An effective SEO strategy could drive in web traffic and ultimately customers. SEO can be confusing, but our dictionary will help clear things up.
If you follow our blog, you’ve probably seen us toss around terms like “Search Engine Optimization”, “Keywords”, “Search Engine Rankings”, and the like. Search Engine Optimization is a complex field and even professionals struggle to keep all of the terms straight. That’s why we put this SEO dictionary together.
SEO is important because it helps you draw in valuable, relevant traffic. This increases your chances of securing more customers. Even brick and mortar stores need to pay close attention to SEO.
If you’re starting to optimize your websites, social media profiles, and other assets, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the most common terms. You’ll have to study up to become a top-notch SEO expert. Fortunately, you can get started by reading through our dictionary below.
The One-Stop SEO Dictionary For Small Business Owners
Search Engine Optimization
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. When you optimize your website, you’re trying to make it more attractive to search engines, such as Google. By doing so, you’ll increase your rankings in search engines. This means you’ll appear higher in search results and will draw in more organic traffic.
Those who engage in blackhat SEO are essentially trying to trick Google and other search engines into giving them a high ranking. Instead of providing high-quality content, a blackhat SEO specialist might try to stuff keywords into text or use unsavory tactics to build backlinks. At OnePoint Rewards, we’d never engage in blackhat SEO.
With whitehat SEO, you use legitimate SEO tactics to increase your rankings. This can mean providing high-quality images, putting together excellent content, and building backlinks through outreach. We always use whitehat SEO and recommend our clients do the same.
Organic traffic refers to the free traffic you get through a search engine. If someone types in a keyword, conducts a search, finds a link to one of your website’s pages, and then clicks on it, that’s an organic visit. (If you paid for an ad to appear in the search results, however, that’s not organic.)
Organic traffic is valuable because it’s often highly relevant and high-converting. If you can draw in a lot of organic traffic, you’re off to a great start.
Keywords refer to the terms that customers type into a search engine. For example, a customer might type “best pizza in Washington DC.” Keywords tell the search engine what a user is looking for. When you optimize your website, you will pepper keywords and related terms around your content (among other things).
As Google and other search engines analyze your content, they’ll look for keywords and related terms to determine what your content is relevant for. The bots will also analyze the quality of your content, who’s backlinking to you, and various other factors. Then, they’ll rank the content.
Another way to define the words typed into a search engine is as a query. Every time users type keywords into a search bar, they are generating a search query.
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. These pages are what users are presented with after they conduct a search. With SEO, your goal is to secure a top spot on the SERP.
Your position on the SERPs is referred to as your Search Engine Ranking, or SER. You measure SER in relation to individual keywords.
Google and other search engines pay very close attention to location. If you’re in Nashville, Tennessee and search for “best bbq restaurant”, Google will typically show barbeque restaurants located in or near Nashville.
Sometimes, users will use geographical keywords, such as “best bbq in Nashville” but even if they leave Nashville out, Google will usually show local results. You can increase your rankings for geo-targeted keywords by peppering relevant geographical words around your website, such as “downtown Nashville”, “best burger in Nashville,” etc.
You should also make sure your address is on your website and should set up location pages.
In Michigan, people drink pop, in Georgia, people drink soda or Coke. These geographical variations are regional keywords.
Search Bots and Spiders
So how do search engines even analyze your website? They send out bots, or spiders as they are sometimes called, to crawl over your website. These bots are basically tiny software programs that analyze your website, examining the quality of content, looking at media, and tracking down backlinks, among many other things.
Bots and spiders “crawl” over websites. This essentially means the bot will bounce around on your site, trying to gauge the quality of your content and what it is relevant for.
As bots crawl on your website, they will gather information and “index” it, storing the information for later use. The “index”, by the way, refers to the massive database of information bots have compiled to potentially serve to users.
If an external website links to your website, they create a backlink. Google and other search engines pay close attention to backlinks, basically viewing them as a vote of confidence. If a lot of sites are backlinking to your website, it suggests that your website has high authority.
When a bot comes across a link, they often follow the link to see where it goes. If the link is classified as “no follow”, the bot won’t follow the link. Most SEO experts assert that no-follow links are less valuable than follow links.
