A guide to SEO terminology


intro A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 1


Business owners are great at their niches, and generally they have a broad range of skills from accounting to IT and even product design. And it’s true, it takes a lot of skills and knowledge to run a business successfully. However, you can’t run your business all on your own, and you WILL need help from others somewhere along the line.

You just can’t be good at everything (and if you are, you’re just annoying!) For many people, their problems occur with technical aspects of their business like website development and IT engineering. And SEO is a technical minefield. Fundamentally, do you know how to optimise your website and achieve better rankings in Google? If you can’t answer that question, hiring/outsourcing SEO work to experts is probably the best thing you can do. Working with an external agency can have its problems though, so this guide will help you understand what we’re talking about.

A lot of people ring us and ask “how much does your SEO company services cost?” Now, everyone has a different level of knowledge on SEO and what they want to achieve for their website when they make an enquiry. Unfortunately, the word SEO alone does not explain the many aspects involved with the vast search engine optimisation universe. Some people may simply want to rank higher for their brand name, and others may have much more complex problems like Google penalties which need recovering. To better understand what we’re talking about and what your problem may be, here is a definitive list of SEO terminology.



You may hear us saying: *“your current site traffic is a little low, to boost it we would suggest investing less in AdWords and concentrating on organic traffic.”**

Description: AdWords is the platform used to run Pay Per Click campaigns, otherwise known as paid search.


You may hear us saying: “There have been fluctuations in your site’s traffic which suggests a change in Google’s algorithm.”

Description: Google has developed a highly complex set of algorithms to deliver search results to people making search queries based on more than 200 “clues” that help the system guess what you might be looking for. In SEO terms Google’s algorithm is what we rely on to identify ranking factors for your website. And it is constantly changing.

Alt text

You may hear us saying: “the alt text you are using is over-optimised, consider changing it so it has more variation.”

Description: Alt text is an attribute in HTML that is used to describe the contents of an image to website visitors.


You may hear us saying: “Your analytics is showing a reduction in bounce rate after making changes to your landing page”

Description: Analytics is used by Webmasters to monitor traffic to their website. It measures hundreds of variables such as number of visitors (new, unique and returning), average time spent on page, the most popular pages of your website and much, much more.

Anchor text

You may hear us saying: “We are going to change your anchor text to make it more relevant to your keywords”

Description: The Anchor text is the visible text users can see online that has been hyperlinked. Usually, this is highlighted in the websites choice of colour, like this.

Authority site

You may hear us saying: “We try and earn links only from authority sites”

Description: Offline, authorities can be experts in their field, professors or organisations. Online authorities are sources of information that Google trusts. The website has many relevant, high-quality incoming links from other trustworthy sites. Examples include bbc.co.uk, gov.uk, telegraph.co.uk etc.


Black hat tactics

You may hear us saying: “It looks as though previous SEO work on your site used black hat tactics to try and game the system.”

Description: Black hat SEO tactics uses the tactics of placing or buying links in low quality directory sites, keyword stuffing and a general misuse of trust between an SEO agency and their clients. These services are not as common nowadays but are usually outsourced to India and Pakistan or are advertised for very low prices i.e. “SEO services for £5 a month”.

Bounce rate

You may hear us saying: “Your old landing page had a bounce rate of 71%, with the new content it is now down to 43%”

Description: This is a metric in Google Analytics which describes the amount (as a percentage) of visitors that click through to your website from Google search and then leave without visiting any other page. Good websites aim for a bounce rate of 20-30%.



You may hear us saying: “this page has not been canonicalised correctly”

Description: This can be a number of different things, but essentially relates to duplicate content. By creating a canonical link element, you are telling Google to index a preferred page when there are multiple versions of a page on your website. This is usually a canonical URL. Google can give out canonical penalties if it finds duplicate content.


You may hear us saying: “what CMS do you use to update the pages on your website?”

Description: A CMS is the Content Management System which is used to edit your website from. A common CMS is WordPress.


You may hear us saying: “the crawlers are finding broken links in your site”

Description: These are the parts of Google’s algorithm that have been developed to “crawl” websites in order to rank them on the SERPs. They’ve been dubbed crawlers or spiders due to the crawling action associated with them. Other names: robots, bots, spiders.



