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200+ Terms & Definitions You Need to Know

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200+ Terms & Definitions You Need to Know


Search engine optimization, like any specialized industry, has its own unique set of terminology, definitions, and abbreviations.

This SEO glossary compiles more than 200 of the most common terms you are likely to hear and will definitely need to know during your SEO career.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y


A

Above the Fold

Content that appears on a website before the user scrolls. Google created the Page Layout Algorithm in 2012 to lower the rankings of websites featuring too many ads in this space.

AJAX

Asynchronous JavaScript and XML is a type of programming that allows a webpage to send and receive information from a server to change that page dynamically without reloading.

Algorithm

A complex computer program used by search engines to retrieve data and deliver results for a query. Search engines use a combination of algorithms to deliver ranked webpages via a results page based on a number of ranking factors and signals.

Algorithm Change

Some algorithmic changes go completely unnoticed. However, the impact of a major algorithmic change can usually be seen quite quickly, though the change sometimes takes a few weeks to completely roll out. Algorithmic changes come in three forms:

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  • Algorithm Update: The search engine changes certain signals of an existing algorithm.
  • Algorithm Refresh: The search engine re-runs an existing algorithm using the exact same signals as last time.
  • New Algorithm: The search engine adds a new algorithm to improve search quality. For example: Google Panda, Google Penguin.

Alt Attribute

HTML code that provides information used by search engines and screen readers (for blind and visually-impaired people) to understand the contents of an image.

Also known as: Alt Text

AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open-source HTML framework that allows a desktop-first page to be delivered faster on mobile. It was used as a criterion to gain visibility in the news Top Stories carousel.

The AMP logo has since been removed from search results and Google announced that AMP is no longer a requirement for appearing in Top Stories. The emphasis is now on Core Web Vitals to measure faster delivery and page loading and the influence of AMP is now questionable.

Analytics

The science of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to take future action based on what has (or hasn’t) worked historically.

Also see: Google Analytics

Anchor Text

The clickable word or words of a link. This text is intended to provide contextual information to people and search engines about what the webpage or website being linked to is about. For instance, if you were creating a link to send your visitors to Search Engine Journal, “Search Engine Journal” is the anchor text.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The science of making computers perform tasks that require human intelligence. Rather than following a set of programmed rules (like an algorithm), an AI computer system is basically a digital brain that learns. AI can also make and carry out decisions without human intervention.

Authority

The combination of signals search engines use to assess websites and webpages for the purposes of ranking.

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Author Authority

Authority is a concept of using the reputation and credentials of a person who writes content online as a ranking factor. Originally, Google tested this in combination with Google+ but despite several patents filed, no evidence supports author authority as a ranking factor.

Google is placing emphasis on E-A-T to reduce disinformation online, especially in YMYL niches such as health and finance. In these spaces, building the authority of an author is recommended for a brand to show credibility, even if it currently doesn’t influence ranking.


B

B2B

Short for business-to-business. In B2B SEO, the buying cycle is longer, products and services are more expensive, and the audience is professional decision-makers.

B2C

Short for business-to-consumer. In B2C SEO, the buying cycle is typically shorter (though it still varies by industry), products and services are (mostly) cheaper, and consumers are the audience.

See: Inbound Link

Baidu

The most popular search engine in China, Baidu was founded in January 2000 by Robin Li and Eric Xu.

Bing

The name of Microsoft’s search engine. Bing launched in June 2009, replacing Microsoft Live Search (previously MSN Search and Windows Live Search). Since 2010, Bing has powered Yahoo’s organic search results as part of a search deal Microsoft and Yahoo struck in July 2009.

Black Box

A complex computer program that is poorly understood. Inputs and outputs can be observed, but there is no access to the process itself due to its confidential nature. For example, Google’s algorithm is a black box.

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Black Hat

Risky tactics that go against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Also see: Webspam

Blog

A publication of content, sorted in chronological order, with the most recent content appearing at the top. The content reflects personal or corporate interests, and can be written by an individual or a group of contributors. Blogs were originally called web logs or weblogs. However, as “web log can also mean a server’s log files, the term was confusing. To avoid this confusion, the abbreviation “blog was coined, and became the common term.

Bounce Rate

The percentage of website visitors who leave without visiting another page on that website. Bounce rates range widely depending on industry and niche. Although bounce rate can indicate potential content or website issues, it is not a direct ranking factor, according to Google.

Bot

See: Crawler, Googlebot

Branded Keyword

When a user’s query includes an exact match, or variation, of a specific company or brand name. For instance, “Search Engine Journal”, “SEJ”, “SearchEnginejournal.com”, and “Search Engine Journal SEO 101 Guide” are a few examples of branded keywords.

A navigational element that helps users easily figure out where they are within a website.

See: Website Navigation

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A link that leads to a 404 not found. Typically, a link becomes broken when:

  • A website goes offline.
  • A webpage is removed without implementing a redirect.
  • The destination URL is changed without implementing a redirect.

