SEO Glossary [Updated for 2020]
2020 Ultimate SEO Glossary
A comprehensive SEO cheat sheet for beginners.
This SEO glossary of terms covers 21 general definitions you need to know. Get started with the essentials now, or check out Spark Visibility’s other definition lists.
By Meghan Rennie
Table of Contents
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
A process used to turn website visitors into customers. CRO is the “next step” after performing successful SEO, as optimizing for search engines will get a page higher traffic, but conversion is what generates revenue. The relationship between CRO and SEO can also be reversed, as CRO metrics can be used to discover potential mistakes within SEO.
The act of researching and evaluating the sites of competitors—as in, anybody who covers the same topic or ranks for the same keywords. Analysis is a good way to find out about what is “standard” in a niche, and how to optimize content to that level and above. It can help in the search for new keywords, external linking potential, and content idea generation.
Statistics, facts, and other pieces of information which are brought together to be analyzed and to make conclusions. When dealing with SEO, important data is information about a website’s user base, how a website is being interacted with, how its competition is being interacted with, and so on.
Digital Marketing (DM)
Any use of digital channels to reach consumers.
Focusing on users in a specific geographical location. Part of local and international SEO.
Gray Hat SEO
SEO that is questionable, but legal. SEO practices that fall under this category are not well-defined in search engine guidelines as good or bad. Human evaluators could reasonably disagree on whether the methods used are aligned with the guidelines. Gray hat SEO may or may not result in penalties, and what is considered gray hat can change in standing over time—a gray hat tactic might be labelled black or white hat in the future. It is important to keep up to date on SEO guidelines, and stick in white hat territory when possible.
Learn more about gray hat SEO.
SEO that aims to improve rankings in multiple countries and languages by specializing content based on language detection and location data.
Examples: Optimizing for the most-used search engine in your target area, using hreflang tags, translating HTML elements (such as meta description, headings, title, URL,) translating website content, having changing price currencies for online stores.
Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
Measurable results that are used to judge the success of marketing efforts.
SEO that specifically promotes rankings for searchers in the same area as your website. Great for brick and mortar stores, and organizations that can only serve a specific area.
“Name, Address, Phone Number” (NAP)
Exactly what it says. For brick and mortar organizations, it is extremely important to have this information available online, and easily accessible to users. Part of local SEO.
Off-Page SEO, Off-Site SEO
SEO that does not involve making changes to the site itself. Instead, the focus is on building the reputation of the site on other parts of the web.
Examples: techniques include building a healthy backlink profile, using disavow links on low-quality backlinks, etc.
On-Page SEO, On-Site SEO
SEO that takes place on the website itself.
Examples: techniques include putting keywords in content, using correct tags, creating inbound links, etc.
Return on Investment (ROI)
What is gained by a decision or action (the profit), compared to its cost or the effort put in to complete it. SEO tactics with high ROI provide a large, positive change in rankings compared to the amount of work put in to optimize a website. Learn more about high-ROI SEO tactics.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Definition: Originally, this term referred to any marketing efforts that involved search engines—in this case, SEO would be a part of it. Recently, more people have used it specifically to describe paid efforts to improve a site’s ranking. Learn more about SEM.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Definition: The process of improving a website to get a higher ranking in search results. SEO focuses on appealing to search engines’ algorithms and providing the right content to users. As a result, websites get more attention and more organic traffic.
Search Engine Optimizer (SEO)
Anybody who performs SEO. You are what you do!
Search Experience Optimization (SEO)
Similar to Search Engine Optimization, but with a focus on improving a website so that users will be satisfied by its content. It’s not as popular as the main definition of SEO, but it’s a helpful mindset to keep on hand.
SEO Audit, Site Audit
An analysis of a website with regards to how well it follows guidelines and adheres to standards of best practice. SEO audits focus on how visible a site is to search engines. They are meant to pinpoint errors and problems within the site, which can then be solved.
Examples: Technical SEO Audit, Content Audit
SEO Service, SEO Service Provider, SEO Agency
An individual or organization that can be hired to optimize a website for search engines.
Example: Spark Visibility
SEO techniques that make a website easier to crawl and index—focusing on the “Search Engine” part of SEO. Technical SEO deals with site speed/responsiveness, site structure, element optimization (image optimization, video optimization, etc.) Learn more about image optimization.
White Hat SEO
Positive SEO techniques that follow search engine guidelines and help improve user experience. White hat SEO will not be penalized and is completely ethical and legal.
Also see Gray Hat SEO
Also see Black Hat SEO
Don’t stop here! Spark Visibility has every term you need to know for SEO. Check out Part 2—Search Engine Terms , or download the ultimate SEO glossary as a PDF.
Search Engine Terms
To understand SEO, it is necessary to understand search engines. This glossary explains 23 SEO terms that involve search engines and their guidelines.
A set of rules that a computer follows in order to solve problems. SERP rankings are determined by search engine algorithms.
How easy it is for search engine bots to navigate a website and index it for search engines. Crawlability is optimized by creating and submitting sitemaps, creating a sturdy internal linking structure, and generally following the rules of good SEO.
The number of a website’s URLs that a search engine will crawl. Large sites need to keep this in mind, as it means that pages with lower-quality content and a low placing in a site’s link hierarchy may not be indexed.
How valuable a specific URL is to a search engine. The more page depth a page has, the less important it seems to crawlers. Crawl demand contributes to crawl budget.
How “deep” bots will go while indexing a site. Pages with considerable page depth are less likely to rank well for this reason.
Crawlers, Spiders, Googlebots, Search Engine Bots
Programs that browse the web for search engines, finding webpages and indexing them to be included in SERPs. They “crawl” along the links included in webpages to find more pages and websites, and this is why having a solid internal linking structure as well as inbound and outbound links is so important to SEO.
The act of searching the internet, analyzing the code and content of webpages, finding links, and travelling along the links to discover more pages and sites. This is performed by spiders and is how search engines find sources to put on SERPs.
Crawl Rate, Crawl Rate Limit
Crawlers have a limit to the number of pages they will index each day. This is known as a technical limitation that can decrease substantially if the website being crawled is seen as low-quality and irrelevant. Crawl rate contributes to crawl budget.
