Meta Titles / Title Tags
The title tag / meta title should be an accurate and concise description of a page’s content. The title tag is usually used on search engine results pages (SERPs) to show preview snippets and is one of the key factors in producing high search engine rankings.
Importance: Search engines use title tags to gather information about your website. This makes them one of the most important on-page SEO elements, secondary only to overall content. They appear highlighted on SERPs when a user performs a search using included keywords. They are also often used as link anchor text when the page is being shared, particularly on social media websites.
The meta description is an HTML attribute which provides a compelling description of a web page’s content. It appears below the clickable link on SERPs.
Importance: Although the meta description tag bears little importance to the search engine ranking of your website, it is very important to user click-through rates. A concise, yet compelling meta description allows users to determine your page’s relevance to their search query. The description should optimally be between 150-160 characters in order to appear more or less in full on the SERPs preview snippets.
The meta keyword tag is one of several meta tags you can include in the header section of your web page. In theory, it provides search engines with information about your page that isn’t visible on the page itself.
Importance: The debate on whether or not meta keywords should be used is a lively one, but the general consensus is that they are no longer relevant. Google announced in 2009 that they didn’t use meta keywords in web ranking and yahoo made a similar announcement that same year.
Backlinks, also known as incoming links, refer to links on other websites which refer back to your website. In simplified terms, search engines interpret backlinks as recommendations for your website.
Importance: Backlinks are an important ranking signal, despite the fact that search engine’s like google sometimes try to convince people otherwise. It is important to seek out backlinks that would benefit you whether it helped your ranking or not. To determine what these might be, keep in mind backlinks are great for creating referral traffic, enhancing branding, building authority, building relationships, as well as general promotion.
Domain authority is a scoring system developed by Moz which is calculated by combining link metrics such as linking root domains, number of total links, MozRank, MozTrust, etc. into a single score. It predicts how well a website will rank in search results and can be used to compare one website to another or a website to itself over time.
Importance: Domain authority is an important ranking measure as it is calculated using so many metrics. This makes it highly representative of overall SEO as it is hard to influence using one or two methods, rather, it can only be improved by working on the overall progression and content quality of your website.
Trustflow is a metric developed by Majestic SEO that predicts how trustworthy a page is based on how pertinent or trustworthy the sites that link to it are. In other words, it allows you to determine whether a site is relevant within its industry.
Importance: The trustflow metric has become increasingly important as Google has progressively updated its algorithm to be more representational of topical relevance.
Hyperlinks, also known as links, are a word, phrase or image that can be clicked to jump directly to a new document or a new section within the current document.
Importance: Hyperlinks are the basis of the World Wide Web as they are what allows us to navigate it. Without hyperlinks, search engines would have no way of connecting the user to the information they’re seeking.
Anchor text is the visible word or phrase, often shown in blue and underlined, of a hyperlink.
Importance: Anchor text is important to determining the content and relevance of the link. Search engine’s use the anchor text to help determine the trustworthiness of said link, therefore, well thought out anchor text is a key factor to SEO.
Penguin is the name for a Google algorithm update released in 2012 aimed at minimizing the effect of poor quality links to websites. If a site is deemed to have somehow manipulated search results by purchasing or otherwise acquiring illegitimate links Penguin can take away large amounts of their search traffic.
Importance: The Penguin update is important as it serves as a reminder/enforcer of quality content over SEO shortcuts and tricks. When ranking, penguin is able to prioritize the quality of the sites linking to your website rather than quantity.
Panda is the name of another one of Google’s algorithm updates. This update, and all of its following iterations, aims to penalize websites with weak content and reward those with high quality content.
Importance: Panda updates are important to keep track of as each new iteration affects sites in a slightly different way and can significantly alter a website’s ranking. However, if you are producing good quality content you shouldn’t be affected.
The Hummingbird update was released by Google in 2013 and unlike Penguin and Panda, it was not only a change in the search algorithm, but rather a replacement. The goal of this change was for Google to understand the meaning of your search query rather then provide results based on the keywords within it.
Importance: By delivering more specific relevant results to search queries on the results page Google hopes to keep you on their website for a few extra moments optimizing their advertising, therefore revenue.
Algorithms are what search engines use to sort through and rank webpages. Each search engine uses a unique algorithm which they update/change regularly in order to improve search result relevance and accuracy.
Importance: Being aware of and understanding search engine algorithms and their updates is important as it allows you to configure and edit your webpage and its contents to optimize its ranking on SERPs.
SERP stands for search engine results page and is the page displayed when a user types a query into a search engine.
Importance: SERPs are important as the results they display decide which websites will receive the most traffic for each query. If your website does not appear in the top results it is unlikely to be found by users. The format of your SERP entry is also very important as it will help users decide whether or not your website is the most relevant to their query.
Rich Snippet/Rich Card
Rich snippets and rich cards are used by Google as a way of presenting search results in a more meaningful and appropriate way to search users. They serve as a kind of “sneak preview” of search results and include extra bits of information Google deems appropriate to the searcher’s query.
Importance: Although rich snippets and rich cards don’t directly affect your website’s ranking, they can provide indirect benefits as the structured data markup they use make your page more indexable and can provide more accurate metadata.
Schema, or schema.org, was a revolutionary collaboration between top search engines to create a specific vocabulary of tags that can be added to your page’s HTML. This system makes its easier to categorize and identify important information on your website and improves the way it’s represented in SERPs.
Importance: Schema is important as it represents a quick and easy way to improve your SERP and CTR (click through rate). Schema markup allows specific information such as ratings, events, etc to be displayed appropriately in your listing making it more attractive to searchers.
Link schemes are any manipulated links intended to alter a webpage’s ranking in search results. Link schemes consist of unnatural links and come in many forms (link farm exchanges, email link requests, paid links, link bait, etc), but all are in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Importance: Link building is an important and valued practice in SEO, however, it is also a timely one. Link schemes can be very tempting but it is important to recognize and avoid them as they are easily recognized by search engine algorithms and can lead to substantial penalties.
Keyword density is a measure of how often a keyword appears in relation to the length of text in which it is included. For example if a keyword were to appear five times in a hundred word text the keyword density would be measured at 5%.
Importance: Although sometimes promoted as a way of proving a page’s relevancy, keyword density can be far more hurtful than helpful. Search engine’s tend to view keyword density as an indicator of search engine spam and often downgrade websites in which a keyword appears too often.
H-tag, or heading tags, help search engine’s grasp the main topics of your page. Although previously given significant weight for SEO, headings are being given less value by search engine’s as content and new markup systems, such as schema, gain priority.
Importance: Although no longer a huge factor in SERP rankings, h-tags still serve to help organize and define your content. Using a clear heading structure that includes your top keyword for each page is easy, will not hurt your SEO, and helps your visitors as well.
The alt tag is meant to provide alternative information about an image for people who have chosen to disable images in their web browsers or cannot see them for some other reason. It describes the image as well as the function of the image on the page (for example if the image serves as a button).
Importance: The alt tag provides screen readers with the necessary information to describe the image to the blind and visually impaired. It also helps for SEO as Google places a high value on alt text to determine what the image is, as well as the subject of surrounding text.
The number of impressions refers to the number of times a webpage or advertisement shows up on a SERP.
Importance: Impressions are an important measure of how many people your webpage or advertisement is reaching. It is also important to note that impressions can be shown under the fold (user must scroll down to view them) which gives a false sense of numbers reached. Google Adwords allows you to exclude these results which helps form a more accurate picture.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator which is a subset of the Uniform Resource Identifier and is most commonly known as your web address.
Importance: URLs, and their legibility, are one of the first impressions your website makes on users and can determine whether or not they get clicked.
An XML site map is a list of your website’s URLs that you submit to search engines.
Importance: This list makes it easier for search engine’s to locate specific pages of your website as well as to isolate preferred URLs in order to avoid duplicate pages showing up in search results.
The robots.txt file is one of the key ways you can help direct a search engine to where it can and cannot go on your website.
Importance: When a search engine encounters a domain for the first time the robots.txt file determines which URLs on that site can be indexed. This allows you to request search engines to avoid certain pages and directories completely and spend more time evaluating the website content you deem more important/appropriate.
CMS stands for content management system which is any program such as WordPress, Squarespace, etc. which allow websites and content to be created without in-depth knowledge of coding skills.
A favicon is an icon associated with a URL that is displayed most often next to the website address in the browser’s address bar or next to a website title in a tab.
Importance: Favicons may not have any direct SEO benefits, but they do help indirectly. Favicons aid in brand recognition and credibility. When no favicon is assigned to a website a blank document icon is used in its place which users tend to deem less professional.
Above the Fold
Above the fold refers to the portion of the page that is visible to the user without scrolling when the page first loads.
Importance: In SEO, working towards having your webpage show up “above the fold” on the SERP is important as it is proven most users will click on one of the first few visible links. Because of this, being above the fold leads to substantially better traffic then being positioned even just one spot below the fold.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO, also often referred to as ‘organic SEO,’ is a strategy targeted at the human audience that employs techniques all in compliance with search engine policies and regulations.
Importance: Generally considered as the only true option for improving a website’s online presence for the long term by focusing on content, relevant keywords, link building, titles and meta-data.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO employs a number of techniques, often cited as aggressive and unethical, that aim to increase a webpage’s search engine ranking. Examples include, but are not limited to: invisible text, link farming, unrelated keywords, page swapping, doorway pages, etc..
Importance: Black hat SEO techniques are in violation of search engine policies and regulations and their use can lead to major penalties including a website being banned entirely. Black hat SEO is, therefore, counterproductive and not recommended.
Keywords are terms targeted in paid search or organic search campaigns. They are defined by marketers, SEOs and search professionals when creating an SEO strategy.
Long-tail keywords are keywords, or perhaps a better term, key phrases, that usually comprise of three words or more and are very specific.
Importance: While long-tail keywords might receive less search traffic, the specific nature of the query leads to a higher conversion rate. This makes them very valuable when working on optimizing your website.
A canonical URL allows you to direct search engine’s to your preferred version of similar content or product URLs.
Importance: Often certain products or content on your website can be accessed by multiple URLs or websites. This is viewed by search engines as duplicate content and is hurtful to your ranking. By creating a canonical URL you avoid the duplicate content issue search engine’s run into when they are unsure which content is most appropriate.
Cloaking is an SEO technique which presents different content or URLs to search engines then to user’s browsers.
Importance: Cloaking can be used to enhance user experience, but it can also be used to deceive search engines and manipulate search engine rankings. This later use is referred to as ‘evil cloaking.’ It is important to be very careful when using cloaking techniques in order to make sure they are not accidentally perceived as ‘evil cloaking’ by search bots.
The Cache refers to the stored data about your site saved by search engines. A ‘snapshot’ of your page is indexed in order to speed up searches.
Importance: Whenever SEO changes are made to a website they are not applied until the site has been re-cached by search engines. It is therefore important to verify your cache on google to know when your changes have been implemented.
Cookie or cookies refers to stored information on a user’s computer that is saved by a website in order to remember user preferences.
Importance: Cookies allow web pages to be customized to optimize user experience, but due to privacy concerns, a significant percentage of users browse the internet with cookies turned off or blocked completely.
IP Address stands for Internet Protocol Address which identifies initiating devices and internet destinations allowing two-way communication over a network.
Importance: IP addresses can be shared or dedicated depending on how a website’s hosting is set up. Although a dedicated IP address does not directly boost SEO, it does do so indirectly as it increases website loading speeds which is a criteria for certain search engines.
Crawl depth refers to the extent to which a search engine indexes pages within a website.
Importance: Crawl depth is important to keep in mind when working on a website’s structure because the further down a website’s hierarchy a page is, the less likely it will have a high SERP ranking. It is therefore important to organize content in such a way that relevant and/or newer content can be easily accessed by search bots.
Crawl frequency refers to the amount of time between search engine’s visits to your website.
Importance: SEO changes will not be implemented until a search engine has crawled your site again after the change has been made. It is therefore important to be aware of this frequency in order to accurately deduce whether or not SEO changes made are effective.
Crawl rate refers to how many requests per second a search bot makes to your site while it is crawling it.
Importance: Frequent visits by crawlers is a sign that informs you that your site appeals to a search engine. Crawl rate is most easily improved through quality content and sitemaps.
Response time, also referred to as site speed, refers to how quickly your webpage loads. It is affected by traffic, resources used by each page, server software and your hosting setup.
Importance: Response time is important not only because users are impatient and prefer sites that load quickly, but also because is is a criteria used by many search engine’s when determining ranking.
Pogo sticking refers to when a user performs a search, clicks on a result, then quickly realizes it isn’t relevant so returns to the SERP.
Importance: Pogo Sticking is used by search engine’s to determine how useful the content of a website is to users and can occur when too strong a focus is placed on broad keywords. A high incidence of pogo sticking is harmful to your search rankings.
CTR stands for Click-Through-Rate and represents the percentage of people who click on your website (CTR = clicks/impressions).
Importance: CTR is an important metric used by search engines to determine whether or not your website is relevant to users. If more people are clicking and engaging with your search result than your competitor’s google will take this into account when determining your ranking.
Dead links, also known as broken links, often lead to a 404 error page. These are frustrating to users and disliked by search engine spiders.
Importance: Identifying and fixing (redirecting) dead or broken links is an important part of general website maintenance. It not only improves user experience, it also avoids having search engine spiders hit ‘dead ends’ which they interpret as poor site usability.
A deep link is a hypertext link that links to a specific page on a website other then its home page.
Importance: Deep links allow users direct access to internal pages on your website and therefore to the information most relevant to their search query. This helps improve your website’s bounce rate as users are less likely to click away if they’ve found what they’re looking for.
A dedicated server refers to the excuse use of a computer in a network reserved for fulfilling the needs of the network. It is often rented from a web hosting business.
Importance: Using a dedicated server is important if your site receives high traffic volume as it will maintain the timeliness of your website. It also allows you more control, higher power and increased security.
Disavow is a tool provided by Google that allows you to tell Google not to count certain links from external sites.
Importance: The disavow tool can be used if links have been purchased or if a website has participated in a bad link network and is afraid of being in violation of Google’s policies, therefore subject to penalties.
DNS stands for Domain Name System and refers to a directory of domain names that are translated to IP addresses. In essence, DNS can be thought of as the internet’s equivalent of a phonebook.
Importance: The domain name system is necessary because domain names are used by users, whereas computers and machines navigate the web using IP addresses. The DNS syncs these two navigation systems.
Your website’s domain (or domain name) is the address used by internet users.
Importance: Your domain name is an important factor for SEO purposes as well as for social media marketing. Think of your domain name as the foundation of your online brand as it will be the way you are found, remembered and shared.
Duplicate content exists both onsite and offsite. Onsite duplicate content refers to two or more pages on your website that display the same, or extremely similar, content whereas offsite duplicate content refers to content from one site being displayed on other websites.
Importance: Being aware of and avoiding duplicate content is important because unique content is rewarded by search engines. When search engines encounter lots of similar content they are unsure which URL should take priority and neither ends up performing well.
External links are hyperlinks that link any one domain to another domain that doesn’t exist on the initial domain (from one website to another).
Importance: External links are often considered the most important factor when trying to improve search engine rankings. This idea comes from the fact that external links are extremely hard to manipulate and are therefore a good metric for search engine’s to determine the quality of your site.
Internal links are hyperlinks that connect pages on your website to other pages on your website.
Importance: Internal links help establish your website’s architecture. This improves user navigation as well as spider crawling increasing the overall quality and usability of your site.