Know your meta descriptions from your alt tags with our Search Engine Optimisation jargon buster: Part one
While supporting clients with their websites and marketing, the subject of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) often comes up. What is it? How important is it? Is there a magic formula to topping page one of Google? What do all the different SEO terms mean?!
If you’re new to business or you’ve only dabbled with an online presence in the past, SEO may feel like a complete mystery. Even if you’re more experienced, you may feel that you’re tackling SEO more by luck than judgement.
In this blog series, we wanted to give you an overview of some of the SEO terms you might read and hear about, what they mean and what you can do about them – look out for part 2 next month.
Search Engine Optimisation Jargon Buster A-M
301 Redirect – The simplest way to describe a 301 Redirect is when you permanently redirect visitors from one URL to another. A great analogy we found over on Hubspot, alongside some helpful information about 301 Redirects, is that a 301 Redirect is like the ‘change of address’ form you fill out at the Post Office when you move house and want your mail to be forwarded to your new address.
An example of when you might need to use a 301 Redirect is when you change your domain from www.myolddomain.co.uk to www.mynewdomainisgreat.com. With a 301 Redirect, when someone types in your old domain, they will automatically be taken to the new URL instead, providing a seamless visitor experience.
404 error – This is a message that appears when people try to visit a web page that no longer exists, or has moved to a different URL without a 301 Redirect. You might want to consider personalising the message that appears on your 404 error page and including a link to your Home page.
We love some of the examples of funny, creative and on-brand 404 pages listed on this Creative Bloq blog.
Above the fold – This is the part of a web page that users can see before scrolling down the page. It’s recommended that you place the most important information above the fold.
Algorithm – A formula search engines, programs, and computers follow to solve a problem and come up with a solution. In SEO, search engines use algorithms to decide what order to show search results in. Google, for example, is constantly tweaking its algorithms but occasionally launches big, newsworthy algorithm changes such as Google Penguin or Panda (see below).
Alt text/alt tag – This is text is used to describe an image, which will show up in place of an image if it cannot be loaded. Alt text is useful for people using screen readers, and for telling search engines what the image is of. It can be tempting to stuff an alt tag full of keywords that you want your website to rank for but you should focus on creating short, descriptive alt tags that would tell a visually impaired visitor what the image is.
Analytics – Data which shows how something is performing. For example, your website analytics will show how many people have visited your website, the most popular pages, your bounce rate, average time on site, and much more. Your social media business pages also have a wealth of analytics to help you understand visitor behaviour and what that means for your website and marketing.
Anchor text – The clickable text that is part of a hyperlink. To follow best practise, you should try to ensure that the text is relevant to the page people will click through to rather than simply saying ‘Click here’. Here’s an example of anchor text: Read this handy Moz article about using anchor text on your website.
Authority – Authority is one of the key topics in SEO right now. The search engines look for links from high authority websites such as the BBC, .gov, the NHS, etc., to your website as a vote of confidence from reputable sources. If you can build your website’s authority, it should help to improve your rankings.
Backlink – A link to your website from another website – look for quality backlinks over quantity. There’s nothing worse than adding a link to your website in blog comments sections of other websites just to gain a spammy backlink.
Below the fold – This is any part of a website which users will have to scroll down to see.
Black Hat SEO – Shady SEO techniques that do not comply with best practices. When people talk about Black Hat SEO, they mean techniques that people use to ‘play’ the search engines and trick them into giving a website higher search rankings than it deserves. Things like hiding keywords in alt tags or buying backlinks would count as Black Hat SE0 and may result in your website being penalised or de-indexed from search engines.
Blog – Short for weblog, blogs were traditionally online journals/diaries. These days, blogging has evolved feature articles, product information, hints, tips, industry news, and much more. You’re reading a blog write now! Blogging is a way for businesses to connect and engage with their audience, provide fresh content and build their authority.
Bounce rate – The percentage of people who visit your website and leave from the first page they land on rather than looking at any other pages. The aim is to keep your bounce rate low; a high bounce rate is usually a sign that something is stopping people from exploring deeper into your website.
Canonical URL – If you have multiple URLs that show the same piece of content, a canonical URL is used to tell search engines which one is the original and which one should be counted for ranking purposes.
CAPTCHA – Completed Automated Public Turing test to tell Computer and Humans Apart – A ‘test’ used to figure out whether the user is a computer or human. You will often see these when submitting forms. The test usually involves typing letters and numbers into a box.