Featured Snippet, Rich Answer, Direct Answer
A box shown at the top of a SERP, containing summarized information meant to directly answer a user’s query. A featured snippet includes a link to its source website. Google chooses what website to feature, and there is no direct way to improve the chances of getting this spot.
Freshness, Freshness Factor
How new or recently-updated a page is. Depending on the subject matter of a page, freshness can play a varying role in its rankings. When content is time-sensitive (like news, updates, changing trends, etc.) freshness of a page is highly relevant. Search engines check search volume history to see if freshness may be relevant to a topic.
A search engine’s database, containing the information of all websites that have been crawled by search engine bots. Search results are pulled from the index.
The process of sorting the websites found by crawlers, so that they can be included in search results.
An indexing method where the mobile version of a website is given priority. If a website does not have a mobile version, or the mobile version is low-quality, it will have a negative impact on its rankings—even for the desktop version of the site.
Starting from a website’s homepage, the number of links that need to be clicked through to reach a specific page. Deep pages can be made more accessible by adding more internal links to a site, or by adding navigation features such as a breadcrumb trail.
Query, Search Query, Search Term
The input a user gives to a search engine.
Examples: a typed sentence or string of relevant keywords, a question asked through voice command, etc.
Taking indexed content and putting it in order based on relevance and quality, to provide the best results to search engine users.
It can also refer to the rank that a webpage holds within SERPs.
Rich Snippets, Rich Results
Small pieces of information that a search engine pulls from a website’s structured data and displays with a search result. Rich Snippets catch users’ attention and lead to a higher CTR.
Examples: Rich snippets can include information such as reviews, ratings, thumbnail images, additional links, publication dates, etc.
Search Engine (SE)
A program that finds items in its database (index) and matches them to the query of a user, to help that user find content on the web.
Examples: Google, Bing, Baidu, etc.
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
The pages of results that show up in response to a query. The purpose of SEO is to get on the first SERP—to the very top of it, preferably.
Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG)
A set of guidelines that human evaluators use to measure the quality of a website’s content. Indirectly, search quality evaluators affect rankings by giving direction to search engines’ algorithm updates. This is why it is important to follow SQEG metrics when optimizing a website.
Search Result Snippet
Part of a search engine listing, showing a page’s meta description. Organic search result listings include only the title and search result snippet.
The traditional organic (or natural) search engine result
Elements on a SERP other than organic search results.
Examples: advertisements/paid search engine results, rich snippets, related questions, videos, carousels, etc.
Vertical Search Engines
Specialized search engines. They only include a certain kind of content, or content from specific sources.
Examples: Google Maps, social search engines (on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook,) site-specific search bars.
Don’t stop here! Spark Visibility has every term you need to know for SEO. Check out Part 1—General Terminology , or Part 3—User Behaviour Definitions. Or, you can download the ultimate SEO glossary as a PDF.
User Behavior Definitions
SEO and UX are meant to go together. This glossary focuses on the user experience and the responses that searchers have to websites. You don’t want to keep going without knowing these 24 important terms.
A term used to explain that users usually ignore advertisements—or content that they believe to be advertisements. When skimming pages, people disregard what they believe to be disruptive and unimportant.
A percent measurement of how many visitors come to a website, then leave without browsing or performing any actions. Only one page of the website is viewed, and generally, this signals an unsuccessful visit. Depending on the content being provided, however, it’s understandable that this is not always the case. A person could be looking for a quick definition or fact and find it without digging further into the website’s page hierarchy.
It’s important to pay attention to bounce rate, and to make sure that website factors like loading speed, content quality, ad density, and keyword relevancy, are not causing a high amount of people to end their visit early.
Call to Action (CTA)
An aspect of a website that asks a user to perform a specific, immediate action—usually resulting in a conversion. CTAs are best placed on a website’s landing page. They help users know what to do next on a site, and therefore reduce bounce rate and increase visit time.
Examples: CTAs can be images or text, and often appear as buttons. They may ask the user to sign up for an emailing list, make a purchase, register for an account, read more of a post, schedule an appointment, etc.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)
A percent value of people who click on an ad or website after being shown it in the SERPs.
CTR = (# clicks / # impressions) * 100
The act of convincing a user to perform a desired task on your site. This often occurs by them interacting with your CTA.
Examples: A user making a purchase, joining an email list, downloading a document, starting a free trial, etc.
Conversion rate (CR)
A percent measurement of the users that were converted by a marketing tactic (website, email, advertisement, CTA, etc.) compared to all the people who were exposed to it.
CR = (# conversions / # impressions) * 100
Cost Per Acquisition, Cost Per Action, Pay Per Acquisition, Pay Per Action) (CPA, PPA)
A common pricing method used in marketing. An organization pays every time a user performs a specific action.
Example: an acquisition can be a sale, sign up, site visit, content download, etc.
Cost Per Click, Pay Per Click (CPC, PPC)
A common pricing method used in marketing. The price of an ad is relative, based on how many times it is clicked on by a user.
Cost Per Thousand Impressions, Cost Per Thousand, Cost Per Mille (CPM)
A common pricing method used in marketing. An organization pays every 1000 times that an ad is shown to a user.
Website visits that happened because a user typed a site’s URL directly into their browser. Direct traffic is non-organic.
The time that a user spends on a website before leaving to a different site or back to the SERPs.
Measurable variables that show how well a website is performing with users. What metrics are important depends on what purpose the website serves.
Example: bounce rate, search traffic, conversion rate, average pages viewed per visit, etc.
The act of a user downloading a file (HTML, graphics, audio, etc.) from a website. Loading the average webpage results in 15 hits.
When an ad is displayed on a user’s screen, or a website is displayed in the SERPs.
Traffic that isn’t generated through paid promotion. Rather, users come to a website naturally through search results or other websites.
A term for when a searcher clicks on a search result then quickly backtracks to the SERP. This indicates an unsuccessful session, as the user has immediately gone back to seek a different search result.
Positive Behavioural Data
Metrics that imply a user has had a successful, pleasant experience. These are very important to search engines.
Examples: increased average session duration, increased average page depth of a session, increased average time spent on a page
Traffic that does not come from a search engine.
Example: Traffic from inbound links, social media links, etc.
The amount of times a keyword is searched over a certain period.
