It’s no secret search engine optimisation can be confusing, especially with the conflicting information online. Knowing these top 51 SEO terms will help you know exactly what you’re reading or implementing on your website to help determine fact from conspiracy.
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Top 51 SEO Terms for Beginners Explained
Alt text, also known as alt descriptions, are a manually filled component designed to display if an online image is unable to be shown. They are also used to help people with visual impairments be able to use a computer narrator and be read out what the image contains.
Search engines also use alt text to help decide what should appear in image search results, like Google images. For this reason, as well as its page experience benefits, alt text should be used on all images uploaded to a website.
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
In 2016, Google began integrating AMP into their mobile search results to ensure they were providing lightning-fast web pages to their users. However, in May 2021, Google announced AMP were no longer needed for some previously AMP-exclusive features, like Top Stories on search engine results.
A backlink refers to a link a user can click to take them to another website. Backlinks from websites with authority, a good reputation and that are secure are considered high-quality backlinks. One of the many goals of SEO is to attain high-quality backlinks to your website as search engines reportedly look at them like a vote of confidence in that web page.
A blog, also known as a weblog, is a regularly updated online journal providing information to visitors via a web page. The contents of a blog are generally themed such as news, gossip, food or with different categories to address multiple topics.
Blogs can be utilised for SEO as they are frequently updated with new content, but can be targeted for search terms outside of the website’s main goal. For example, a plumber may utilise a blog to address and be found in searches for their most frequently asked questions.
A broken or dead link is a hyperlink through to another web page or a function (like calling) that is not working as it should. Errors may occur when linking if an incomplete link has been used, the destination link is no longer online, there is a technical issue and more. When clicking through a broken link, you may see a 404 Error or a few other display notifications.
As broken links provide a bad user experience, they are not good for search engine optimisation. Software can be used to trace where broken links are within a website.
Call to Action
A call to action, or CTA, is a prompt to perform an action. For example, on a plumbing website, you may have ‘call now’ or ‘request a quote now’ call to action. CTAs are typically included in a sentence or as a button.
Properly placed and defined call to actions help provide a good user experience, which is what search engines are looking for.
A canonical tag is a piece of code inserted into a URL to define if a web page is a duplicate, near-duplicate or similar page content. They help search engines know which pages to crawl if the content is similar or duplicated.
Canonical tags are useful in search engine optimisation as they help prevent search engines spending time on wasted content when they could be spending it on useful content.
Competitor (Gap) Analysis
Competitor or gap analysis is research into the keywords a website’s competitors are and are not optimising for, identifying optimisation opportunities for your own website. Opportunities in competitor analysis include high-volume keywords your competitors’ rank highly for and you don’t, keywords you could rank for or rank better for and more.
Core Web Vitals
Google’s three Core web vitals include Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). Core web vitals are set of criteria Google uses to measure the page experience quality a user may receive. They then use these as some of the factors of where to rank a website in search engine result pages (SERPS).
As search engines use core web vitals to measure a web page’s page experience value, they’re a crucial focus of SEO.
Coverage Reports & Issues
Website coverage refers to the number of web pages on your website which have been indexed by a search engine. Index coverage reports demonstrate where there may be issues for why search engines aren’t finding or crawling web pages, which will require SEO work to correct.
Crawlers, also known as web spiders, are the robots search engines use to find new web pages and assess new websites. Once they have found new websites, the crawlers then crawl the website from top to bottom, left to right, assessing all information and following any links they come across.
SEO specialists assess how often a website is crawled as a page not being crawled (coverage issues) may indicate a problem with the page.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Cumulative layout shift, or CLS for short, refers to a metric used to measure the stability of a web page. Even simpler still, CLS measures how often a user experiences unexpected shifts in the layout. The lower the CLS score, the better.
CLS is also one of Google’s core web vitals, which the search engine uses to determine rankings. Therefore, bettering your CLS is an SEO activity.
Direct traffic refers to the traffic to a web page generated without the user having clicked on a link to the page, such as typing in the URL, using a bookmark in the browser or through an email. It is used in SEO to measure types of traffic coming to a website and where improvements may be made.
