In this comprehensive SEO glossary, we share a host of key terms that you’ll need to understand in order to create a successful search engine optimization campaign.
A 301 redirect tells web browsers and search engines that a page or site has been permanently moved to a new location.
Without a 301 redirect, the backlinks that the old URL accrued will not pass their value to the new one, resulting in a loss of ‘backlink equity’ and a potential decrease in search rankings for the relevant page.
A 404 error is an HTTP status code that means a page could not be found on a server. This error is usually encountered by users when a page has been removed or the URL has been changed without a proper redirect in place.
If you remove a page on your site that has a lot of inbound links, it’s usually best to create a redirect to another relevant URL instead of letting search engines encounter a 404 error. This helps preserve any ‘link juice‘ that has been accrued by the original URL.
Above the fold
Above the fold refers to the part of a webpage that is visible without scrolling. This term originates from the print industry and has been adopted by web designers and digital marketers. It’s generally important to place key content and calls to action above the fold (so that users can find key information quickly).
Ahrefs is a popular SEO tool that provides digital marketers with features that let them analyze websites, track backlinks, research keywords and monitor search rankings.
Accordingly, it’s important to thoroughly test AJAX-based webpages to ensure search engine crawlers can interpret the content effectively.
In the context of SEO, an algorithm refers to the set of rules that search engines use to rank the listings returned in response to a query. Search engine algorithms rank content based on many factors, including the relevance of the webpage, the quality of the content and the number of backlinks pointing to it.
An algorithm change refers to a modification in the rules used by search engines to determine the ranking of websites in their search results. These changes are made to improve the relevance and quality of search results, often focusing on factors like website quality, relevance of content, mobile-friendliness and loading speed.
When an algorithm change occurs, it can significantly impact the visibility of websites in search results, potentially leading to an increase or decrease in organic traffic. Given its huge share of the search engine market, this is particularly the case where Google algorithm updates are concerned.
Alt text — also known as alternative text — is a text-based description of an image. This text helps search engines understand what the image is about and contributes to a web page’s SEO. Alt text is also important for accessibility, as it provides a textual description of the image for visually impaired visitors to a website.
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a technology developed by Google that makes web content load quickly on mobile devices. It does this chiefly by using simplified HTML.
While use of AMP was originally linked to better visibility in Google search results (especially where news articles were concerned), Google no longer favors AMP-format pages in this way. That said, fast loading speed remains an important factor in how Google ranks websites in its search results, and AMP can still play a role in delivering quick page load times.
Analytics refers to data and statistics about a website, such as the number of visitors, page views, bounce rate, etc. This information is often used for tracking and measuring performance and is essential for making informed decisions about SEO strategies. Popular analytics packages include Google Analytics and Fathom Analytics.
Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. In SEO, the anchor text is important because it gives users and search engines contextual information about the content of the link’s destination page and can influence how search engines index it.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence or AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, perception, and language understanding.
When applied by search engines, AI enhances their ability to understand and interpret the content, context and user intent behind search queries. For example, Google uses an AI system called RankBrain to understand the context and semantic meaning of search terms (especially search terms that it hasn’t encountered before).
In SEO, authority refers to a measure of a site’s importance or credibility. This can be influenced by the quality of content on a site, the number of backlinks to it and the credibility of those backlinks. High-authority sites typically rank more highly in search engine results.
A backlink is a link to one site from another. The more high-quality backlinks you have pointing to your site, the more likely it is to rank highly in search results.
This is because Google effectively treats external links as ‘votes’ for website that vouch for the quality of its content.
Baidu is the most popular search engine in China and is often referred to as the “Google of China.” Founded in 2000, it provides a range of services similar to Google, including a search engine for websites, images, maps and news.
Bing is Microsoft’s search engine. While Google dominates the search engine market, Bing nonetheless holds a significant share in certain markets.
In SEO, the term ‘black box’ is often used to describe the unknown workings of the algorithms and processes used by search engines to rank websites (the exact nature of these algorithms is not disclosed to the public).
They’re considered a ‘black box’ because we can see the inputs (web pages and their content, backlinks, user behavior, etc.) and the outputs (search rankings), but the exact process that transforms those inputs into outputs is largely hidden and unknown.
Search engines like Google keep these algorithms a secret to prevent manipulation and gaming of the system.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO refers to practices that violate search engine guidelines and can result in a penalty or ban from search results. These practices often involve manipulative tactics designed to trick search engines, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, and using private link networks.
A blog is a regularly updated section of a website, typically managed by an individual or a small group. Blogs often focus on a specific topic.