You may hear us saying: “Your last SEO company used directories to submit paid links to your website. This has impacted your sites authority and those links need to be removed.”

Description: A directory is just like the Yellow Pages, except people have set-up websites designed to contain thousands of outbound links, which in turn for hosting they receive a small payment. These sites are regularly associated with cheap SEO tactics and Google is striving to stop sites benefitting from this kind of activity.


You may hear us saying: “We have analysed the links pointing to your site and will disavow the one’s of no value.”

Description: If your website receives bad links from low ranking websites that do not have a positive effect on your link profile, it is possible to disavow those links. A disavow file is sent to Google for them to ignore those links.

Domain Authority

You may hear us saying: “We are looking at moving your website to a domain with a historically higher domain authority as your website’s authority is very low.”

Description: This is a score that Moz developed which predicts how well a site will rank on search engine results. It is specific to a domain name/ web address. What feeds into this score is the number of links, the quality of those links, the trustworthiness of links and link popularity.


Google updates

You may hear us saying: “We have noticed activity with your website ranking on a number of terms recently which looks like the result of a new Google update, and we’re working on figuring out what has changed.” This is the single defining element of modern day SEO. Without Google updates, the whole SEO industry would not exist. But what are they? Google updates essentially change the way the search engine works via the algorithm it uses and can affect all kinds of things, but generally website rankings and how websites rank. Some are small and have little effect and some are truly colossal and can see a top ranking site drop out of the first page within hours of an update being released. We’ve seen it happen! There have been two particularly significant updates to Google’s algorithm in the last few years, and these are called Panda and Penguin.

Grey hat

You may hear us saying: “We’ve seen grey hat tactics have been used on your site, so we’ll leave the good quality links and disavow the low quality ones.”

Description: is SEO work that uses both a mixture of a white hat (high quality/ ethical) and black hat (low quality/ unethical) approach.



You may hear us saying: “Have you considered moving your domain to HTTPS?”

Description: is the newest protocol for secure web addresses over a network. The previous protocol was HTTP, however, new websites should be opting for a web address with HTTPS because it is more secure and is preferred by search engines.



You may hear us saying: “We will be able to tell how effective the new pages are once Google has indexed your site.”

Description: Indexing is how Google crawls a website. Developers are able to send commands via HTML to search engine robots in order to stop a page being indexed.



You may hear us saying: “Currently you aren't using internal links as effectively as you could be, potentially restricting the flow of link juice from one page on your website to the next and missing opportunities to maximise the authority and rankings of all of your pages.”

Description: This is the lifeblood of the internet. When we refer to the ‘juice’ of a website we mean the power that is being passed from other sites to your website from inbound links. A common misconception of website owners and SEO managers was that they should not create outbound links to other websites to lock in all the juice of their website. But we proved this wrong in our landmark study.



Other names: Keyphrases, keyterms, You may hear us saying: “What are the keywords you want to rank for?”

Description: Keywords are the words associated with your business, and because Google search is powered by text, the words you affiliate with is highly important. Keywords are used in AdWords to tell Google what search queries you want your ad to show for. And in organic rankings, keywords are the phrases used to optimise your site for. In the e-commerce world, product keywords can be highly competitive, as many companies battle to rank for the same or similar terms.

Keyword stuffing

You may hear us saying: “Keyword stuffing tactics seem to have been used from Cheap SEO work done in the past.” Keyword stuffing is as simple as it sounds. Copywriters stuffing a web page full of keywords. Google penalises pages with an overly high keyword density, just think Google wants to show the “best answer” for all queries. It really is quality over quantity.


Landing page

You may hear us saying: “Your landing page is in need of updating, as it contains duplicate content.” The landing page is, in most cases, your websites homepage. It is the web page your visitors land on after clicking through on Google. See associated terms: Bounce rate, on-page optimisation,

Link bait

You may hear us saying: “We are going to avoid creating link bait as part of our link building strategy.”

Description: is content created and designed to attract attention and to encourage those viewing it to create hyperlinks to the site. It can be viral content or an e-book or research. In the majority of cases it can be low quality content.