Any action taken by a user to engage with an organization on a social media site. Social signals don’t appear to influence ranking directly, but they can increase the likelihood of developing more backlinks, and they increase brand equity by building relationships with users.
Examples: Likes, links, views, reviews, shares, votes, pins, ratings, comments, etc.
The amount of organic traffic that a website could get, if it ranked the highest on SERPs for its related keywords.
User Interface (UI)
The means that allow a user to interact with content.
Examples: The device a person uses to access a website (computer, smartphone, tablet,) the website’s layout, SERP features, etc.
The number of visits received from different IP addresses. Unique visits attempt to measure the number of different users who have visited the site, not the total number of visits.
User Experience (UX)
The interactions a user has with a website, and how they feel as a result. A positive user experience comes from a website providing a searcher with the information they seek, in an efficient and pleasant way. It’s fostered through a combination of quality and relevance.
View, Page View
Each time a page is loaded and viewed by a user.
Visit, Site Visit, Session
Each time a user accesses a website and spends time there. At least one page has been loaded and browsed or interacted with in some way. Visits by the same user are counted so long as they happen a minimum of half an hour between each other.
Voice Search, Voice Command
A query made by a user through voice-enabled software. A user makes a search by speaking out loud, which means that their query is worded differently than if they had typed it.
Don’t stop here! Spark Visibility has every term you need to know for SEO. Check out Part 2—General Search Engine Terms, or Part 4—Keyword Terms . Or, you can download the ultimate SEO glossary as a PDF.
SEO is incomplete without keyword optimization. This SEO glossary offers a crash course in keyword terminology to get you educated and ready to work. Whether you’re an SEO beginner, or need a quick refresher on 18 of the most important keyword definitions, this resource is for you.
Branded keywords, Brand keywords, Brand terms
Keywords that include an organization’s name or variations of it. SEOs generally agree that there is no need to pay for promotion in these areas, as good SEO will organically generate high rankings.
A word or phrase that users include in their queries when looking for a specific type of content. The use of relevant keywords in your content is what helps crawlers categorize your website and display it to the right users.
The act of doing research and comparing keywords to see which are best to use. Important metrics that affect keyword usefulness include search volume and keyword competition, as well as cost per click and your current ranking in the SERPs.
When the same keywords are used over and over on many pages of the same website. This sets the site up to compete with itself for keyword rankings and traffic, as search engines have trouble figuring out which page is most relevant to the keywords’ topics.
The act of sorting keywords by how they are used in queries—for example, grouping keywords based on which stage of the consumer purchase process they are most often used in. Once categorized, keywords can then be used on webpages made specifically for those user circumstances.
Keyword Competition, Keyword Difficulty
A metric that explains how often a keyword is used in a specific niche. A difficult keyword is being used by many competitors, which makes it harder to rank well for. When choosing what keywords to optimize for, keyword difficulty and search volume are the two most important factors.
A measurement of how often a keyword appears on a page, compared to the total word count of that page. Keyword density is displayed in percentage form, and optimal keyword density is debated, but generally said to be 1-3%. A higher density may hint to keyword stuffing and can be penalized.
Keyword density is not as important as simply using keywords well—the main goal should be to use keywords naturally and unobtrusively.
Keyword Frequency, Term Frequency
How many times a keyword was used on a page, regardless of the amount of additional content.
A phrase that describes how much attention search engines will pay to a keyword. The prominence of a keyword depends on where it is located on a webpage—keywords are more noticeable the closer they are to the beginning of an element. This means they should be included at the beginning of the page’s title, headings, meta description, or opening paragraph.
How close together keywords are, within content. The closer together relevant keywords are, the more relevant the webpage is thought to be for those phrases.
Example: “We sell red shoes” has the keywords shoes and red right next to each other. “The shoes we sell come in the colour red,” besides being a more awkward sentence, has 6 words between the keywords. The first sentence would help rankings more.
Where a webpage sits in the SERPs for a given keyword.
Keyword Research, Keyword Optimization
Finding relevant, efficient keywords to use for a website. Keyword research is a great way to find niches for your website to cater to, and important in generating traffic.
The process of creating new keywords by taking a simple, popular, relevant keyword and changing it into something new. This can be done by adding a prefix or suffix, pluralizing it. This helps add variety to content, to avoid keyword stuffing, while helping a page appear relevant.
Example: You might start with the word joy, then alter it to get words like joyful, joyous, enjoy, enjoys, enjoying, enjoyable, etc.
Keywords with little competition, which match to a specific niche. They are phrases that are usually 3-4 words long.
Example: Pizza is a vague keyword. Is the user trying to order pizza, learn about pizza history, find pictures of pizza, or what? Gluten free pizza crust recipe, meanwhile, is a long-tail keyword. It’s obvious what this person is searching for, and therefore, it’s easier to create content that aligns with search intent.
LSI keywords, Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords
LSI is a process used by search engines to learn more about what words relate to specific niches. LSI keywords are terms that are often used alongside a primary keyword and are highly related to the same topic. They help algorithms determine relevance and quality.
Example: LSI keywords for baking are baking recipes, baking from scratch, easy baking, etc.
Primary Keyword, Head Keyword, Main Keyword
The keyword with the most use on a page. Primary keywords have the highest potential to generate organic traffic.
Supporting keywords that are niche-specific and receive a lower search volume—usually, these are long-tail and LSI keywords.
These keywords are used together with primary keywords, because trying to optimize a website for only one keyword can lead to unintentional keyword stuffing and keyword cannibalization.
Foundational keywords for a website. Seed keywords are left alone, unmodified. Long-tail keywords are created by making changes to seed keywords—additional words are added to make a more specific phrase
Don’t stop here! Spark Visibility has every term you need to know for SEO. Check out Part 3—User Behaviour Definitions, or Part 5—Link Definitions. Or, you can download the ultimate SEO glossary as a PDF.
In SEO, link building is essential. Beginner optimizers and SEO pros alike will find this glossary useful, because it covers 36 terms related to links and their creation, maintenance, and optimization.
A form of internal link. A path to a file that works no matter where that file is located or where the link is placed.
A website may recommend the offerings of “affiliates”—organizations in the same niche—by using affiliate links. These links direct the user to the affiliate’s product or service, and the website that has the link can receive a commission if their link generates a sale for this outside party. This is known as affiliate marketing, and generally has no affect on SEO.