Having a blog can improve a website’s position in search results because it helps keep it fresh with new content — something that search engines favor. Furthermore, blogs offer an excellent way to incorporate relevant keywords into a site.
By offering valuable, engaging content through a blog, businesses can attract more visitors to a site, increase the time they spend on it, and encourage them to share or link to its content — all of which can positively impact SEO.
The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave a website after viewing only one page. Although Google is on record as saying that a high bounce isn’t an official ranking factor, it can indicate poor user experience, which can in turn lead to less engagement; less backlinks being created to a page; fewer shares etc., and thus have an indirect impact on search rankings.
A branded keyword is a search term that includes the name of a brand or a specific product or service associated with that brand.
For example, for the company Nike, branded keywords could include ‘Nike shoes,’ ‘Nike running apparel,’ or even ‘Nke,’ if users commonly misspell the brand name.
Branded keywords are typically used by customers who are already aware of a brand and looking for specific products, services or information related to it. These keywords are important in SEO because they usually have high conversion rates — searches involving them often come with a strong intent to purchase something from the brand in question.
A breadcrumb is a type of secondary navigation scheme that reveals the user’s location on a website or the path that was taken to arrive at the current page. Breadcrumbs are important for both usability and SEO, as they give users a way to navigate through a site and help search engines understand its structure.
Broad core update
A Google broad core update is a significant change to Google’s search engine algorithm. This type of update typically aims to improve the relevance and accuracy of search results.
Unlike smaller, more frequent updates, broad core updates happen only a few times a year and can significantly affect search rankings across all industries and countries.
A broken link — also known as a dead link — is a hyperlink on a website that no longer works (because the web page it’s pointing to has been moved or deleted, or the URL has been incorrectly entered into the content).
When users click on a broken link, they are typically taken to a 404 error page (a page that states that the requested page cannot be found).
Broken links can negatively impact user experience and a website’s SEO performance, as search engine bots also encounter these errors during crawling (which may negatively impact the site’s ranking in search results).
In the context of web browsing, a cache is a technology that stores copies of web pages or other Internet content on a local hard drive or in a server close to the user. When a web page is cached, it means that a snapshot of that page’s content is stored so that it can be served up more quickly when the same user (or another user in close geographic proximity) requests it again.
Caching matters in SEO because it can significantly improve a website’s load speed. Search engine typically consider page speed a ranking factor (because a fast loading page provides a good user experience).
A canonical URL is an HTML link element that helps prevent duplicate content issues by specifying the ‘canonical’ or ‘preferred’ version of a web page.
Using canonical URLs tell search engines that specified, similar URLs are actually the same. This is important for SEO because search engines can penalize sites that they perceive as containing too much duplicate content.
ccTLD (Country Code Top-Level Domain)
A ccTLD is an Internet domain name extension that indicates that a website’s content relates to a particular country or region — examples include .us for the USA, .ca for Canada, .fr for France etc.
ccTLDs matter in SEO because they can help improve a website’s visibility in country-specific search results. For instance, a .fr domain is likely to rank better in searches performed in France, as search engines consider this ccTLD as a strong signal of relevance to that country. However, it’s important to note that using a ccTLD also means that the site might not rank as well in other countries.
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence program. Designed to generate human-like text based on the input it receives, it can engage in conversation, answer questions, and even generate creative content like stories or poems.
In terms of SEO, ChatGPT can be used to assist with tasks including generating SEO-friendly content, creating meta tags or meta descriptions, suggesting keywords based on provided content or answering questions about SEO practices and strategies.
Human fact-checking and editing of the content it outputs is usually required before that content can be successfully used as copy for a website, however.
Cloaking is a deceptive SEO tactic where the content presented to the search engine spider is different from that presented in a user’s browser (the aim of this being to ‘fool’ search engines into giving a site a higher ranking). This practice is considered a serious violation of search engine guidelines — websites caught using cloaking can be penalized or de-indexed.
Cluster content refers to a group of interlinked web pages that focus on sub-topics of a broader subject (the main subject usually being covered in a more comprehensive ‘pillar page.’).
These cluster pages dive deeper into the subtopics or individual aspects of the main subject, providing detailed information and context.
This interconnected content strategy can enhance the user experience by providing thorough, organized information about the subject, and improve rankings by establishing topical authority on it (Google can reward sites that showcase a high degree of expertise on a particular subject with higher rankings).
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers distributed around the globe to deliver internet content more quickly and efficiently to users.
This reduces the time it takes to transfer data and can improve the user’s experience — which can in turn improve rankings (as search engines can give preferential treatment to sites that load quickly and perform well).
