tactics to try and game the system.”
Description: Black hat SEO tactics uses the tactics of placing or buying
links in low quality directory sites, keyword stuffing and a general
misuse of trust between an SEO agency and their clients. These services
are not as common nowadays but are usually outsourced to India and
Pakistan or are advertised for very low prices i.e. “SEO services for
£5 a month”.
You may hear us saying: “Your old landing page had a bounce rate of
71%, with the new content it is now down to 43%”
Description: This is a metric in Google Analytics which describes the amount (as a percentage) of visitors that click through to your website from Google search and
then leave without visiting any other page. Good websites aim for a
bounce rate of 20-30%.
You may hear us saying: “this page has not been canonicalised
Description: This can be a number of different things, but
essentially relates to duplicate content. By creating a canonical link
element, you are telling Google to index a preferred page when there are
multiple versions of a page on your website. This is usually a canonical
URL. Google can give out canonical penalties if it finds duplicate
You may hear us saying: “what CMS do you use to update the pages on
Description: A CMS is the Content Management System
which is used to edit your website from. A common CMS is WordPress.
You may hear us saying: “the crawlers are finding broken links in
Description: These are the parts of Google’s algorithm that
have been developed to “crawl” websites in order to rank them on the
SERPs. They’ve been dubbed crawlers or spiders due to the crawling
action associated with them. Other names: robots, bots, spiders.
You may hear us saying: “Your last SEO company used directories to
submit paid links to your website. This has impacted your sites
authority and those links need to be removed.”
Description: A directory is just like the Yellow Pages, except people have set-up websites designed to contain thousands of outbound links, which in turn for
hosting they receive a small payment. These sites are regularly
associated with cheap SEO tactics and Google is striving to stop sites
benefitting from this kind of activity.
You may hear us saying: “We have analysed the links pointing to
your site and will disavow the one’s of no value.”
Description: If your website receives bad links from low ranking websites that do not have a positive effect on your link profile, it is possible to disavow those
links. A disavow file is sent to Google for them to ignore those links.
You may hear us saying: “We are looking at moving your website to a domain with a historically higher domain authority as your
website’s authority is very low.”
Description: This is a score that
Moz developed which predicts how well a site will rank on search engine
results. It is specific to a domain name/ web address. What feeds into
this score is the number of links, the quality of those links, the
trustworthiness of links and link popularity.
You may hear us saying: “We have noticed activity with your website
ranking on a number of terms recently which looks like the result of a
new Google update, and we’re working on figuring out what has changed.”
This is the single defining element of modern day SEO. Without Google
updates, the whole SEO industry would not exist. But what are they?
Google updates essentially change the way the search engine works via
the algorithm it uses and can affect all kinds of things, but generally
website rankings and how websites rank. Some are small and have little
effect and some are truly colossal and can see a top ranking site drop
out of the first page within hours of an update being released. We’ve
seen it happen! There have been two particularly significant updates to
Google’s algorithm in the last few years, and these are called Panda and
You may hear us saying: “We’ve seen grey hat tactics have been used
on your site, so we’ll leave the good quality links and disavow the low
Description: is SEO work that uses both a mixture of a
white hat (high quality/ ethical) and black hat (low quality/ unethical)
You may hear us saying: “Have you considered moving your domain to
Description: is the newest protocol for secure web addresses
over a network. The previous protocol was HTTP, however, new websites
should be opting for a web address with HTTPS because it is more secure
and is preferred by search engines.
You may hear us saying: “We will be able to tell how effective the
new pages are once Google has indexed your site.”
is how Google crawls a website. Developers are able to send commands via
HTML to search engine robots in order to stop a page being indexed.
You may hear us saying: “You currently have a protocol set-up on
your website that means all the links you create are no-follow,
restricting the flow of link juice from your site to others.”
Description: This is the lifeblood of the internet. When we refer to the
‘juice’ of a website we mean the power that is being passed from other
sites to your website from inbound links. A common misconception of
website owners and SEO managers was that they should not create outbound
links to other websites to lock in all the juice of their website. But we proved this wrong in our landmark study.
Other names: Keyphrases, keyterms, You may hear us saying: “What
are the keywords you want to rank for?”
Description: Keywords are the words associated with your business, and because
Google search is powered by text, the words you affiliate with is highly
important. Keywords are used in AdWords to tell Google what search
queries you want your ad to show for. And in organic rankings, keywords
are the phrases used to optimise your site for. In the e-commerce world,
product keywords can be highly competitive, as many companies battle to
rank for the same or similar terms.
