SEO Glossary

Search engine optimization, like any specialized industry, has its own unique set of terminology, definitions, and abbreviations.

This SEO glossary compiles some of the most common terms you are likely to hear need to know when learning SEO in order to boost traffic.

A B C D E F G H I M N R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Above the Fold

What is Above the Fold?

Above the fold, in SEO, is the content immediately visible on the screen when it loads, before a user scrolls down the page. It gets its name from when people folded newspapers in half.

In 2012, Google introduced the Page Layout Algorithm that penalized websites who had a poor user experience by putting too many adverts above the fold.

AJAX

What is AJAX?

AJAX stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. AJAX lets you read data from a web server after a page has loaded, and update that page with the new data. It also lets you send data to a web server in the background.

AJAX websites have typically been difficult for Google to crawl. Instead of a page full of content, the crawler may see the following:

<html>
  <head>
    <title>Dog Toys</title>
     <script language='javascript' src='getDogtoyInfo.js'></script>
  </head>
  <body>
</html>

For many years web crawlers were not able to process the JavaScript and, as such, saw no content.

The current recommendation from Google is for webmasters to adopt the AJAX crawling scheme. This includes creating an HTML version (or snapshot) for Google to crawl, while users can use the AJAX version.

Algorithm

What is an Algorithm?

An algorithm is a complex process, or set of rules followed when undertaking calculations or problem-solving operations. In SEO, this relates to the algorithms that determine the ranking of pages in the search results based upon various Google Ranking Factors.

Algorithm Refresh

What is an Algorithm Refresh?

An algorithm refresh is when Google runs an existing algorithm on the search index and assigns each website in the index a score based upon the results.

Not all algorithms Google uses need to be refreshed. Some are processed in real-time and continually update the index.

Algorithm Update

What is an Algorithm Update?

An Algorithm Update is when Google changes one of their search algorithms to improve the quality of the search results.

Google’s John Mueller has confirmed that they make over a thousand updates to their algorithm each year, many of which are not announced.

Anchor Text

What is Anchor Text?

The clickable text within a hyperlink is called the Anchor Text. The default style is blue and underlined in modern browsers, but many websites will style them differently. For instance, on this site, you will find the anchor text colored green.

A code example is as follows:

<a href="http://www.example.com">Anchor Text</a>

Anchor text helps Google understand the link’s context and can help determine relevance for the target page. Google recommends using anchor text rather than, say, images.

Automatically-generated content

What is Automatically-generated content?

Automatically-generated content is content that is generated using a program or tool. Such content is intended to manipulate search rankings, and as such, Google may take action against such content.

You will often see automatically-generated content used by spammers to post to low-quality social media sites, blog networks, and other places to provide backlinks to their primary website. They will then “power-up” those low-quality pages with backlink spam in an attempt to fool Google.

See also:

B

B2B

What is B2B?

B2B is short for Business to Business. It refers to transactions that are conducted between two businesses, rather than a business and a consumer (B2C)

A B2B search engine optimization strategy might focus on search terms that decision-makers in other companies might search for at work while in the course of their business. The person searching for the product may not be the one using it, so you may need to include more technical information.

B2C

What is B2C?

B2C is short for Business to Consumer. It refers to transactions that are conducted between a business and a consumer, rather than a two businesses (B2B)

A B2C search engine optimization strategy might focus on search terms that reflect a want or need by the consumer. Your content may be more emotive.

Baidu

What is Baidu?

Baidu is the name of the primary Chinese internet search company, equivalent to Google in the United States. It was founded on 18 January 2000 by Robin Li and Eric Xu. It is one of the largest AI and internet companies in the world.

Baidu focuses on China, where it is primarily used. Due to Chinese regulations, some searches and content are censored.

Bing

What is Bing?

Bing is the name of Microsoft’s search engine. It was launched in June 2009 by then CEO Steve Ballmer and has since July 2009 powered Yahoo’s organic search results.