Content Management System (CMS)
Modern content management systems typically include built-in features to help optimize content for search engines; these let you create friendly URLs, edit key SEO components (page titles, headings, meta descriptions etc.) and create XML sitemaps.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are a set of factors that Google considers important in a webpage’s overall user experience. These vitals are made up of three specific measurements: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures loading performance; First Input Delay (FID), which gauges interactivity; and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which assesses visual stability.
Google uses these metrics respectively to evaluate how quickly a page loads, how soon it becomes interactive and how stable it is as it loads. These metrics have become an important part of Google’s ranking algorithm and can impact a website’s position in search engine results.
Crawl budget refers to the number of pages that a search engine will crawl on your site within a certain time. This ‘budget’ is typically influenced by the size of the website, how fast it is and the number of links to it. Optimizing your crawl budget ensures that search engines regularly index your most important pages.
A crawler — or spider — is a piece of software that search engines use to collect information about web pages and index them. A key goal of SEO is to make it easy for crawlers to understand and index web content.
In the context of the World Wide Web, a directory is a site that categorizes and lists other websites (much like a phone book categorizes names and phone numbers). While getting sites included on directories was once a key component of SEO, the importance of doing so has significantly diminished over the years.
The disavow tool is a feature provided by Google that allows you to ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site’s ranking. There are only a couple of contexts in which Google recommends you use it: first, if you have bought links (an activity that’s in contravention of Google’s search guidelines) and fear that they will lead to a ‘manual action,’ or second, if you have been issued with a manual action and need to remove your site’s association with specified links.
A dofollow link is a type of hyperlink that passes SEO authority (also known as ‘link juice’) from the page hosting the link to a target page. The presence of a dofollow link can signal to search engines that the linked content is a credible source, potentially boosting its search engine rankings.
Unlike nofollow links, which instruct search engines to ignore a link for ranking purposes, dofollow links can have a significant and positive impact on a page’s SEO. It’s important to note that unless otherwise specified with a nofollow tag, all links are considered dofollow by default.
A domain refers to the main web address used to identify a specific website on the internet. It’s the unique name that users type into a browser’s address bar to visit a particular site — “example.com” etc. Domains are important for brand recognition, authority and credibility on the web; and from an SEO perspective, the age, history and reputation of a domain can influence its search engine rankings (with older domains often seen as being more ‘trustworthy’ than newly-registered ones).
Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). DA scores range from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.
Domain Rating (DR) is a proprietary metric developed by Ahrefs that predicts the strength of a website’s backlink profile on a scale from 0 to 100, with a higher score indicating a stronger profile. It’s calculated based on the quantity and quality of a site’s inbound links.
Duplicate content refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Search engines can penalize sites containing too much duplicate content, so it’s best to try to make each piece of content on your site as unique as possible.
Dwell time is the amount of time between the moment a user clicks on a search result and the moment they return to the search engine results pages (‘SERPs’).
Dwell time matters in search engine optimization because it has the potential to tell a search engine how useful a page is to a user.
Microsoft has suggested that its Bing search engine uses dwell time as a ranking factor and research by the SEO site Moz indicates there may be a correlation between dwell time and better Google rankings too.
E-E-A-T is a Google acronym that stands for “Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.” High-ranking pages and/or their authors typically display signs of all four of these qualities.
E-E-A-T forms constitutes a key part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines (guidelines that are used by real people to evaluate the quality of Google search results).
Until a Google update in December 2022, the term was shorter — just E-A-T (no “Experience”).
An external link is a link on a domain that points to different one. External links are valuable for the domain being pointed to, because Google (and other major search engines) effectively view them as votes of confidence in that domain.
A featured snippet is a summary of an answer to a user’s query and is displayed at the top of Google search results. It’s extracted from a webpage, and includes the page’s title and URL. This spot is also known as “position zero” in SEO.
Founded in 1998, Google is a multinational technology company that specializes in internet-related services and products. Its most well-known service is Google Search; this is the world’s most popular search engine, designed to sort through billions of web pages to deliver the most relevant results to users’ queries.
Besides search, Google offers a broad range of other services, including email (Gmail), cloud storage (Google Drive), productivity software (Google Workspace) and a mobile operating system (Android).
Google Analytics is a free tool provided by Google that helps website owners measure their website traffic and gather behavioural information about visitors to their sites.
Googlebot is the web crawling bot used by Google to find pages that need to be added to the Google index. It uses an algorithmic process to determine which sites to crawl (and how often) and how many pages to fetch from each one.
Googlebot’s activity can have a significant impact on how well a website ranks in search results.