Text with a link attached. Good anchor text will include keywords that are relevant to its link.
Backlink, Citation, External Link
A link from website to another. It shows that the website being linked to is trustworthy enough to get the attention and recommendation of others, and therefore, is one of the most important parts of increasing a page’s ranking. Good backlinks come from and link to pages that have a lot of authority and relevance.
See inbound link, outbound link
Backlink Profile, Link Profile
The collection of links that direct to a website. A link profile can be good or bad, depending on the quality of links that make it up. It is important to regularly review a website’s link profile.
Blog Commenting – White Hat
The process of finding a post that is niche-relevant, then leaving a comment on it linking to your own site. This used to be a valuable link-building technique, but due to overuse and manipulation, blog comment sections are now structured to prevent posted links from affecting SEO. When done right, blog commenting is more about relationship building than gaining SEO results.
Also see Blog Commenting – Black Hat
Blogger Outreach, Email Outreach, Link Outreach
Looking for opportunities to create external links, then reaching out to the sites you found to get the links created. Blogger outreach should only be done with relevant websites that have a low amount of outbound links.
Examples: Finding a broken link that can be replaced with your content, guest writing for a blog, being cited in a relevant post, receiving a shout-out link for mentioning a website in your content.
Brand Mention Link Building
Searching for mentions of your organization or brand online that do not include links and requesting the relevant/trustworthy sites to provide backlinks. Known to have a high ROI. Google Alerts can help you find these link opportunities.
Broken Link, Dead Link
A non-operational link. Dead links are bad for SEO and can cause problems when indexing.
Examples: Outdated links (pointing to a deleted, moved, or renamed page), or links with errors in their URLs.
The process of creating backlinks between multiple domains owned by the same organization. If the domains are relevant, this practice is acceptable.
Deep Linking, Deep Link
Deep links are directed to pages other than a website’s homepage—therefore, they point to pages that are “deep” in a site’s link structure. They are also known as links within apps that direct to another place within the app, as opposed to its homepage or an external website.
Deep linking is done in a variety of situations, including within pillar posts to point to topic clusters. Deep linking is important because it gives webpages more link equity and relevance, and it gives users more to interact with during a visit. Learn more about deep linking.
A Google tool that tells the search engine to disregard certain backlinks while ranking a site. This is beneficial if there are backlinks to a site from irrelevant and low-quality sources—for example, if a site is a victim of Google bowling or similar tactics.
Dofollow is the default state of a link, where link equity is passed along to the link’s source, and crawlers can follow the link to index more pages.
Editorial Link, Natural Link, Organic Link
Links that are not paid or asked for. They exist in the body of a page’s content and are treated as citations—marking the linked source as trustworthy, relevant, and valuable. This is the optimal inbound link.
Linking to an organization then contacting them, requesting a reciprocated backlink.
Exact Match Anchor Text
Anchor text that is topically relevant to the page it links to.
See anchor text.
The process of creating an infographic, searching for websites that cover topics similar to the infographic’s content, and asking them to use the infographic in exchange for an inbound link.
A clickable aspect of a website that brings the user to a new page or new part of a page. Links can be in the form of text or images.
Inbound Link, Inlink, Incoming Link
A form of external link. Links on other websites that, once clicked, bring the user to your website.
A link on a site that points to another page on the same site, as opposed to an external link.
There are two types of internal links: absolute and relative links. Search engines do not prefer one over the other, as they convert relative links into absolute links automatically. However, relative links tend to load faster, which does benefit SEO
Link Authority, Backlink Authority, Link Equity, Link Juice, Link Value
The power that a link has, that can change a website’s ranking. When sites with good authority link to others, their positive status gets passed along. The more links a page has, the less link equity gets passed on with each link.
Link Building, Link Acquisition, Link building
The process of creating more backlinks for a website, in order to give the site more authority and increase visibility in SERPs.
Link Buying, Paid Links
Buying links in order to receive link equity. This purchase can be made with money, or through a trade of goods and services, or by offering free things in exchange for reviews. When done wrong, it is a black-hat technique and can result in a penalty.
A link building strategy, where the goal is to amass a variety of different kinds of links: links from different kinds of sites, with different domain extensions, with variating anchor text.
It is undecided within the SEO community if link diversity is beneficial compared to other link building practices. It does lead to a natural, healthy link profile, which is good.
A website’s total number of backlinks.
The process of finding lost links and getting them fixed. This is a very valuable activity, with high ROI.
Link Relevancy, Relevant Link
When one website links to another, they should contain related content. Link relevancy describes how connected the sites are to each other, as well as how reliable the website giving the link is to its niche.
The process where, over time, links become non-functional. This happens because the source they are pointing to gets removed/renamed/moved. Rot can occur to external and internal links. Keeping up a site’s link profile and performing regular audits helps prevent pages full of rotted links.
How fast a website gains new external links. Unnatural link velocity will harm a website’s SEO, as it indicates the possibility of black-hat practices.
A link has been lost when a crawler cannot follow it to its source. This can happen because the link has been removed, the linking page doesn’t exist anymore, has been (301) redirected, or is no longer indexed.
When one site links to another, and the second site does not link back to the first. Nonreciprocal links are more credible to search engines, as they are more likely to be “honest,” and not the product of collusion.
Outbound Link, Outlink, Outgoing Link
A form of external link. Links on your website that, once clicked, bring the user to a different website.
See backlink, inbound link
When multiple sites agree to backlink to each other. When done with sites that are irrelevant or low-quality, this can harm SEO. It makes it harder for crawlers to determine a site’s subject matter, and can damage the site’s link profile.
A form of internal link. A path that traces from one location to another, and which stops working if either files are moved.
Additional links displayed underneath a search engine listing for a website. These links give the user quicker access to the website’s subpages.
A link that appears everywhere on a website—on every page. Usually, they can be found in the header or footer of a site.
Don’t stop here! Spark Visibility has every term you need to know for SEO. Check out Part 4—Keyword Terms, or Part 6—Content Types. Or, you can download the ultimate SEO glossary as a PDF.
Content—where would the internet be without it? This SEO glossary covers 18 definitions that describe types of content, content creation methods, and more, so you can know the possibilities when it comes to creating for your website.
