Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) are big topics and there’s a lot of terminology and acronyms to learn if you want to fully understand these important subjects. If you’re confused by your SERPs and your CPCs, or don’t know your breadcrumbs from your crawlers, then this guide is for you. It covers all of the most common terms and acronyms, and explains what each means.
0 – 9
A 301 redirect is a specific type of redirect created when a user tries to go to a link that no longer exists and tells search engines that the change is permanent. The redirect will automatically send the user to a different page that replaces the non-existent one.
Above the Fold
Above the fold content is that which you see first on a page, without having to scroll down. For the best results, above the fold content should be attention grabbing and make your user want to scroll or browse your website further.
Ad or Ads
Short for advert(s) and often used to describe digital adverts created for platforms such as Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising.
A group of digital adverts that have a general theme in common, such as a specific goal or wide group of products such as ladies clothes. Ad campaigns are made up of ad groups and ads.
Ad groups create more structure in an ad campaign by breaking down your ads into smaller groups. They are often used to divide a group of products into smaller categories (e.g. ladies clothes can be further split into dresses and trousers); or revolve around more niched keywords. Ad groups are made up of one or more ad.
The behind-the-scenes scoring that decides what a user will see on the front end of a website. Most commonly heard about in relation to search engines such as Google and social media platforms such as Facebook.
See alt text.
See alt text.
Alt text, also known as an alt attribute or alt tag, stands for alternative text. It is used in the code of a website to describe an image. This makes a page more readable for people with accessibility needs and helps Search Engines understand what is being shown on the page.
An SEO audit is used to analyse your website and identify areas for improvement related to search engine optimisation.
A link from another website to your website. Quality backlinks – also called inbound links – are often good for SEO because they drive traffic and indicate trust, especially when they are dofollow links.
Below the Fold
Content that is only seen once you start scrolling through a website. Any content above that is known as above the fold.
Black Hat SEO
SEO techniques that go against search engine guidance and are often unethical and unsustainable.
The frequency at which users land on a website page and then leave the site again without navigating to any other pages. A high bounce rate is usually a cause for concern as it indicates poor user engagement and/or experience.
Text that shows a user where they are in the hierarchy of a website. They are usually seen at the top of a page in the format Parent Page > Child Page > Current Page. As well as improving user experience by aiding navigation, it helps SEO by highlighting your site structure.
If a link leads to a page that doesn’t exist, is is a broken link. It can occur because a web address has been entered incorrectly, or because a page has been removed. If you delete a page, remember to create a redirect so that broken links don’t occur.
See ad campaign.
If you have multiple very similar pages, then the canonical URL is the most important. A canonical tag tells search engines which of these pages to index, helping you avoid penalisation for duplicate content.
Canonical URLs are often necessary for online stores where you can have multiple URLs for the same page due to product filtering.
Click Through Rate (CTR)
Lets you know the percentage of users that clicked through to your website from an advert compared to the number of users who saw your ad. Usually seen in your digital advertising stats.
Code or Coding
The behind-the-scenes building blocks of a website or app, helping the design and function of the site, and enabling integration with other platforms such as Google Analytics and Facebook. There are many different types of coding including CSS and HTML.
A conversion is a desired action that you want a user to take on your website or app. If a user has converted, they have done something that indicates interest in your product or service.
Conversions are often sales, but can be almost anything. Other common conversions are contact form submissions, downloads, or mailing list sign-ups.
Lets you know the percentage of users that took a desired action (see conversion) compared to the total number of users that visited your site.
The text that makes up your website and digital ads. Good copy targets specific keywords and appeals to both real people and search engines based on your target audience.
The process of writing copy.
Cost per Click (CPC)
In paid advertising, the cost per person that clicked through to your website from an advertisement. It is worked out by dividing the number of clicks by the total amount spent on ads within a defined period.
See cost per click.
Search engines crawl your website to analyse content and structure. This helps them to decide which search queries you should rank for, and to assess the quality of your site.
The programmes that search engines use to crawl your website to analyse content and structure.
