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The Practical SEO Glossary: Essential SEO Terms to Use and Understand

The SEO world comes with constant jargon.

Here’s the problem with that:

No one wants to look stupid in a meeting by asking what that term means.

Yikes. That’s one of the fastest ways to brand yourself as the “new guy.”

Instead, navigate the wilds of SEO terminology with this SEO glossary as your reference.

I’ve divided it into three sections:

  • Category 1: SEO Fundamentals
  • Category 2: Backlinks
  • Category 3: SEO in Practice

Skip ahead to the category you’re most interested in, or follow along with me as we dive in!

The Practical SEO Glossary: Essential SEO Terms to Use and Understand

 

seo-glossary
 

To make the best use of this glossary, I recommend the following:

  • Bookmark this page in your web browser
  • Skim through the headings and take some extra time to learn about the terms that are new to you
  • Send it to a friend. You know the person—the new hire, or the one you’re mentoring

Now, let’s get started.

Category 1: SEO Fundamentals

Search engine optimization is the practice of achieving business results from search engines. The point is to make your site rank higher in the SERPs to attract more traffic and convert more customers.

While it’s changed a lot over the past few years, it remains very valuable from a business perspective because what you put into it now can continue to deliver returns months or even years later.

These are the fundamental terms that every new SEO needs to understand, and that we’ll build on in the later categories.

If you do SEO for clients who don’t know much about the industry, consider including some or all of these definitions in an appendix to your reports.

Black Hat / White Hat SEO

These terms refer to two contrasting SEO methodologies to achieve higher rankings.

In my view, these methods are distinguished by two qualities: risk and time horizon.

Black hat SEO is a high-risk SEO methodology that seeks to create results quickly.

It’s high risk because it tends to recommend techniques explicitly discouraged by Google. Black hat SEO can succeed, but you’ll face a much higher probability of suddenly losing all of your rankings and traffic when the search engines finally penalize you.

Refer to Google’s quality guidelines for a list of black hat SEO practices to avoid.

White hat SEO is the search-engine approved methodology that’s slower and steadier.

Encouraged by years of Google updates, this SEO methodology takes the high road: Attract organic backlinks by creating outstanding content, which in turn will naturally boost your rankings in the SERPs.

It means investing the time and resources now for long-term results that last.

Google Search

The majority of SEOs focus their efforts on Google search.

Why? The answer is simple:

Google has been the most popular search engine in the world for over a decade. According to Internet Live Stats, Google receives 3.5 billion searches per day. Plus, the search engine has an estimated market share of 90%.

 

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So from a strategy perspective, there’s much to be gained from focusing on Google.

However, there are other search engines worth looking into that can also be very effective for smaller markets such as Bing/Yahoo!, as well as specialized search engines like YouTube and Amazon that compete for attention with Google search.

On Page SEO / Off Page SEO

These are the two subsets of SEO that work together to improve your website rankings.

On page SEO focuses on making your website easy for Google to understand.

There’s a dynamic tension with on page SEO: You need to make your website easy for people to use, and you need to make it easy for Google’s software to process.

It includes things like keyword optimization, URL structure, meta titles and more.

Check out our 13-point on page SEO checklist for a comprehensive guide to getting your website pages up to scratch.

Off page SEO focuses on how the rest of the internet views your website. 

It takes into account things like backlinks, mentions, social media shares and engagement—with backlinks still the most important factor by far.

Even with perfect on page SEO, your website is unlikely to be discovered or receive much traffic if you neglect off page SEO.

Luckily, we have a guide to off page SEO for you too—check it out here.

Category 2: Backlinks

A backlink is a link from one website to another. Search engines view backlinks as “votes” in your favor—the more backlinks you have, the more trustworthy and authoritative you are.

As such, the stronger your backlink profile, the more likely you’ll earn traffic and rankings.

Links are critical for human users and indispensable to search engines. These terms will help you understand what’s involved with link building and maintaining a strong, high-quality backlink profile.

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the clickable text that users see in links. In the example below, you’ll see how the anchor text “backlinking strategy” looks in a live link and in HTML code:

  • Backlinking strategy
  • <a href=”https://blog.monitorbacklinks.com/seo/backlinking-strategy/”>backlinking strategy</a>

Anchor text can range from branded, such as “Apple iPhone,” to generic, such as “click here.”

