SEO demystified: A glossary of commonly used terms

Lizzie Johnson

SEO Manager

Mike Hennan

Digital Marketing Intern

Mike Angastiniotis

Paid Media Analyst

In this day and age, the internet is at our beck and call; whether we need it to answer a burning question, find us a new pair of shoes, order a takeaway or tell us whether it’ll rain tomorrow. While your search may be met with thousands of results, behind the scenes, search engine marketers are trying to answer your question before others do. They do this by practicing search engine optimisation – SEO for short.

New to the world of SEO? Tackle the jargon and get your head around the basics with this handy guide.

301 redirect - this is a permanent webpage redirect that passes 90-99% of an original page’s ranking power (also known as ‘link equity’) to the redirected page

Alt tag - ‘alternative text’ is included in the HTML code and describes the look and function of an image on a page

Anchor text - the clickable text that makes up a hyperlink. It can help in page ranking.

Backlinks - incoming links to a webpage. These act as a little nod of approval from another site, making them important for high rankings.

Black hat SEO – Dodgy SEO that isn’t above board. This can cover things like keyword stuffing, link manipulation, cloaking and hidden text, all of which are done to try and rank higher on search engine results pages.

Cannibalisation - multiple pages on your website ranking for the same term. This can be a problem as Google won’t know which one is more relevant, meaning the pages compete against each other, decreasing each other’s rank.

Canonical tag - a tag in the HTML code that tells search engines that a certain URL is the ‘preferred’ or master copy of a page. This prevents duplicate issues. 

Cloaking (page cloaking) - when the content shown to a website user is different to what is shown to the spiders who crawl the page. It’s an attempt to trick the search engine to achieve higher ranking.

Deep linking - linking to the internal pages of your site to help increase rankings

Do-follow link - search engines will follow these links and link equity is passed on with them

Domain name - the address you type into a browser to get to a specific website

Duplicate content - parts of a website that are either completely the same or very similar. This is bad for SEO as a search engine finds it hard to decide which version is more relevant and therefore which should rank.

HREF - short for ‘hypertext reference’, used to link to a different part of the same page or another webpage

HTML Sitemap - a list of pages on your website, intended for users rather than search engines

Keywords – words and phrases in your content that allow users to find your site from a search engine. These are the foundation of SEO efforts.

Keyword density - the percentage of keywords on a page compared to the total amount of words. You don’t want too many keywords as Google could penalise this.

Keyword stuffing - trying to gain a higher ranking on search engine results pages by inserting a large number of keywords into a webpage

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) - an algorithm that helps search engines understand the content of a webpage to match it to the user’s search intent

Linkbait - providing valuable content on your website so that other websites will link to it

Link building - links are a signal to the search engine that your webpage is of a quality standard, so sites with more backlinks earn higher rankings

Link farm - a website that features links from other websites. Usually penalised by Google as they often produce poor-quality content and use black hat SEO strategies to try and increase a website’s ranking

Link sculpting - the practice of assigning ‘follow’ and ‘nofollow’ attributes to different pages, structuring your website according to which pages you want to be more visible

Meta description - a short description of a page found beneath each search result on the search engine results pages

Meta tags - code placed in the head section of a page’s HTML structure. It contains the page’s meta description as well as keywords.

Natural links - links a website earns without actively trying to acquire them e.g. writing a really good piece of content leading to natural shares

Nofollow - this attribute tells search engines to not pay attention to a link

Off-page SEO - any efforts outside of a website to improve its rankings e.g. external link building

On-page SEO - any efforts on a website to improve its rankings e.g. keyword optimisation

Organic search - searching for anything on the web using a search engine e.g. Google searches

Organic search results (natural search results) - the results that appear after you perform an organic search

PageRank - Google’s algorithm that’s purpose is to rank pages in Google search results. It measures the importance of a website and then ranks it accordingly 

Robots.txt - a file that’s vital for a website’s SEO. It enables you to let the search engine’s crawler understand which areas of your website you want to be indexed in search results and which ones to exclude.

Search engine - websites like Google, Bing and Yahoo which enable you to search the web

SEM - Search engine marketing

SERP - Search engine results page

Spider (crawler, bot, robot) - a unique piece of software that ‘crawls’ the web in search of new sites and content and tries to understand them while sending information back to the search engine. This information is then processed so the search engine knows how to index and rank these pages.

Title tag - (not to be confused with a header or ’H1’) this is the title of a page, or if you prefer, the name of a page. It helps search engines understand what a page is about and is considered a strong SEO factor. Aim to include your main keywords here.

URL - the address of a web page, standing for ‘universal resource locator’

White hat SEO - The good kind of SEO that search engines want you to do, e.g. link building, setting up XML sitemaps, image optimisation etc. The list is endless.

XML sitemap - similar to an HTML sitemap, but intended for search engines only, not for users. Its purpose is to show a search engine an understandable map of a website’s architecture, and to see how all the pages connect. With this, a crawler can read your website quicker and easier, and can index your pages much faster.

Want help with your SEO? Get in touch at results@icrossing.co.uk.

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