Google Discover is a personalized content discovery feature that provides mobile users with articles, news, and information based on their interests, previous search activity and browsing habits. Unlike traditional search engines — which rely on user queries to present results — Google Discover proactively surfaces content that it believes will be relevant to individual users.
Google Discover can be accessed via the Google mobile app and the Google.com homepage on mobile devices, and offers a continuously updated feed of articles, videos and images.
An SEO professional aiming to optimize content for Google Discover would focus on creating high-quality, engaging and relevant content that resonates with their target audience’s interests and behaviors. Utilizing clear headlines, compelling images, and keeping content up to date with current trends can help with this.
Implementing structured data and ensuring content is mobile-friendly can also boost its chances of appearing in Discover.
Google Map Pack
The Google Map Pack — also known as the Local Pack or 3-Pack — is a feature in Google’s search results that displays local business listings related to a user’s search query on a map.
Each listing in the ‘pack’ includes key details about a business including its name, address, phone number and website; user reviews are also shown in it. This feature is particularly important in local SEO, as appearing in the Map Pack can significantly increase visibility and drive traffic to both a business’ physical location and its website.
Google News is a news aggregation service provided by Google that compiles headlines, articles, and videos from various news sources worldwide. The service categorizes content into different topics, making it easy for users to follow stories that interest them; additionally, Google News stories can be featured prominently in organic search results.
When optimizing content for Google News, the focus should be on adhering to journalistic standards by producing high-quality, original and timely content that covers topical and newsworthy subjects. Implementing clear headlines, accurate meta tags and structured data, while also ensuring that the site is easily crawlable and adheres to Google News’ technical guidelines, can further enhance visibility.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that helps website owners, SEO professionals and developers understand how their site is performing in Google’s search results. It offers insights into indexing status, organic search traffic and technical website errors, as well as allowing users to submit sitemaps and individual URLs for crawling. Additionally, it reports on on issues related to mobile usability, structured data and site security among others.
Google Trends is a free online tool provided by Google that allows users to see how often specific keywords, subjects, and phrases have been queried during a specific period of time in Google Search.
The tool is useful for marketers, journalists and anyone interested in understanding search behavior over time or across different geographic regions.
A ‘head keyword’ is a phrase that is typically short (often one to two words in length) and highly generic, and one for which there is a high search volume. Head keywords are very hard to rank for in search engine results pages (SERPs) due to their generic nature.
To give an example, a term like “coffee” would be considered a head keyword. While it would bring a lot of traffic to a site due to its high search volume, it might not attract targeted traffic because of its lack of specificity. SEO strategies often balance the use of head keywords with ‘long-tail keywords’ — more specific phrases with lower search volumes but higher conversion rates (‘Turkish coffee shop in Brooklyn’ would be an example of the latter).
Header tags are used in HTML for the creation of headings on a webpage. They range from H1 to H6, with H1 being the main heading and the rest being sub-headings.
These tags are important for SEO because they help search engines understand the structure and content of your webpage better — and index it more accurately.
An hreflang tag is an HTML attribute that tells search engines the language a website is written in and the location of the audience it is targeting.
Hreflang tags are typically used in multi-language websites to help ensure that the most appropriate version of a site is served by search engines to its users.
HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is the language used to create web pages. It tells your web browser how to display a web page’s content and lets search engines know what that page is about.
HTTPS, which stands for ‘Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure,’ is a protocol used for secure communication over the Internet — it encrypts the data transferred between a user’s browser and a web server. The presence of HTTPS, typically indicated by a padlock symbol in the address bar, means that the communication between your browser and the website is secure and that protection is provided against potential threats like data tampering, message forgery, and eavesdropping.
Since 2014, Google has considered HTTPS a ranking signal and websites using this secure protocol can receive preferential treatment in search results over non-secure ones.
An inbound link, also known as a ‘backlink,’ is a hyperlink coming from another website to yours.
Inbound links are important for search engine optimization (SEO) because they represent a vote of confidence from one site for another. They indicate to search engines that your content is valuable and relevant, which can positively impact your website’s ranking in search results.
In the context of SEO, the term ‘index’ refers to the database of a search engine, where all the information about the web pages it has crawled and analyzed is stored.
When a search query is made, the search engine scans its index to provide the most relevant results.
An internal link is a type of hyperlink that links a web page to another one on the same website. This helps users navigate a site more easily and access the most relevant content.
Internal links are also important in SEO, because they help search engines discover your content more easily and index it more accurately.
Additionally, internal links spread ‘link equity’ (ranking power) throughout your site; pages with more internal links pointing to them can receive more link equity, potentially improving their position in search engine rankings.