From an SEO perspective, it’s helpful to have a variety of anchor texts used in your backlinks, with at least one third of your anchor texts reflecting keywords you want to rank for (such as brand names and keywords identified through keyword research).

Monitor Backlinks allows you to see exactly what anchor texts are being used in your backlinks.

Just pull up your Backlinks report to see a list of all your current backlinks, ordered by most recent. The anchor text used for each link is shown in the “Link From” column, just below the linking URL.

 

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Use the “Anchor text” filter on the right to filter for specific anchor text types.

In this example, you can see that the domain has nearly 30 backlinks containing the brand name “cospot” in the anchor text.

 

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If you’re not currently using Monitor Backlinks, you can take it for a spin with a free, 30-day trial to make full use of these features and more!

Broken Links

A broken backlink is like an out of service telephone number. You click on the link and expect to be taken to a website, but there’s nothing there.

 

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This can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes websites get shut down, sometimes URLs get changed during migrations or upgrades, and other times it’s just because of a temporary server issue.

Unfortunately, broken backlinks frustrate website users because they don’t lead anywhere.

Fortunately, broken backlinks also represent an excellent SEO marketing opportunity. You can find broken backlinks, reach out to the website owner with a new resource to replace the broken link, and make the web a better place.

For more insight on this strategy, read “The Broken Backlinks Policy: 7 Steps to Identify and Fix Busted Links.”

Domain Authority (DA) / Page Authority (PA)

Domain Authority and Page Authority are some of the most widely-used backlink quality metrics. Created by Moz, they use a 0-100 scale to measure the authoritativeness of a whole domain (Domain Authority) or an individual page (Page Authority).

Backlinks from high authority websites and pages (DA/PA 30 and above) provide the greatest SEO benefit.

With Monitor Backlinks, you can easily find the Domain Authority and Page Authority of all your backlinks. In the screenshot below, I’ve used filters to only show backlinks with a DA higher than 30.

 

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Do-follow / No-follow

Do-follow links are those that pass “link juice,” while no-follow links do not.

This is what the HTML of a do-follow link looks like:

<a href=“https://monitorbacklinks.com/”>Monitor Backlinks</a>

In contrast, a no-follow link has HTML like this:

<a href=“https://monitorbacklinks.com/” rel=“nofollow”>Monitor Backlinks</a>

When you use no-follow links, you’re telling search engines that you don’t want to “endorse” the link. However, end users will still just see a link.

So while most SEO efforts focus on winning do-follow links because they provide the greatest benefits, no-follow links are still worthwhile to obtain—especially from high-traffic websites, as they can drive more traffic to you as a result.

Internal / External Links

An internal link is a link to another URL on the same domain. For example, I’ve added internal links to several other articles on the Monitor Backlinks blog in this post.

There are two reasons why you should add internal links to your content:

First, internal links benefit human users because they draw people deeper into your website and increase the likelihood of a conversion. Second, they help search engines discover and index the pages on your website.

An external link, on the other hand, is a link from one domain to another domain—also known as a backlink.

Link Quality

Of course, not all backlinks are created equal. To continue with the voting analogy, some endorsements are more valuable than others.

For example, an endorsement from a high profile U.S. Senator or former President will carry more weight with the public than an endorsement from a small town mayor.

The more valuable the endorsement, the higher quality it is.

You can measure the quality of your backlinks with metrics like Domain and Page Authority, and Trust and Citation Flow (defined elsewhere in this glossary).

Link Schemes

Link schemes are black hat SEO practices that you need to avoid at all costs. Examples include using automation to create links, making partnerships exclusively for links, and excessive anchor text optimization.

According to Google, these link building practices can negatively impact a site’s ranking.

If you rely on link schemes to reach your SEO goals, your efforts are very likely to backfire in the long run.

 

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Trust Flow / Citation Flow

Trust Flow and Citation Flow are backlink quality metrics created by Majestic in 2012.

Both on a score of 0-100, Trust Flow predicts how trustworthy a page is based on the quality of links it receives, while Citation Flow predicts how influential a page is based on how many links it receives.

