What you need to know to break through the SEO jargon

With terms like “white hat” and “black hat,” it’s easy to see why SEO has gotten a rap as some type of internet sorcery that only the highly trained can master. But once you take a closer look, SEO isn’t actually as difficult as it seems at first glance.

Keep Your “SEO Dictionary” Handy

The first step to breaking down the mystery that often shrouds SEO is to understand the terms. People who know SEO tend to throw around a lot of jargon, and that can make this space of the marketing world seem well beyond reach if you don’t have the slightest clue what they’re talking about. However, these terms aren’t really difficult to master. In fact, once you get a basic understanding of what they are and what they mean, you’ll likely find that they make a lot of sense.

With that in mind, here’s our list of 11 terms you need to know to get started:

  1. SEO: Let’s start with the very basics here. SEO, short for search engine optimization, encompasses any activities to increase your ranking in search engine results in order to drive more traffic to your website.
  2. SERP: Here’s another simple one for you — SERP is just an acronym for search engine results page.
  3. PageRank (PR): Google assigns every website a value between 0 and 10 (with 10 being the best), this value is known as your PageRank (though it often appears as PR). Your PageRank value is based on factors like link popularity and trust that Google uses to determine where your website ranks on its search engine results page (SERP).
  4. Domain Authority: A score between 0 and 100 (with 100 being the best) that indicates how well your website is likely to rank in Google’s search results. Unlike PageRank, your Domain Authority score is not determined based on one of Google’s own algorithms. The Domain Authority algorithm also takes into account more factors than does the PageRank algorithm.
  5. Spider (aka Bot, Crawler): A specialized tool search engines use to find and add web pages to their indexes.
  6. Keyword: The word or phrases people type into a search engine. You should aim to use your target keywords in places like your page titles, descriptions, headers, content, image names and URLs; however, you should only do this where it makes sense. Which leads us to…
  7. Keyword Stuffing: Excessive or unnatural use of keywords.
  8. Long Tail Keyword: A longer, more specific keyword that is more targeted to your audience than shorter, broader keywords (think shoes for running a marathon vs. shoes).
  9. Link Building: Actively cultivating incoming links to your website. Having links pointing back to your website not only drives traffic directly, but it also helps improve your popularity, which contributes to your PageRank and Domain Authority scores.
  10. White Hat: SEO techniques that follow best practice guidelines and do not try to manipulate search engines.
  11. Black Hat: SEO techniques that do not follow best practice guidelines and attempt to trick search engines to unjustly boost results.

Stop Worrying About Changes & Start Focusing on Best Practices

Hold on a second… Don’t things in the SEO world change all the time? We’re always hearing about algorithm updates from Google like Penguin and Panda — don’t those affect SEO? Well, yes, but you shouldn’t let these updates consume your efforts.

If you’re using black hat SEO tactics, any updates can have a serious impact on your ranking and do a lot to wipe out everything on which you’ve worked. In short, those who try to get ahead quickly by using scrupulous tactics will end up getting hurt in the end, which is one of many reasons you should stay away from that dark side of SEO.

On the other hand, if you’re in the white hat camp, you really have nothing to worry about. As long as your efforts are on the up-and-up and you’re following best practices, you can stay the course long term. Algorithm updates might have a slight impact here and there, but your trajectory over time will remain positive.

While there’s a lot that will change over time, there’s also a lot that will remain the same, and these mainstays are things that just make sense. For example, think about keywords. If you’re a retailer that caters to marathon runners, you’ll likely have the term “running a marathon” and several related keywords (and long tail keywords) throughout your site. You’ll likely place these keywords naturally because they make sense with what you’re talking about (how could you write a page with tips for marathon training without using several relevant keywords?) and that will help your SEO. You can then take this natural work a step further by evaluating targeted keywords and seeing if there are any ways to rephrase things (naturally, of course, to avoid keyword stuffing) that might help boost your use of keywords for which people search. Activities like that will continue to be helpful in the SEO realm regardless of what update Google sends out next.

So there you have it: Once you break down what SEO is really all about and understand the key terms behind it, it’s not so much mystical as it is natural activities to better cater to your target audience. And despite regular changes from search engines, as long as you keep on your white hat, your efforts will not be null.

Curious how your site is performing? Our solution includes a SEO Audit tool to compare your site to competitors. Contact us and we’d be happy to run an Audit so you know how your pages stack up.