External linking refers to website hyperlinks taking the user outside of that website. For example, if you click on a link in a news article and it takes you to the source’s website, you have clicked on an external link. You can tell if it’s in an external link if the domains (www.thisisthedomain.com) of the two URLs do not match.
In SEO, external linking to your website is considered good as it’s believed search engines look at it like a vote of confidence in your website. On the flipside, you want to be careful you are only externally linking to high-quality, secure websites yourself.
First Input Delay (FID)
First input delay, or FID, is the measurement of how long it takes from the time a user first interacts with a web page to when the browser starts processing the action. For example, a FID score may not be good if it takes a long time for images to load once a user clicks into the web page.
FID is one of Google’s Core Web Vitals, which are three of the many factors the search engine uses to rank web pages. As a result, improving FID scores is a valuable SEO activity.
Google Analytics is one of Google’s free reporting tools used to track activity on a website, such as types of traffic, length of stay on website, individual web page results and more. It is used in SEO as one way to measure results and the performance status of a website.
A free Google My Business (GMB) listing helps businesses display themselves across the Google search network, including in local Google search results, Google Maps and more. It also helps businesses be able to control much of their information shown on Google, including trading hours, services or products and contact details.
Businesses on GMB can receive reviews, quote requests, be messaged by prospective customers and more, with new features being released every year.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a search traffic and performance tool used to help monitor and locate fixes for many common website issues. The free Google tool is used by SEO specialists, website developers and website owners to monitor their site’s performance on the Google Search Engine, including in search results, map results and more. It also identifies potential issues flagged by Google which may impact how they crawl individual pages.
Google also integrated Search Console Insights into Search Console, which gives further insights into trending content on your website.
Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is the name of Google’s free tag management system (TMS), allowing you to easily manage tags on your websites without having to edit your website’s code. Utilising Google Tag Manager allows website owners and SEO specialists to track schema code metrics via Google Analytics and other reporting tools from the search engine.
A heading tag is HTML code added to headings on a web page, in a blog or other online content to indicate to web browsers (like Google Chrome) a heading is being used and should be shown. Heading tags can often be added easily in a website’s content management system (CMS) backend, like WordPress.
As well as offering structure to online content, heading tags also work with accessibility features for those with visual impairments.
SEO specialists utilise heading tags to add structure to the web page, which help direct search engines to different areas of content and what the web page is about. Heading tags are often referred to as their size and importance, starting with H1 (heading 1) as the most important, followed by H2 (heading 2), H3 (heading 3), etc.
Hypertext transfer protocol secure, or more commonly known as HTTPS, is the encrypted primary communication protocol used to send data between a website and a web browser (like Google Chrome, Safari, etc.). Secure web communication can be identified by the ‘s’ on HTTP and without it, your data may be accessed by third parties.
Search engines check for HTTPS to ensure the websites they’re offering to their users are secure. Therefore, it is crucial for SEO, as well as you and your users’ security, to have HTTPS.
To use HTTPS and not just HTTP, websites will need current hosting with an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate.
In SEO, every impression is a time your website has appeared on a search engine results page, regardless if it is clicked on. Even if you were shown at the bottom of the search results and the user did not scroll to see your page, it is considered an impression.
SEO specialists use impressions as a one type of measurement of return on investment of activities. Impressions can indicate if your website is being displayed often on search engine results, so can show if you’re ranking well.
Impressions Over Time
Impressions over time will often be shown in a graph format on SEO reports to show how many times a website has been shown in search engine results over a certain date period. By seeing the number of impressions over long periods, you can see if your SEO performance is steadily increasing, decreasing or had any sudden movements. Good SEO should show steady improvement over the course of time.
When a search engine indexes a web page on a website, they are categorising and storing its information so they can supply it quickly in relevant search results. New or updated web pages will be indexed or re-indexed to ensure all information is catalogued, including measuring the page against the search engine’s best practices for ranking.
SEO specialists will look at how fast a page is indexed, that it’s indexed at all and if they need to mark pages as no-index, meaning they don’t want pages to be found by Google. Pages you don’t want found may include specific offer landing pages or those you only want your current clients to be able to access.
Internal linking is the SEO term for hyperlinks connecting website users to another page within the same website. As search engines use these links to find other pages within a website, having a good internal linking strategy is important for SEO.
Intrusive interstitials refer to pop-ups on a website, such as ads or newsletter subscription boxes. These pop-up boxes often cover majority of a page, which gives a poor user experience. With Google’s latest Page Experience update, providing stellar user experience is the primary goal of SEO, so you’ll want to ensure you limit intrusive interstitials.
Keywords are a word or phrase used to describe what is searched on a search engine, which are used by website content creators, SEO specialists and digital marketers for targeting content and web pages. By optimising page content for keywords, it helps influence which search results search engine place your web page in.
Optimising web pages for keywords is a balance of choosing the right keyword, utilising a web of similar phrases, using them enough, but not too much and placing them in the right positions.
Keyword Average Position
In SEO, the keyword average position is the overall average position where your website ranks on a specific search engine. The lower your keyword average position, the better your website is being shown on Google, Bing, etc. For example, a website ranking well overall may have a keyword average position of 5, whereas one ranking poorly or that’s new may have a keyword average position of 100 or more.
Keyword mapping is an SEO term referring to a keyword strategy for specific pages on your websites. It normally entails assigning a page a target keyword and then a cluster of relevant keywords, and then how these network with other pages.
A language tag, more commonly known as a Hreflang attribute by SEO specialists, is the term for a piece of code implementing into website content to tell search engines if there are different languages used on a page. It helps search engines give the right results to searchers in different countries or with different language settings.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Largest contentful paint, or LCP, is one of Google’s core web vitals, specifically referring to the metric measuring the time it takes for the entirety of a web page to load. Poor LCP scores are now affecting SEO rankings under Google’s Page Experience update, so is an SEO term you need to know and understand if attempting to optimise your own website.
A meta description is one type of meta tag on a website (meta titles being another), which identifies what a web page is about. If structured and implemented correctly, search engines may display the meta description with the web page in search engine results. In cases where search engines don’t feel like the meta description reflects the page content enough, they will pull other content from the page.
A web page’s meta title is a website term for defining what a page is about in a short heading format. This heading may be shown in search engine results if the search engine feels the title reflects the overall message of the web page and content.
The SEO and website term mobile friendly refers to if a website provides as a good a user experience on a mobile or tablet device as it does on desktop. With the rapid increase in mobile online browsers, search engines consider being mobile friendly a big priority, so ensuring your website is compatible and easy to use on all devices is a must.
Search engine optimisation specialists measure how well a website works on all devices, including if there are speed differences, loading delays, errors, pop-ups, etc. These are all worked on to help ensure the website follows search engine best practices to better the chance of ranking well.
NAP is the SEO term for name, address, phone number. It’s the acronym embodying the key details of a business, which for SEO purposes, need to be consistent in all places they’re displayed online. These displays are referred to as citings, which search engines use to identify a business online.
Nucleus is Localsearch’s purpose-built, all-in-one digital marketing reporting dashboard. Currently, Nucleus is complimentary to all businesses utilising our digital marketing services, including those with a website, search engine optimisation, Google Ads, social media marketing and more.
As an all-in-one reporting dashboard, it’s a central place for businesses to be able to find their results and measure their results, including for SEO.
In SEO, there is off-page and on-page SEO, with off-page SEO referring to activities performed outside of the physical website that may influence rankings on search engines. Off-page SEO activities include building backlinks to the website, working on Google My Business and social profiles, guest blogging, influencer marketing and more.
On-page search engine optimisation (SEO) activities are those performed on the website to better ranking opportunities. This is opposed to off-page SEO, which focuses on online presence rather than the physical website.
Someone working on on-page SEO may optimise individual web page content, structure, images, coding and more.
Organic traffic is a digital marketing term for users visiting a website who have arrived after clicking through to the web page from an organic search engine result. Knowing this helps gauge the impact of search engine optimisation efforts and can help detect if a website has been impacted negatively by a search engine update.