Link building

You may hear us saying: “We will be producing high-quality content as part of our link building strategy to improve your website ranking.” The internet thrives on the exchange of links between websites. The better your link profile the higher you will rank. Therefore, we encourage link building tactics in our SEO service to help boost your link profile.

Link profile

You may hear us saying: “Your link profile has some poor links from previous cheap SEO work carried out on your site, so we can clear that up for you.” Every website on the internet has a link profile. It is how Google views the authority of your website and how trustworthy it is. Essentially, a link profile includes all the back links pointing at your website from other websites that have mentioned you. It is the fuel that powers the internet, almost like a currency. The websites that link to you are verifying your authority and just like an up-vote system works Google rewards websites with good link profiles. If you want a full understanding of how this works, and you have 5 minutes then read our experiment on outgoing links. We analyse the link profile of every website that enquires with us and is a measure we refer to throughout our relationship.

Link text

You may hear us saying: “The link text on your pages is over-optimised. We suggest changing it in case Google penalises you for over-optimisation.”

Description: otherwise known as anchor text, the link text is the clickable text in a hyperlink.

Local SEO

You may hear us saying: “Local SEO is the best approach for your business as all your customers and potential customers live locally.”

Description: this is the specific optimisation of your website for local search queries. This works best for businesses that offer services and target a specific area like electricians and plumbers.

Long tail

You may hear us saying: “We have developed a list of long tail keywords we want your site to rank for.”

Description: is a type of keyword that is usually longer than two words in length. These are important as they are specific to certain search queries a user may be making and when long tail keywords are used well can help your website rank highly. Google places an emphasis on long tail keywords over shorter keywords as they should be more relevant than broadly matched keywords.

LSI or latent semantic indexing

You may hear us saying: “We are finding keywords that broadly match via LSI and related searches.”? Description: is a system used by Google and other search engines to determine patterns between words and similar phrases to be able to group documents or content according to their relevance to each other.


Negative SEO

You may hear us saying: “It appears that your website has suffered from a negative SEO attack. We are working with Google to fix it.”

Description: Is the underhand practice of targeting a competitor site with an attack on the vulnerabilities of that site. It has traditionally involved pointing a large number of low quality links to a website with the aim to lower its position on google rankings.

No follow

Example of use: Use this code to add a no follow attribute to a link on your page.

Description: A nofollow attribute provides a hint to Google on how to treat this link. In some cases Google may decide to use such links in ranking websites in their search results, in other cases they might choose to not follow the link at all (as could be common if you were adding a nofollow attribute to internal links that point to pages you don't want indexed).


You may hear us saying: “Your email promotions page should have a NOINDEX tag so that only existing customers can find it.”

Description: Just like the above, NOINDEX is a Meta tag that can be used by developers to tell Google crawlers to not index a whole page.


On-page optimisation

You may hear us saying: “We have carried out some on-page optimisation for your site as the previous content was low quality.”

Description: this encompasses all the measures that can be taken to consciously optimise the website and improve its rankings. This includes Meta tags, title tags and content.


You may hear us saying: “If you’ve had cheap SEO in the past, then you should try organic SEO to see the difference.”

Description: This is the natural way your website achieves Google rankings. It is the approach most commonly used in modern-day SEO, and often referred to as white hat. The power of organic SEO is enormous and is the best way to ensure long-term success of your website.

Outbound links

You may hear us saying: “Some of the outbound links on your site are not to high authority sites, we’ve removed them.”

Description: Are links that take a page visitor away from the original page they found. In SEO, it’s good practice to add outbound links to reputable and high authority websites.

Over optimisation

You may hear us saying: “don’t add too many keywords to your homepage otherwise it may be penalised for over optimisation.”

Description: Over optimisation is when too much SEO is carried out on a website. This can be with things like keyword stuffing or using unnatural page titles, there’s also link exchanges that may look unnatural if the anchor text is an exact match/ optimised.


Page Rank

You would not hear us saying anything about Page Rank as it does not exist anymore. Description: an old way Google would determine how important a page is. It was a publicly available numeric rating. It was just one of the many factors Google considered to rank a page for a topic. It paved the way for black hat link networks as people tried to gain higher rankings quickly by buying and selling links. Some people believe it ruined the web in a way. It is still used by Google as a part of its ranking algorithm but instead of being public knowledge, it is once again, one of its many secrets.

