Search Engine Optimization? The term itself can seem a bit daunting to those unfamiliar with the industry, and trying to keep up with the lingo that comes with it is a whole other story.
For those looking for a little bit of guidance into this strange new world of title tags, metadata, and robots.txt files, here’s a brief glossary of some of the most common SEO terms we use here at Adpearance.
Glossary of SEO Terms
Title tags: The title element of a page is meant to be an accurate, concise description of a page’s content. It is critical to both user experience and search engine optimization. Effective title tags contain no more than 55 characters and leverage relevant keywords to help search engines identify a page’s content. The presence and usage of keywords in title tags are factored in when determining a site's authority on those keywords.
Meta description: The meta description tag acts as a short description of a page’s content. Search engines do not use the keywords or phrases in this tag for rankings, but meta descriptions are the primary source for the snippet of text displayed beneath a listing on search engine results pages (SERP) results. Like many aspects of SEO, best practices for meta descriptions change as search engine algorithms are updated. Due to the frequency of these updates, it’s important to stay informed and to keep your digital strategy nimble.
Proper URL structure: A URL consists of a protocol, domain name, and path. URLs are the web address or location for a particular web page or document. The way a URL is structured informs search engines about a website’s architecture and how its content is interrelated. A search engine’s ability to understand this heavily impacts the way it determines a page’s authority. A few best practices:
- URLs should be appropriately descriptive of a page’s content
- Shorter is better
- Keyword use is important (but overuse can be dangerous)
- Avoid parameters (symbols and characters like &, _, =, etc.)
- Choose descriptives whenever possible over numbers or meaningless figures
- Use hyphens to separate words (but not in the main homepage URL of a site)
- URLs should be hierarchical to draw relationships between page content and show the general structure of the website for both the user and search engines
- E.g. coolfurniture.com/products/tables/maple-round-table vs coolfurniture.com/maple-round-table
Redirects: Redirects are used to direct traffic to new versions of pages without getting penalized (by search engines) for duplicate content or confusing your users. There are multiple types of redirects, but the most common are 301 permanent redirects, and 302 or 307 temporary redirects. (Pro tip: It’s best to just use 301 redirects if possible since the others don’t pass along the same SEO value.)
Image and alt tags: Images in gif, jpg, or png format can be assigned “alt attributes” in HTML, providing search engines a text description of the visual content. Alt tags’ primary purpose is to ensure accessible web design, helping visually-impaired users read what a picture is if they can’t identify it themselves. However, there may also be SEO benefits for alt tags. Because search engines can’t “see” an image, alt tags give them an opportunity to understand the image if its alt tag includes keywords and other information relevant to the page’s content. Ultimately, search engines will favor pages rich with images and alt tags over pages that do not when calculating their rankings.
Heading tags (H1, H2, etc.): Heading tags are HTML tags that are used to structure websites. Heading tags should contain keywords, with the most important keywords included in the first level (H1). For best SEO practices, use only one H1 title per page.
Schema tags (microdata): A schema tag is a technical semantic markup that is used to improve the structure of the data submitted to search engines. Schema markup can include a range of things like contact information, product information, or even reviews that can be displayed on a SERP. Schema markup can help increase traffic to a website by producing more robust and relevant results when displayed on search.
Robots.txt file: The Robots.txt file allows you to instruct search engine robots how to crawl and index pages on a website. It can also prevent robots from accessing specific directories and/or pages, and specifies where the XML sitemap file is located.
Sitemap.xml file: A sitemap lists URLs that are available for crawling and can include additional information such as when the page was last updated, the frequency of changes, and importance. The sitemap allows search engines to crawl the site more intelligently by identifying these factors that have an impact on a page’s ranking.
Link building: For search engines that crawl the web, links are the streets between pages. By following links, the engines can discover how pages are related to other pages and in what ways. Search engine algorithms focus heavily on analyzing links which means growing the link profile of a website is critical for gaining traction, attention, and traffic from search engines. Building a site’s authority and trust with search engines is done through earning links through strategic content creation and optimization.
Content optimization: One of the most effective tools SEO teams have to work with, “content” is loosely defined as all things on-page including titles, tags, text, in-site links, and outbound links. Content optimization is where creative art mixes with the digital marketing science of SEO.
SO, HOW DO YOU OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE?
Want some further reading on how Google search and SEO work? Read our blog post “An Introduction To SEO” to learn more about it. Or if you want to see SEO in action, check out a case study about how a commitment to SEO benefitted one of our clients. Ready to increase traffic to your website? Contact us today about our SEO services.