Bing is the third largest search engine behind Google and Baidu.

Black Hat SEO

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black Hat SEO refers to tactics that are against the search guidelines. In the case of Google, against the Google Search Guidelines.

Black Hat tactics try to manipulate the search engines for increased rankings. They include keyword stuffing, spammy links, over-optimization, hidden text, doorway pages, and automatically generated content, to name a few.

Blended Search is where a search engine tries to give more useful results by pulling information from multiple online sources.

Also known as:

What is Breadcrumb Navigation?

The Breadcrumb navigation consists of navigation links that help a user know their location within the website. Breadcrumb links usually appear horizontally at the top of the page and link to a page’s parent sections.

Breadcrumb navigations help with a site’s internal linking structure, aid crawling by search engines, and provide a better user experience.

Your breadcrumb navigation may even replace the URL in the search results pages.

Broken links are hyperlinks that do not work and lead to a 404 not found error page.

A link may not work because:

  • The web page or site is offline.
  • The web page was moved, but no redirect was added.
  • The URL structure of the site has changed.
  • There is a typo in the link URL.

C

CMS

What is a CMS?

CMS is short for Content Management System and is software that lets users create, manage, and modify content on their website via a simple graphical interface. The most popular CMS is WordPress.

Comment Spam

What is Comment Spam?

Comment spam is a form of webspam where webmasters leave low-quality, off-topic, and sometimes self-promotional comments on people’s blogs. The comments are often made using a bot and usually try to get a backlink either from a link in the comment or the author link.

Most comment links are nofollow and are of no benefit. This is an old tactic that has not worked for well over a decade.

Content links are usually links that appear within the content of the page.

A cookie-cutter site is a pre-made site. It has been pre-designed and pre-built so that webmasters can launch their website in very little time and focus on content. It will often be designed for a specific purpose, such as an affiliate store.

See also:

Copied content

What is copied content?

Copied content is content on the website that was copied or is similar to the content on a different website.

See also:

D

A deep link is a hyperlink that points to a page other than a website or app’s homepage. For example, a link pointing to a post in the blog section is a deep link.

Doorway Pages

What is a Doorway Page?

Doorway pages are sites or pages that are created to rank for very specific queries. They are commonly used to target particular locations, such as towns or cities. The content is usually very similar apart from the city name, and the goal is to funnel you through to another page on the site.

Doorway pages are an example of Thin Content.

See also:

Duplicate Content

What is Duplicate Content?

Content on the website that was copied or is similar to the content on the same or different website.

E

Editorial links are links that you did not ask for, but instead, you obtain naturally. These are the best links you can get to your website. Webmasters give them because your site has excellent content that is worthy of being linked. Editorial links are sometimes known as Natural Links.

Editorial links are ones that:

  • Do not Exist within paid content, such as advertorials.
  • Redirect through monetizing tools, such as affiliate links.
  • Are linked from advert banners.
  • Do not have tracking parameters as this is a sign of paid links.

See also:

F

Featured Snippets are short pieces of text that are highlighted at the top of Google’s search results pages in response to a query. Google uses content from a web page to create the snippet, and is usually in the form of a definition, answer to a question, list, or tutorial steps.

Featured snippets are referred to as being in position zero in the rankings. An example of a featured snippet is below:

Example of a featured snippet in Google.
Example of a featured snippet in Google. CREDIT: THE WEBMASTER

The footer navigation usually contains links to your legal pages, such as Terms & Conditions, Cookie Policy, as well as your About and Contact page.

Some websites will also include other links, such as Popular Content or Sections.

G

Google

What is Google?

Google is the name of the first search engine created by Larry Page and Sergery Brin in September 1998 while students at Stanford University.

Before Google, those browsing the web relied upon human-edited web directories. Google changed that by using crawlers to find websites and analyzing their pages using a complex algorithms to rank them in their search engine.