Click Through Rate (CTR) – This is the percentage of people who clicked on an ad through to your website compared to the number of people who viewed it. If your ad was seen 500 times and got 100 clicks, it would have a 20% CTR.
Cloaking – A Black Hat SEO technique used to show search engines and users different content. A typical cloaking activity might be adding a list of keywords to a web page in the same colour text as the background so visitors can see them but search engines can. Cloaking is usually an attempt to ‘game’ the search engines and secure better rankings.
CMS – Content Management System – A system, such as WordPress, that allows you manage and update the content of your website via a secure dashboard.
Conversion – This is the BIG focus of marketers everywhere right now. Conversion is when a website visitor completes a ‘goal’ or action that you specifically want them to take, such as buying a product, downloading a free ebook or filling in a form.
Conversion rate – The percentage of people who visit your website and complete a ‘goal’ or action. For example, the percentage of people who visit your website and then make a purchase or who visit a landing page and download a freebie in exchange for joining your mailing list. If you have a current conversion rate of 2% and can improve it to just 3%, you could see a potential increase in sales of 50%!
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) – The process of analysing, testing and improving the conversion rate of your website.
Cookie – A cookie is a small text file created by a website that is stored in the user’s computer, either for a single visit or permanently (a persistent cookie). Cookies help a website to recognise individual users and improve their user experience by remembering their preferences, log-in details, and much more. You can find out more about current EU Cookie Law on the ICO website.
CPC – Cost Per Click – In Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, your CPC is how much it will cost you every time someone clicks on the advert.
CPM – Cost Per Thousand – This is the cost per thousand impressions in PPC advertising – in other words, if a web publisher charges £1 CPM, you would pay £1 for each thousand clicks on your ad.
Crawl – When search engine bots visit your website and follow links to other pages on your site, and even out to other websites, this is called crawling. You can check whether search engines can crawl your website successfully without hitting any errors via Google Search Console (previously called Google Webmaster Tools).
CSS – Cascading Style Sheets – This allows web designers to create ‘style sheets’, which give them more control over how all the elements on a web page will look. CSS describes how elements programmed in HTML, such as the header or hyperlinks, will appear on the screen.
Deep link – This is a link to a page on your website that isn’t the Home page. For example, if you link to a specific blog post this would take visitors ‘deeper’ into your website and would be considered a deep link.
Directory – A website listing businesses, containing information about their name, what they do, their contact details, their website, opening hours, and more.
Disavow – If you have unnatural or spammy backlinks directing people to your website and have been hit by a penalty from Google, you may need to disavow the links to improve your rankings. You can find a detailed guide to disavowing links over on the Moz blog. It is usually better to try to contact websites that link back to you and ask for the backlink to be removed in the first instance. If this fails, you can use Google’s Disavow Tool.
Dofollow – A dofollow link is a link that you are telling search engines to ‘count’ and index, which will pass on some SEO benefit to another website. All hyperlinks are ‘dofollow’ by default, so you may want to learn more about when you should make a link ‘nofollow’ (see below) – you might find this article helpful.
Domain name – A domain name is made up of the name of a website followed by a generic top-level domain, such as .co.uk, .uk, .org, etc. For example, my domain name is Grafixbiz.co.uk.
Domain authority – This is a 100-point scale developed by Moz that predicts how well a website is likely to rank in search results based on its perceived authority. You can read more about influencing your domain authority in this article by SEO+.
Duplicate content – Identical copy that appears in multiple places, either on the same website, or different websites. An example of duplicate content is several retailers who are all using the manufacturer’s description for a product. Duplicate content can result in SEO penalties, so it’s important to make your copy unique if at all possible.
Ecommerce – Buying or selling products or services electronically.
External link – A link that takes people away from your website to another website.
Favicon – A small brand icon that appears in the browser tab next to the meta title of the page a person is visiting.
Google Penalty – A Google-imposed penalty that causes your website to drop in rankings if your website is found to be using Black Hat SEO techniques, such as spammy backlinks or duplicate content.
Google Search Console – Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console is packed full of data about your search rankings, impressions, traffic, keywords, crawl errors and much more.
Guest post – Writing and publishing an article on someone else’s blog or website. Being featured as a guest blogger on a high authority website with a similar audience to you can be a great way of building your reputation, gaining exposure and driving relevant traffic to your website.