Keywords are the words and phrases (‘search queries’) that individuals type into search engines when looking for information. SEO professionals aim to optimize web pages around relevant keywords to increase their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) and attract more organic traffic. The process includes using those keywords strategically in elements such as the title, meta description, headers, and body text of a page. The ultimate goal is to match the keywords on the page with the queries users are actually searching for.
Keyword density refers to the number of times a keyword appears on a webpage as a percentage of the total word count. It used to be a major factor in how pages were ranked, but it’s now considered a less important signal.
Keyword difficulty is a metric provided by SEO tools to indicate how challenging it would be to rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs) for a particular keyword.
This score is calculated based on various factors, such as the number of backlinks to websites that are already ranking highly for a target keyword , and their domain authority.
Generally speaking, keyword difficulty is measured in a score out of 100, with higher scores indicating that it will be harder to rank highly for a given phrase.
Keyword research is the process of identifying and analyzing the phrases people enter into search engines. This process can help determine which keywords to create content for and provide valuable insights into market trends, user needs and growth opportunities.
Good keyword research can lead to improved rankings, increased web traffic and higher conversions.
Keyword stuffing is an SEO technique that involves packing a web page full of keywords (in its meta tags, content or both). This is an outdated and spammy tactic that can lead to penalties from search engines.
Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. These inbound links, also known as ‘backlinks,’ are important because they signal to search engines that your site is a credible resource and one that is worthy of inclusion in search results. The quantity and quality of a website’s backlinks can significantly impact its search engine rankings.
Effective link building strategies can include content creation and promotion; direct outreach to relevant websites; guest blogging, and PR campaigns. It’s important however to focus on building high-quality links that provide value to users — manipulative link-building practices can lead to penalties from search engines.
Link equity, also known as ‘link juice,’ is a search engine ranking factor based on the idea that certain links pass value and authority from one page to another.
This value, passed through links, is used by search engines to determine a page’s ranking in search results.
‘Link Juice’ is a term used in the SEO world to refer to the value that a hyperlink passes from one page to another.
When a web page links to another one, it passes some of its credibility and search engine authority on — the so-called ‘link juice’. The receiving page can rank higher in search engine result pages (SERPs) as a result of the ranking power being passed on.
It’s important to note however that the amount of ‘link juice’ provided depends on a variety of factors, including the reliability and authority of the linking page (i.e., if the page doing the linking has a large number of high-quality backlinks pointing to it, the amount of link juice passed on will be greater).
Local SEO is a type of search engine optimization that focuses on ensuring that websites can be easily found in local search results (i.e., Google Maps, or localized versions of search engines). It is an especially important SEO tactic for businesses with a physical location or those that offer a service to a particular locality.
Long-form content refers to blog posts or online articles that are significantly longer than typical posts. These in-depth pieces cover a topic extensively, offering comprehensive information and insights on it.
Although Google has stated in the past that content length is irrelevant when it comes to SEO, studies do show a correlation between content length / depth and good search rankings. This may be because longer pieces are naturally more keyword rich, increase dwell time or satisfy user queries best (outcomes that may all affect search rankings positively).
A long-tail keyword is a phrase that typically contains three or more words and is highly specific to the content or product being offered.
Long-tail keywords are less competitive than shorter, more generic ‘head’ keywords; but, while they have lower search volumes, they often attract more targeted traffic that generates higher conversion rates. This is because users who search using long-tail keywords are often further along in the buying cycle and are more likely to be looking for a specific product or service.
A long-tail keyword might be ‘men’s red running shoes size 7’; the related head keyword would be ‘shoes.’
A manual action is a penalty given to a website by Google. The penalty is applied when Google’s team reviews a website and determines that it’s not following their quality guidelines. This is usually due to unethical or manipulative SEO practices being used by the website owner (for example, creating fake links or using scraped content).
This penalty can result in a decrease in the website’s search rankings or even removal from search results altogether. It’s called a ‘manual action’ because it’s applied by a human reviewer at Google rather than by a computer algorithm.
A meta description provides a brief summary of a web page. Although meta descriptions are added to the source code of a web page (rather than being visible on it), search engines often display them in search results — and good ones can influence click-through rates in a positive way.
Meta tags are snippets of text that describe a web page’s content. They are added to the page’s source code and don’t appear on a web page itself.
A nofollow link is a type of hyperlink that includes a ‘rel=nofollow’ tag in the HTML code, indicating to search engines that the link should not influence the ranking of the linked site’s position in the search engine’s index.