You may hear us saying: “the content on your ‘services’ page needs updating because it could be affecting the rest of the site from ranking due to Panda.”

Description: Panda is one of the most influential Google updates to have ever been created. Panda refers to content quality and relevance of your website. It aims to stop sites with poor quality content from ranking in top search results.


You may hear us saying: “You have a manual penalty for duplicate content on your website.” A penalty is one of two things. Either a manual or algorithmic penalty. This applies to Webmasters and essentially is punishment for an error related to the content of your website (Panda) or the links you have pointing to your website (Penguin) i.e. link profile. Put simply, it’s Google’s way of penalising unethical SEO methods. And will almost certainly mean poor rankings if left unmanaged.


You may hear us saying: “you have some low quality links pointing to your website, and this will be penalised under the Penguin algorithm.”

Description: an algorithmic update and aims to catch spam tactics and sites that attempt to game the system by buying or trading links.


Ranking signals/factors

You may hear us saying: “we have noticed your website has not been optimised for some basic ranking factors.”

Description: It has been stated by Google itself that there are over 200 ranking signals or factors that are used to determine the quality of a website and how it will rank in the SERPs. Google rarely announce what factors it uses as part of its search engine algorithm, but that’s what SEOs spend their time researching and testing to understand.

Referral spam

You may hear us saying: “Your blog is being monitored for referral spam, as there has been a high amount of comments on your posts.”

Description: is the kind of spam that is aimed at search engines, where spammers try to draw traffic to their website by sending repeated requests to a web admin and acquiring a link or web mention to a site they want to promote.


You may hear us saying: “We can block those pages from Google bots by using your robots.txt file”

Description: is another method used by developers to communicate with web crawlers to indicate parts of your site you do not want accessed by search engine crawlers. It is also known as the robots exclusion protocol.



You may hear us saying: “Have you had any SEO work done before on your website?”

Description: SEO is a strategic, persistent improvement to not only raise your website’s Google ranking, but the long-term viability of your website to make sure it stays up to date and free from penalties (future updates).

SERP – Search Engine Result Pages

You may hear us saying: “your website www.customer.com ranks second on the SERPs for your keyword ‘customer’.”

Description: Is an acronym for Search Engine Result Pages often referred to as SERPs. It’s part of our common language in the SEO world, as we use it to describe the results list on the Google search network. It’s a mouthful to say the whole phrase, and we use it quite a lot so that’s where the acronym came from. But as a client, this basically means where your website ranks for certain keywords on Google.

Site quality

You may hear us saying: “We’ve improved your overall site quality by adding FAQ pages and testimonials.”

Description: this relates to the trustworthiness or transparency, quality and relevance of your website. Essentially, is the content of your webpages what users will be happy to find when they make queries about topics related to you?


Title tags

You may hear us saying: “your title tags are not descriptive enough”

Description: Is meant to be an accurate description of a page’s content. It is usually 50-60 characters long and is what is displayed on the search engine results pages.


White hat

You may hear us saying: “you’ve only ever had black hat SEO work done on your site in the past, from now on, we will ensure only white hat tactics are used.”

Description: This is the modern approach to SEO, in which only ethical methods are employed to try and rank a website on the SERPs. It’s the opposite of black hat SEO tactics which try to game the system.


301 redirect

You may hear us saying: “We have moved your website to the new domain and are setting up a 301 redirect to point visitors to the new URL”

Description: this is used to help users find your website if it has moved domain or an area of your site that has moved URL. This is completed on the backend of your website and users will not realise a 301 redirect is happening, as an effective redirect will simply point users straight to the new URL landing page.

404 not found

You may hear us saying: “You have not developed a 404 not found page, we can help you

Description: Just like the 301 redirect this is a configured page that happens when a user tries to access a page that no longer exists. This can happen for any variety of reasons and it may not be your fault. A well-designed 404 page will retain users in your site and reduce drop off, here’s a list of 30 creative 404 error pages