A to Z SEO Glossary of Terms for PR Practitioners
We’ve put together this glossary as a handy primer to expand your SEO knowledge & support your digital PR work.
About the author
Neil is the Digital Director, and Co-Founder of digital marketing consultancy, Focus Mode. Neil has over 16 years’ experience with SEO and has provided consultancy to global brands like IBM, Dell, Sony, and Reuters.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a dynamic field, with its very own language, ideas, and jargon.
Sometimes, learning the SEO vocabulary can feel like you’re learning another language! So, to give you some help understanding all the new terms you might be hearing about, we’ve put together an A to Z SEO Glossary of Terms for PR Practitioners.
The glossary aims to give you a handy primer to expand your SEO knowledge and support your digital PR efforts.
You may want to bookmark this page for future reference!
This isn’t an exhaustive list, as that would take thousands of words, but we hope we’ve covered the main ideas for you.
If there are any you’d like to see included, please let us know.
But first, some important numbers
Yes, we know that numbers aren’t part of the alphabet, but these HTTP status codes are essential for you to understand the next time you might be involved with any technical SEO projects.
HTTP response status codes tell us whether a specific HTTP request has been completed. Simply put, whether a page is doing what it’s supposed to!
2xx status codes: Codes that indicate the request for a page has succeeded, and all is well.
3xx status codes: All 300 status codes indicate redirection (meaning that once you land on a page, you’ll automatically be taken somewhere else). There are several types, but 301’s and 302’s are the one’s you’ll come across most often:
- 301 – Permanent redirect. Used in technical SEO to point an old page to a new page. It’s crucial if you’re redeveloping or migrating your website and change your URL’s.
- 302 – Temporary redirect. Similar to the above, but gives a signal that the page has only temporarily moved.
4xx status codes: Codes that indicate the request for a page resulted in an error. The most common of these are:
- 403 – Forbidden. You may get this error if you don’t have permission to access the page you are requesting.
- 404 – Not found. You’ll see this if you try to visit a page that doesn’t exist anymore.
Most websites have designed 404 pages that will provide you with options to go elsewhere on the site.
5xx status codes: Codes that indicate that the server cannot perform the request asked of it.
And now, the letters!
Above the Fold
Content that is visible without having to scroll down the page. It’s recommended to place your most important content here.
These are the rules, and formula(s) used by search engines to decide where websites should rank for specific keywords. Algorithms are secret, updated frequently, and are very complex!
This is Metadata included in the HTML code of an image, which is used to tell the search engines what the image is, and for screen readers to read aloud what the image is. It is considered a requirement for a well-optimised page.
Text enclosed within <a> HTML tags. When you see a word or phrase within text that you can click on, to go to another page, this is Anchor text.
A backlink is a link from one web page to another.
Black Hat SEO
Unethical SEO techniques that deliberately intend to ‘game the system’, and improve rankings by ignoring the search engine guidelines. Often called SPAM techniques, and can be subject to penalties by search engines when caught. A lot of search engine algorithms updates have the goal of reducing black hat SEO.
The ratio of users who visit your site and then leave after visiting just one page. This can indicate a poor user experience.
CTA (Call to Action)
A part of a page designed specifically to get visitors to carry out a desired action (e.g. sign-ups, sales, contact us). Specific actions should be aligned to strategic goals, and their success is measured by conversion rate. A CTA can be a sign-up form, button, a link, or something else.
Content Marketing is the process of creating and distributing content that used to generate interest and promote the products and services of a business. Content can be text (articles, blog posts, guides, ebooks, etc.) or visual (infographics, videos, webinars). Content marketing is typically aimed at specific audiences, with the content tailored to their interests, aligned with specific marketing objectives.
The ratio of visitors who perform the desired action after visiting a webpage (e.g. newsletter sign-ups, purchases).
A file created by a website that is downloaded to your computer when a user visits a website. A cookie holds data about the user or website and is used to track visitors activity and other information about the user.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are a set of factors that Google considers very important in a website’s user experience. They are coming into effect as a ranking factor in May ’21. The Core Web Vitals consist of three user interaction and page speed measurements: largest contentful paint (LCP), first input delay (FID), and cumulative layout shift (CLS). This article provides essential information on what to expect and how you get ready: How to prepare for Google’s Core Web Vitals update.
How a search engine robot visits and processes the information on a website. Robots use this information to build a picture of what the website is about, how it is structured, what it does, and what content is there. This information is then saved into the search engine index (database).
A way to disassociate unwanted backlinks to a website. Google Search Console has a disavow tool that lets webmasters report links they would like removed.