10x Content, 10X Content, “10x It”
Optimized content. The process for creating 10x content involves researching what content is the most popular in a niche, then finding a way to create content that is “10 times” better.
There are a variety of ways to make improved content, but it’s important to do it in ways that will benefit users. For instance, does “better” mean an article with more information, or something that’s quick and easier to read?
Links that are made to spark curiosity and be irresistible to users. They often greatly exaggerate the importance of content they point to, or they create a “mystery” that must be solved by reading the content. Clickbait can increase CTR, but if the content does not live up to the link’s hype, it can negatively impact user experience. Many people are getting tired of clickbait. It’s important to make sure that, if you use this tactic, you do it correctly, in an applicable niche.
Examples: “You Life Will Change When You Learn These Mind-Blowing 10 ____ Hacks!” Will anyone’s life really change? This example is sensationalist, and the content of the article is unlikely to live up to the hype.
“The Only ____ Guide You’ll Ever Need” This example works, so long as the content covers all its bases, and provides enough information that the reader wouldn’t need to seek answers elsewhere. The point of successful clickbait is that it is founded in truth.
Everything that is on a website and accessible to its users. Creating “good” content is very important to SEO.
Examples: Content includes text, images, videos, animations, audio clips, etc. You’re reading content right now!
Content Management System (CMS)
A website that helps creators in the generation, upkeep, and release of content. CMSs can streamline the process of making and maintaining a website, but offer less control compared to building one from scratch. SEO plugins try to provide more power over optimization.
Examples: There are a variety of CMSs out there. Popular examples include WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix.
Content Marketing (CM)
The process of creating and sharing quality content (be it audio or visual) in order to gain attention and authority.
Example: Spark Visibility’s blog is an example of CM. So are business social media accounts. Any content an organization produces that is not explicitly an advertisement can likely be considered content marketing.
Relevant, extensive, quality content that usually takes the centre place in a website’s link structure. It is the most important content on the site.
Content that your organization did not make, but which is related to your industry and would be valuable to the people accessing your website. This important content is compiled and made accessible on your website, while properly citing sources.
Duplicate content is a large amount of content that appears on multiple webpages—be it on the same site or across multiple sources. When crawlers find duplicate content, they have trouble ranking it, because there is no way to decide which page is more relevant compared to the other copies.
However, there are a variety of times where it is necessary to have duplicate content. For example, a website might be optimized to have versions of the same pages for users in different geographical locations. It is also common to have a mobile version of a website’s pages. In these scenarios, it is important to designate one page as the original, and to use canonical tags to designate the other pages as copies—or, the copies can be given “noindex” tags.
Guest Blogging, Guest Posting
When an individual creates content (a blog post, quote, graphic design, or otherwise) for a website in exchange for a backlink. This works successfully when the contributor’s website it related to the site they are creating for. Otherwise, algorithms can have trouble determining both sites’ subject matter and relevance.
Example: There are guest posts on Spark Visibility’s blog. This is one of them!
Lead Magnet, Ethical Bribe, Gated Content
Important content that a user (a lead) wants to access, but which is only provided to people who input their contact information into the website for the webmaster to use. Using content access to entice users generates a higher conversion rate for the website.
Example: In exchange for a user’s email, websites often offer content like e-books, downloads of infographics, and free trials of programs.
Valuable content that is likely to be linked to by other websites. Linkbait must be original, captivating, high-quality, and purposeful. It is difficult to create, but it is great for SEO.
Example: Linkbait can vary in form, depending on industry. Some examples include definitive guides, simple explanations of complicated industry topics, and humorous and visually-optimized content.
Scraped Content, Scraping, Content Scraping, Web Scraping – White Hat
It is possible to use a web scraper program to gather data from a variety of sites (usually the titles and meta descriptions of competitors’ content.) For white hat SEO, the data is used as a resource to find new niches and build links. It is not actually put into the world as content.
Also see Scraped Content, Scraping, Content Scraping, Web Scraping – Black Hat
Skyscraping, Skyscraper Technique
The process of researching content, finding a source that has a high amount of backlinks (like a master post or round-up post,) creating content that is of higher quality than what is currently being linked to, and asking the site’s owner to link to this better content instead.
Example: On a master post of vegan breakfast recipes, there could be a link to a muffin recipe that is broken and needs to be replaced. Or, the current recipe has a lot of reviews saying that the muffins are too dry and crumbly. Creating a recipe for delicious, moist vegan muffins and asking for a link would be an example of skyscraping.
A syndication method where content is posted on a variety of social media sites in order to reach more people.
Syndicated Content, Article Syndication, Content Syndication
Syndicated content has originally been published on one site, but is then republished elsewhere, in order to expand reach and build links. It is a form of duplicate content, though, so it should not be done without careful consideration. The other site has the potential to rank higher than your original post, if it has more authority.
Thin Content, Shallow Content
Thin content is generally useless to users. Thin content should be edited to become valuable, deleted, or made inaccessible to users and crawlers.
Example: Content can be thin for multiple reasons: it could be auto-generated content, duplicate content, content with little information in it, plagiarized content, a doorway page, etc.
User-Generated Content (UGC)
Content that is made by the users of a website. This content usually includes long-tail keywords and related links. It can be an important resource in the search for new keywords and content ideas
Example: User comments, reviews/testimonials, social media posts, blog posts, and videos.
Your Money or Your Life Content (YMYL)
A descriptive term for content that can strongly/directly affect users’ wellbeing. If this content is unreliable, misleading, or otherwise low-quality, it can severely impact users’ quality of life, so search engines take it very seriously and hold it to stricter quality guidelines.
Examples: financial advice, medical advice, topics related to government and law, news and current events, shopping information, information on groups (a specific religion, ethnicity, race, orientation, etc.)
Don’t stop here! Spark Visibility has every term you need to know for SEO. Check out Part 5—Link Definitions, or Part 7—Webpage and Website Types. Or, you can download the ultimate SEO glossary as a PDF.
Webpage and Website Types
SEO techniques involve a lot of webpage and website terminology. This glossary from Spark Visibility covers 17 types of websites and webpages—essential knowledge for the new webmaster and SEO pro alike.
Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP)
A page that has been created and coded specifically so that it can load quickly on mobile. This benefits UX and helps page rankings, but it’s a trade-off—certain coding aspects, like some HTML tags and many CSS elements, can’t be used. Learn more about accelerated mobile pages.
A highly trustworthy site. It has a high reputation among its industry and users. Backlinks from authority sites are highly valuable.
A page with no links. With nowhere else to go from here, crawlers and users will leave the site. These pages can be fixed by adding a breadcrumb trail, navigational header/footer links, or links to take users to the next step of a conversion.
A page with excellent content and no affiliation, which is linked to by a variety of high-authority related sites. Expert documents help search engines determine the relevancy of other sites in the same niche.
Examples: guides, e-books, informative PDFs, etc.
Hub, Master Post
A page that compiles a variety of links to other sites that relate to a specific niche.
Also see Curated Content
The main page of a website, which exists at the top of the site’s link hierarchy. It can be accessed through a URL containing only the website’s domain name. It is the most popular page of the website.
Interstitial, Interstitial Ad
A promotional page that is wedged between normal website pages, or that shows up on an app. Interstitials disrupt the user experience by decreasing accessibility, especially when sites have interstitials on mobile or directly after their SERP link—in these cases, having interstitials can even be penalized.
Example: Pop ups that completely take up a screen and need to be closed in order to access the intended content.
The first page to pop up after a user clicks on a link. Landing pages are important to marketing campaigns, and are made to have a high conversion rate
In some circles, landing page may be treated synonymously with splash page. However, landing pages tend to be more goal-oriented, whereas splash pages are used more often as loading screens and can get in the way of a positive user experience.
A copy of a pre-existing site that is given its own URL, in situations where the original site’s server cannot handle the amount of traffic the site receives. Mirror sites help maintain a good user experience, and are usually made to serve distinct, different geographical locations.
A page that is not connected to any others. With no links pointing to where it is, an orphan page is hidden from crawlers and users, and is completely pointless.
Webpages with content that covers a broad topic. Pillar pages contain a large amount of information, which is organized into subtopics—each section of the page pertains to a different aspect of the topic and contains internal links that lead to even more in-depth content.
Splash Page, Splash Screen, Loading Screen
A splash page is created in Flash and appears at the beginning of a user’s visit. It contains minimal content—usually, a logo, animation, or simple message. It is often used as a loading screen for a program. While making a user wait for content is sub-optimal, a well-made splash page makes the best of this inconvenience.
Flash content cannot be read by search engines, so it is important to avoid it if it is not necessary. Splash pages can be made without Flash, if the page is for a non-loading purpose. For example, splash pages can let users select their preferred language on a multilingual site.
Webpages that focus on a very specific topic that is related to the subject of a pillar page.
The first part of a website that a user sees—that is, everything that shows up on the first page and is visible before scrolling. Think of it like the content on the front page of a newspaper, above “the fold.” Content in this area needs to be eye-catching and interesting to users.
The owner of a website, who controls its content and performs maintenance.
Part of a website. An HTML document that can connect to the web, be read by a browser, then be delivered to a user.
One or multiple webpages which share a domain.
Don’t stop here! Spark Visibility has every term you need to know for SEO. Check out Part 6— Content Types, or Part 8—Website Structure and Coding Terms. Or, you can download the ultimate SEO glossary as a PDF.
Website Structure and Coding Terms
SEOs need to know how sites are made and how they work. Optimizing a website requires a lot of knowledge, so this glossary compiles 44 technical terms that will help you on your search engine optimization journey.
Alternative Text, Alt Text, Alt Tag, Alt Description
Text that describes an image. When an image is unable to load, the alt text will appear instead. It is also used by screen-reading tools to describe the image to visually impaired users. Search engine bots will crawl alt text to learn what the image is about, and they will use this information when ranking the page.
Breadcrumb Trail, Breadcrumb Navigation
A page navigation technique that benefits user experience and the crawling process. Links are displayed in a horizontal line, tracing back the path from the homepage.
Example: Home > Shop > Kids > Clothes > Hats
Browser Error Code, 4xx or 5xx Status Code
Status codes that indicate something has gone wrong while processing the request.
Examples 4xx status codes indicate a client error, meaning that the browser sent an erroneous request the server can’t complete, such as 403 – forbidden, 404 – not found, 410 – gone, and 429 – too many requests. 5xx status codes indicate a server error, including 500 – internal server error, 501 – not implemented, 503 – service unavailable, and 550 – permission denied.
Also see Status Code
Also see Redirect
The act of designating a webpage as the original/master version by using a canonical tag. This prevents duplicate content from being indexed in a way that could harm your rankings. It is recommended that every webpage has a self-referencing canonical tag on it.
Canonical Tag, Canonical URL
An HTML tag that designates one page as canon, or original, and its duplicates as copies. Search engines will treat the page and its duplicates all as one distinct piece. Canonical tags are placed in the head element of a page.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
A coding language that alters the look of an HTML document. CSS code affects the appearance of a website by controlling the size, colour, and other aspects of page elements. CSS can implement animations, interactive elements, etc.
Content Silo, SEO Silo, Silo Web Structure
A way of organizing content within a website. Related content is brought together into categories and subcategories, then linked internally in a structure that helps both humans and crawlers navigate the website.
Conversion Funnel, Funnel
A way of structuring a website to clearly lead users to perform a specific action (ie, to create a conversion.) It consists of a series of funnel pages or funnel steps, which lead them to a goal page, where they complete the conversion.
The act of removing a page from a search engine’s index by added a “noindex” tag. This is done so that it will not show in the SERPs. It’s beneficial for pages that are important, but aren’t meant to rank well, such as login pages and pages thanking users for a purchase.
Where a website is located on a network. Usually shown as a domain name or IP address.
Learn more about domains.
The name of a website. The human version of an IP address—instead of a string of numbers that has no meaning to users, a domain name is made of text, and can be optimized for SEO. A domain name can be typed into an internet browser to access the website.
A URL that can change, due to a page’s interactive elements and input from a database or server.
A way that information is encoded in a computer file so that it may be stored and accessed later. The type of file format selected will affect the results of accessing the information.
Examples: Image file formats include JPEG, which balances file size and quality; PNG, which maintains background transparency; SVG, which works best for logos. Learn more about image file formats.
