Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often a late consideration in many content marketing strategies. And often it’s not because of any bias against its value, it’s just confusing. Much of SEO is mired in technical jargon; however, once you get through the terminology it’s reasonably natural for content creators to be SEO experts.
After all in the current Internet world, search engines are the gateways to your content. Ignoring SEO would be like leaving your manuscript on a park bench and hoping the world discovers your talent as a writer.
In my experience teaching SEO to content creators, the breakthrough to better content marketing performance also begins with removing the mystery of the SEO concepts and terms. That’s why I have put together this brief rundown of the most relevant SEO terminology for content marketing professionals.
Understanding these key terms will probably also peak your interest in continuing your SEO education and fully becoming an expert.
As an added bonus and incentive, I will assure you this list will also equip you to eavesdrop on SEO gurus bragging and spilling their best secrets at conference cocktail parties. (Seriously, that’s where the best tricks fall out of the magic bag.)
Make sure you bookmark this article for future reference as you create content and learn more advanced SEO concepts in the future.
Terms related to “on-page SEO” are concepts that help us to technically construct a web page properly for search.
On-page SEO: often neglected by content creators but very effective at getting content into valuable search positions. Companies often pay SEO agencies, like my own, to come in and clean up on-page SEO issues. These problems, (often caused by simple negligence) can add up to a lot of missed search traffic. For more, check out 3 SEO Must-Haves for Every Web Page.
Let’s take a real quick look at the individual pieces that make up on-page SEO, writ large. (It’s definitely worth the extra five minutes to get these details right.)
URL (Uniform Resource Locator) – AKA, ‘the web address’. URLs are what you put in the address bar of your browser or, when you click on a link, are automatically inserted for you. It’s the basic building block of the Internet and is used by search engines to discover and index content for Web searches. It’s also critical URLs be as simple and direct as possible. The longer and more complex they get, or the further they stray from the main SEO topic, the less people will trust them.
Meta Data – This is data that is written into the HTML code that provides search engines with additional information about a website and web page. This data, written for search engines, aids them in correctly evaluating your content and displaying information about your web page on Search Engine Result Pages (or ‘SERPs’).
Page Title/Meta Title – The page title meta data serves two purposes: First, it’s the title that is generally shown at the top of your web browser. Second, it’s the information that search engines display as the headline when they list your content in search results. Devote reasonable attention to crafting compelling and descriptive page titles—it’s your first and best advertisement. Capture the audience’s attention, tell them exactly what they get for their click, and associate the content with your brand. (For example, if we were creating a page title for this page, it might be something like: “Simple SEO Terminology | BillRice.com”.)
Meta Description – Your content’s meta description is a companion to your page title; together they become what search engines display when your web page is offered based on a user’s search. I recommend writing a custom meta description for each piece of content you publish. In this description, write a brief but captivating summary of your content and the benefit it will bring if the user clicks.
Meta Keywords – Search engines long ago disavowed any consideration of meta keywords in their search algorithms. As a result, in and of themselves, meta keywords have little relevance and many SEO experts advise not using them at all. However, if you’re using a content management system, there is some practical utility to using meta keywords on a limited, focused basis to enhance your website’s (content management system’s) internal website search.
Headings – Both your readers and the search engines need to be able to efficiently scan your content. One of the most important elements that facilitate this readability are headings within your web pages—using H1, H2, H3 tags. Avoid creating pages full of dense text, images, or videos without using headings to guide readers through your content.
HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) is a programming language used to format and provide functionality for web pages. HTML is the fundamental language of search engines and, as such, standards should be closely adhered to in coding your website. If you’re using a quality content management system, you can be reasonably confident that most of this is handled.
“The Fold” – Much like a physical newspaper, websites have an “above the fold” area. This is the top visual area on your web page, seen before scrolling. Many visitors to your web page will never get beyond this section. Make sure your most important content and calls to action are up here. Search engines also give this area priority in their evaluation.
Link Building Concepts
Links are one of the strongest indicators search engines use to determine the quality and suitability of content to be returned in their search results. These are clickable snippets of text or the actual URL that reference other relevant content on the Web. Basically, the more websites and web pages that link to your content, the more likely your content is to be given a favorable position in user searches.
Inbound Link – Links are references to URLs—programmed using HTML—that create a clickable redirect to another web page. These links can be delineated as an inbound link or an outbound link. (Linked to your website = inbound). Search engines like these. Inbound links, from quality websites, signals to search engines that others find your content valuable.
Internal Link – An internal link is a slight mixture of the inbound and outbound link. In this case, you link from your web page to another relevant web page within your website. A common example of this would be the navigation links on your website, such as the link on your homepage to your about page.
Outbound Link – The opposite of an inbound link, this means you are linking from your web page to another web page on a different (external) website. I find that—when used properly—it lends credibility and trust to your content. Generally, limit your outbound linking to external websites considered authoritative to the average Web visitor (i.e., news, government, education, and resource websites).
Link Building – Learning to build inbound links to your content can yield you lots of favorable search engine traffic. It can also speed the normally glacial pace of that natural process of getting discovered. Typically, the best link building techniques involve getting your content into the direct line of sight of relevant publishers and influencers within your industry. Ultimately, you want to build more familiar and beneficial relationships as a trust resource within, and for, your industry.
Instead of searching for “How to train dogs”, savvy users search for “How to house-train my brand new labrador retriever puppy?” and you need to be ready to get their attention.
While things are constantly changing, keywords remain the backbone of SEO. These are the building blocks that all search engines use to reliably serve up relevant content to users. It behooves you to consider which keywords your audience generally uses to find things and how to liberally seed your content with those keywords and related terms.
Keyword – Keywords are one of the most common terms in SEO. Since the dawn of Google and the modern use of search engines to navigate the Web, users have been conditioned to search for content by using keywords and phrases to find the information they seek.
Keyword Research – The process of researching and analyzing the most promising keyword opportunities, (words people often use in searching for content like yours), is called keyword research. This research is typically done using SEO specific tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner tool or paid SEO tools like Wordtracker, Moz, or SEMRush. For more, check out Planning Your Content Strategy: Keywords & SEO.
Long Tail Keyword – Most keyword searches are limited to a couple of words used in a brief phrase, like: “How to train dogs.” However, savvy Web users often use much longer and more specific keyword phrases, like “How to house-train my brand new labrador retriever puppy?” These are called long tail keywords. Although often easier to rank for in search engines, they can be much harder to target in your keyword research. In addition, they usually generate much less traffic due to their specificity. However, taken together, long tail keywords will probably generate most of your search engine traffic, even without your expressed focus on them.
Search Engine Concepts
Most of what we have defined so far has to do with your content and the website on which your publishing. But, there are a few search engine specific topics that you should understand—especially if you are collaborating with SEO professionals or consulting their recommendations.
Sitemap – Search engines use intelligent software programs to discover, retrieve, and analyze web pages on your website. This is the process by which they fill their search database and properly index content. A sitemap, as it’s name implies, is a map for search engines to follow to efficiently find and collect your web pages, aiding them in capturing the most current and accurate version of each page.
Spider/Googlebot – Remember when I referenced those intelligent software programs running around the web gobbling up web pages for indexing in search engines? Those are often referred to as spiders, web crawlers, or specific to the largest search engine: Google Bots.
SERP (Search Engine Results Page) – When you search in Google, Bing, or any other search engine you get a page with titles, descriptions, and links to web pages that should be helpful. The driving objective of SEO is to help your content get a favorable listing and position in those search results—Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)—hopefully page one, result one.
Pay-Per-Click – If you can’t successfully get your content to organically/naturally rank using SEO, the alternative is to pay for your position on the first page (where everyone clicks). This process is often called Pay-Per-Click or PPC. Interestingly enough although Google and other search engines will swear that there is no collusion between natural search rankings and paid search rankings, the increased visibility created by PPC often generates behaviors—click-throughs, sharing, and backlinking—that does generate SEO benefit. For more, check out The Basics of Setting Up PPC Marketing.
Web Traffic/Traffic – The end objective of any content creator and marketer is to get lots of traffic—visitors to their website. When you listen to SEO folks they’re always chattering about ways to get more traffic. My personal advice is that your ears perk up if you overhear one of these conversations—it’s what it’s all about.
That should be just enough SEO lingo to make you dangerous.