If you are like most business owners or marketing managers for a local business, you likely are very interested in understanding and optimizing your businesses web presence. However, you might feel uncomfortable about your sites’ web presence or even speaking with your web developer or marketing consultant as it’s hard to know about all complicated terms involved in building and maintaining a website. Most of what the web developer says goes in one ear and out the other, and you do not know what to make of it. We have created this reference guide of local SEO terms to help you understand the meanings of the many complicated terms used.
Algorithm – A formula created by search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo used to decide how to rank a website on a search engine results page. Search engine algorithms are constantly changing to reflect the information on the web and the search engine’s idea of how to best represent that information in search results.
Alt Tag or Alt Attribute – Essentially a text version of an image, this allows you to describe an image being used in a website so that it may be indexed by spiders and subsequently appear in search results. This underused tactic of using keywords in the Alt Tag can drive traffic to your website by helping images show up in search results under relevant queries.
Anchor Text – The clickable text in a hyperlink, this text will typically appear underlined and in blue when used on a page. Search engines can use a culmination of all anchor text linking to a specific website to determine what that website is about.
Authority – A score assigned to a website by a search engine to determine factors such as credibility, relevancy, trust, and power a site has. To determine authority, search engines will often look at factors such as inbound links, site age, quality content, and page traffic.
Black Hat Local SEO – Unethical techniques used by some webmasters in order to trick a search engine, often resulting in serious web consequences, being blacklisted, if caught. Some examples of black hat tactics include hiding content, meta keyword stuffing, creating doorway pages (that users are automatically redirected from), and link farming.
Bounce Rate – When a user leaves a site after viewing only one page. Common causes of a high bounce rate include site design or usability issues, irrelevant content, or even because the information was provided on the first page. In order to reduce your bounce rate, provide users with relevant and quality content that they will find useful on each page.
Broken Link – A link that does not lead to the desired end location either because of an incorrectly provided link or because a web page no longer exists. When a page has too many broken links, this indicates to a search engine that the content of the page and even the website is poor and decreases authority.
Canonical URL – An HTML tag placed on a web page and referring back to another webpage in which the content was taken from. This is valuable as it essentially tells a search engine that both pages should be considered as one without redirecting the viewer to another page. The value this provides for your website is in the fact that it tells search engines that content is duplicated without you being lowered in search rankings.
Citations - A citation is a reference to your business online, specifically to your name, address and phone number (NAP). Google uses them to determine the authority of your local business without requiring a link to your website.
Click Through Rate (CTR) - In pay per click terms, the CTR is the number of times someone has clicked on a paid search listing divided by the number of times someone has been shown a paid search listing. The formula for CTR = clicks / impressions.
Conversion Rate – The percentage of people who commit the intended action when landing on a page. For many sites, this will mean purchasing a product, subscribing for more information, or interacting with certain portions of a page.
Cost Per Click (CPC) – The price a site owner pays for every click the receive to their site. For paid search programs, such as Google AdWords, this number is typically variable and changes based on budget and factors such as it’s PageRank.
CSS – Short for Cascading Style Sheets, this is the part of a sites code that explains how elements of a site such a headers, body content, and comment sections should look.
Directory – A site devoted to showing business information and websites relevant to category searches. For a local business, appearing on the most prominent directories can be a great source of traffic to your website as well as drastically improve the customer conversion process.
Domain – The first part of your website address (e.g. signpost.com), most of the time the home page of your website. This site will typically show up more often than other portions of your site as it is the main page for your business. Registering your domain for years in advance will typically have a positive effect on your SEO as it shows commitment to your site.
E-Commerce Site – A site whose primary goal is the sale of goods electronically. An E-Commerce site will typically feature a high number of relatable products and allow for transactions to be placed over the web, reducing a businesses overhead costs and constraints provided by a brick and mortar such as labor and hours of operation.