Initially, the nofollow attribute was intended to combat spam and prevent search engines from following spammy or irrelevant links. While nofollow links do not contribute to the direct SEO value in the same way dofollow links do, they can still indirectly influence SEO by driving traffic, promoting visibility and building brand awareness. Additionally, Google does not ignore them completely — it can treat them as ‘hints’ regarding site quality, with a nofollow link from a high-quality site having the potential to positively impact the search rankings of the page being linked to.
‘Noindex’ is a directive used in SEO to tell search engines not to include a specific page in their index (meaning that the page won’t appear in search results). It can be implemented using a meta tag in the page’s HTML or through HTTP headers.
Webmasters commonly use the noindex directive for pages that are duplicate, private or of low quality, ensuring that only the most relevant and valuable content is indexed and presented to users in search results.
Off-page SEO refers to all the activities performed outside of your own website to improve its ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).
The main way to improve off-page SEO involves gaining backlinks from other reputable websites, but other ways to boost it include social media activity, influencer marketing and gaining brand mentions online. The goal of off-page SEO is to create a strong, positive perception of your site in the eyes of search engines — this can increase the number of ‘E-E-A-T’ signals associated with your site (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) and lead to higher rankings.
On-page SEO is the process of making changes to an individual web page in order to help it rank higher in search results. It involves optimizing key parts of the page, including titles, images and text so that search engines can better understand what its content is about.
Unlike off-page SEO, which largely deals how your content is featured (or linked to) on other websites, on-page SEO focuses on increasing the quality of the content itself.
Organic traffic refers to the number of visitors that land on your website as a result of clickthroughs to it from unpaid search results (rather than adverts).
Organic search results
Organic search results are listings on a search engine results page (SERP) that appear ‘naturally’ due to their relevance to the search terms (unlike the paid links that you also find displayed by search engines). They are determined by a search engine’s complex algorithms, which consider a multitude of factors such as a web page’s relevance to the search query, content quality, the authority of the website and many others.
Organic search results are crucial for websites because they often contribute to the bulk of a site’s traffic and are considered more credible and reliable by users than paid search results. The ultimate goal of SEO is to improve a website’s organic search rankings.
An outbound link is a hyperlink that points from your website to another one. It’s the opposite of an inbound link (or ‘backlink’), which comes from another site to yours.
Outbound links can be used to provide additional information or context to your website’s visitors. Some SEO professionals believe that if your outbound links point to relevant and authoritative content, this can positively affect search rankings.
Page speed, also known as ‘page load time,’ refers to the amount of time it takes for the content on a specific webpage to fully load.
It’s a critical aspect of user experience: when a page loads quickly, users are more likely to stay on the site, engage with the content, and possibly take a desired action like making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
Because of the emphasis they place on good user experience, search engines typically factor in page speed when ranking websites. Websites that load faster are more likely to rank higher in the search results.
PageRank is an algorithm used by Google Search to rank web pages in their search engine results. Named after Google co-founder Larry Page, PageRank measures the importance of web pages by considering the quantity and quality of links to a page.
Essentially, it operates on the principle that some pages carry more weight and significance than others; and, when a web page links to another, PageRank ‘confers’ an appropriate amount of importance to the page being linked to (with higher quality pages conferring more importance via links than lower quality ones).
Pay-per-click (PPC) is an online advertising model in which advertisers pay each time a user clicks on one of their online ads. This is a way of buying visits to your site, rather than attempting to “earn” those visits organically via SEO.
A pillar page refers to a comprehensive, authoritative piece of content on a website that covers a particular topic in depth. This content is typically long-form, encompassing various aspects of the coer subject, and is designed to provide extensive value to readers.
In SEO, pillar content is important because it establishes a website’s authority in a particular field or subject area. It serves as the foundation around which smaller, related pieces of content — often known as ‘cluster content‘ — revolves. By linking back to the pillar content, these smaller pieces help boost its authority and search ranking.
Effective pillar content is well-researched, rich in keywords, and offers significant insight or information, making it likely to attract backlinks and social shares — further enhancing its SEO value.
Reciprocal linking refers to a situation where two websites link to each other. It’s like a trade — “I’ll link to your site if you link to mine.” Building these types of links used to be a popular SEO tactic, but search engines like Google now focus more on link quality, not quantity. These days, having too many reciprocal links can actually harm your site’s search rankings.
Responsive design refers to a way of building websites so they automatically resize themselves to work well on any device (laptop, desktop, phone etc.), regardless of its screen size. Search engines often give preferential treatment to websites that use responsive design, and it is best practice from a user experience point of view too.
Quality content refers to content that is informative, unique, accurate and engaging. It is designed to provide value to the reader and meet their needs or answer their questions effectively. Quality content is generally well-structured, easy to read, free from errors and enhanced with visuals or video where appropriate.
