The Language of SEO
When things seems strange, be it a distant culture, an unfamiliar technology, your sister's teenage son, or the latest web marketing know-how, one key to understanding is to learn the language. Getting a grasp of just some common terms used in SEO, or in any other field, can help you to work with and benefit from that which was once strange. So hopefully after you finish this article you''ll know exactly how to respond if someone walks up and says, "SEO mon! SERPS up longtail dude! Hummingbird, Panda or whateeeve. Yo canonicals kickin' the alts for keyword densssssssity? Or zat Open Graph be slackin' the down-ranks big time? What'sha dwell time stat-out cha metaheader to THAT?!?!"
TIP: If you don't understand, and/or if you are stricken with a sudden case of dweebophobia, then the best advice is to NOT make eye contact. Just pretend you need to take a call then slowly walk away while speaking intelligently into the palm of your hand. (A good trick if you don't happen to have your cell phone that day.)
That said, we at Linksky believe the following will help you to prepare for such an incident. Also, making a printout of the following and taping it to your fridge is strongly advised.
Alt image tags: The alt image tag provides the “alternative text” for an image. Since search engines can’t read an image, you should always provide some text that describes the image as well. It will show up if the image can’t be displayed and will also show if someone mouses over it.
Anchor text: This is the clickable text in a hyperlink. Marketers typically use keywords that describe the linked page as their anchor text, which can help in ranking higher in the SERPS.
Canonical URL: Canonical URLs is the best address from a set of alternatives which all access the same page. In a situation where the same page in a site can be accessed by using more than one address, then specifying the canonical URL helps to direct search engines to the best possible choice. Usually the best canonical URL is going to be the shortest and therefore the easiest for us humans to recognize and remember.
Domain: A domain used for the website is the main part of the address used in a URL/the website's address. Any search keywords found in a domain name will tend to rank the website listing higher in a search result. Also the longevity of the domain registration is favoralbe as this demonstrates commitment on the part of the website owner, and sustainability for the online endeavor behind the domain name.
Dwell time: The length of time a visitor stays on one page of a site, before clicking on a different page, or different website. This is usually used as one statistic in a group of website traffic analytical data to indicate the popularity of specific content within a website. The term is included here due to the common belief that Google, Bing and other search engines are now using some aspects of traffic analytic data in the mix of ranking evaluations.
External link: A web link on a website designed to access content, or direct traffic to a different website, a.k.a. a remote website. Links that access your site, or sends traffic to it, are often called "inbound links".
The Fold: A term from the newspaper editor's desk, content that is placed "above the fold" (at the top of the page) tends to attract more attention than content placed "below the fold". In SEO terms this also holds true because search engine spiders (e.g. the Googlebot), will prefer content pulled from the top areas of the page for search engine indexing.
Headers: The "invisible" area of the webpage which generally contains controlling scripts for the rest of the page which is visible to the browsing public. In this area are Meta fields and Title fields which are available to search engines for raking and listing considerations. In addition, commands sent directly to the visitors' web browsers are placed there, such as the no-cache HTTP header.
Headings: The text on the web page used for titling and subtitling. These are usually scripted using H1 and H2 tags in the page's HTML code. Some search engines will evaluate such titling text more strongly for page ranking.
Hyperlinks: A hyperlink is simply a link you can click on that connects one place to another either on the web or even within a document, such as a slide show. Hyperlinks can be attached to text or images.
Indexed pages: Website pages which have been recorded and cataloged by search engines.
Internal link: A link from a web page, or other local content to another page within the same site. This is the opposite is an “external link” which involves linking pages hosted on separate websites. Both types of links are important for SEO.
Keyword density: Keyword density is a measure of how many times a specific keyword appears on a page in relation to the number of words on the page. If the keyword density is too high, it can be a warning sign to Google that the page is low quality or spam.
Link popularity: A measure of the number and quality of external links to a website.
Longtail keywords: A longtail keyword is a search phrase that consists of 2 or more words. Usually, the longer the keyword phrase the more specific the information is that the searcher is looking for. In general, it is easier to rank for a longtail keyword since it will have less competition.