Heading Tag, Page Heading
A method of formatting text, making it bigger and bolder than regular text. Heading tags help structure the content of a page and designate the importance of a heading.
There are multiple heading tags. Commonly, they range from H1 to H6, with H1 being most important (it should only be used once on a page, for its title.) Headings should be used in order—do not use H6, then H4 and H5.
A coding element that separates pages written in different languages. This helps users access the right content within a multilingual site, based on what language they used in their query.
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
A coding language. HTML creates the basic structure of a website.
HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP)
A common transfer protocol. It is unsecure, unlike HTTPS, and is not preferred by search engines.
HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)
A common transfer protocol. Compared to HTTP, search engines prefer this protocol. Websites with HTTPS have their rankings boosted and are able to access additional data about referral traffic.
To get HTTPS, a webmaster has to obtain an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate.
A unique name given to an image file, made up of a text name and a suffix indicating its format. Descriptive filenames help crawlers know what users are being shown a picture of.
Example: for an image of a plate of spaghetti on a recipe site, “spaghetti-recipe-dinner-homemade-meal.jpg” is a much better name than a random string of text, or simply “image.jpg”
Information that is added to the HTML image tag to improve accessibility. When a user hovers their cursor over an image, the image title will appear. It does not direct affect SEO.
A unique “name” for a computer. Made up of numbers separated by periods—this format is a language that computers use to communicate.
Code that makes the website perform actions.
A way of loading an image where, as it loads, a blurry version of the picture is shown. This is opposed to having nothing shown until the image is completely loaded. Lazy loading is better for SEO, as it makes for a better user experience.
The information contained within a website’s meta tags. Metadata is used by crawlers and browsers to better understand a website, to provide it to the right users.
Meta Description, Meta Description Tag, Meta Desc.
A tag that says what content can be found within a site. Search engines will include this information in search result snippets, in the form of gray text beneath the title tag. A good meta description summarizes a page’s content and is 150-300 characters long.
If there is no meta description tag, a search engine will pick text from the site to display itself.
Meta Keywords, Meta Keyword Tag
An obsolete meta tag. Meta keywords used to tell crawlers what keywords are relevant for a webpage, but due to the high amount of manipulation, they are no longer used to rank pages. Too many websites listed meta keywords that were not relevant to their content. Using meta keywords today is more likely to cause negative effects than anything else.
Meta Title, Meta Title Tag
A tag embedded in a page’s header, above the meta description. It shows up in SERPs and can be keyword optimized to improve rankings.
Meta Tags, Meta Directives
HTML tags that instruct search engines on how a webpage should be used
The exact location of a file within a website’s structure. Sometimes, the path is displayed in a page’s URL, but other times, the URL is “rewritten” for efficiency. Learn more about paths.
Protocol, Transfer Protocol
Part of a URL that dictates how information is sent and received over the internet: how messages are formatted and transmitted, and how browsers and servers should react to them once they are received.
Examples: HTTP, HTTPS, DNS, FTP
Redirect, 3xx Status Code
A status code indicating that further action needs to occur to complete the request.
Example: 301 redirect is a permanent movement from one page to another. When changing a page’s URL, this is essential to maintain good SEO and UX. Almost all page authority is transferred, and user experience is not impeded. Other 3xx status codes include 302 – temporarily moved, 304 – not modified, 307 – temporary redirect, 308 – permanent redirect
Also see Status Code
Also see Browser Error Code
Robots Meta Tag
A tag that controls how spiders will crawl and index a webpage. Automatically, pages are tagged “index, follow,” so that spiders can index a page and follow its links to other places.
Robots.txt, Robots Exclusion Standard
A text file that tells search engine bots how to process the pages of a website. Pages can be set as unimportant or off-limits, ensuring that only the best content on a site is considered by search engines.
A user-friendly URL that has been optimized for the most SEO benefits.
Sitemap, Site Map
Definition: A “map” of a website, listing all its pages and showing how they connect and can be accessed. When submitted to a search engine, a sitemap helps search engine bots with the crawling and indexing process.
Source code is text written in a programming language that sets out commands for a computer to translate and execute, creating a computer program. Source code is the basis of a website.
Static URL, Static Link
The URL of a webpage that never changes. Like the page’s content, the URL remains the same. Static URLs are easy to remember and have a high CTR. Static URLs are preferred by search engines because they stay the same every time the page loads.
Status Code, HTTP Status Code, HTTP Response Status Code
A server’s response to a browser’s request for a webpage. Crawlers use status codes to gauge website health, so solving the problems of error codes helps a site’s ranking.
Examples: 1xx status codes show that the request has been understood by the server but is taking some time to be processed. 2xx status codes are successful.
Also see Redirect
Also see Browser Error Code
The use of code to give information about the meaning of each element of a webpage, and to separate this explanatory content from visual aspects of the elements. Semantic markup improves accessibility by giving more information to search engine bots about what content is on a page and why it is important. Semantic tags describe content to search engines.
Examples: alt-text for images, summary descriptions for articles.
The words that are most common in a specific language (such as a, but, and, the, so, etc.) Search engines ignore stop words, as long as removing them doesn’t decrease readability, they should be deleted from anchor text, URLs, etc.
Structured Data, Structured Data Markup, Schema, Schema Markup
A form of microdata that, when added to the HTML of a webpage, helps search engines take information from a webpage and provide it to users as a rich snippet on the SERPs
Structured data can be found at Schema.org.
Title Tag, Page Title
A page’s title shows up as a clickable link in SERPs for a specific webpage. It is the part of the page’s SERP snippet that searchers will see first and is very important to optimize. A title can be set by adding a title tag in the page’s HTML source code.
An ideal title is less than 487px for the mobile and 568px for desktop. If it exceeds this amount, search engines won’t be able to properly use it.
Universal Resource Locator, Web Address (URL)
A one-of-a-kind string of text that can be entered into a browser to access a website. A URL is made up of a protocol, domain name, and path.
Website Architecture, Website Structure, Site Structure
The way pages of a website are connected to each other and to outside sources through links.
Don’t stop here! Spark Visibility has every term you need to know for SEO. Check out Part 7—Webpage and Website Types, or Part 9—Black Hat Techniques. Or, you can download the ultimate SEO glossary as a PDF.