Code that is used in the design of a website or app alongside HTML. It controls the overall look of the website, including size of text, background colour, and some animations. Stands for Cascading Style Sheets.
See click through rate.
See domain authority.
Your website needs to be indexed in order to be shown on search engines. A de-indexed page has been removed either temporarily or permanently, and you can also de-index your entire site (though this is usually not advisable). Pages might be de-indexed because they are duplicates, have thin content, or include gated content.
Users that come to your website by typing the URL directly into their browser, or by using a saved bookmark. I.e. they don’t use a search engine, click on an ad, or come via another site.
If lots of spam websites are linking to your site, it can damage your ranking on search engines. Disavowed links are those you have asked Google and other search engines to ignore when they assess your site for quality.
When a site links to you, the link is tagged as either dofollow or nofollow. Dofollow tells search engines that they can pass on the authority of the linking website to the linked website. If you receive dofollow links from enough quality websites, the ranking of your website increases. Dofollow links are usually used when a site has been referred to organically (i.e. not through paid or sponsored mentions).
Dofollow is usually the default tag for links.
Domain Authority (DA)
A measuring system created by Moz to approximate how well your site is viewed by Google. A higher domain authority means a better quality site, which equals (generally) better rankings on Google.
Content that is exactly the same, or very similar, to other content either elsewhere on your own site, or on other websites. It can come about for many reasons including plagiarism, two active versions of the same site (e.g. one with www. at the start of the URL and one without), or on a shop where search causes multiple URLs to be created for the same page.
Duplicate content is bad for SEO and can negatively affect your rankings. You can use canonical URLs, redirects, or plagiarism reporting to avoid issues.
E – F
Stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. It is a process of ensuring that the Google algorithm continues to recognise and reward good quality pages.
Learn more about E-A-T.
How a user interacts with your website, ads, or app. It can include lots of different actions such as link clicks, page scrolls, time spent on a page, and conversion actions.
A link from your website to a different website.
A type of search engine listing that displays a brief excerpt of text from a website. They usually appear at the very top of the results pages and answer a question that has been asked in search.
G – H
Stands for Google My Business, now officially called Google Business Profile but often referred to as GMB.
Google Business Profile
Formerly known as Google My Business (GMB). This is a free listing on Google for local businesses and is designed to give users a quick overview of your company. Google uses information across the web to put together an automated profile, but you can also claim and add information to your own Business Profile.
Read more about Google Business Profiles.
Google My Business
The former name for Google Business Profiles.
A header tag identifying the main heading of a page.
These tags ensure search engines can identify the main subject of your page and there should only ever be one H1 tag per page.
There are 6 header tags: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6. They are used to build the structure of a page by splitting content into headings and sub headings. H1 is the main header of the page and should only be used once. H2 and H3 are secondary titles and can be used multiple times. H4-H6 are usually not significant in SEO.
Code attribute that tells search engines what language is used on a page. The search engine can then serve results to the correct country/countries.
Code that is used in the design of a website or app alongside CSS. It controls the overall structure of a page. Stands for Hypertext Markup Language
A type of sitemap made to be read by humans rather than crawlers.
The unsecured version of HTTPS.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Seen at the start of all website addresses, this connects your website to the rest of the world so that anyone can view and interact with it. The secure part of the acronym ensures that data is transferred across an encrypted connection and is now vital, especially if you are taking payments or collecting personal data online.
An upgrade of HTTP that increases speed and efficiency.
When an ad is seen by a user, though not necessarily clicked on.
The process used by search engines to create a listing of your website pages so that they can be displayed in search results. A page that isn’t indexed cannot appear.
A link from your website to another page on your website. They are good for indicating website structure and engaging users further.
A word or phrase based around a topic. Whatever you type into a search engine when running a search is considered a keyword. A good knowledge of the keywords your target audience is using helps you create content on your website that will drive traffic.
Find out more about keywords.
If more than one page on your site is targeting the same keyword, then you are splitting search traffic and the pages are competing against each other in the search results. Because search engines sometimes can’t identify which is the most important page on your site for that keyword, they will often rank a completely different site higher than yours.
See keyword research.
When you search on a search engine, you are shown millions of results. Keyword rank is the ranking of each of these results, and the higher you rank, the closer you are to the top and the better for your site.
Identifying, through research and analysis, which keywords to target on each page of your website. This allows you to find out what keywords your ideal clients are using in search, how many people are searching for the same keyword, and how many competitors are also targeting that keyword. Once you have identified suitable keywords, you can create copy for your website around these.
Learn more about free keyword research.
Overusing keywords on a web page. While the use of a few keywords on a page is good, excessively repeating the same keyword, or using an excessive number of different keywords on one page is considered spammy and is bad for SEO. As a general rule, your content should read naturally.
Google’s database of information for answering questions in search. When you search for an answer on Google and are given it without having to go to another website, then you are seeing data from the Knowledge Graph. It includes elements like rich snippets.
The first page of a website the user arrives at. This is often the homepage, but could also be any other page on your website.
See link building.
The process of finding and gaining links to your website from external sites. This can either be through legitimate paid advertising, or through building a reputation and providing useful information on your website that other sites want to link back to (see natural links).
The more high quality links you have from your link building strategy, the better. But avoid asking spam and low-quality sites to link back to you.
Google Local Pack is information that appears at the top of the SERPs when a user is seeking local information. It often includes a map of the area, and several listings of businesses within that region that match the search query.
Search engine optimisation for businesses that offer services and products in a defined local area. It is similar to regular SEO but is more focused on optimising for visibility locally.
A type of keyword made up of lots of words rather than just one or two. These are usually more niche phrases with very specific user intent. You can target them to attract a smaller but more focused audience.
Data provided to search engines about your page. It includes meta descriptions and meta titles.
A short description that explains what can be found on your page. This is for search engines and is often seen as part of a search results listing. It doesn’t affect rank but can affect CTR.
See title tag.
The practice of prioritising the mobile design of your site over the desktop version. People are increasingly viewing websites on a mobile device, so your site should be fully functional, however users are viewing it.
Mobile first is now vital for SEO.
Ensuring that the look and function of your website works well on a mobile phone. This includes considerations such as a user-friendly layout, large enough text, and fast loading times.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Google and other search engines aim to better understand natural language (i.e. the way people really speak) so that they can understand user queries more effectively. NLP is what they use in order to do this.
Backlinks to your site that are gained organically. They aren’t paid for but are instead obtained by building a reputation and creating content that other sites want to link to in order to give their own writing more credibility.
See black hat SEO.
Jumping on a current news story and taking advantage of it in your own marketing because it has some relevance to your business. This can be helpful for boosting traffic and gaining notice.
See natural language processing.
When a site links to you, they can mark the link as either dofollow or nofollow. Nofollow tells search engines that they shouldn’t pass on the authority of the linking website to the linked website. This is usually used when a link has been paid for in some way, as required by Google’s guidelines.
Nofollow links can still be useful for SEO if they send traffic to your website.
Tells search engines not to index the page and therefore not to show it in search results. This is useful if you have pages with similar content, or if you have a page with gated content.
Search engine optimisation that is not done directly on your site. It can include working on your social media presence, obtaining backlinks, and receiving brand mentions in press.
Search engine optimisation done directly on your website. It can include copywriting, image optimisation, and technical SEO. Also known as On-Page SEO.
Read my introduction to on-site SEO.
The process of ensuring your website has the best possible chance of appearing high up in search engine results, therefore gaining more traffic. Optimisation can be done both on-site and off-site and is generally focused around improving user experience.
Not paid for.
Organic Search Results
The results that appear on Google without being paid for. These results are based almost entirely on the quality of your website and reputation of your business, which are improved through good SEO.
Users that come to your website through organic search results on search engines.
See page authority.
Page Authority (PA)
A measuring system created by Moz to approximate how well a specific page is viewed by Google. A higher page authority means a better quality page, which equals (generally) better rankings on Google.
A system that Google uses for ranking how important a web page is based on backlinks.
How quickly your page loads on different devices. The higher your page speed, the better the user experience.