C

Cache

A technology that temporarily stores web content, such as images, to reduce future page loading times.

Cached Page

A snapshot of a webpage as it appeared when a search engine last crawled it.

Canonical URL

An HTML code element that specifies a preferred website URL, when multiple URLs have the same or similar content, to reduce duplicate content. Also known as canonicalization.

ccTLD

A country-code top-level domain. For instance, a company based in the United Kingdom would have a domain like this: www.example.co.uk, where uk is the ccTLD.

Citation

In Local SEO, a citation is any mention online of a brand Name, Address or Phone number (NAP). Citations are usually found in directories, social network and community profiles, website resources lists, or any mention of a brand online that does not include a link to the website. NAPs can influence ranking and visibility on Google maps.

Click Bait

Content that is designed to entice people to click, typically by overpromising or being intentionally misleading in headlines, so publishers can earn advertising revenue.

Click Depth

Click depth is the number of clicks it takes to get from the home page, or an entrance page, to a destination page on a website. The more clicks it takes, the less likely Google will crawl the page or it will rank.

Pages that are the closest to the homepage are considered to be the most authoritative and the most likely to be crawled and indexed by Google.

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Click depth is important for pages to be crawled efficiently and for the flow of link equity; therefore does influence ranking indirectly.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

The rate (expressed in a percentage) at which users click on an organic search result. This is calculated by dividing the total number of organic clicks by the total number of impressions then multiplying by 100.

Cloaking

Showing different content or URLs to people and search engines. A violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

CMS

Stands for Content Management System. A web-based application that lets people create, upload, and manage digital assets.

Co-Citation

How frequently two websites (or webpages) are mentioned together by a third-party website, even if those first two items don’t link to (or reference) each other. This is a way search engines can establish subject similarity.

For instance, imagine Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Roundtable never linked to or mentioned each other. However, other websites and blogs would likely mention both SEJ and SER on lists of popular search engine news publications.

To see this in action, see: related:https://www.searchenginejournal.com/ search engine journal

Code To Text Ratio

The amount of text displayed on a page compared to the amount of code used to construct the page is called the code to text ratio. A higher ratio of text to code is considered to provide a better user experience but is not a direct ranking factor.

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Poorly written comments, often off-topic and self-promotional, posted by spambots in the hopes of getting a free (but ultimately worthless) link.

Competition

There are two types of competition:

  • Direct Competitors: Companies that sell similar products and/or services, serve the same needs, and target a similar audience both online and offline.
  • SEO Competitors: Companies that vie for the same keywords and organic search visibility, but with unalike products or services that address different needs and/or target audiences.

Recommended reading:

Content

  • Words, images, videos, or sounds (or any combination thereof) that convey information that is meant to be distributed to and consumed by an audience.
  • One of the two most important Google ranking factors (along with links). Search engines want to reward content that is useful, informative, valuable, credible, unique, and engaging with better traffic and visibility.

Content is King”

A phrase often used by speakers at conferences and writers on popular SEO (and digital marketing) publications. In this context, “content is king” usually means that content is essential for you to have any SEO, digital marketing, or business success.

This phrase actually dates back to a Bill Gates essay, “Content is King”, published January 3, 1996.

Recommended reading:

Conversion

When a user completes a desired action on a website. Examples of conversions include:

  • Completing a purchase.
  • Adding items to a shopping cart.
  • Completing a form (e.g., requesting a demo, registering for a webinar/event).
  • Downloading premium content (e.g., ebook, whitepaper).
  • Subscribing to an email newsletter.
  • Video views.

Conversion Rate

The rate (expressed in a percentage) at which website users complete a desired action. This is calculated by dividing the total number of conversions by traffic, then multiplying by 100.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

The process of improving the number or quality of conversions that occur on a website. Some popular CRO tactics include testing changes to website design, copy, images, price, call-to-action, and messaging.

Core Update

When Google makes broad updates to its core algorithm. Google sometimes announces a specific theme to their updates, such as the Page Experience update, but core updates are non-specific and happen several times a year.

Core Web Vitals

A set of metrics that measure the performance of the page related to user experience. Core Web Vitals were introduced alongside the Page Experience update as the main signals that indicate a good user experience:

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  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – loading performance.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – interactivity.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – visual stability.

Google did confirm Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor but said that relevance and other factors may be more important.

Correlation

The extent to which a relationship exists between two or more elements. Often used in SEO research to infer relationships of variables on search rankings due to the black box nature of algorithms. Always remember, however, that correlation ≠ causation.

Crawl Budget

The total number of URLs search engines can and want to crawl on a website during a specific time period.

Recommended reading:

Crawl Error

  • URLs that a search engine bot is unable to crawl.
  • URLs that return a status code error.

Crawler

A program search engines use to crawl the web. Bots visit webpages to collect information and add or update a search engine’s index.