A metric developed by Moz that looks at various factors to predict how well a website is likely to perform in the search engines. The score is awarded across a whole website from 1-100, based on factors like the number of links, number of linking domains, and more. Moz is very keen to point out that ‘Domain Authority is not a metric used by Google in determining search rankings and has no effect on the SERPs’.
Ethical SEO is search engine optimisation done the right way, using only the tactics, techniques and strategies that the search engines deem to be acceptable, and not trying to spam their algorithms. It’s something I’ve focussed on heavily during my career.
Content that stays relevant and up to date. Evergreen content is important for SEO because recent, relevant information is more likely to meet the users’ search intent.
A featured snippet appears above the search results for some queries and often contains an extract of a webpage that Google feels answers the search query, along with a URL and linked page title.
Google’s analytics product that tracks and reports website traffic, and provides an in-depth analysis of user behaviour, traffic, conversions, revenue, and much more. Google Analytics insights are often used when assessing how successful a SEO campaign has been.
Google My Business
Another tool offered by Google that helps businesses register an online profile, which then shows in search results and Google Maps results. A Google My Business listing can include reviews, photos, opening times, etc. and is a very effective way of increasing visibility for local searchers.
Google Search Console
Yet another free web service from Google giving webmasters access to more detailed information about the performance of their websites. This information helps them further optimise their sites’ visibility and check for any problems.
Google Webmaster Guidelines
The official quality guidelines direct from Google, which, when followed correctly, will help Google to find and understand your pages better, and help visitors to use your pages. You can find them here, and I highly recommend you get familiar with them.
HTML headings help guide users through content on a webpage. They are ranked from h1 through to h6, with prominence allocated accordingly by crawlers. Using headings indicates the context of the content on a webpage, and highlights the hierarchical importance of different paragraphs, sections, and keywords.
HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, (which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol), meaning the information is encrypted and cannot be intercepted by hackers. This is now a ranking factor, with sites that do not use HTTPS being penalised in the rankings.
The database of websites and pages from which a search engine operates. Websites and pages are usually added by the crawler automatically which crawls the web for content, indexes it, and enters it into its database. If a web page is not in the index of a search engine, it’ll never show in the results for that search engine.
Keyword research is used to find out which words and phrases people use when looking for specific information, products or services. It is used to build a deeper understanding of user behaviour, and to optimise the content on a website that meets the intent as closely as possible. If done well, the result is content that meets real human needs and will be much more likely to rank highly for related searches. Tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush can help with this.
The process of building links to one website from another. Links are an essential factor in how search engine’s rank websites. Links are considered a ‘vote’ of confidence for the quality and usefulness of another website. The more good quality inbound links a website earns correlates with better rankings.
Link building can be misused by Blackhat SEO’s, but strong links gained in an ethical way to build a healthy link profile, which is an important part of SEO. This is something the PR field should be able to excel at!
The entire set of links that point to a website (inbound links) and the links that lead out from it (outbound links). Link profiles must be monitored closely and malicious links removed or disavowed often to prevent ranking penalties.
Machine learning uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help search engines learn and refine the algorithms. Search engines use machine learning in many ways to make their algorithms more sophisticated. Machine learning is used to understand the intent behind a search in more detail, and also understand the relationships between different subject areas, and queries to make their results even more relevant for users. Google’s RankBrain is an example of machine learning.
Metadata is information included in the header of an HTML page to provide information about the contents of that web page. The most common metadata are the HTML Page Title and meta descriptions, which (usually) show in search engine results pages (SERPs). Optimising the metadata is often one of the first steps taken in an SEO campaign.
The time it takes for a web page to load fully on a mobile device. Google has announced it as a ranking factor, and search engines are placing increasing importance on mobile speed. Webmasters can use tools like Google Lighthouse to test the speed of a page.
Nofollow links are links that have a rel=” nofollow” HTML tag applied to them and tells search engines to ignore the link. Nofollow links likely don’t impact search engine rankings.
A noindex tag can be added to the code of a webpage asking crawlers not to index the page. They should be used on pages that don’t give a lot of value to users, for example, archive pages, login pages, thank you pages, admin dashboards, internal search results pages, etc.
Organic Search Results
Organic search results relate to non-paid for advertising sections of the search engine results page, such as PPC (Pay-Per-Click).
Outreach (well know within PR!)
This is where the PR industry are masters! Outreach involves contacting other websites, webmasters, content publishers, social media users or others to ask them to share or engage with the content you’ve created. Outreach campaigns are a central tenet of content-based SEO and are a way to promote content, increase visibility, improve engagement, and spread your message further. Natural links gained from outreach work also support the link profile of a website and help it rank better in the search engines.