A query is a phrase or question that users type into a search engine. Understanding the queries that your target audience uses typically informs the type of content website owners decide to create (and how to optimize it).
Google’s RankBrain is a part of Google’s search algorithm that uses machine learning to surface the best-quality search results.
Introduced in 2015, RankBrain is particularly effective in understanding and handling complex, ambiguous or previously unseen search queries. It often relies on the context or implied meaning rather than the literal text to provide search results.
Rank also uses behavior metrics — for example what people click on and how long they remain on particular pages — to produce search results.
A redirect takes users and search engines to a different URL than the one they originally requested. Redirects are usually used if a content has been migrated elsewhere, or if a site restructure is underway.
Common types of redirects include the ‘301 redirect,’ signaling a permanent move, and the ‘302 redirect,’ indicating a temporary move. Properly implemented redirects help preserve search rankings for a page, because they guide search engine to the new location of the content they’re crawling.
A rich snippet is an advanced form of search result displayed on a search engine results page (SERP). Unlike regular search results that display basic information like a webpage’s title, URL and meta description, a rich snippet provides more detailed data to assist users in choosing the most relevant result for their query. This additional data can include images, ratings, prices and even cooking times for recipes.
Rich snippets are generated from structured data (also known as schema markup) that is embedded in a webpage’s HTML code. By offering more comprehensive information about a webpage’s content, rich snippets can improve user engagement, increase click-through rates (CTR) and potentially enhance the page’s SEO performance.
Robots.txt is a text file webmasters create to instruct web robots (typically search engine robots) how to crawl pages on their website. It is part of the robots exclusion protocol (REP), a group of web standards that regulate how robots crawl the web, access and index content and serve that content to users.
Schema markup, also known as structured data, is a form of microdata that webmasters can add to their webpages to provide search engines with more detailed information about the page’s content.
It uses a specific vocabulary of tags that you can add to your HTML to improve the way your page is displayed in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). By giving search engines more context about your content, schema markup can enhance the visibility of your webpage and potentially lead to better rankings.
It can also enable special search result features and enhancements — in the form of ‘rich snippets‘ — and these can can significantly improve click-through rates. Examples of schema markup include tags for articles, FAQ, local businesses, reviews, events and products.
A search engine is a tool that helps users find information online by typing in queries or keywords. It scans the internet to find and present the most relevant web pages, images, videos and other content related to the search terms entered. The results are displayed on what’s called a search engine results page (SERP). Examples of popular search engines include Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go and Yahoo.
Search engine bot
A search engine bot, also known as a spider or crawler, is a piece of software that search engines use to discover, scan and index websites on the Internet.
Search engine bots follow links on web pages to move from one page to another, collecting and processing information about each page. This information is then used to index the page appropriately in the search engine’s database.
Search engine marketing (SEM)
SEM stands for ‘Search Engine Marketing’ and is a digital marketing strategy used to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs). While SEO focuses on earning traffic through free or organic search results, SEM generally refers to paid advertising efforts, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, display advertising and bidding on keywords related to a business’s products or services.
Search engine optimization
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the process of improving a website’s visibility in search engine results. SEO typically involves making adjustments to a website’s design, content, interface and structure and the building of high-quality external links to it (to increase its relevance and authority in the eyes of these search algorithms).
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are the pages displayed by search engines in response to a query entered by a user. The main component of the SERP is the listing of results returned by the search engine.
Search intent refers to the motive or goal a user has when entering a query into a search engine — this could be finding an answer to a question, looking up a specific website, purchasing a product or exploring a topic.
Understanding search intent is crucial in SEO, because it allows you to create content that matches what users are looking for (search engines prioritize content that best satisfies search intent in their results).
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a security protocol used to establish encrypted links between a web server and a browser, ensuring that all data passed between them remains private and secure. Websites with SSL are easily identifiable, because their URLs begin with ‘https’ (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) instead of ‘http.’
Having an SSL certificate installed is important from an SEO perspective because Google and other search engines prioritize websites with SSL certificates (viewing them as more trustworthy sites) and usually give them preferential treatment in search results.
Semrush is an SEO tool that lets site owners analyze websites, track backlinks, research keywords and monitor search rankings.
A sitemap is a file that provides an overview of all the pages on a website, enabling search engines to crawl the site more intelligently. It lists a website’s pages along with additional metadata about each page (like when it was last updated or how often it usually changes) — this helps search engines index the site more efficiently.
Sitemaps can be especially useful for large websites, new websites or sites with a significant number of archived content pages. Submitting a sitemap to search engine ‘dashboard’ services like Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools can help improve a site’s visibility.