Find out how to optimise your page speed.
Paid Search Results
The advertisements you see when you search on Google or another search engine. These can either be at the top of the organic results, below them, or to the side. You can buy paid search listings by advertising on a platform such as Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
Digital advertising where you are charged based on how many times a user clicks on your ad.
If your SEO practices are poor and you go against Google’s requirements, then you could be faced with a penalty, which will negatively affect your rankings. These often come from using black hat SEO. They can be overcome, but this can take a lot of time and work.
People Also Ask
In search, you will often see a list of questions related to your search query. These are People Also Ask results, questions that Google has identified you may also want answered based on your current search.
See pay per click.
The main keyword(s) that you are targeting on a page. They should usually be included in your main header and two or three times in the rest of your copy.
Q – R
A link to your site that comes from a site with a good reputation. Quality links can boost your own site’s reputation.
See search query.
See keyword ranking.
The considerations search engines make when deciding how to rank your website in search. There is no defined list, but they include page speed, mobile friendliness, technical SEO and quality of content.
When the link a user tries to access can’t be found, a redirect sends them to an alternative page without the user having to click anything else. The most common is a 301 redirect, but there are also 302 redirects and meta refreshes.
A user that has come to your site by clicking on a link from another site. This could be either through paid or organic link placements.
A website is responsive if it seamlessly changes to fit different screen sizes. It should look good and function correctly on all screens.
A search results that shows additional information such as a rating, a price, or an image.
A file on your website that tells crawlers which pages they can access. This is usually used to prevent too many crawlers slowing your site down. It is not usually used to prevent a page being seen in search engine results (see noindex).
Additional code on your website that helps Google create rich snippets, which will give users more useful information about your content in search. Schema markup can include product images, prices, and ratings.
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
The pages that display the search results after you enter a query or keyword into a search engine.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
The process of improving your website so that it provides a better user experience and therefore ranks better on search engines like Google.
A phrase or word used in a search on a search engine. It often includes keywords but usually involves more natural language.
See search query.
Keywords relevant to your page that are not your main focus, but are still useful for SEO. They are secondary in importance to your primary keyword(s) and are usually used once or twice on a page.
Semantic search, like natural language processing, aims to understand natural language and provide results based on that. It aspires to understand the intention behind a search, rather than only considering the exact words entered.
See search engine optimisation.
See search engine results pages.
A page on your website that maps out the relationship between other pages and files on your site.
The part of a URL that comes after the main domain name and tells you what page you are on. For example, on this page, a-z-seo-pay-per-click-terms-and-what-they-mean is the slug.
Interactions on your social media page, including website click-throughs, shares, comments and likes. Though not usually directly linked to your website, they can help with your SEO through reputation building.
Find out more about social signals and SEO.
Structured Data Markup
See Schema markup.
The people who are likely to be interested in your product and/or service and who you would like to sell to. Knowing your target audience will help you create successful ads and website content.
Words and phrases that you use in your website copy to indicate to search engines the topics around which you want to show up for in search. These are usually identified through keyword research.
The optimisation of almost every aspect of your website other than the content. This is undertaken to improve user experience, raise the quality of your site, and ensure crawlers can read your site well so you show up in search.
The text that is displayed on a browser tab when you have a page open, and also at the top of a search listing. It should briefly describe what the page is about.
Content on a page that’s usually very short, uninteresting and/or uninformative. Content should be either entertaining, inspiring, informative and/or convincing and thin content is none of these. It is considered poor quality by search engines.
Collectively, the users that are visiting your website.
U – X
Uniform Resource Locators: the unique web address of a site.
What the user means when they type in a search query and what they really want to find from the search results.
Searching by speaking instead of writing. Often done with voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa.
Read more about optimising for voice search.
White Hat SEO
Optimising your website to do well on search by using approved and morally sound SEO techniques
A sitemap that is written in a format specifically for search engine crawlers to read (as opposed to an HTML sitemap, which is written for humans to read). It indicates the structure and layout of your site and helps search engines list pages in the SERPs.