Black Hat Techniques
Black Hat SEO is bad, period. Its methods completely disregard UX and attempt to cheat search engines to receive high rankings. This glossary covers 22 popular black hat terms and tactics, so you can better understand what SEO to avoid.
Article Spinning, Content Spinning
Rewriting the same article but using synonyms or slightly altering the content sequence, possibly with the help of a computer program. The goal of content spinning is to create multiple pages that can link back to their source and are just different enough that search engine won’t recognize them as duplicates.
Bait and Switch, Code Swapping
A black hat method of increasing a page’s rankings. A page is optimized for SEO until it reaches a high spot in the SERPs, then has its content replaced.
Black Hat SEO
SEO that is negative and scamming in nature. It completely disregards UX and attempts to cheat search engines to receive high rankings. Black hat techniques go against search engine guidelines, and algorithms are constantly being updated to recognize these attempts. Because of this, Black hat takes a lot of effort and quickly gets recognized, resulting in heavy penalties.
The process of finding a post that is niche-relevant, then leaving a comment on it linking to your own site. Blog commenting was overused in the past, and many webmasters performed it without caring about link relevancy. This led to comment section links automatically being tagged as nofollows in most circumstances. In addition, search engines have learned to penalize irrelevant links, and have adjusted link equity to decrease as a page’s link volume increases.
Also see Blog Commenting – White Hat
Churn and Burn SEO, Rank n’ Bank SEO
The practice of spamming a website with unnatural links so that it experiences a drastic (but temporary) increase in rankings. The website is then meant to make revenue until it gets penalized, and its creator shuts it down.
Comment Spam, Link Spam, Blog Spam
When links to a website are posted all over the web: in the comment sections of blogs, forums, and so on. This is an attempt to increase page rank, but links posted in these areas are usually nofollow links anyway, and this method can be penalized if caught.
Plagiarized content. Whether a portion of a different source’s content has been stolen, or whole pages have, it’s still copied content. Sometimes, the content will be rearranged and slightly altered to help it seem original. Copied content is like duplicate content, but it tends to be viewed as more malicious.
Doorway Page, Bridge Page, Entry Page, Gateway Page, Jump Page, Portal Page
A low-quality page filled with ads. It is created to rank well for specific keywords so that users will be tricked into visiting it, so the page can quickly generate revenue.
Forbidden Words, Poison Words, Filter Words
Words that negatively impact SEO. Poison words are even worse to have in prominent places like URLs and titles.
Example: There is no “real” list of poison words, but terms that are related to bad SEO practices, hate speech, gambling, and vulgarity, as well as otherwise suspicious phrasing, are best avoided.
Creating a variety of bad-quality, irrelevant websites, and using them to backlink to a competitor’s site, trying to get the competitor penalized.
If you end up on the receiving end of this practice, it can be fixed by using “disavow links.”
Keyword Stuffing, Keyword Spam
Using a keyword or keywords multiple times, to the point where it is unnatural and decreases the quality of content. Keyword stuffing tries to trick crawlers into thinking that the content is highly relevant. These days, search engines can detect this practice and punish webpages for it.
Example: “Do you love cute, fluffy dogs? Then visit our fluffy dog site right now. Our cute dogs are the fluffiest dogs, so cute and fluffy—you will love our cute dogs. See fluffy cute dogs now!”
How fasts links and/or their anchor text change. A very fast link churn rate on a page or site can indicate black hat activity and may be penalized.
A rapid increase in the amount of links a page or site has. While it’s possible to have a legitimate link burst, such activity is often a red flag for search engines and may indicate black hat activity.
Also see Link Velocity
Maximizing the number of external links to a site while minimizing the links it has to other sources (or marking most of them as “nofollow.”) This is meant to pass more link equity and traffic along to the websites that ARE linked to, while refraining from sharing it with anyone else. Link hoarding is frowned upon and it can be just as bad for SEO as having too many outgoing links on a site.
Link Farm, Free for All (FFA)
A cluster of sites that are usually managed by automated programs. The sites all link to each other, or to a single website that is paying for the attention. It can result in a heavy penalty.
Manual Action, Google Manual Action Penalty
A very serious consequence of bad SEO practices. Manual action is taken when a human reviewer judges a site and decides that it opposes Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. This penalty results in a massive rank reduction, or removal from SERPs altogether. If a website receives a manual action, not everything is lost—the owner can always fix the problems and apply for reconsideration.
Scraped Content, Scraping, Content Scraping, Web Scraping – Black Hat
It is possible to use a web scraper program to gather data from a variety of sites (usually the titles and meta descriptions of competitors’ content.) In black hat SEO, this information is posted online as scraped content. Competitors then have to compete against it. Scraped content is blatant, unauthorized duplicate content.
Also see Scraped Content, Scraping, Content Scraping, Web Scraping – White Hat
Search Engine Bomb, Google Bomb, Googlewashing
The process of manipulating SERPs so that a query will receive an unrelated result—usually done for the purposes of humour and satire.
Example: Often, search engine bombs have political motivation. In the summer of 2018, searching the word “idiot” provided images of American President Donald Trump. In Winter 2018 and Summer 2019, searching the Hindu and Urdu word for beggar, “bhikhari,” provided images of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Search Engine Spam, Search Engine Poisoning, Spamdexing, Search Spam, Webspam
Manipulating the search engine index to get an irrelevant page to shoot up in rankings for a keyword. Many Black hat SEO techniques are forms of search spam.
The use of software to make multiple sites and a lot of content, to rank for a variety of low competition long-tail keywords. The content is filled with adverting, and the sites are used to generate more backlinks and collect user contact information, and otherwise generate revenue.
Manipulative or fake outbound links. They are often used by untrustworthy SEO services, who spam and scrape instead of focusing on optimizing content and creating valuable backlinks. Unnatural links can lead to a Google manual action.
Website Cloaking, Page Cloaking, IP Cloaking
Where the content shown to human users is different from what is shown to search engine bots. The content that is shown changes depending on a user’s IP address.
Don’t stop here! Spark Visibility has every term you need to know for SEO. If you haven’t yet, check out the rest of our glossaries, starting at Part 1— General Terminology. Or, you can download the ultimate SEO glossary as a PDF.