Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is the art and science of achieving rankings on Google and Bing…but let’s face it – mostly Google. While being one of the most important components of digital marketing, it can also be very confusing. Needlessly complex terms and acronyms are like a minefield for the newbie and experienced practitioner alike. Never fear – Knight’s gotcha covered with this glossary of common terms, in plain English. Sometimes, the explanations have been simplified to make them understandable. There are also links to relevant Knight blogs, and also external resources that we know and trust.

Algorithm –  When referring to SEO, an algorithm is a set of rules used by the search engines to determine what action should be taken with websites and pages. Google does not share the details of its algorithm and makes regular changes but we do know that content and backlinks are the crucial components for achieving first page rankings.

Alt text –  Simply, it’s the words that replace an image if the image can’t be displayed. If your browser has problems, or your page speed is too slow, words will be placed where the image should have been. This text should be a description of the image and will preferably contain your target keywords. Most content management systems, including WordPress, will allow you to assign alt text after uploading an image.

Anchor Text – When a web address is clickable on a website, this is known as a hyperlink. Of course, you don’t display the web address itself, as it’s hidden behind visible and relevant words. Those words, are known as anchor text. Search engine algorithms use this text to gain more of an understanding as to what you are trying to communicate, so anchor text should be relevant to the piece you are writing, and also the page you are linking to.

Authority – Also known as domain authority or DA, this is the measure used by search engines to determine how relevant and trustworthy your content is. While it is a secondary measure, it is of principal importance in that well-crafted SEO content will not rank well without solid domain authority. DA is principally determined by the number of backlinks (see backlinks) a site has connecting to it from trustworthy (high DA) sources.

Backlinks –  An external site linking to your piece of content or webpage. If these links are from websites with high domain authority, they will serve to increase rankings through increasing the DA of your site. Backlinks are commonly overlooked in favour of site architecture and keyword optimisation, but form a crucial part of your SEO strategy.

Black Hat – Search engines offer a set of guidelines that present content creators and Webmasters a rule book to follow to achieve rankings. These are known as ‘white hat’ strategies. Black hat is the term given to strategies that fall outside of these guidelines. They usually come with a high element of risk, and most professionals will steer clear of them. There are also gray hat strategies, which fall somewhere in the middle and usually present unique opportunities without the risk.

Blog – You probably know this one. A blog is a website which uses, most often, a content management system to deliver content in a consistent fashion. Due to the nature of current content management systems, no coding is needed to upload content, and blogging has become one of the most popular marketing strategies of the digital age.

Bounce Rate – A measure used by analytics programs to determine the number of visitors who enter a site and immediately leave.

Canonical Links – Canon in SEO terms is used in the same way that it is in the Bible, where canon is lore. When there are multiple versions of the same content, or what is known as duplicate content, in order to avoid algorithmic confusion and SEO punishments, Webmasters should alert the search engines as to which version is the original, and which is the duplicate. This can be done a number of ways, including 301 redirects to the canon, and canonical links. These links are usually HTML in the head section of the document to guide the search engines to the relevant content. However, Google has openly said that it prefers 301 redirects, as the system can choose to ignore canonical links.

Cloak – Also known as a mask, this is a ‘black hat’ tactic used to disguise the true purpose of a page. Through manipulating the code, practitioners will achieve high rankings for a certain topic, but when the user clicks on the link something else appears.

Comment Spam – Posting blog comments for the purpose of creating backlinks from another site.

Conversion – Or conversion rate, the number of visitors to your site that convert. What converting is, depends on your particular product and what is important to you. Most commonly, purchases and signups are the reference for conversions.

Crawler – Just like it sounds, a crawler, or spider, is a program that scours your site trying to understand link structure to assist the algorithm in allocating rankings.

Directory – A site supplying contact information. The Yellow Pages is a good example of a directory site. Importantly, don’t purchase backlinks from businesses who put you in directories –  see directory page.

Directory Page – Different to a directory, a directory page is a page set up to provide low-quality links to websites. Google doesn’t like low authority pages like this, and has been known to punish sites as a result.

Duplicate Content – Content which is identical to other content either internally or externally. Duplicate content can impact directly on the domain authority of the page, and is to be avoided or properly categorised using 301 redirects or canonical links (see canonical links.)

Google Bomb – The hilarious results of numerous Webmasters getting together to achieve planned rankings through manipulating the search engines. The most famous of recent times was Stephen Colbert’s, “greatest living American,” Google bomb.

Google Dance – When Google updates its algorithms or processes, it causes upheaval in the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages, see SERP)  which means unusual drops or increases in rankings can occur. Also, Webmasters and SEO professionals usually contemplate other careers during this time.

Hit –  An old-fashioned way of measuring on-site traffic. Pageviews are now used as best practice, as hits can be as a result of a click on an internal resource. Websites used to falsely inflate hits by forcing users to click on multiple links many times to reach their destination. In other words, a site could be receiving 7 to 10 hits for each pageview.