Also known as: Bot, Spider, Web Crawler

Crawling

The process of gathering information, using a crawler, from the billions of public webpages to update, add, and organize webpages in a search engine’s index.

CSS

Cascading Style Sheets describe how HTML elements (e.g., color, fonts) should appear on webpages and adapt when viewed on different devices.

Customer Journey

All of the potential moments (or touchpoints) at which a prospect is exposed to or engages with a brand. All of these interactions are designed to eventually persuade, influence, and convert that prospect to become a customer, client, or subscriber.

Though customer journeys can vary greatly by business type and industry, typically it is made up of four main “stages”:

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Awareness > Consideration > Decision > Retention

Google’s Avinash Kaushik offers an alternative framework:

See > Think > Do > Care

Also known as: Buying Process, Consumer Decision Journey, the Customer Journey to Online Purchase, Marketing Funnel, Path to Purchase, Purchase Funnel


D

Data

All the hard numbers that represent real customers – the who, what, where, when, why, and how – all of which is needed to make informed decisions about SEO strategies and tactics.

Dead-End Page

A webpage that links to no other webpages. So called because once a user or bot arrives on this page, there is no place to move forward.

  • A link pointing to any webpage other than the homepage.
  • A link pointing to content within a mobile app.

Deep Link Ratio

When an internal link points directly to a page other than the homepage on a site, this is known as a deep link. The ratio of deep links compared to links to your homepage is known as deep link ratio.

It is considered that having links directly to deep pages in a site indicates quality of content on the site. The more deep links you have the better the site. There is no evidence to support that deep link ratio has any direct impact on ranking.

De-index

When Google removes a website or webpage, either temporarily or permanently, from search results, specifically its search index. Google provides a Remove URLs tool in the Search Console for voluntary cases; however, a website may also be de-indexed as punishment for violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, in the form of a manual action.

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Also known as: Delisting

Direct Traffic

In Google Analytics, users that navigate directly to the site by typing the URL directly into the browser or by clicking on a bookmark are known as direct traffic. Google will also include into direct traffic any traffic sources it doesn’t recognize.

Directory

A list of websites, usually separated by related categories and maintained by human editors. Depending on the directory, inclusion could be free or paid. In the past, links from directories were highly sought after (e.g., DMOZ), leading to widespread abuse and overall devaluing of this sort of link building.

Also known as: Web Directory, Link Directory

Disavow

If your link profile includes a high number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality inbound links that may be harming your rankings – and don’t have the ability to get them removed for a legitimate reason (e.g., the link exists on a site you have no control over) – you can use Google’s Disavow Tool tool to tell Google to ignore those links.

DMOZ

The Open Directory Project. This human-edited directory of websites launched June 5, 1998 and closed March 17, 2017.

Do-follow

A link that doesn’t use the “nofollow” attribute. In other words, a link.

Domain

A website address – typically ending in an extension like .com, .org, or .net. For example: www.searchenginejournal.com is the domain of this website.

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Domain Age

The date a domain was registered on, to the current date is known as domain age. For example, Search Engine Journal was registered on 10th June 2003, so it has a significant domain age.

It was once considered that a greater domain age gave a domain more authority, but this idea of domain age as an influence on ranking has since been dismissed.

Domain Authority

  • The overall “strength” of a website, built up over time, which can help a new page rank well quickly, even before that content has earned links or engagement.
  • A score, between 0-100, SEO software company Moz uses to predict the ability of a website to rank in search results.

Recommended reading:

Domain History

Any activity, including backlinks and website built on a domain previously is known as domain history.

If a previous website on a domain received a penalty this will remain attached to the domain and cause issues for the new owner.

It’s recommended to always check the domain history before you purchase a domain.

Doorway Page

Webpages that are created to rank in search engines for specific keywords only for the purpose of redirecting users who click on that page to a different website.

DuckDuckGo

A search engine that was founded September 28, 2008. It is often praised for its heavy focus on user privacy and a lack of filter bubbles (search personalization). DuckDuckGo relies on more than 400 sources to serve its search results, including vertical search engines, its own crawler, DuckDuckBot, Bing, and Yandex. In 2016, 4 billion searches were conducted on DuckDuckGo.

Duplicate Content

When a significant amount of content contained on one webpage matches, or is incredibly similar to, content that exists elsewhere on the same website or a completely different website.

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Dwell Time

The amount of time that elapses between when a user clicks on a search result and then returns to the SERP from a website. Short dwell time (e.g., less than 5 seconds) can be an indicator of low-quality content to search engines.


E

E-A-T

Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness was a concept taken from the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines and became known as E-A-T.

E-A-T represents signals that Google uses to determine quality content but it is not a direct ranking factor.

Google has committed to stopping the spread of disinformation, especially from any sites operating in Your Money Your Life (YMYL) niches such as finance or health.

E-commerce

The buying and selling of products, all conducted online.

Recommended reading:

A link that is given by one website to another without the recipient asking or paying for it.

Also known as: Natural Link.

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.edu Links

Educational-focused institutions have a top-level domain (TLD) of .edu. For example, stanford.edu. A link from such a site is known as a .edu link.

Links from .edu sites were considered ‘hard to get’ and thought to have more value for link building. As a result, link builders targeted .edu links until many of the lesser-known .edu sites became devalued by Google and any benefit of the link was ignored.

Engagement Metrics

Methods to measure how users are interact with webpages and content. Examples of engagement metrics include:

  • Click-through rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Time on page/site
  • New vs. returning visitors
  • Frequency and recency
  • Dwell time

Entities

People, places, organizations, websites, events, groups, facts, and other things.

Also see: Knowledge Graph

See: Outbound Link


F

For certain queries, usually questions (i.e., who/what/where/when/why/how), Google sometimes shows a special block above the organic search results. This box contains a summary (in the form of paragraph, list, table, or video), as well as the publication date, page title, link to the webpage from which the answer originated, and URL.

Also known as: Position Zero.

Recommended reading:

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Findability

How easily the content on a website can be discovered, both internally (by users) and externally (by search engines).

First Link Priority

A concept in internal linking is that Google treats links differently if there are two links on a web page pointing to the same page. It was thought Google would consider the anchor text from the first link to have more influence.

There is no definitive evidence for how Google treats the same link on a page. When adding links to a page, it’s recommended to do this on a user-first basis and apply the link to anchor text where it is relevant.

Links that appear in the bottom section (or “footer) of a website.

See: Website Navigation

Freshness

Freshness refers to the age of content published online.

It is considered that Google gives pBlan-kriority to fresh content in some niches for some queries depending on certain factors. For example, searches related to COVID announcements or sports results.

Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) is part of the Google algorithm that determines when a query should show up-to-date information, especially in breaking news, recurring events, information queries, and product queries.

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G

Google

The search engine founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in September 1998. Google marked a radical departure from human-edited web directories, relying on web crawling technology and a complex algorithm to analyze hyperlinking patterns to rank websites. Google is the most-used search engine in nearly every country in the world.

Google Analytics

A free web analytics program that can be used to track audience behavior, traffic acquisition sources, content performance, and much more.

Visit: Google Analytics

Google Bomb

A practice intended to make a website rank number one for a surprising or controversial search phrase. This was accomplished by having a large number of websites link to a certain webpage with specific anchor text to help it rank for that term.

For example, in 2003 President George W. Bush’s White House bio ranked number one on a search for “miserable failure.”

Googlebot

The web crawling system Google uses to find and add new websites and webpages to its index.

Google Dance

A term used starting in 2002 for the volatile period of time during which Google updated its search index, roughly every month.

Google Hummingbird

A Google search algorithm that was officially announced in September 2013 after it had been in use for a month. The purpose of Hummingbird was to better understand the full context of queries (i.e., semantic search), rather than certain keywords, in order to provide better results.

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Recommended reading:

Google Panda Algorithm

A major Google algorithm update that initially rolled out in February 2011, it was followed by numerous subsequent updates. The goal of Google Panda was to reduce the visibility of low-value content, often produced by “content farms. In 2016, Panda became part of Google’s core ranking algorithm.

Recommended reading:

Google Penguin Algorithm

A major Google algorithm that launched in April 2012, it was followed by a series of updates and refreshes. The goal of Penguin was to reduce the visibility of overly-optimized sites, or sites that excessively abused certain spammy tactics (e.g., building low-quality links, keyword stuffing). In 2016, Penguin started running in real-time as a part of Google’s core algorithm.

Recommended reading:

Google Pigeon Update

The name (given by the SEO industry, not Google) of a significant Google local search update launched July 24, 2014. The goal of Pigeon was to improve the accuracy and relevance of local searches by leveraging more traditional Google ranking signals and improving distance and locating ranking parameters.

Recommended reading:

Google RankBrain

A major Google algorithm change officially introduced in October 2015, although it had been in testing for months before this. With RankBrain, Google added machine learning to its algorithm and has been called the third most important ranking signal. In June 2016, it was revealed that RankBrain has been involved in every query and has an impact on rankings.

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Recommended reading:

Google Sandbox

A theorized and debated (but never confirmed by Google) “waiting period” that prevents new websites from seeing the full benefit of their optimization efforts. Typically, this effect is witnessed most often with new sites targeting competitive keywords and can only be overcome when the site gains enough authority.

Google Search Console

Google’s Search Console offers several helpful features, including the ability to monitor sites for indexing errors and site speed. These pages are also used to communicate manual action notifications.

Recommended reading:

Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines

Google uses a document of guidelines for its internal Quality Raters to reference when manually reviewing websites.

The original internal document was confidential and then Google publicly released the Search Quality Rater Guidelines online which is updated from time to time.

Information in the document is a guide to creating quality content and features the concept of E-A-T. The guidelines are not a list of any direct ranking factors.

A website where you can explore data visualizations on the latest search trends, stories, and topics.

