The printable SEO dictionary

From meta descriptions to indexing, this dictionary is the beginners guide to SEO abbreviations and confusing (sounding) terminology. 


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What does it mean? Example Why is it important?
Alt tags The description of an image on a website in HTML code. “man sitting on chair” Used for search engines. Will also display if the image doesn’t load correctly.

Anchor text Visible text linking to another web page (usually underlined) find out more about the company It tells the viewer and search engines where the link will take them.
Backlink A link to your website, on another website The Guardian has wrote an article about you and puts a link to your website within their text. Backlinks from credible websites show search engines that your website is trustworthy.
Content Anything that is on a website can be referred to as content Text, images, videos, links etc Lots of relevant content (particularly text) is great for SEO.
CSS (Stands for: Cascading Stylesheet) The code that determines the style of everything on your website. The colour of your text, your fonts etc All websites need stylesheets, but many platforms (Wordpress / Shopify / Squarespace etc) have them built into existing themes.
Favicon A little image in a box that appears next to a web address. Usually a company’s logo A visual way of identifying a website (useful when you have lots of tabs open in your browser).
H1 tag Stands for: Heading one. This is the main heading on your web page. You might see it in HTML form looking like this: <h1>Your page title</h1> Search engines check for your Heading 1 (or H1 tag) and recognises that as the subject of your page.
H2 / H3 / H4 tags Headings two, three and four - these are your subheadings. <h2></h2> Less important for search engines, but great for directing your website visitor around your page.
HTML (Stands for: Hypertext markup language). This is code that structures your website. <h1><h2> etc are HTML code. All websites need it, but many platforms have it built into their system, so you don’t need to be a developer to use it on your website.
Keyword Word(s) that describe your business, products or services An electrician in London might go for: “Electrician” “London Electrican” “Garys electrics” etc Your keywords should be what a potential customer would search for to find you on Google.
Keyword stuffing Using too many keywords in an unnatural way. “A unique website which sells unique products to unique customers” Don’t do it! It’s a very old way to do SEO, and it’s against Google’s policy and could get your website blacklisted.
Organic link A link to your website from another website, that occurred without your input. Someone thought your content was great and recommended it to their audience As well as being a good way to get more people visiting your website, organic links are great for making your website look high quality to Google.
P tag P stands for paragraph. But this just means normal text (i.e. not a heading or subheading) A sentence, paragraph or piece of text. When indexing, Google takes a look at what’s contained in your H1 tag and p tag of your home page)
Page Title The title Google uses to list each of your website pages. Google any website - the page title is blue. This should contain your keywords and your customers search terms.
SEM Search Engine Marketing - similar to SEO but usually involves more marketing techniques Google Adwords is usually included with SEM. It’s used to attract higher rankings on search engines such as Google.
SEO Search Engine Optimisation - how your website is structured for Google (and Yahoo etc) Keywords More people will visit your website / buy your products / services. So it can help your business grow.
URL Your website address www.[].com You’re not going to get very far without a URL!
Alexa traffic rank Alexa is a marketing company owned by Amazon. The traffic rank shows how popular any website is (with 1 being the most popular) Google ranks 1 (in the UK) It’s not hugely important, or reliable, but it gives you an impression of how your website compares to your competitors. It’s also a free tool that anyone can download.
Black hat SEO Dodgy SEO practises that are against search engine policies Keyword stuffing If you are caught using these techniques your website can be blacklisted (removed from Google)
Canonical URL HTML code to let search engines know to prioritise this page over others on your website that has the same content <link rel="canonical" href=“[your website’]“> Let’s say you have two versions of exactly the same web page, you need to tell Google which version to list. So you’d use the HTML code in the <head> section of the page you don’t want to appear, directing Google to the correct page.
HTTP (Stands for Hypertext transfer protocol) Basically, a request for a website to a computer http:// It’s not important to understand this for SEO. But if you want to find out more, check out the wordy description on Wikipedia!
HTTPS (Stands for Hypertext transfer protocol secure) Basically, a secure request for a website to a computer https:// The ’S’ means that data transferred is encrypted and secure. It means the website has a SSL certificate. All websites that deal with transactions should have this (sometimes browsers also show a padlock)
Indexing The order a search engine displays content Search results You can ask Google to index your website when you’ve updated pages or links
Keyword density The amount of keywords on a page and / or website. Number count of keywords Not enough keywords and they won’t stand out to search engines, too many and you could be ‘keyword stuffing’
Link building Getting other people to link to your website Working with a PR agency Links to your website sends a signal to Google that your website is quality / trusted
Long tail keywords A short sentence of more descriptive keywords, targeted to a specific audience “Electrician based in London” “top rated electricians in London” “etc Highly targeted keywords usually generate more conversions but less traffic than broad keywords.
Meta description A description of the website written in HTML code for the purposes of search engines Google any website - the meta description is below the title and URL. Search engines read this and your page title first, so your keywords should be within this.
Meta Keywords Used to tell search engines about the topic of the page keywords stuffed in HTML code Search engines ignore these - so they’re no longer important.
Page rank The position your website appears in Google’s search results Position 1.2 (first page second result) It’s the algorithm created by Google to determine its indexing
Robot.txt A file embedded to your website which tells search engine ‘robots’ which areas they can access /robots.txt It stops robots accessing sensitive information on your website (such as customer accounts). Most platforms will generate this for you.
Sitemap This shows search engines how your website is structured /sitemap.xml It allows search engines to navigate your website and understand the relevance of each page.
Web Crawling A search engine crawls around the internet to constantly update its index A web crawler or a spider You can ask Google to crawl your website using Google Search Console - it will tell you if there were any errors found, and when it was last indexed.
White hat SEO Best practise SEO techniques, as suggested by Google Using keywords properly /creating great content Follow Google’s rules and best practises and you’re much more likely to get great results.

Looking to learn more? Check out Webopedia - it's a great tool for explaining techy terminology.

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SEOEmily WestonSEO, PDF