It is the most used search engine in the world, in almost all countries (notably, except China) with a 92.16% market share as of December 2020.

Google Algorithm Update

What is a Google Algorithm Update?

An Algorithm Update is when Google changes one of their search algorithms to improve the quality of the search results.

See also:

Googlebot

What is Googlebot?

Googlebot is the generic name for Google’s web crawler. It covers both Google’s desktop crawler and their mobile crawler, which simulates users’ respective devices.

Googlebot will crawl websites through hyperlinks or via sitemap files loaded to the Webmaster Search Console.

H

Headline

What is a Headline?

A headline is the heading at the top of an article. In SEO terms, this would be the H1 tag.

I

Indexed Page

What are Indexed Pages?

Indexed pages show up in the search results pages for relevant search queries. They can drive significant traffic to your site if the search query is popular, and you rank highly for that query.

You can view the number of indexed pages for your site in the Coverage Report in the Google Search Console:

Indexed Pages showing in the Search Console.
Indexed Pages showing in the Search Console. CREDIT: THE WEBMASTER

M

What is the Main Navigation?

The main navigation is usually located in the main header menu and consists of your website’s primary topics.

For instance, the primary topics are Development, Hosting, SEO, and SEO news on this site.

N

A natural link is one that occurs organically, usually because you have good content. A natural link is sometimes referred to as an Editorial Link.

See also:

R

Related links are links to related content that usually appear in the sidebar or underneath the main content.

The related links may be related to the content of the page or be a list of the most popular, trending, or latest content.

S

Secondary Navigation

What is the Secondary Navigation?

The secondary navigation contains links to sub-topics to the main navigation. They can be located in the sidebar as a separate menu or as sub-menu items in the main navigation menu.

For instance, on this site, under the cPanel Tutorial section, you will find a sidebar with links to all the cPanel tutorials.

Social Media

What is Social Media?

Social media relates to any online service that allows users to share content with the public. Social media services encompass various websites and apps, with some like Twitter specializing in short messages. Others, such as Instagram and TikTok, are optimized for sharing photos and videos.

Social media is important for SEO. While not a direct ranking factor, there is a correlation in that good content tends to be shared a lot. Furthermore, if your content is good and gets shared a lot, you may get more links due to being noticed more, which is a ranking factor.

See also:

Social Signal

What is a Social Signal?

Social signals relate to a webpages overall social media visibility as seen by the search engines. Examples of social signals include social media likes, shares, and posts.

Google’s John Mueller has confirmed that social signals do not have a direct influence on a page’s rankings in Google:

Not directly, no. So it is not that there is any kind of ranking effect there.

You can view the entire discussion below:

While not a direct ranking factor, there is a correlation in that good content tends to be shared a lot. If your content is good and gets shared a lot, you may also get more links due to being noticed more, which is a ranking factor.

Spam

What is Spam?

Spam is a word that describes SEO methods and tactics designed to spam the Google search results in a breach of the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

See:

Spider

What is Spider?

A spider in SEO is how a web crawler, or bot, crawls websites and their pages. This process is used for SEO tools, or in the case of Google, for their Search index. It is called a “spider” because the bot crawls the web, just like a spider.

Split Testing

What is Split Testing?

Split Testing is where you create a controlled experiment to compare two different webpage versions to see which version converts better. You should only change one variable at a time to ensure you can fully attribute the performance increase or decrease to that change. Split Testing is also known as A/B Testing.

During Split Testing, your traffic is randomly spread over each version of your page, and each one’s performance is tracked using split testing software such as Google Optimize. Once you have the results, you can either implement the change or reject it. You can then start a new split test targeting a new variation.

SSL Certificate

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that provides authentication for a website and allows an encrypted connection. Adding an SSL certificate to your server allows your website to use the secure protocol “HTTPS.”

Implementing HTTPS on your website is essential for SEO as it has been a google ranking factor since 2014.

Read more:

Status Codes

What are Status Codes?