The links you create on your website will have two elements. First, there’s the hyperlink that directs a user to a specific page. Second, there’s the text the link is tied to. This sentence is an example of anchor text.
You’ll often hear SEO experts talk about building backlinks. More or less, this refers to the process of getting backlinks to your website. Sometimes, websites will trade backlinks. You backlink me, I backlink you. When done in moderation, this is a legitimate strategy, just be careful not to go overboard, or Google and the like might punish you.
Not all links are created equal. Some links are more authoritative than others. CNN, for example, is more authoritative than the average individual’s personal blog.
Google will punish websites that steal content. However, there are legitimate times when copying content is okay. So how do you signal to Google that you’re not stealing? You use a canonical link, which points Google to the original content.
A link to another page on your website. Internal links may make it easier for bots to crawl your website and will also improve user experience.
Link farming is a black hat SEO strategy. Essentially, your website will end up linked on a variety of low-quality websites that have been set up primarily to host backlinks. These sites are sometimes called “link farms.” Google and other search engines often punish websites (by giving them a lower ranking) for link farming.
Google Webmaster Guidelines
If you’re worried about drawing the ire of Google by accidentally engaging in blackhat tactics, you should read up on Google’s Webmaster guidelines. These guidelines will help you understand what you could be punished for.
You’ll often hear SEO experts mention Google’s “algorithms”. Pretty much all search engines use a variety of algorithms to examine and measure the quality of content.
PageRank is one of Google’s oldest algorithms and is used to rank websites.PageRank pays very close attention to backlinks. While PageRank is still used, Google now uses a basket of algorithms that operate in different ways to rank each website. This way, it’s more difficult to game Google.
RankBrain is another Google Algorithm used to rank webpages. RankBrain uses machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence, to rank webpages.
Many people focus on written content when it comes to SEO. Written content is very important, however, it’s far from the only thing search engines pay attention to. These days, search engines also pay very close attention to images, videos, and other forms of media. Unfortunately, search engines struggle to read such media.
That’s where alt tags come in. You can add an alt tag to your media that describes it in writing. This way, the search engine knows what the media is about. If you have an image of your bicycle shop in Port Huron, Michigan, you can add alt tags that state “Tom’s Bicycle Store Front in Port Huron, Michigan.”
Some web browsers will store websites or at least parts of websites (i.e. images) locally. When a user visits the site, the browser can use the locally stored data. This decreases the need to download data and speeds up load times, which can boost your SEO.
This refers to how long it takes for a website to load once a user visits it. Google and most other search engines favor websites with fast load times. Meanwhile, users are often impatient and will usually only give your website a few seconds to load before clicking away. It’s recommended that your website load within 3 seconds at most. 2 seconds is a better goal.
Most modern websites are “responsive”, meaning they will adapt to fit certain screen sizes. If you visit a webpage on a mobile device, you’ll often notice that the site’s layout is changed. Instead of text-based menus, for example, you might find a “hamburger” menu. 48 percent of web traffic now comes from mobile devices. Search engines will heavily favor mobile-friendly websites, especially for mobile users.
You’ll often hear SEO experts talk about “on-site” optimization. This refers to optimizing the content and other elements users see to be SEO friendly.
An HTML indicator that tells your search engine what the title is. The title, meanwhile, tells the bots what your website is about.
HTTP & HTTPS
Protocols for transferring data. The S in HTTPS stands for secure. Search engines usually favor “secure” websites.
A model of your website layout, pages, and content. The site map makes it easier for bots to crawl your website and understand how it fits together.
An HTML tag that allows you to describe your website. Most believe that Google and other search engines now ignore these descriptions as far as SEO is concerned. However, they can increase organic clickthrough rates as the meta description will often be shown to users on the search page.
Make Sure You Know Your SEO Terms
And there you have it. By grasping the above terms, you’ll be well on your way to building a solid foundation of SEO knowledge. While there’s a lot more to learn, increasing your SEO expertise will be easier if you know the basic terminology. Fortunately, you now do!
Co-Founder & CEO of OnePoint Rewards