Page experience very simply measures the quality of an experience someone has when they visit a website or platform. Every detail of a website, from the load times and layout to the content, font colour and more can impact the quality of page experience.
Google now measures page experience quality as one of the many factors for ranking.
Organic, referral, direct and paid traffic all refer to how users ended up on your website. Paid traffic specifically refers to those who clicked on a search engine ad through to your website.
While SEO focuses on organic traffic, specialists still look into the breakdowns of where website traffic is being generated to align strategies and see where improvements can be made.
Ranking is an SEO term for a web page’s position on search engine results. These are dictated by hundreds of factors search engines use to measure the quality of a website and their relevance to the specific search engine results to provide to a user.
In terms of how people find your website, referral traffic are users who have clicked through to your website from another website. High referral traffic can indicate you have a strong backlinking strategy, with a high number of websites linking back to your website. Backlinking is an SEO activity used to help build the reputation of web pages.
Schema markup is code an SEO specialist or developer implements into a website to direct search engines to important information to potentially be displayed on search engine results. Effective use of schema can help increase snippet appearances, which are the excerpts of information sometimes shown on search engine results.
Search Engine Algorithm
To help provide relevant, quality web pages in search engine results, search engines utilise algorithms, which are metric systems used to measure web pages. Algorithms involve hundreds of measuring factors, most unconfirmed by the search engines to create fairness in the SEO and website community. Search engines also regularly update their algorithms to align them with current user trends.
Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
The list of web pages seen when you search for something using Google, Bing or other search engines are referred to a search engine results pages, also known as SERPS. SEO aims to increase a website’s presence on relevant SERPS to the content of the web pages.
A title tag, or meta title, refers to the name given to a web page. These title tags help search engines determine what a page’s content is meant to be about, and if relevant, may be used in search engine results to name the web page. SEO specialists optimise title tags to help increase the likelihood of search engines using the page title and to improve the chances of better ranking position.
A URL is made up of a structure of a protocol (http/https), your domain (your business or website name) and the slug (or path of the web page). The URL structure are the organisation of your website’s content, so a complex URL or poorly structured website can provide bad user experience, therefore not be valued by search engines.
Website Technical Audit
When starting SEO, a website technical audit is used to check the health of your website and where improvements can be made to potentially better search engine appearances. It looks into everything from the website structure to specifics for each individual page, such as speed, content, linking, layout, user experience and more.
Website traffic is the blanket term for users who visit your website, how they got there, who they are and more. Knowing specifics about website traffic helps know who you’re targeting your website towards versus who is being attracted. This can help you better optimise your web pages.
An XML sitemap is a singular file outlining all of your website’s important pages. This is fed to search engines to help them easily crawl and index your pages, giving you a better opportunity of ranking well on search engines and ensuring all relevant pages are being considered.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does SEO mean?
The goal of SEO — short for search engine optimisation/optimization — is to increase the quantity and quality of website traffic being received via organic (unpaid) search engine results. Organic website traffic can be received from different search engine results, including web page, images, news, videos and more.
The process of SEO involves optimising a website’s individual web pages and online presence to appeal to search engine (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.) algorithms. Search engine algorithms help determine who should be placed (ranked) where on search engine results based on quality of the web page, relevancy to the search engine results and more.
How long does SEO take?
SEO is an ongoing task, however, specific changes may take anywhere from a few minutes to several months to return results, if any. All efforts for search engine ranking improvements should be made for long-term benefits, not short-term gain, so you want to see steady growth over time.
How much does SEO cost?
To be displayed in organic search engine results is free. However, optimising your website may incur costs, such as building a website, utilising software, hiring an SEO specialist and more.
Can you do your own SEO?
As SEO can be a very timely activity involving almost daily research, data analysis and strategy implementation, it can be too much for most businesses to do themselves. Due to the level of work required, experience needed and skills to perform the work, it can be more affordable and effective to hire an SEO specialist.
If you are looking for an SEO specialist, Localsearch’s multi-award nominated digital marketing experts are here to help. We not only help you improve your website’s positioning on search engines, but we help you stay there. Contact us now for a free website audit.