A Status Code is transmitted to the browser whenever a server request is made. These take the form of a three-digit code. Common HTTP status codes include:

  • 200 - OK
  • 404 - Not found
  • 301 - Permanently redirected
  • 302 - Temporarily redirected
  • 410 - Gone
  • 500 - Internal service error
  • 503 - Service unavailable

Stop Words

What are Stop Words?

Stop words are words that may be ignored or given less weight by search engines. However, it is unlikely that Google ignores them altogether, as stopwords may still provide some context to the query. Google may use TF-IDF to lower the weight of commonly used words. Stop words are not something you should consider when writing good-quality content.

Examples of stopwords include “the”, “an”, “a”, “of”, and “or”.

See:

Subdomain

What is a Subdomain?

A Subdomain refers to the left-most part of a domain name. For instance, on thewebmaster.com, the subdomain is www. While WWW is the most popular subdomain, you might use a subdomain for your development site or even blog.

You can see this example on the image below:

Anatomy of an URL.
Anatomy of an URL. CREDIT: THE WEBMASTER

T

Taxonomy

What is a Taxonomy?

Taxonomy is the organization of content on a website into categories or tags so that users can easily find related content.

Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency

What is Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency?

Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency is otherwise known as TF*IDF, TF-IDF, or TFIDF. This compares the number of times the keyword is used with other pages in a group. For instance, if all the top-performing pages use a keyword at a ratio of 1%, then your use of the keyword should be comparable to that ratio.

In the early days of search, Google would determine a page’s relevancy to a query based on the number of times the keyword was mentioned in the document. This evolved to include anti-spam elements to the algorithm, so using it too much and your page would rank worse for a query. This was rather crude, and easily manipulated. Today, therefore, Google uses TF-IDF.

John Mueller recommends that you do not focus on the TF-IDF metric, but instead focus on creating content for users. Here is what he had to say:

TF-IDF

What is TF-IDF?

Otherwise known as TF*IDF, or TFIDF and short for Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency.

See:

Thin Affiliate Pages

What are Thin Affiliate Pages?

Thin affiliate pages are those which do not provide additional value for users. The same principles apply to thin pages, but Google says it is “particularly important” for affiliate sites.

Thin affiliate sites tend to use the same or similar template (cookie-cutter sites) that is part of a program that distributes content across a network of affiliate sites. An example is sites that connect to Amazon and use the same descriptions and images. At one time, you would get many sites with the same or similar content all appearing in the search results, which led to Google cracking down on them.

Google wants to see significant added value by offering original product reviews, ratings, navigations of products, product comparisons, and other non-affiliate content.

See also:

Thin Content

What is Thin Content?

Thin content is content that provides little to no added value. If your site is full of thin content, you may get a manual action against your site. Strategies to overcome Thin Content include removing it, no-indexing it, updating it with high-quality content, or redirecting it to a better page.

An example manual action can be seen below:

Thin Content Manual Action.
Thin Content Manual Action. CREDIT: UNKNOWN

The manual action reads:

This site appears to contain a significant percentage of low-quality or shallow pages which do not provide the users with much added value (such as thin affiliate pages, cookie-cutter sites, doorway pages, automatically generated content, or copied content).

See also:

Time on Page

What is a Time on Page?

Google defines Time on Page as the amount of time users spent viewing a specified page or screen, or set of pages or screens. You can see your average time on page for each URL in the Google Analytics reports under Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages.

You can see a extract of the Google Analytics report below:

Average Time on Page in Google Analytics.
Average Time on Page in Google Analytics. CREDIT: THE WEBMASTER

Title Tag

What is a Title Tag?

The title tag, otherwise known as the “title element,” defines the page’s title and is often used in search engine results to display the preview snippet. It is important both for SEO, click-through rate, or CTR, and related matters, such as social sharing. The title element should be a concise, accurate description of the page’s content.

Read more:

Top-level Domain

What is a Top-level Domain?

