Before we dive into the world of SEO proper, it might help to explain some of the terminology you might encounter along the way.
This should help make it a lot easier to understand some of the jargon, and alleviate much of the fear, confusion, and apprehension that surrounds SEO…
Text associated with photographs and images on a web page to help search engines and people better understand what the image represents. The “alt” text is displayed when the image cannot be loaded for one reason or another.
Links to other pages or websites can be designated as “follow” (the default) or “nofollow” using the “rel=” attribute. Links that are specified as “nofollow” will be treated by Google as though they were never there, and will not pass any link juice to the target page as a result.
It’s possible to control the inclusion or exclusion of pages from the search engine index by using the “index” (default) or “noindex” META tags within the page header. Sometimes, we want to keep pages out of the search index. For example, to avoid duplicate content being indexed or to keep pages with private content out of the search results.
When a page cannot be found for one reason or another, for example because of a broken link), that’s referred to as a 404 error (page not found).
Google’s pay per click (PPC) advertising system.
A program that follows a specific set of rules and decisions to compute a result. The Google search system is powered by the ranking algorithm, for example.
This is the actual text a user would click to visit a page designated by a link on a web page. The anchor text on links is very important for SEO purposes.
When another website links to you, via a hyperlink, that’s referred to as a backlink or an incoming link.
A “bounce” happens when a visitor lands on your website, views only that one page, and then leaves the website. Bounce rate is a percentage that represents the fraction of people who bounce compared to the total number of visitors.
This refers to the text, photographs, images, videos, links, and other media displayed to the user on a web page.
CPC and PPC
Cost per click (CPC) and pay per click (PPC) are terms used in search engine marketing (SEM).
Refers to the level of trust that the search engines allocate to the domain. Some domains are much more trusted than others, which affects the value of the link juice passed to the websites they link to.
Hats (white, Black or Gray)
These terms are used to describe various SEO techniques. “White hat” covers techniques that are widely deemed as ethical and acceptable to Google. “Black hat” describes techniques commonly used by spammers or people deliberately trying to game the system. “Gray hat” refers to that fuzzy area in between where the techniques have not been determined to be good or bad, but where some caution should be exercised in their use.
The basic unit of SEO is the keyword, which can be a single word or (more usually) a phrase. Keywords are the terms you want your website to rank for in the search engines.
Sometimes, several pages on a website try to compete for the same keywords, causing confusion for the search engines, essentially cannibalizing each others rankings. This is to be avoided wherever possible.
Not as important as it once was, keyword density refers to how many times a given keyword is used on a page. Ideally, we should aim to keep density down to around 3-5%, meaning that the keyword appears between 3 and 5 times per 100 words at most.
This is simply the process we go through of identifying the most appropriate or desirable keywords to use on our websites.
Using the same keyword over and over again on a page, in an unnatural way, or in a way designed to try to game the system, is called keyword spam.
See keyword spam…
The term given to website content designed specifically to attract links from other websites.
Every web page is assigned a certain value within the search engine index. When a page links to another, a certain amount of that value is donated to the target page. This link value is commonly referred to as link juice.
This refers to longer, often much more specific, search queries. These are often less sought after by webmasters for SEO than more broad searches. For example, a search for “landscape photography” is quite broad. However, “landscape photography around the Grand Canyon” would be considered as a long tail search.
Code statements contained inside the HEAD section of an HTML page, which provide useful information about the page itself. META tag data may be shown in the search engine results pages (SERPs), but is not displayed by the browser on the page itself.
Named after Google founder Larry Page, not because it ranks pages (even though it does), PageRank is a score assigned to a page on a scale from 0 (least) – 10 (best). It is very similar in nature to domain authority.
Redirect (301 or 302)
Sometimes it’s necessary to move pages to a new URL, and we have to tell the browser where the page now resides. We can do this using a redirect command, either 301 (permanently moved) or 302 (temporary). When the search engines encounter a 301 redirect they will attempt to replace the current page in their index with the new URL.
Acronym for “search engine results pages”.
This is a page or a group of pages on a domain that serve to link to all the user-accessible pages on the website. An XML sitemap file (which can be generated automatically on many systems, such as WordPress) is often found in the root directory of a site to help the search engines find all of the website’s content.
The term given to the automated programs used by the search engines that locate and report our web pages to the search index. Sometimes referred to as “crawlers“, “robots“, or “bots“. The process of analyzing a website by the search engines is called “crawling”.
Acronym for “Uniform Resource Locator”, more commonly referred to as the web address.