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Visit: Google Trends

Recommended reading:

Google Webmaster Guidelines

Google’s guidance on good website optimization practices, as well as “illicit” practices that can result in manual action. Simply:

  • Make unique, valuable, and engaging websites and webpages for users, not search engines.
  • Avoid tricks and techniques that deceive users and are intended only to improve search rankings.

Recommended reading:

.gov Links

Government organizations have a top-level domain (TLD) of .gov. For example, usa.gov. A link from such a site is known as a .gov link.

Only government entities in the US can apply and gain a .gov TLD. Other countries have their own country-specific version, such as .gov.uk.

Government TLD domains are tightly regulated and trusted sources of information. For this reason, a link from a .gov domain is considered to have significant value and has been targeted by link spam.

Gray Hat

A supposed “gray” area between techniques that adhere to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, but then add an element that bends the rules a little.

Guest Blogging

A popular link building tactic that involves developing content for other websites in exchange for a backlink pointing at your own pages.

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Also known as: Guest Posting.


H

Heading

HTML heading tags (H1-H6) separate content into sections, based on importance, with H1 being the most important and H6 being the least important. Headline tags should be used naturally and should incorporate your target keywords where relevant, as doing so may provide a small SEO benefit.

Headline

An H1 tag.

Head Term

A popular keyword with high search volume that is usually difficult to rank for.

Also known as: Head Keyword, Short-Tail

Hidden Text

Any text that can’t be seen by a user that is intended to manipulate search rankings by loading webpages with content-rich keywords and copy. This technique is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can result in a manual action. For example, adding text that is:

  • Too small to read.
  • The same color as the background.
  • Using CSS to push the text off-screen.

Hilltop Algorithm

Influenced by the HITS Algorithm, and added to Google’s algorithm in 2003, Hilltop assigned “expert” status to certain websites or webpages published about a specific topic that also link to unaffiliated pages about that topic.

Recommended reading:

  • Hilltop: A Search Engine based on Expert Documents (Krishna Bharat & George Mihaila)

HITS Algorithm

Hyperlink-Induced Topic Search is a link analysis algorithm that assesses a value not just based on content and inbound links (authorities), but also its outbound links (hubs).

Recommended reading:

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Homepage

The default, or introductory webpage, of a website.

.htaccess File

A server configuration file that can be used to rewrite and redirect URLs.

HTML

Stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML tags are specific code elements that can be used to improve the effectiveness of SEO for webpages and websites.

HTTP

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol is how data is transferred from a computer server to a web browser.

HTTPS

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure uses a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt data transferred between a website and web browser. HTTPS is a minor Google ranking factor.

Hub Page

An authoritative central resource (e.g., page or article), dedicated to a specific topic (keyword), that is continually updated and linked to, and also links out to topically-relevant webpages.


I

Inbound Link

A link to a webpage that originates from an external website. For example, if Search Engine Journal were to link to Google, that would count as an inbound link on Google’s side; if Google were to link to Search Engine Journal, that would be an inbound link on SEJ’s side.

Index

The database search engines use to store and retrieve information gathered during the crawling process.

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Indexability

How easily a search engine bot can understand and add a webpage to its index.

Indexed Page

A webpage that has been discovered by a crawler, has been added to a search engine index, and is eligible to appear in search results for relevant queries.

Information Architecture

How a website is organized and where various content and navigational elements are located on webpages.

Information Retrieval

The process of searching for information (e.g., text, images, video) from a large database and then presenting the most relevant information to an end user.

Internal Link

See: Website Navigation

IP Address

An Internet Protocol Address. IP addresses can be:

  • Shared: Numerous websites share an address within one server or a group of servers (a.k.a., virtual hosting).
  • Dedicated: A website has its own address.

Neither will help you rank better; however, a dedicated IP address can increase site speed.


J

JavaScript (JS)

A programming language that makes it possible to dynamically insert content, links, meta data, or other elements, on websites. JavaScript can potentially make it difficult for search engine bots to crawl and index webpages and increase the time it takes for webpage to load for users.


K

Keyword

The word, words, or phrase that an SEO professional or marketer targets for the purpose of matching and ranking for what users are searching for. The words used on webpages can help search engines determine which pages are the most relevant to show in organic results when a searcher enters a query. Keywords usually represent topics, ideas, or questions.

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Also known as: Keyphrase.

Keyword Cannibalization

A type of self-competition that occurs when multiple pages from one website rank for the same query on a SERP. This can result in a lower CTR, diminished authority, and lower conversion rates than from having one consolidated webpage that ranks well.

Recommended reading:

Keyword Density

How often a word or phrase appears within the content of a webpage. At best, this unproven concept is outdated, if ever really mattered to search engines. There is no ideal percentage that will help a webpage rank better.

Keyword Research

The process of discovering any relevant topics, subjects, and terms searchers enter into search engines, as well as the volume and competition level of those terms. This practice is made possible by a variety of free and paid tools.