You may hear us saying: “Keyword stuffing tactics seem to have been
used from Cheap SEO work done in the past.” Keyword stuffing is as
simple as it sounds. Copywriters stuffing a web page full of keywords.
Google penalises pages with an overly high keyword density, just think
Google wants to show the “best answer” for all queries. It really is
quality over quantity.
You may hear us saying: “Your landing page is in need of updating,
as it contains duplicate content.” The landing page is, in most cases,
your websites homepage. It is the web page your visitors land on after
clicking through on Google. See associated terms: Bounce rate, on-page
You may hear us saying: “We are going to avoid creating link bait
as part of our link building strategy.”
Description: is content created
and designed to attract attention and to encourage those viewing it to
create hyperlinks to the site. It can be viral content or an e-book or
research. In the majority of cases it can be low quality content.
You may hear us saying: “We will be producing high-quality content
as part of our link building strategy to improve your website ranking.”
The internet thrives on the exchange of links between websites. The
better your link profile the higher you will rank. Therefore, we
encourage link building tactics in our SEO service to help boost your
You may hear us saying: “Your link profile has some poor links from
previous cheap SEO work carried out on your site, so we can clear that
up for you.” Every website on the internet has a link profile. It is
how Google views the authority of your website and how trustworthy it
is. Essentially, a link profile includes all the back links pointing at
your website from other websites that have mentioned you. It is the fuel
that powers the internet, almost like a currency. The websites that link
to you are verifying your authority and just like an up-vote system
works Google rewards websites with good link profiles. If you want a
full understanding of how this works, and you have 5 minutes then read
our experiment on outgoing links. We analyse the link profile of every
website that enquires with us and is a measure we refer to throughout
You may hear us saying: “The link text on your pages is
over-optimised. We suggest changing it in case Google penalises you for
Description: otherwise known as anchor text, the link text is the clickable text in a hyperlink.
You may hear us saying: “Local SEO is the best approach for your
business as all your customers and potential customers live locally.”
Description: this is the specific optimisation of your website for local
search queries. This works best for businesses that offer services and
target a specific area like electricians and plumbers.
You may hear us saying: “We have developed a list of long tail
keywords we want your site to rank for.”
Description: is a type of keyword that is usually longer than two words in length. These are important as they are specific to certain search queries a user may be
making and when long tail keywords are used well can help your website
rank highly. Google places an emphasis on long tail keywords over
shorter keywords as they should be more relevant than broadly matched
LSI or latent semantic indexing
You may hear us saying: “We are finding keywords that broadly match
via LSI and related searches.”? Description: is a system used by Google
and other search engines to determine patterns between words and similar
phrases to be able to group documents or content according to their
relevance to each other.
You may hear us saying: “It appears that your website has suffered
from a negative SEO attack. We are working with Google to fix it.”
Description: Is the underhand practice of targeting a competitor site
with an attack on the vulnerabilities of that site. It has traditionally
involved pointing a large number of low quality links to a website with
the aim to lower its position on google rankings.
Example of use: Use this code to add a no follow tag to a link Reboot
Description: A nofollow command can be used to code a backlink or
a webpage to inform Google bots to ‘not follow’ the links on a page or
the individual link. This is a backlink without any power because it
won’t pass on any of the ‘juice’ a normal link would carry.
You may hear us saying: “Your email promotions page should have a
NOINDEX tag so that only existing customers can find it.”
Description: Just like the above, NOINDEX is a Meta tag that can be used by
developers to tell Google crawlers to not index a whole page.
You may hear us saying: “We have carried out some on-page
optimisation for your site as the previous content was low quality.”
Description: this encompasses all the measures that can be taken to
consciously optimise the website and improve its rankings. This includes
Meta tags, title tags and content.
You may hear us saying: “If you’ve had cheap SEO in the past, then
you should try organic SEO to see the difference.”
Description: This is the natural way your website achieves Google rankings. It is the
approach most commonly used in modern-day SEO, and often referred to as white hat. The
power of organic SEO is enormous and is the best way to ensure long-term
success of your website.
You may hear us saying: “Some of the outbound links on your site
are not to high authority sites, we’ve removed them.”
Description: Are links that take a page visitor away from the original page they found. In SEO, it’s good practice to add outbound links to reputable and high
You may hear us saying: “don’t add too many keywords to your
homepage otherwise it may be penalised for over optimisation.”
