SEO 101: Day-to-day definitions


SEO 101: Day-to-day definitions

SEO can be a difficult concept to really wrap your head around. Sure, most people know that SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”, but after that, SEO can be somewhat of a mystery. SEO is the simple activity of ensuring a website can be found in search engines for words and phrases relevant to what the site is offering. In many ways, it’s kind of like quality control for websites. But, if there was ever an industry that was little understood by outsiders, it’s SEO.

That’s why our goal here at 451 is never to alienate a client when talking about SEO. We understand fully that these topics can be difficult to understand. We like it when our clients and coworkers understand what we do and why we do it! Sometimes it’s very easy for us to forget that others aren’t as familiar with the terms of SEO as we are, and we just assume that a client will understand. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of terms and metrics that get thrown around in SEO, and made it super easy to understand what they are, and why they matter.

301 Redirect – a 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to the other. A good example of this is if someone doesn’t know you moved, you want to make sure all your mail is forwarded to your new place!

404 Page – A URL that no longer exists.

“Above The Fold” – Originally used to refer to the upper half of a newspaper page, the term came to mean “the part of the page visible without scrolling”.

ALT Text/Tag or Attribute – is a word or phrase that can be inserted as an attribute in an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) document to tell Web site viewers the nature or contents of an image. The alt text appears in a blank box that would normally contain the image.

Algorithm update – Google frequently updates qualifications for how to rank a web page. Sometime the updates are small, and sometimes they completely change the way digital marketers do business.

Backlinks or inbound links – The number of times outside websites link to your website

Bounce rate – the percentage of visitors to a website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.

Canonical URL – the search engine friendly URL that you want the search engines to treat as authoritative.

CMS – Stands for Content Management System. It typically has two major components: A content management application (CMA) – the front-end user interface that allows a user, even with limited expertise, to add, modify and remove content from a Web site without the intervention of a webmaster.

CTR – “Click Through Rate” – A ratio showing how often people who see your ad end up clicking it. CTR can be used to gauge how well your keywords or ads are performing.

Ghost spam – The vast majority of spam is this type. It’s called ghost spam because they never actually access your site. Spammers send data through a “measurement protocol”, which just sends data to the Google Analytics server saying they stopped by.

Impression – A link URL records an impression when it appears in a search result for a user. The user doesn’t necessarily need to actually scroll by the link for the impression to count, they just have to open the SERP page, on which it is located. That’s why we don’t generally use this as a KPI.

Indexed Pages – Google crawlers are constantly visiting pages on the Internet (crawling) and reading their content. Based on the content Google builds an internal index, which is basically a data structure mapping from keywords to pages containing them (very simplified). Also when the crawler discovers hyperlinks, it will follow them and repeat the process on linked pages. This process happens all the time on thousands of servers.

Internal links – a link from one page to another page on the same domain. We’re talking about regular, text links from one page on your website to another.

Keyword – A term or phrase that people search for on the internet. SEO experts do research to figure out which keywords people are searching that best fit the content on your site.

Keyword research – In SEO, we frequently do research on which keywords are going to potentially drive the most traffic to our sites. We do this research with a handful of online tools like Google’s keyword planner, SEMRush, and SpyFu, as well as analyzing actual search engine results.

Knowledge graph – This is the box on the right hand side of your screen when you search a person, a company, or a place. Google draws information from a variety of sites to create this knowledge graph to make searching more user friendly and quicker.

Low hanging fruit query – A keyword that ranks in position 3.1-20 that we can generally create content or social media engagement around in order to increase its position higher in the SERPs.

Meta Description – The description of the webpage you see in the search engine page under the link to the page.

Mobilgeddon – A term in the digital marketing world that refers to Google’s push towards mobile friendliness as a ranking factor designed to boost mobile friendly pages in the SERPs.

Moz – Moz is a Software as a Service company that provides SEO Marketers tools to help them find success in the SEO world. They have a variety of free and subscription based tools. Here at 451, we regularly use Moz to check the status of domains and web pages.

Moz Domain Authority – Domain Authority is Moz’s calculated metric for how well a given domain is likely to rank in Google’s search results. It is based off data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, MozRank and MozTrust scores, and dozens of other factors.

Moz Page Authority – Moz’s calculated metric for how well a given webpage is likely to rank in’s search results. It is based off of the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, mozRank, mozTrust, and dozens more.

Moz Spam Score – Moz has developed a list of “flags” that your site can have that Google may use to penalize your site and have it rank lower in the SERPS. Most of the time they are easy fixes and you can be on your way to moving up the ranks!

Nofollow, Noindex – Use a nofollow or a noindex when you don’t want certain webpages to be crawled or indexed.
Page depth – Page depth is the average number of pages that your visitors view during a single session.

RankBrain – is a part of Google’s ranking algorithm. It’s artificial intelligence that learns what people are searching for and what they want out of their search. You can read more about that here.

Referral spam – Referrals denote where a visitor to your site came from. Spammers send fake traffic to your site to see if they can get the Webmaster to click back to their site. Most often getting paid by advertisers for views on the page. We try to block as much of this traffic from reports as possible.

Robots.txt – This is a text file webmasters create to instruct robots (typically search engine robots) how to crawl and index pages on their website. You can block certain sections of your site from being crawled and/or indexed.

Screaming frog – a tool used to crawl a website to see what search engine crawlers see when indexing your site.

SERP – Short for Search Engine Results Page. On the first page of the SERPs, you can find 10 organic sites, occasionally paid ads, some google shopping options depending on what you search.

Sessions – Think of this as visits to your website. A group of interactions one user takes within a given time frame on your website. Meaning whatever a user does on your website (e.g. browses pages, downloads resources, purchases products) before they leave equals one session.

Spider (or crawler) – a generic term for any program used to automatically discover and scan websites by following links from one webpage to another.

Unbranded search traffic – This just means that people are accessing your site through keyword searches not involving your brand name.

Valid hostname – We have to analyze hostnames of referrals to ensure they are legitimate. Even if a hostname of a referrer says “,” it is fake. Hostnames should be all of your websites that have your GA code on it.

Visit duration – The amount of time that any visitor spends on a site. We aren’t usually interested in individual visit durations, but rather in the average visit duration for all visitors to a site.

XML Sitemap v HTML Sitemap – XML sitemap helps Google and other search engines crawl the site, whereas HTML sitemaps are usually used to help a visitor on your site have a better experience and to find a specific webpage.


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