Heading tags – To help the search engines understand the copy on your web pages, you can give your headings and subheadings tags that show which is the main heading (this has an H1 tag), sub heading (H2 tag) and less important sub headings (H3, H4, H5 tags and so on). Every page of your website should have a unique H1 tag that, preferably, contains your focus keyword for the page or clearly tells visitors what the page is about.
HTML – HyperText Markup Language – This is the language used to tell browsers how a website should look and how to display it.
Hummingbird (Google Hummingbird) – This Google algorithm was rolled out in September 2013 and focused on semantic searches and providing search engines results pages (SERPs) that reflected the context of a search and recognised words that mean the same as the search term. Conversational copy became more likely to rank, while keyword stuffed, repetitive copy continued its fall from grace.
Impressions – The number of people who have seen something. For example, if 100 people see a search result, or an advert, it will have had 100 impressions. You can track how many impressions your website has had for a specific search term in the Google Search Console.
Index – These are the databases search engines refer to for information about the websites that have been crawled and can be returned in search results. It’s much like the index system used in libraries to list books and help people find the ones most relevant to their search.
Keyword density – The percentage of times a key word, or key phrase, has been used on a web page. It used to be that the higher the keyword density, the better for rankings – fortunately, those days have gone and keyword density won’t make your website more visible. The Google Hummingbird algorithm was all about semantic searches and helping search engines understand different words and phrases that all mean the same thing.
Keyword research – When you carry out research to see what kind of words and phrases your audience use to find your products and services. The Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a handy tool for carrying out keyword research.
Keyword stuffing – This is when copy is stuffed full of words or phrases in an attempt to improve search rankings. Keyword stuffed copy tends to be repetitive, lack substance and be hard to read, which means it can actually increase your bounce rate and decrease the amount of time people spend on your website, making it a bad idea and Black Hat tactic.
Keywords / key phrases – The words and phrases your audience is likely to use to find your products and services, and the words you want to perform well for in search rankings.
Landing page – This is the page that you would like people to arrive on when they come to your website. You may choose to have a dedicated landing page for each campaign so that you can measure the success for your advertising and marketing, as well as the conversion rate for that campaign.
Link bait – Content that is created in an attempt to generate links back to the website / piece of content.
Link building – Techniques used to build links back to your website. This includes creating helpful content that people want to share.
Link farm – A group of websites that all link to each other with the intention of boosting search rankings by creating backlinks. Link farming would be seen as a Black Hat tactic these days.
Link juice – A term used when talking about SEO benefits gained from and/or given by a link. The more ‘juice’ a link has, the better. You may hear people talking about making external links ‘nofollow’ so that the link juice doesn’t go to recipient website but sometimes it is worth letting your link juice divert to a high authority site.
Local SEO – When you specifically target higher search rankings in the geographic location around where your business is or has locations. A 2014 Google algorithm – dubbed ‘Pigeon’ – focused on helping bricks and mortar businesses boost their local SEO.
Long-tail key words – Rather than individual key words, long-tail key phrases are made up of several words. For example, “boys blue shirt age 10” is a long tail key phrase. It’s much easier to try and rank higher for a long tail key phrase than a short tail key phrase, and the chances are that you will attract targeted, high quality traffic actively looking for your products or services.
Meta description – This is the 150-160 (approx.) characters that you see beneath the title on search engine results pages (SERPs) that tells search engines and visitors what a web page is about. As your first chance to convert and get people to click through to your website, the meta description needs to be interesting and engaging. You should also try to include your focus keyword in your meta description and make sure each description is unique to the page to which it relates.
Meta keywords – A meta tag that allows you to list keywords used on the page, and tells search engines what a page is about. This feature has been widely used and abused, which is why keyword tags are not used as a ranking factor any more. If you are going to use meta keywords, it’s better to have a single keyword or long-tail key phrase as the unique focus for each page.
Meta title – This is the 50-60 character title of a page that shows up in search results. Experts currently recommend that you use your focus keyword as close to the beginning of the meta title as possible.
Mobilegeddon – A colloquial term to describe Google’s algorithm update in April 2015 that means mobile-friendly websites may perform better in mobile search results than those that have not been given a mobile-friendly label by Google.
So, there you have it… Our A to M search engine optimisation jargon buster. Are there any SEO terms that we haven’t covered that you need help deciphering? Keep an eye out for part two in a fortnight.