Description: Over optimisation is when too much SEO is carried out on a
website. This can be with things like keyword stuffing or using
unnatural page titles, there’s also link exchanges that may look
unnatural if the anchor text is an exact match/ optimised.
You would not hear us saying anything about Page Rank as it does not
exist anymore. Description: an old way Google would determine how
important a page is. It was a publicly available numeric rating. It was
just one of the many factors Google considered to rank a page for a
topic. It paved the way for black hat link networks as people tried to
gain higher rankings quickly by buying and selling links. Some people
believe it ruined the web in a way. It is still used by Google as a part
of its ranking algorithm but instead of being public knowledge, it is
once again, one of its many secrets.
You may hear us saying: “the content on your ‘services’ page needs
updating because it could be affecting the rest of the site from ranking
due to Panda.”
Description: Panda is one of the most influential Google
updates to have ever been created. Panda refers to content quality and
relevance of your website. It aims to stop sites with poor quality
content from ranking in top search results.
You may hear us saying: “You have a manual penalty for duplicate
content on your website.” A penalty is one of two things. Either a
manual or algorithmic penalty. This applies to Webmasters and
essentially is punishment for an error related to the content of your
website (Panda) or the links you have pointing to your website (Penguin)
i.e. link profile. Put simply, it’s Google’s way of penalising unethical
SEO methods. And will almost certainly mean poor rankings if left
You may hear us saying: “you have some low quality links pointing
to your website, and this will be penalised under the Penguin
Description: an algorithmic update and aims to catch spam
tactics and sites that attempt to game the system by buying or trading
You may hear us saying: “we have noticed your website has not been
optimised for some basic ranking factors.”
Description: It has been
stated by Google itself that there are over 200 ranking signals or
factors that are used to determine the quality of a website and how it will rank in the SERPs. Google rarely announce what factors it uses as part of its search engine algorithm, but that’s what SEOs spend their time researching and testing to
You may hear us saying: “Your blog is being monitored for referral
spam, as there has been a high amount of comments on your posts.”
Description: is the kind of spam that is aimed at search engines, where
spammers try to draw traffic to their website by sending repeated
requests to a web admin and acquiring a link or web mention to a site
they want to promote.
You may hear us saying: “We can block those pages from Google bots
by using your robots.txt file”
Description: is another method used by developers to communicate with web crawlers to indicate parts of your site you do not want accessed by search engine crawlers. It is also known as the robots exclusion protocol.
You may hear us saying: “Have you had any SEO work done before on
Description: SEO is a strategic, persistent improvement
to not only raise your website’s Google ranking, but the long-term
viability of your website to make sure it stays up to date and free from
penalties (future updates).
SERP – Search Engine Result Pages
You may hear us saying: “your website www.customer.com ranks second
on the SERPs for your keyword ‘customer’.”
Description: Is an acronym for Search Engine Result Pages often referred to as SERPs. It’s part of our common language in the SEO world, as we use it to describe the
results list on the Google search network. It’s a mouthful to say the
whole phrase, and we use it quite a lot so that’s where the acronym came
from. But as a client, this basically means where your website ranks for
certain keywords on Google.
You may hear us saying: “We’ve improved your overall site quality
by adding FAQ pages and testimonials.”
Description: this relates to the trustworthiness or transparency, quality and relevance of your website. Essentially, is the content of your webpages what users will be happy to find when they make queries about topics related to you?
You may hear us saying: “your title tags are not descriptive
Description: Is meant to be an accurate description of a page’s
content. It is usually 50-60 characters long and is what is displayed on
the search engine results pages.
You may hear us saying: “you’ve only ever had black hat SEO work
done on your site in the past, from now on, we will ensure only white
hat tactics are used.”
Description: This is the modern approach to SEO, in which only ethical methods are employed to try and rank a website on the SERPs. It’s the opposite of black hat SEO tactics which try to game the system.
You may hear us saying: “We have moved your website to the new
domain and are setting up a 301 redirect to point visitors to the new
Description: this is used to help users find your website if it
has moved domain or an area of your site that has moved URL. This is
completed on the backend of your website and users will not realise a
301 redirect is happening, as an effective redirect will simply point
users straight to the new URL landing page.
404 not found
You may hear us saying: “You have not developed a 404 not found
page, we can help you
Description: Just like the 301 redirect this is a
configured page that happens when a user tries to access a page that no
longer exists. This can happen for any variety of reasons and it may not
be your fault. A well-designed 404 page will retain users in your site
and reduce drop off, here’s a list of 30 creative 404 error pages