Search Engine Optimization. You know it matters, but it’s a complex subject. Let’s simplify things by defining some of the most common SEO terms that come up.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is the overarching name for designing your site with an understanding of how search engines work, so you can keep your business at the top of the search rankings. For more clarification about what SEO really means, check Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
A SERP is a Search Engine Results Page. SERPs also show promoted content. You might have noticed that if you search for a product, the top result often says “Ad” next to it in small letters.
PageRank (PR) is a calculation Google uses to determine your site’s value as a resource. The more people link back to your page, the more your PR climbs. While PR is only one aspect of how Google determines your page’s overall rank, it does matter.
The index is the database a search engine keeps of all the pages it was able to find. If it can’t find yours, you’re not in the index, and you won’t rank. A site map can be helpful. This is basically a blueprint of your entire site, written right into the code. It tells Google about all the pages that are there, not just the ones most frequently visited or linked to.
Keywords are the search terms that your potential leads are using. Long tail keywords are specific phrases like “how to build a cabin.” Usually, searches like these indicate that a lead has already done some research, and knows exactly what they’re looking for: you!
Knowing these terms is one big piece of the SEO puzzle– but it’s equally important to do your research to see which ones are not only bringing people to your site, but bringing in revenue as well.
When you skim down a list of search results, you’re likely to read the snippets of text underneath each one, in an effort to determine which would be most useful. These are known as the meta descriptions. It’s important to know what short and long tail keywords potential leads are most likely to search, because your meta description is more likely to be shown if it contains those exact terms.
NAP stands for Name Address Phone, and this is a big advantage for local businesses! Search engines are using GIS data to customize search results in sophisticated ways that prioritize businesses near the searcher. Try adding the words “near me” to a search and you’ll see what we mean!
Picture a newspaper: you know exactly what “above the fold” means in that context, don’t you? On a website, it refers to everything you can see when you land on the page, without scrolling down. You want to ensure that the most important information leads should know about you is visible immediately. Analytics can tell us a lot about how visitors engage with our sites, including how long they remain on the page. Most search engines have a minimum time spent on page that they deem significant. If you have a high bounce rate, meaning that people leave quickly, the content you’ve put above the fold probably isn’t what leads are looking for.
Internal links link to another page on your site. Outbound links connect users to a page on an external site. Inbound links, the kind most business owners covet, link to you from a third-party site, and up your rankings. If you’ve ever been reading a web page and spotted a hyperlink to information you might be interested in, the highlighted words you clicked on were the Anchor Text. It anchors your interest, as well as the link. Anchor text helps search engines figure out what a link is about, and can help the linked page rise in the search rankings even if the Anchor Text doesn’t appear anywhere on the page.
You’re probably familiar with the increasing importance of images on a site…but what if the image doesn’t load, or the person exploring the page has impaired vision? Alt Text is a concise description of the image, and appears where the image would be. It’s read aloud to anyone using a screen reader, the same way close-captioning will show song lyrics for the hearing impaired.
There will always be people who try to cheat the system to boost their rankings. Black Hat SEO refers to optimization techniques that violate a search engine’s terms of service. One example is keyword stuffing, cramming a huge number of keywords into the metadata of a page, typically the title tags.
Spamming promotional links in the comments sections of other sites is another common Black Hat tactic. Inserting a nofollow tag in the code for your site’s comments will prevent people from “link dropping,” which in turn keeps Google from suspecting you of cooperating with Black Hat practices.
All this aside, there are times when you might not want search engines crawling all of your pages! As one example, if you maintain any sort of customer database as part of your site, that needs to remain private. Robots.txt tells engines which of your pages are private. There are serious legal consequences for anyone who knowingly violates this protection.
While SEO-related terms might look technical at first glance, they’re actually fairly easy to understand. Knowing the basics will make life much easier when you’re discussing SEO strategy for your business’s site. Have a term we need to add to this post? Let us know in the comments section below.