Meta tags: Meta tags are words that appear in the header area of the html scripting for a page, but do not appear on the page itself. They tell search engines specific information about that page. The most common meta tags are for the site description, keywords, and author. NOTE: Meta tags are still important to include but are not nearly so important as they have been in past years.
Metadata: A general term for the data that describes your website to search engine spiders/bots. This term encompasses the total descriptive content for a website including the domain, the meta fields, the visitable text on a page, the alt tags, etc.
Open Graph: First developed by Facebook, now used broadly across the web, this is a technical methodology, a.k.a. a "protocol" used by Facebook to automatically connect relative data (text, videos, images) to Facebook posts. Google recently began utilizing Open Graph tags to link items like the video play icon that displays along side video listing results. Embedding an Open Graph tag with an image, for example, can have positive impact for public engagement when it comes to blog posts and news feeds.
Referrer String: Also known as the REFERRER_URL environment variable. This is a short string of data that contains information about the last site visited, or the previous external link clicked before coming to your website.
RSS Feed: An acronym for Really Simple Syndication. This is one of the most powerful yet one of the most underutilized features of the web for content distribution and improving search engine ranking. Those website owners who are savvy with RSS can, in a hands-off manner, keep their websites fresh with a never ending supply of new and interesting content. This will also keep the search engine bots attracted and search engine indexing at a higher frequency. Conversely, when you post articles for RSS syndication, there is an opportunity to dramatically increase the number of external links to your website, again in a hands-off manner. The increased link popularity will also be a factor for improved rankings in many of the major search engines.
Reciprocal link: A mutual link between two or more different web sites. Reciprocal linking is no longer considered to be an important part of SEO optimization. In 2005 Google.com stopped evaluating reciprocal links as part of the raking process because the management at Google determined that these types of links do not indicate authentic link popularity.
SERPS: This stands for “search engine results pages”. These are the pages you see after you type in a search phrase into Google or other search engines. They’re the results of your search. For anyone with a business online, your goal is to be as high up in the SERPS as possible for any search phrases associated with your business.
Sitemap (used by website visitors): A special page on a website that displays a raw listing of pages within the site. The pages displayed in a hierarchical style to indicate which directories (folders) and sub-directories they can be found in.
Sitemap (used by Google): A text file that is uploaded, usually to the basic "root web" area of a web hosting account, containing a set of instructions for the "Google-bot". These instructions can inform Google how often to "crawl" the site (look for fresh content to index), what pages tend to be updated more frequently and what pages that should not be crawled at all.
Social Link Popularity: A relatively new factor in determining search engine ranking for both web sites and social media pages. As is indicated by the name of the term, this is an evaluation of the number of social media links to a page, post or website.
Social Media: Pages that can be used for sharing and linking content on the web. Unlike a website, the content on social media pages have a much shorter "shelf life", thus they are generally used for announcements and posts for current events. Social media pages can work hand-in-glove with a website to increase branding and bring a continuous stream of qualified potential customers or followers to any website. By the same token, social media can also be utilized as a communication tool to maintain associations with customers or for event announcements.
Spider: a.k.a. crawler, bot or web-bot, these are programs that access websites using similar data request commands that web browsers do when a visitor comes to your site. The difference is that a spider program is directed by a set of specific instructions to gather information about, or contained within a website. The information found is recorded automatically as database entries for indexing, or some other kind of dissemination at a later date.
Title tags: These are the words that appear in the tab or bar at the very top of your web browser. They are the “title” of the page that a user will see when they look at the top of their browser. NOTE: Unlike Meta Tags, the words and phrases (longtail keywords) you use in your page titles are as important as ever when it comes to SEO and search engine ranking.
Traffic: The accesses to a website. This is usually the combination of human visitors and bot, or spider traffic to a website. Although in terms of CEO this term usually indicates the volume of human visitors.
Traffic rank: The ranking of volume coming to a website compared to all other websites on the web, or to similar sites that are in the same subject area.
URL: An acronym for Uniform Resource Locator, a process that utilizes alphanumeric characters (i.e. not just numbers) as website addresses for web browsers and other scripts designed to link to webpages. Any keywords found in a URL are considered to be among the highest value content in determining the search engine raking for any given website.
-- Joseph Maas, support management, Linksky
References and further reading:
Watch as Maile Ohye, Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google, teaches SEO for Startups in under 10 minutes: