SEO is complicated. An umbrella term, SEO – an acronym for search engine optimization – refers to a wide variety of strategies and tactics that can improve your ranking in search engine results. The benefit of a good ranking is clear – the higher you rank, the more clicks you get, with the top three spots in Google search results earning over 75% of all clicks.
With several factors impacting where a website lands in results, and with the world of SEO constantly evolving, it can all be overwhelming. What’s more, SEO and ORM – online reputation management – come with several terms and ideas specific to this online world. If you don’t know what these terms mean, even figuring out what everyone’s talking about can be an obstacle before you’ve even started working on improving your presence online.
We’ve put together a guide/dictionary to SEO and ORM to explain the terms and give you a foundation of better understanding for your online presence.
Before you dive into SEO, you have to build an understanding of the processes and points of it.
Search engine: a software system or program designed to retrieve information from a database based on a search query or request. Think Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
SERP: an acronym for “search engine results page,” SERP refers to the page you see after entering a search term into a search engine.
URL: an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator, the URL is the unique address for individual web pages.
Search query: the word or phrase used to find information in a search engine. Can be a single word, question, or longer phrase.
Keyword: a specific word or phrase that encapsulates or highlights the topic of a particular page or piece of content. Keywords can indicate to search engines that your content is relevant to related search queries, increasing the likelihood of your content ranking well for those particular queries.
Long-tail keyword: longer queries or phrases. These tend to be more specific searches or topics, or are phrased as questions.
Local or regional keywords: a search query or keyword related to a specific location or area.
Relevance: in search, relevance refers to how well a result matches the search query, or answers the question.
Personalization: the difference in results or web experiences for individuals based on personal factors, such as location and previous searches. Results in a more customized experience.
Search volume: the number of times a particular keyword has been searched, generally presented on a monthly scale.
Traffic: measurement for visits to a website.
Search traffic: measurement for visits to a website that result from web searches.
Indexed: content or websites that appear in search results.
Rank: where a website lands in search results in comparison to others. Higher ranking sites should be the results most relevant to the search query.
Organic search results: websites that populate in search engine results. These sites populate based on relevance or quality, as opposed to paid results or advertisements.
Click-through rate (CTR): a measurement of the number of clicks a page earns per number of impressions the page receives.
Time on page: the amount of time an individual spends on a page before clicking to another page. While the ideal time on page can vary depending on the content, the average is just over a minute, according to Contentsquare’s 2020 Digital Experience Benchmark.
Bounce rate: the percentage of visits to a website that did not result in a secondary action on the site. Generally, this means not clicking on other pages or outgoing links.
Reach: the number of users exposed to a page or piece of content.
Impressions: number of times a page or piece of content was displayed to users.
De-indexed: when a page or multiple pages from a website are not included in a search engine’s results. When this happens, this website will not be findable in search results.
Google is the most popular search engine, accounting for more than 90% of web search volume. Knowing the specifics of Google is vital for getting a leg-up on your SEO.
RankBrain: using machine learning, RankBrain is central to Google’s core algorithm, determining what the most relevant results are to submitted search queries. This explains why results are not static, as what is relevant or the “best” answer can be subject to change.
PageRank: another primary component of Google’s core algorithm, PageRank analyzes the quality and quantity of links pointing to a page to determine the overall importance of a page.
Google Search Console: a tool provided by Google that allows site owners to keep track of how their own website is performing in search results.
Google Analytics: a tool provided by Google that gathers data and provides insight on user interaction with your website.
Google My Business: a tool provided by Google, this allows registered businesses to create a listing that can appear in local searches and Google Maps. This account is also linked to your business’ Google reviews.
Google Alerts: a tool provided by Google that allows you to monitor new mentions of particular keywords in online content.
What You See
When you search for anything in Google, you’re likely to see a variety of results and features depending on the nature of your search. We talked about this in a recent post, but here is a quick rundown:
- Snippets: the small blurb that accompanies a result in search to provide users with more context for what the page is about.
- Rich snippets: similar to snippets, a rich snippet is a more “built-out” snippet, including elements such as a small photo, star rating, etc. You can encourage rich snippets populating in results by using structured data on your website.
- Featured snippet: also known as position 0, answer box, or featured answers, featured snippets are meant to answer your query quickly. These are pulled from results – over 30% are pulled from the #1 result – with the source displayed below the answer.
- Suggested search: the terms that populate when you are typing your search query into the search bar. Can populate behind your query in the bar itself or as a drop down menu. These terms are determined by queries from other searchers that are similar to yours.
- Related search: similar to suggested search, related search terms populate at the bottom of a results page. These terms are related to your search query, and determined by searches conducted by other people.
- Knowledge panel: also known as the knowledge graph, this feature can populate on the right hand side of results for certain searches. Meant to give an overview, the information displayed in the knowledge panel is dependent on the topic. For example, a knowledge panel for a historical figure will include very different information than a knowledge panel for a local business. The information displayed is pulled from online sources.
- Local packs: this feature populates for local search queries to help users find local businesses through Google Maps. To populate in these results, your business must have a Google My Business listing.
- Video and image bars: also known as video and image carousels, these will populate in results where videos or images may be particularly useful or relevant. Similar to local packs, these highlight a different search tab of Google in general results.
- Top stories: when a search query has relevance to current events or news stories, top stories may populate. Like video and image bars, top stories are featured from one of the search tabs in Google (in this case, the news tab).
- People Also Ask (PAA): this feature shows questions relevant to your search query. Similarly to suggested and related search, these questions are based on common questions from other users on relevant or related topics. Similarly to featured snippets, these questions (when clicked on) show answers from results, with a quick answer followed by the source.
Google regularly updates its algorithm with small changes, but some of these updates are more substantial, resulting in larger scale changes.
Panda: implemented in 2011, the Panda update aimed to reduce the prevalence of low-quality content in search results. Additionally, the update aimed to reward unique, high-quality content. As a result of this update, pages receive a quality classification from Google that impacts ranking.
Penguin: implemented in 2012, the Penguin update targeted manipulative link building practices and spamming. The purpose of this update, similarly to the Panda update, was to target low-quality results, in this case penalizing “spammy” results that were ranking well due to black hat (more on that later!) SEO tactics.
Hummingbird: implemented in 2013, the Hummingbird update was oriented towards improving user experience and what they saw in results. The update changed how the search engine processed search queries, providing users with results that were relevant to the intention of their search, as opposed to just vocabulary matching.
While SEO is constantly evolving, there are key elements of SEO that remain consistent.
White Hat: SEO tactics that do not violate terms and conditions of search engines, and improve ranking and strength of a site the “right” way. Publishing high-quality content, improving site health, ensuring your website is mobile friendly, etc. are all examples of white hat SEO strategies.
Black Hat: SEO tactics that violate terms and conditions of search engines. While these tactics may still positively impact ranking, they are generally disapproved of, and can result in penalties for websites that use these strategies.
On-page SEO: optimizing pages of your website in order to improve their traffic and ranking in search results. This can include both the content of the page and the HTML source code.
Off-page SEO: anything that benefits SEO but is not on your website. Referring links, social signals, social shares, etc., can all have a positive – or negative – impact on the overall SEO of your website.
Technical SEO: improving technical elements of your website to increase your standing in search results. Weak sites, or sites with many errors or higher-level issues, can be penalized and thus not rank well in results, despite relevance to a particular keyword or query. Considerations for technical SEO include optimizing the site for mobile users, considering site speed, including meta descriptions for all pages, etc.
Domain Authority (DA): a scale that determines the strength of a site, and the likelihood that it will rank well in results. This tool was initially developed by Moz.
Backlinks: also known as inbound links, backlinks refer to links from other websites to your website. Backlinks can increase the credibility and overall ranking potential of your website.
Engagement signals: any kind of engagement with your site from users. Clicks, social shares, comments, and likes are all examples of engagement. Engagement signals have an impact on Google ranking – the general rule being: the more engagement the better.
Below are just a few elements of your website that may impact its ranking in search results.
Internal linking: the practice of linking to pages on your website from other pages on your website. Internal links can improve your website’s site map and increase the strength of particular pages on your site.
Anchor Text: the clickable text of a hyperlink. There are several categories of anchor text:
- Exact: solely consists of the exact keyword.
- Phrase: includes the keyword, but also includes more of a phrase. Keyword can appear at the beginning, middle, or end.
- Partial: includes part of the keyword.
- Generic: doesn’t mention the keyword, but the keyword is present nearby.
- Brand: names the website the page is on. The target keyword is present nearby.
- Compound: consists of brand plus more words in the anchor text.
- Related: clearly related to the main keyword, but isn’t an exact match.
- Raw URL: anchor text is the URL that is hyperlinked.
SEO audit: a technical audit of a website that “crawls” the website in a way similar to search engines to identify problems or areas of concern. Once completed, this information can provide insight on the elements of your website that need to be improved.
Structured data: a way of organizing information on your website to make it more readable for search engines. Can impact how your website appears in results.
Title tag: an HTML feature that notes the title of a web page.
Meta description: HTML element that describes the contents of the page. While a meta description occasionally populates as the snippet in Google results, Google rewrites snippets – thus, not displaying meta descriptions – 70% of the time. Meta descriptions should accurately describe the content of the page, and include any target keywords.
Alt text: the text in HTML code that describes the image on a web page if the image does not load or there are other reasons that the user cannot view the image. Should describe what the image contains.
Redirection: when a URL is moved from one location to another, sending you in another direction. When possible, avoid redirects by updating URLs.
The content that you publish online can have a huge impact on your website’s SEO and your overall online reputation.
Content marketing: refers to your overall online content strategy. An effective content marketing strategy requires you to identify your target audience and a few primary themes that you will address with your content. Content should be high-quality, and provide value to your readers.
Quality content: a major factor in ranking, understanding what goes into quality content can give you a significant advantage in your SEO efforts. Generally, quality content is informative, unique, and related to your industry and target keywords. This content should inform and educate your audience, or address a “pain point” relevant to your industry and experience. Quality content should be easy for readers to digest, but should be at least 1,000 words in length.
Blog: while the definition of a blog is dependent on the purpose of your site, a blog is the section of your site that hosts your content. Blogs should be updated regularly with high-quality content. You should also go through your blog periodically to find pieces to update, consolidate, or take down.
Weak content: also referred to as thin content, weak content is content that has little value or doesn’t give much to the visitors on your site.
Duplicate content: content that is published or posted on multiple pages or platforms. Duplicate content will be penalized by Google, which can impact the ranking of both properties.
Online Reputation Management refers to utilizing marketing, PR, and SEO strategies specifically to impact the status of your online reputation, or users’ perception of your online presence.
Personal Branding: creating an intentional, recognizable brand for an individual by establishing them as an authority in their industry, either to increase credibility or differentiate them from competition. Particularly for your online reputation, establishing a clear niche and area of expertise and focus can help you define target keywords and connect with a relevant audience.
Sentiment: how the public or your audience feels about your brand.
Guest blogs and sponsored posts: these posts require pitching an article or idea of an article to a publication. If accepted, these publications will likely feature your content with a link to your website. In addition to increasing overall reach, both of these can be beneficial to link building strategies as well, but caution should be taken to not overdo it, as you may violate Google’s quality guidelines.
Link building: refers to earning links to your site to build your site’s authority (considering PageRank). There are several ways to do so, including social shares and guest blogging or sponsored posts.
Dofollow links: the default for links, dofollow links pass PageRank. According to Moz, Google encourages the use of these in situations such as paid for links (like in sponsored posts).
Nofollow links: unlike dofollow links, nofollow links do not pass PageRank.
Social media: these platforms allow individuals, organizations, and businesses to share, promote, and interact with one another. Social media can be an invaluable resource for online reputation management, providing a channel for you or your business to establish and maintain your brand and online voice, as well as interact with your target audience. Social media is also advantageous when it comes to promoting and sharing your content. The most popular social media platforms as of January 2021 are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram.
Contributor: like social media, contributor platforms – like Medium – allow you to share and engage directly with your audience. Oriented towards content, these platforms provide the opportunity for you to establish yourself as an authority in your industry by publishing relevant, high-quality content.
Forums: similar to contributor platforms, forums allow users to engage directly with individuals or businesses. This can work in tandem with your content strategy to help you engage in industry conversations and establish yourself as an authority in your industry.
Reviews: reviews are a vital part of online reputation, with 87% of customers considering reviews when developing an opinion on a business. Soliciting, monitoring, and responding to reviews can increase the credibility of your business to prospective customers, as well as build trust with existing customers.
Media monitoring: using online tools, media monitoring gives you the ability to see all mentions of you or your business online. This can give you insight into customer opinions or complaints, and can show you areas for improvement or what is and is not working for your overall reputation strategy.