Keyword Prominence

When a keyword is placed as high as possible on a web page to influence ranking for a search term.

Using a keyword inserted at the beginning of a page, for example in the first paragraph, does send a strong signal to Google about the page.

Keyword prominence does work as a ranking signal if the theme of the page is aligned with the keyword.

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Keyword Stemming

In language and grammar, words are constructed around a variation upon a root or stem. For example, shopping, shopped, shops are all variations of the stem ‘shop’.

When trying to rank for a term such as ‘shop’, using variations of the word on the page (shopping, shopped) will all be considered the same stem keyword by Google. This also applies to plurals such as bikes/bikes or fly/flies.

Keyword stemming is Google’s ability to understand the variations of a keyword and is part of its algorithm.

Keyword Stuffing

Adding irrelevant keywords, or repeating keywords beyond what is natural, to a webpage in the hopes of increasing search rankings. This spam tactic is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can result in a manual action.

Knowledge Graph

An entity database Google uses to surface facts and information on people, places, and things (a.k.a., entities) – and their connections – in a Knowledge Panel or carousel at the top of search results on relevant queries.

Knowledge Panel

A box that appears at the top of, or on the right rail (desktop only), of Page 1 of Google’s search results for relevant queries. This panel contains facts and information on people, places, and things, as well as links to related websites or Google searches.

KPI

Stands for key performance indicator. A measurement method businesses use to gauge whether marketing and business objectives, targets, and goals are being reached.


L

Landing Page

  • Any webpage that a visitor can navigate to.
  • A standalone webpage that is designed to capture leads or generate conversions.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

An information retrieval method designed to help search engines identify the correct context of a word. LSI doesn’t play a useful role in SEO today.

See: Google Latent Semantic Indexing

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Lead

A person who may or may not be interested in your product(s) and/or service(s). A lead willingly shares their email address (and usually other personal or contact information) in exchange for something they deem of value from the website.

Link

A connection between two websites built using HTML code. A link enables users to navigate to websites, social networks, and apps. Links play a critical role in how search engines evaluate and rank websites.

Also known as: Backlink.

Link Bait

Intentionally provocative content that is meant to grab people’s attention and attract links from other websites.

Link Building

A process designed to get other trusted and relevant websites to link to your website to help improve your organic search rank and visibility. Link building can be done by:

  • Conducting outreach to media outlets, bloggers, influencers, and webmasters.
  • Attracting editorial links naturally, by publishing various types of high-quality or sensational content.
  • Paying for them. For example, you can obtain links via sponsored content, paid reviews, or paying for a specific type of link to appear on another website.
  • Forging partnerships.
  • Manually. For instance, you link together various properties you manage or own, or add your site to online directories or review sites.

Link Equity

The value of inbound links, in terms of relevance, authority, and trust.

Link Farm

When a group of websites link to each other, usually using automated programs, in the hopes of artificially increasing search rankings. A spam tactic.

Also known as: Link Network, Blog Network, Private Blog Network

Link Juice

A term you should never use in public or online.

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Did you mean…: Authority or PageRank

Link Profile

Every type of link that points to a particular website. The quality of a website’s link profile can vary widely, depending on how they were acquired and the anchor text used.

Link Stability

Where a link remains on a page consistently for a period of time without being changed or updated.

Google did apply for a patent that referred to link churn and how often the links on a page were changed, but there is no evidence that link stability has any influence on ranking.

Link Velocity

How quickly (or slowly) a website accumulates links. A sudden increase in link velocity could potentially be a sign of spamming, or could be due to viral marketing or doing something newsworthy (either intentionally or unintentionally).

Links, Internal

Links that navigate from one page to another page on the same domain. Internal links can be inserted on a page, in the main navigation menu, or in the sitemap.

Internal links can be used to indicate the importance of a page on a site. For example, a page that is directly linked from the home page compared to a page that is four clicks from the homepage.

Internal links are important because Googlebot crawlers follow internal links to navigate your site and find new pages.

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Links, NoFollow

In a hyperlink, rel=”nofollow” is an attribute added to the link to show that you are not passing any credit or endorsement to the page you are linking to

Nofollow was originally introduced by Google to limit comment spam and devalued all nofollow links, but they have since changed how the directive works.

Nofollow is now considered a ‘hint’ which means they may still use some information about linking patterns, but generally, still accept that no weight should be passed through the link.

Links, Outbound or External

An external or outbound link is a link from a page on x domain page to a page on y domain. For example, a link from searchenginejournal.com/google to google.com/about-us

It was considered that external links to authority sites added value to a page because it demonstrates that the page is well-researched and is using trusted sources.

External links are not considered to have any influence on ranking and should only be used to cite sources where relevant.

Log File

A file that records users’ information, such as IP addresses, type of browser, Internet Service Provider (ISP), date/time stamp, referring/exit pages, and number of clicks.