A top-level domain (or TLD for short) refers to the right-most part of a domain name. For instance, on thewebmaster.com, the TLD is .com.

You can see this example on the image below:

Anatomy of an URL.
Anatomy of an URL. CREDIT: THE WEBMASTER

There are two types of top level domains:

  • gTLDs - Short for Generic top-level domains, these account for the majority of extensions in use, and include .org, .net, and .com.
  • ccTLDs - Short for Country code top-level domains, these are specific to a country, and include .us, .uk, and .de.

Since 2014, ICANN has released over 2000 new extensions. These cover a range of subject areas from industry, clubs, hobbies to those that are just fun.

Traffic

What is Traffic?

Traffic relates to the web users who visit your website. While website traffic counts the number of visits, Google Analytics will refer to it as a session.

Trust

What is Trust?

In SEO, Trust is one aspect of EAT, short for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. Google rates trusted sites highly. To be seen as a trusted site, you should create good quality content and obtain links from other highly reputable trusted expert sources.

Read more:

TrustRank

What is TrustRank?

TrustRank is an algorithm used by Google to distinguish webspam pages from good pages.

Read more:

U

Universal Search, also known as Blended Search, is where a search engine tries to give more useful results by pulling information from multiple online sources. For example, Google is a Universal Search because they show website, news, and video results on the same set of results.

Google provides some detail on what they consider an unnatural link, or what they call a link scheme. An unnatural link includes:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank (.i.e. Dofollow links)
  • Excessive link exchanges
  • Large-scale guest post campaigns
  • Spamming links via automated programs
  • Requiring a link as part of a contract or other terms. For example, widget links.

See: Editorial link

URL

What is an URL?

URL stands for uniform resource locator and is the website address of an online resource such as a website or image. It comprises several parts, including the protocol, subdomain, second-level domain, top-level domain, and path. Other components of an URL can include query parameters and fragments (also known as named anchors).

You can see how all the parts of an URL fit together below:

Anatomy of an URL.
Anatomy of an URL. CREDIT: THE WEBMASTER

See also:

URL Parameter

What is an URL Parameter?

URL parameters are the part of the URL that follows the question mark. They consist of a key and value separated by an equal sign. You can use multiple parameters by using an ampersand (&).

Anatomy of an URL.
Anatomy of an URL. CREDIT: THE WEBMASTER

Here are some use cases for URL Parameters:

  • Social Media Tracking. By using UTM parameters you can pass information to Google Analytics to track link clicks from social media. For example ?utm_medium=social.
  • Filtering or Re-ordering. Information can be passed to your webserver to filter or reorder the results of a product page. For example ?sort=high-to-low&color=red
  • Displaying a specific type of page. You may want to display a specific category or paginated page. For example ?page=2&category=seo
  • Displaying search results. Your search box may pass a parameter to display search results. For example ?search=what-is-an-url

User Agent

What is a User Agent?

In terms of SEO, the User Agent refers to the web crawling software used by the Search Engine. For example, Google’s crawler is known as Googlebot.

User Experience

What is User Experience?

User experience relates to the user’s interaction with a company’s website, products, and services. It includes the user’s behaviors such as emotion, perceptions, responses.

Otherwise known as:

User-generated Content

What is User-generated Content?

User-generated content, otherwise known as UGC, is any type of content that your users have created. It can include but is not limited to blog comments, testimonials, reviews, tweets, or blog posts.

User-generated content forms part of the page’s content and is therefore considered by Google in your rankings. If your UGC is of low quality (such as low-quality blog comments), your page’s rank may suffer.

UX

What is UX?

UX is short for User Experience.

See:

V

Vertical Search is a search that focuses on a specific segment, topic, or type of online content. Examples of vertical searches include Google Image Search, Google News search, Amazon’s shopping search, or Tripadvisor search.

Vertical searches have several advantages over traditional searches, including greater precision, faster, and more user friendly.

Visibility

What is Visibility?