As with Domain and Page Authority, a higher score is better.

You can use Monitor Backlinks to view the Trust and Citation Flow of all your backlinks. Here’s an example of the Trust Flow filter in action:

 

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Category 3: SEO in Practice

Understanding these individual SEO terms and concepts is not enough. You also need to be able to put them into practice with a fully-fledged SEO strategy.

This part of the SEO glossary will help you understand the skills you need to develop next.

Audit

An SEO audit is a comprehensive process to evaluate a website’s performance from an SEO perspective.

Every SEO professional has their approach to an audit, depending on what factors they consider to be most important. At a minimum, I recommend covering these factors in your SEO audits:

  • Backlinks. How many backlinks does the website have? Are those backlinks from high-quality websites? Monitor Backlinks is your go-to resource for this part of the assessment.
  • Page Speed. Faster websites win! Use tools like PageSpeed Insights to evaluate your website’s performance from a speed perspective, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Technical Errors. Broken links, images that don’t load correctly and other technical problems hurt SEO performance. Screaming Frog can help you identify errors like this.
  • SEO Strategy. Is there one in place? What techniques have they been using? Specifically, you want to find out whether they’re using white hat SEO methods like content marketing.
  • Keyword Optimization. Analyze how the content and HTML on each page use keywords. There should be a good balance of keyword usage without sounding keyword stuffed.
  • Qualitative Assessment. Overall, ask yourself if you’re looking at a high-quality website. Do you like the design, usability and content? These are questions that all website users subconsciously ask themselves.
  • Recommendations. It’s not enough to just identify problems in your audit—the website owner also needs your guidance on what they can do to improve.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is an online practice that has deep roots in the offline world. Decades ago, companies would offer “custom publications” where they’d provide high-quality articles. At the same time, these publications would create awareness and leads for the company.

As part of an SEO strategy, content marketing typically takes the form of blog posts like this one, or other forms of high-quality content like presentations, infographics, podcasts or videos.

That content is then used to attract high-quality backlinks, build authority in your industry and drive more traffic to your website.

You can visit the Content Marketing Institute for more resources on effective content marketing.

Image Optimization

Image optimization is an on-page SEO technique that helps search engines and human users better understand the images on your website.

It involves optimizing the image’s filename, alt tags, format, metadata and more, so that search engines can figure out what it is (search engines can’t read images, only text). For human users, image optimization helps to make your website accessible to those with visual impairments.

Check out our full guide to image SEO if you want to know more about how to implement these best practices on your site.

Keyword Research

The words people type in search engines to find search results are keywords. But with 3.5 billion searches being made per day on Google alone, how do you know which keywords you should put time and resources into trying to rank for?

That is the art and science of keyword research.

The art of the skill lies in empathy to understand your users and customers—what terms and slang do they use? What questions do they have?

 

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The science of keyword research lies in the ability to crunch through large volumes of data. You need to be able to analyze all the keyword possibilities, including how competitive they are and the level of buying interest they signal.

Redirects

Redirects are the web’s equivalent of a forwarding mail address. You’ll need to use them sometimes to redirect users from an old page to a new page, such as if you were to migrate your website to a new domain (e.g. onlinestore.net to onlinestore.com).

In general, redirects are good for user experience because the user gets sent to an alternative page instead of a broken link.

But there’s a drawback to redirects:

All of the SEO work that went into the old page does not automatically transfer to the new, redirected page.

The solution is to use a 301 redirect (as opposed to a 302 redirect, or others), which passes on the SEO benefits from the old page to the new page.

Redirects apply to backlinks too, and a poor redirect can mean you lose link juice.

But if you use Monitor Backlinks, you can track the status codes of your backlinks without any trouble. Filter for any non-301 redirects, which tend to pass on fewer benefits.

In this example, I filtered for 302 redirects:

 

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In cases where you find broken redirects, you may want to consider reaching out to the website owner of the linking website to ask them to fix your backlink.

Remember to pick up your 30-day free trial of Monitor Backlinks to try out all these features and more, risk-free!

Understanding the meaning of these essential SEO terms is the first step to achieving results.

But of course, you also need to take action.

So take what you’ve learned and put it into practice—it’s the only way to become an SEO pro!

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