Log File Analysis

The process of exploring the data contained in a log file to identify trends, administer the site, track user’s movement around the site, gather demographic information, and understand how search bots are crawling the website.

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Long-Tail Keyword

  • Highly specific multiple-word terms that often demonstrate higher purchase intent.
  • Less popular keywords that have low search volume that are usually easier to rank for.

M

Machine Learning

A subset of Artificial Intelligence in which a system uses data to learn and adjust a complex process without human intervention.

Manual Action

Google’s term for a penalty. Google will take manual action on a website after a human reviewer (i.e., a Google employee) manually reviews a website to confirm whether it has failed to comply with Google’s Webmaster guidelines. Penalized websites can either be demoted or removed entirely from search results. Manual actions can be assessed to the entire website or just certain webpages.

Meta Description

A tag that can be added to the “head section of an HTML document. It acts as a description of a webpage’s content. This content isn’t used in ranking algorithms, but is often displayed as the “snippet that appears in the search results. Accurate and engaging descriptions can increase organic click-through rate.

Meta Keywords

A tag that can be added to the “head section of an HTML document. Adding a bunch of keywords here won’t help you rank – search engine algorithms have ignored this tag for ranking purposes for years due to abuse (in the form of keyword stuffing).

Meta Tags

Information that appears in the HTML source code of a webpage to describe its contents to search engines. The title tag and meta description are the most commonly used types of meta tags in SEO.

Metric

A way to measure activity and performance in order to assess the success (or lack thereof) of an SEO initiative.


N

Natural Link

See: Editorial Link

Negative SEO

A rare but malicious practice where webspam techniques are used to harm the search rankings of another website, usually a competitor.

Recommended reading:

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Niche

A specific market or area of interest consisting of a small group of highly-passionate people.

Noarchive Tag

A meta tag that tells search engines not to store a cached copy of your page.

Nofollow Attribute

A meta tag that tells search engines not to follow one specific outbound link. This is done in cases when a website doesn’t want to pass authority to another webpage or because it’s a paid link. The nofollow attribute looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor text goes here</a>

Noindex Tag

A meta tag that tells search engines not to index a specific webpage in its index.

Nosnippet Tag

A meta tag that tells search engines not to show a description with your listing.

“(not provided)”

After search engines moved to secure search in 2011, keyword data was removed from Google Analytics, replaced with “(not provided)” – thus making it impossible to know which queries were responsible for visitors finding a website.

Recommended reading:

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O

Off-Page SEO

Demand generation and brand awareness activities that take place outside of a website. In addition to link building, promotion tactics can include social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, influencer marketing, and even offline marketing channels (e.g., TV, radio, billboards).

On-Page SEO

These activities all take place within a website. In addition to publishing relevant, high-quality content, on-page SEO includes optimizing HTML code (e.g., title tags, meta tags), information architecture, website navigation, and URL structure.

Organic Search

The natural, or unpaid, listings that appear on a SERP. Organic search results, which are analyzed and ranked by algorithms, are designed to give users the most relevant result based on their query.

Orphan Page

Any webpage that is not linked to by any other pages on that website.

Outbound Link

A link that directs visitors to a page on a different website than the one they are currently on.


P

PageRank

According to Google: “PageRank is the measure of the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other pages. In simple terms, each link to a page on your site from another site adds to your site’s PageRank. Not all links are equal.” The algorithm was named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

Recommended reading:

Page Speed

The amount of time it takes for a webpage to completely load. Page speed is ranking factor.

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Pageview

A webpage is loaded in a browser.

Paid Search

Pay-per-click advertisements that appear above (and often below) the organic results on search engines.

PBN

Stands for Private Blog Network.

See: Link Farm.

PDF

Stands for Portable Document Format file. PDFs can contain text, images, links, videos, and other elements.

Recommended reading:

Penalty

See: Manual Action

Persona

A fictionalized representation of an ideal website visitor or customer – their demographics, behavior, needs, motivations, and goals – all based on actual data.

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Also known as: Buyer Persona, Marketing Persona

Personalization

When search engines use search history, web browsing history, location, and relationships to create a set of search results tailored to a specific user.

PHP

Hypertext Preprocessor is a scripting language used to create dynamic content on webpages.

Piracy

Search engines aim to reduce the organic search rankings of content that infringes on copyright. Google introduced a filter in 2012 that reduces the visibility of sites reported for numerous DMCA-related takedown requests.

Recommended reading:

Pogo-sticking

When, after entering a query, a searcher bounces back and forth between a SERP and the pages listed in those search results.

Also see: Dwell time

Position

See: Rank

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PPC (Pay Per Click)

A type of advertising where advertisers are charged a certain amount (usually determined by bid, relevance, account history, and competition) every time a user clicks on the ad. Combining PPC and SEO can result in more SERP real estate, clicks, and conversions. Also, PPC data can inform your SEO strategy, and the reverse is also true.