Moz again! In their own words: ‘Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank’.
Google penalties are similar to penalties in sports. Ultimately, they’re designed to punish websites that have not adhered to the best practice guidelines of a search engine.
The word, words, or phrases a person might enter into a search engine when looking for information. Initially, this was just for text-based searches, but now users can search by image, video, text, or even their voice.
This is the position of a website in the search engine results page (SERP) for a user query. The benefits of ranking higher in the search engines are higher visibility, better click-through rate (CTR), more traffic, and return-on-investment (ROI).
Referral traffic denotes the amount of incoming traffic to your website from outside a search engine. This can come from other websites, social media, email marketing, and other channels.
Robots, (or bots, spiders, or crawlers) are software which visits websites and accesses their content and structure. This information is used to create the entry in the index of a search engine. Robots access can be restricted or stopped with the use of a robots.txt file, although a bot does not have to obey these commands.
ROI (Return on Investment)
This is a very common Key-Performance-Indicator (KPI) for assessing SEO activity and measures the return on the SEO investment. Any successful SEO campaign should provide a very high ROI.
Structured data mark-up is designed to show search engines what content means, not just what it says. Special tags are wrapped around content to indicate and describe their purpose, allowing search engines to build a much more detailed assessment of the page they are crawling. Schema mark-up types are often used to provide additional information for events, creative work, people, places and products.
Search intent denotes the underlying reason for a user’s search, which might not immediately be apparent from the query that they use. A better understanding of search intent allows for more useful and targeted search results, and improving this understanding is a priority for search engines. The four main types of search intent are informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial.
SERP (Search Engine Results page)
This is the page of results you see after you submit your query to a search engine. The SERP should answer your query as quickly and effectively as possible.
A sitemap is a document the shows the structure and hierarchy of pages for a website. They are created to provide robots (or search engine spiders), with a better understanding of how a website is organised.
The time it takes for a page to load fully. A slow page load speed is terrible for user experience (UX) and will like result in lower rankings. Site speed includes all the content required to make a page work and be interactive, with both visible elements (text, images, etc.) or the invisible code (scripts, etc.). Tools like Google PageSpeed Insights provide detailed breakdowns of site speed and the things that may be slowing it down. This stuff is important!
This is content which provides very little or no value to visitors users on a site. Google doesn’t like it, and the rankings of websites with lots of thin content will suffer.
The number of visitors (or people) to your website. This is often tracked as a KPI to determine whether SEO efforts are proving successful.
URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
The techie name for a web address!
UX (User eXperience)
Simply put, how easy to use or intuitive a website interface is (in this context, although UX can also be used to measure products, software, etc.). A good UX gets better user engagement with a website as people can complete their desired actions more efficiently. UX has become more and more critical for SEO over the last few years as the search engines want to rank websites that ultimately provide a good experience for the user.
OK Google! Other examples include Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. Voice commands are used to search the internet through a voice-enabled device. Voice search is only going to get more widely used and essential as time goes by.
Now called Google Search Console. Webmaster Tools is what we SEO’s called this service before May 2015.
White Hat SEO
The opposite of Black Hat SEO, and relates to SEO practices that follow best practice and focus on human users. White Hat SEO is ethical SEO, and considered in line with search engine best practice. It’s the kind of SEO you should be doing!
See sitemap. The “XML” stands for “Extensible Markup Language,” and is a way of displaying information on websites. The XML Sitemap ‘maps’ out how the website is structured and what it includes.
If you have a WordPress website, Yoast is a must-have SEO plugin. With Yoast SEO, the user can do a bunch of cool stuff. They can optimise the title and description, check the readability of their content, set a focus keyword, edit the appearance of the title, description, and image being used when someone posts a link with your content on social media, and more!
The worlds largest video sharing service and the second most used search engine, YouTube has more than 2 billion users. It is also classified as a social media site. If you create video content, YouTube SEO should definitely be part of your plans.
A Zero-Click Search is a search query that does not receive any clicks. It occurs when users search for something, and for some reason, don’t click on any of the results. A common reason why a query does not get any clicks is if Google can answer the question through some form of rich results (see Schema). For example, “what year was Point Break made?” (the greatest movie ever, by the way), shows a result which answers the question immediately – 10th July 1991. For these kinds of informational queries, users do not need to click to further to explore the subject since they get the exact answer directly at the top of the search results.
Phew! That was A LOT of terms, wasn’t it?! We hope you enjoyed the A to Z Glossary of SEO Jargon and found some useful answers in there for you. We enjoyed creating it for you.