Visibility in SEO is a metric used to calculate how visibility a website is in the search engine’s results. It is based on the website’s position in the search results, search volume of queries, number of pages in search, estimated Click-Through-Rates, and more.

Voice search is a technology that combines speech recognition with a search index to let the user ask questions verbally.

In 2016 it was predicted that half of all searches would be voice-based by 2020.

W

Web Page

What is a Web Page?

A web page is a document written in HTML that is published on the World Wide Web. It can be viewed in a web browser.

Website

What is a Website?

A website is a collection of web pages hosted on a web hosting server under a single domain name and accessible via the World Wide Web.

Website Navigation

What is Website Navigation?

Website navigation is the method by which users navigate between pages on the site via internal linking. These can take several forms, including navigation menus, related links, content links, and breadcrumbs.

See also:

Webspam

What is Webspam?

Webspam is a word that describes SEO methods and tactics designed to spam the Google search results in a breach of the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Webmasters that use webspam typically use Black Hat SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing, spammy backlinks, doorway pages, or other such tactics.

See also:

White Hat SEO

What is White Hat SEO?

White Hat SEO refers to tactics that comply with the search guidelines. In the case of Google, they follow the Google Search Guidelines.

Word Count

What is a Word Count?

The Word Count relates to the total number of words that appear within the content of the page. Google may class content with a low word count as thin content. Thin content is a sign of a low-quality page.

See also:

WordPress

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a free, open-source website creation platform. It is one of the most popular blogging and website content management systems in existence today. It is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database.

Read more:

X

XML

What is XML?

XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language. It is a markup language similar to HTML, but is designed to store and transport data. Search engines use XML-based sitemaps to help crawl your website.

See also:

XML Sitemap

What is an XML Sitemap?

An XML sitemap is an XML file containing a list of all URLs of the pages on the website and additional metadata such as when the page was last updated and crawl priority. The sitemap helps with SEO as it improves the crawling of your website by the search engines.

In addition to the standard page sitemap, you may encounter the following:

  • Google News sitemap
  • Mobile sitemap
  • Image sitemap
  • Video sitemap
  • Hreflang sitemap

Google recommends that you automate the building of your Sitemaps. You can use multiple sitemaps for different parts of your site so you can filter information in the Search Console to see how well they perform.

Y

Yahoo

What is Yahoo?

Yahoo is the third most-used search engine globally with around 1.46% market share as of January 2021. Yahoo was founded in 1995 by Jerry Yang and David Filo. Yahoo search has been through many iterations, starting off being directory-based, before being powered by Google in 2000. It used its own technology from 2004 until 2010, when it became powered by Bing.

Yandex

What is Yandex?

Yandex is the second most-used search engine in Russia with around 46.04% market share as of January 2021. It is the fifth most popular in the world with a market share of 0.87%. Yandex was founded on September 23, 1997, by Illya Segalovich and Arkady Volazh.

Yoast SEO

What is Yoast SEO?

Yoast SEO is a WordPress Plugin that helps webmasters optimize their websites for search engines.

The plugin does this by helping you optimize for a keyword or keyword phrase that you enter by checking your content for the following:

  • Outbound linking
  • Keyphrase density
  • Keyphrase in subheading
  • Keyphrase distribution
  • Internal linking
  • Keyphrase in introduction
  • Keyphrase length
  • Keyphrase in the meta description

It will also help make your content more readable.

YouTube

What is YouTube?

YouTube is a video sharing service owned by Google and has more than 1.5 billion users worldwide. Users can upload their videos and like, share, and comment on other people’s videos.

Z

A Zero-click search is one where a user searches in Google and uses the information in the search results page to answer the query. The user obtains the information from either the snippet, featured snippet, Answer Box, or knowledge panel.

Typical queries that result in a zero-click search would be a celebrity age or company founded date.

Example zero-click search.
Example zero-click search. CREDIT: THE WEBMASTER