HTML – HyperText Markup Language is standard markup language for websites.

Hyperlink – A clickable link on your website that takes the user to another site or page.

Inbound Link – Another term for a backlink (see backlink)

Index – The system used to database web pages by search engines. Sites that have been, “indexed,” are searchable by Google.

Internal Link – A link that connects to another page on your site. This helped understand more clearly the architecture of your website.

Keyword – The term entered into a search engine by a user to find information.

Keyword Density – the number of times a keyword is used in a piece of content or web page. Usually, this is shown as a percentage of the overall number of words on the page.

Keyword Research – The process of determining which keywords will offer the best results to a business. This is usually done poorly, and assumption is used in place of scientific research. The most important part of keyword research is to determine what terms your target visitor will use in Google.

Keyword Stacking – An old-fashioned and no longer useful method of adding the same keyword too many times to a web page in order to increase rankings on search engines. Now that the algorithms can read better than humans, being grammatically correct, writing naturally and using an appropriate amount of keywords is the best way to achieve optimum results.

Landing Page – The page that a user ends up on when they click on a link. Landing pages are most commonly used when a specific offer is at play.

Latent Semantic Indexing – LSI is another (stupider) term for longtail keywords.

Link – A clickable element on a website that connects to another page or site.

Link Building – The discipline of generating backlinks to your site.

Link Exchange, Link Farm, Link Trading – The process of quid pro quo between various websites to increase their link rankings. If you have a low-quality site, or don’t care about your long-term rankings go for it – otherwise, avoid.

Link Spam – Unwanted links fromlow-quality sites.

Link Text – See anchor text

Longtail Keywords – Longer search queries that are easier to rank for than single word keywords. For example, it is easier to rank for, “marketing agency in Brisbane,” then it is to rank for “marketing agency.”

Mash-Ups – Statistically popular with users, mash-ups are lists of – usually specific – resources and products. They are most commonly ranked onsite, and offer backlinks to the various creators. They are, most importantly, easy to produce and highly effective.

META Tags –  Meta title, meta data, all of these usually refer to the information that search engines present to users as a snapshot of the page.

SEO writing

Natural Search Results – See organic search results

Nofollow –  directions from the site to a search engine not to follow the links on their site. This means that content on certain sites cannot produce backlinks. An example of this is the Huffington Post, who used to allow guest posters to connect back to their site, thus increasing their domain authority. However, now that the Huffington Post is a nofollow site, there is no DA increase if a link is present.

Noindex –  Similar to nofollow, this command instructs search engines not to index a page or link – see index.

Non-reciprocal Link – The act of not giving a backlink to another site in return for them linking to you. Google gives preference to nonreciprocal links as reciprocal links are evidence of attempted backlinks trades.

Organic Rankings – Search engine rankings that have not been paid for, and rank highly through their content and domain authority.

Outbound Link – If you offer a backlink to another site, that link – from your perspective – is an outbound link.From the other site’s point of view, it’s a backlink.

Page Rank – A method used by Google to allocate a rank to sites based on a number of (mostly unknown) factors.

Robots.txt – A file used to communicate with search engine robots or spiders. It will tell them where to go, what to index and what not to.

Search Engine – Google, Bing, Yahoo, DogPile…a site which can be used to enter search terms, and which will return the most relevant results based on a series of rules.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing, the term most often attributed to paid search, although many SEO agencies use the term loosely to refer to organic rankings also.

SEO –  Search Engine Optimisation, the process of optimising content on a website, and increasing domain authority to produce better rankings on search engines.

SERP –   Search Engine Results Page. The page you see when you enter a search term and click.

Site Map –  A page which links to every indexable page on the site, enabling search engines to more easily traverse content.

Spider – See crawler

Static Page – Just like it sounds, a page without any moving elements. Just like this one.

Stickiness – If a user spends more time on your page or site, that demonstrates increased stickiness. The opposite of a high bounce rate.

Text Link – A plain HTML link or hyperlink.

Time on Page – A measure used to determine the quality of content by a business or blogger. Just what it sounds like, it’s the average amount of time a user spends on a certain page.

White Hat – The process of increasing search engine results through authentic and optimised content, and high-quality backlinks. Hard work, high reward.

There we have it. Have we missed any? Of course we have, and while we will keep updating this list, if you would like to suggest some terms we have missed, or even coin your own, then we may well add it. Email and tell Jasmine how clever you are, and what you know that we don’t.



The Complete Glossary of SEO Terms
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The Complete Glossary of SEO Terms
Search Engine Optimisation can be confusing, but never fear, the Complete Glossary of SEO Terms is here, including links to relevant resources, and all in plain language.
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Knight SEO and Copywriting
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