Favicon – A 16 pixel by 16 pixel image that is displayed in the url bar of a website. The Favicon is typically a condensed version of a website’s logo that is displayed directly to the left of the website.
The Fold – The invisible line designating what is seen right away when a user views a web page versus what a user must scroll in order to see. One important thing to keep in mind for the fold is that this invisible line will change across devices, showing up in a different place when a user views your site on a mobile device compared to when they use a web browser.
Dofollow Link – This type of link has a special type of formatting in the HTML Markup that tells search engines that they can follow the link to the page it lands on. Dofollow links are valuable for your business website as they build authority and make it easier for search engines to find and understand the value in your site.
Googlebot - The web crawling bot for Google, this is what Google uses to index your site and factor it into Google’s algorithm.
Heading - The top line of your website, this introduces viewers to the page as well as what the page is about. The heading does not only show up on your page but also on the top of a viewers web browser and as the blue hyperlink text on a search engine result page.
HTML - Short for HyperText Markup Language, this is the standard markup language for most websites. HTML tags elements of the site in angled brackets <H1></H1> and makes your website crawlable by search engine bots, something other coding language like flash cannot do.
Impression - In search, an impression represents an opportunity for a potential viewer to click on a link to your website. Impressions build up when searchers come across your site in search results as well as when they view a link or ad to your site on another page or mobile app.
Indexing - The process by which a search engine bot will crawl the web to find information about your site to determine the quality of the page compared to other pages for relevant queries. Search engines tend to index the web every few weeks and a plethora of dofollow links and the creation of a sitemap.
Internal Link – A link from one page to another page within the same website. An example of an internal link would be this link to all of the blog posts I have written on the Signpost blog.
Keyword - A word or term that a user inputs to a search engine to find information related to that topic. You should optimize every page of your site for specific keywords that searchers would use in a search query to find information.
Landing Page – The page that a user lands on when clicking through on a search engine results page. The landing page is not necessarily the main page for your business but rather the page that has been optimized for the specific keyword search they used to find your site.
Link Building – The process of getting more inbound links to your site in order to boost ranking on a search engine results page. There are strategies which Google rewards in link building as well as strategies designed to trick Google which can result in punishment for your website if caught.
Long Tail Keyword – Optimizing your site for a number of keywords that are not frequently searched for but also do not have very much competition. The benefit in long tail keywording is that each search queries is less competitive and easier to get ranked highly on and the scale of doing so for a number of underutilized search term can add up to more traffic than targeting a few highly competitive keywords.
Meta-Tag – This description is written into the code of a page but does not actually appear on that page. A meta-tag will be less than 160 characters long and will show up under the hyperlink to a page on the search engine results page.
NAP – This stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. NAP is essential for local businesses and their search rankings as search engines like Google use this data to determine which businesses and websites to show based on geo-targeted searches. Make sure your NAP information is correct and consistent on your website and local directory listings.
Nofollow Link – Opposite of a dofollow link, this type of link will not send a search engine crawler through to the page it links to. If links to your page are nofollow, they will not build authority to your page online and also not have any effect on your search ranking.
Organic SEO - When a page is optimized without using a pay per click service to boost rankings, it has been optimized organically. Common strategies for organic SEO include keyword optimization, link building, and a strong directory presence.
PageRank - This is what Google uses when determining the importance of a web page. Factors determining PageRank include back-links to a web page as well as the quality of the landing page of a site.
Page Title – The name given to each individual page on your website, the page title will appear on the top of a user’s web browser. You should put the most relevant content at the beginning of a page title as it is more heavily weighted.
Paid SEO – Any marketing program in which you pay for a specific ranking for your website. For paid SEO, ranking is typically more indicative of the amount you are willing to pay per click as opposed to the quality and relevancy of your site.
Panda – A series of updates Google made to their algorithm, Panda updates were created to encourage quality relevant content over a plethora of mediocre content. The updates emphasize web developers to produce relevant content that users value over a number of pages filled with highly searched keywords.
Pay Per Click – This type of marketing is a form of payment metric used for search engine marketing. PPC and pay per action are the two most common metrics used on SEM programs as a method of tracking payment.
Pigeon – An update to the Google search algorithm, pigeon was implemented to improve the quality of search results for local business searches. The idea behind the pigeon update was to provide more localized search results while also limiting the number of options presented to searchers in a query.
Query – A phrase or group of keywords, this is what is typed into a search engine search bar and determines the results showed to a searcher.
Ranking Factor – Any factor that affects how a web page is ranked. Popular ranking factors include the number of inbound links a page has, how relevant the content displayed on the page is to the search query, and the amount of traffic a page has received from previous similar searches.
Redirect – Anything that causes the internet user to automatically be taken to a different page than the one submitted. There can be both positive and negative reasons a website has a redirect. A redirect can be a result of a new webpage address to help the user find the correct site, a doorway into a different page, along with a number of other things. Redirects tend to hurt a pages search ranking as bots can’t always follow the redirect.
Referrer – When a site provides a link to another site that a user follows to get to the second site, the initial site is known as the referrer.
Referrer String – Used to help a webmaster understand how users are finding a site, this is a piece of information sent from the user to the website showing how they navigated to and where they went on a website.
Robot.txt File – a file placed in the coding of a website, robot.txt is intended to control how a search engine bot crawls a website. When a robot.txt file is placed on a site, it limits and often disallows any crawling the bot can do on that site.
RSS Feed – Short for “Really Simple Syndication”, it allows a user to subscribe to new content and be notified when any content is produced on a site. RSS feeds are valuable for websites or blogs with followers who want to stay up-to-date with information produced on the site.
Search Engine Marketing – SEM for short, this is any form of marketing undertaking by a webmaster to increase the number and quality of leads driven to the site. Popular forms of search engine marketing include both organic and paid SEO, paid listings, and content directing users from one site to another.
Search Engine Optimization – The process of maximizing a websites stature and presentation in order to increase traffic to the site provided by search engines. SEO can be done both on-page, by including necessary keywords and making your site easily usable, as well as off-page, by listing your site on necessary directories and optimizing the meta-tags leading to the site.
Search Engine Results Page - SERP for short, this is the list of results produced for a certain search query. For Google, each page will typically consist of 10 results.
Sitemap – A document created by a webmaster and provided to search engines to simplify the site and make it easier for a search engine bot to crawl a site. Without a sitemap, search engine bots have to rely on dofollow links to crawl a site.
Spider – Also known as a crawler or a bot, this is a computer program that finds and indexes information on websites to ensure maximum relevancy in search queries.
Title Tag – The title tag is the title given to each individual web page on your site. The title tag is arguably the most important content on your website as it not only serves as the title for the page but also appears as the linked content on a search engine results page.
Traffic – The visitors to your website.
Traffic Rank – The ranking of how many visitors a site gets compared to all of the other sites on the web. The Alexa Score is the most common way of determining a site’s traffic rank.
URL – The web address of a page on your site. Each page has it’s own unique url which is tied together to the rest of the site through the website’s domain.
White Hat Local SEO – These are search engine optimization techniques which conform to and are rewarded by search engine guidelines. Examples of white hat SEO include producing quality content, doing keyword research and effectively implementing keywords, and title and meta-tags.
Zzzz – You snooze, you lose. The search engine algorithms constantly evolve, so make sure you keep up to date on local SEO via the Signpost blog.
301 Redirect – A permanent page redirect, the 301 redirect is used when a website switches addresses in order to help a user find the correct page. The 301 redirect is most useful for people who have a site saved to their browser or listed as a bookmark.
302 Redirect – A temporary page redirect, the 302 redirect is used when a page has been temporarily moved to another page. This is typical when a site is being constructed or re-done to allow users to go to another site in the meantime.