Social proof is a psychological concept that’s used in marketing to build trust and influence consumer behavior. It’s the idea that people are more likely to do something if they see others doing it — for example buy a product, sign up for a newsletter or follow a social media account.
In terms of SEO, social proof can indirectly boost your rankings. Positive reviews, testimonials, high social media follower counts or mentions by influencers can make your website appear more trustworthy to visitors. This in turn can increase engagement, time spent on your site and shareability — all of which can contribute to better search rankings.
In the context of SEO, spam or spamming refers to the practice of manipulating search engine indexes in ways that are deemed inappropriate and against search engine guidelines. These techniques are often referred to as Black Hat SEO.
A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. It’s the clickable headline that appears in search engine results, and it also shows up at the top of your browser tab.
Title tags are important in SEO because they give both users and search engines an insight into the content and purpose of a page. A well-crafted title tag can improve the relevancy of your page for specific search queries and enhance your clickthrough rate (CTR) from the search results.
Topical authority refers to how much a search engine recognizes a website’s expertise or credibility in a particular subject area.
A website gains topical authority by consistently publishing high-quality, in-depth, and relevant content about a specific topic over time. This generally involves compiling a comprehensive list of key subjects relating to that topic (via keyword research) and ensuring that your website provides in-depth content about each of them.
A toxic backlink is a link to a website that comes from a low-quality or suspicious source. Some SEOs believe that these types of links can harm a website’s position in search results because they are seen by algorithms as attempts to manipulate rankings. As a result some SEOs ‘disavow’ them using a special tool provided by Google to remove the association between a link and a website.
However, Google maintains that it simply ignores poor quality links and that there is no need to take any action regarding them (saying that the disavow tool should only be used to remove links you bought or links surfaced by a manual action).
A URL or ‘Uniform Resource Locator’ is essentially the address of a webpage or file on the internet (www.sitename.com/pagename etc.).
Just like a physical address helps you find a specific location, a URL directs your web browser to a particular page or file online.
User Experience (UX)
User Experience (UX) refers to a person’s overall experience when interacting with a product, system or service, which in digital terms, is usually a website or an app. It encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction, including usability, navigation ease, information architecture and how intuitive and pleasing it is to use. Good UX design focuses on making the user’s interaction as efficient, straightforward and satisfying as possible; it aims to understand the user’s needs and goals and ensure that the product meet thems effectively.
A positive UX can lead to improved user engagement signals such as lower bounce rates, longer dwell times, and higher clickthrough rates, all of which search engines can use as indications of a webpage’s quality.
Additionally, with the introduction of Google’s Page Experience update, factors like loading speed, mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and visual stability now influence a site’s SEO performance, making UX a critical consideration in SEO strategy.
Vertical search engine
A vertical search engine, as distinct from a general web search engine, focuses on a specific segment of online content. These types of engines are also called specialized or topical search engines.
The vertical content area can be based on topicality, media type or genre of content.
Webp image format
WebP is an image format developed by Google that provides superior lossless and lossy compression for images, enabling them to maintain high quality at a smaller file size than JPG or PNG. This smaller size contributes to faster page load times, which can in turn lead to preferential treatment by search engines.
White Hat SEO
White Hat SEO — the opposite of ‘Black Hat SEO’ — refers to SEO tactics that are in line with the terms and conditions of the major search engines, including Google. It focuses on making a website easier to find through the creation of content that is accessible, high-quality in nature and helpful to visitors.
An XML sitemap is a file that helps search engines understand the structure of a website while they crawl it.
(XML stands for Extensible Markup Language and is a system for labeling or “marking up” information in a way that helps computers and people understand and use this data more efficiently.)
An XML sitemap lists a website’s important pages, providing key information about them, such as when a page was last updated and how often changes occur. This makes it easier for search engines like Google to find a site’s content and index it more accurately.
Yoast is a widely-used SEO add-on for WordPress and Shopify that offers a comprehensive suite of tools aimed at improving a website’s search engine ranking. One of its key features is its page analysis functionality, which actively reviews web pages and provides users with recommendations for improving their on-page SEO. These can include suggestions on keyword usage, meta descriptions, alt text, headings and readability.
YMYL is a term used by Google to describe web pages that could potentially impact a person’s health, happiness, safety, or financial stability.
Examples of YMYL pages include those that offer medical or health information, provide financial advice or enable transactions.
Google holds these pages to a higher standard because incorrect or misleading information could significantly negatively impact a person’s life. Hence, for SEO purposes, YMYL pages require a high degree of E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) to rank highly in search results.