Q

QDF

Stands for query deserves freshness, where a search engine might decide to show newer webpages in search results (rather than older pages) if a particular search term is trending, perhaps because a news event has resulted in a surge in searches on that topic.

Recommended reading:

Quality Content

Content that helps you successfully achieve business or marketing goals (e.g., driving organic traffic or social shares, earning top search rankings, generating leads/sales).

Quality Link

An inbound link that originates from an authoritative, relevant, or trusted website.

Query

The word, words, or phrase that a user enters into a search engine.

Also known as: A search.


R

Rank

Where a webpage appears within the organic search results for a specific query.

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Ranking Factor

An individual component which contributes to a complex series of algorithms that determine where webpages should appear with the organic search results for a specific query. For years, Google has said that its algorithms “rely on more than 200 unique signals” to help users find the most relevant webpage or answer.

Also known as: Ranking Signal.

Reciprocal Links

When two websites agree to exchange links to one another.

Redirect

A technique that sends a user (or search engine) who requested one webpage to a different (but equally relevant) webpage. There are two types of redirects:

  • 301: Permanent
  • 302: Temporary

Referrer

URL data that identifies the source of a user’s webpage request.

Reinclusion

The process of asking a search engine to return a website or webpage(s) to its search index after de-indexing.

Relevance

A way search engines measure how closely connected the content of a webpage is aligned to match the context of a search query.

Reputation Management

The practice of crafting a positive online perception of a brand or person – including in search results and on social media – by minimizing the visibility of negative mentions.

Also known as: Online Reputation Management, Public Relations

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Responsive Website

A website designed to automatically adapt to a user’s screen size, whether it’s being viewed on a desktop or mobile device.

Rich Snippet

Structured data can be added to the HTML of a website to provide contextual information to the search engines during crawling. This information can then be displayed in the SERPs, resulting in an enhanced listing, known as a rich snippet.

Recommended reading:

robots.txt

The Robots Exclusion Protocol (or Standard) is a text file, accessible at the root of a website, that tells search engine crawlers which areas of a website should be ignored.

Return on Investment (ROI)

A way to measure the performance of SEO activities. This is calculated by dividing how much revenue you earned via organic search by the cost of the total investment, then multiplying by 100.


S

Schema

A form of microdata which, once added to a webpage, creates an enhanced description (commonly known as a rich snippet), which appears in search results.

Scrape

A technique used to copy website content or information using a computer program or script. Search engines, such as Google, scrape data in order to build a searchable index of websites.

Also known as: Web scraping.

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Search Engine

A computer program that enables users to enter a query in order to retrieve information (e.g., files, websites, webpages) from that program’s index (i.e., a web search engine, such as Google, indexes websites, webpages, and files found on the World Wide Web). A search index is built and updated using a crawler, with items being analyzed and ranked by a series of algorithms.

Also see: Baidu, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Google, Yahoo, Yandex

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

An umbrella term for increasing a website’s visibility in search engine results pages, encompassing both paid and organic activities.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The process of optimizing a website – as well as all the content on that website – so it will appear in prominent positions in the organic results of search engines. SEO requires an understanding of how search engines work, what people search for (i.e., keywords and keyphrases), and why people search (intent). Successful SEO makes a site appealing to users and search engines. It is a combination of technical (on-page SEO) and marketing (off-page SEO).

See: On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

The page search engines display to users after conducting a search. Typically, search engines show about 10 organic search results, sorted by relevance. Depending on the query, other search features may be shown, including:

  • AdWords Ads (above and below the organic search results)
  • Featured snippets (a.k.a., Position Zero)
  • Images
  • Knowledge panels
  • Local Pack (with map)
  • News
  • Related questions
  • Related searches
  • Shopping results
  • Sitelinks
  • Tweets
  • Videos

Also known as: SERPs, when referring to multiple search engine results pages.

Search History

Search engines track every search users conduct (text and voice), every webpage visited, and every ad clicked on. Search engines may use this data to personalize the results for signed in users.

Also known as: Web Browsing History.

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Share of Voice

How many impressions a brand receives in the SERPs for search terms when compared to the total impressions that the brand’s competitors receive for those same search terms.

Sitelinks

Up to six algorithmically-chosen links that appear below the listing for the same website of a top-ranked organic search result. Pages can be blocked from appearing as sitelinks within the Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.

Also known as: Deep Links (Bing).

Sitemap

A list of pages on a website. There are two types of sitemaps:

  • HTML: This type of sitemap, typically organized by topics, helps site users navigate a website.
  • XML: This type of sitemap provides crawlers with a list of webpages on a website.

Sitewide Links

A link that appears on every page of a website, typically in a sidebar or footer of blogs or websites that use templates.

Social Media

Platforms (websites and apps) where users can interact with each other, as well as create, share, and consume content.

Social Signal

Any factors that demonstrate authority and influence on popular social networking websites. For example, the social authority of a user on Twitter.

Although many correlation studies have indicated that socials signals impact rankings (e.g., number of Likes/shares a piece of content receives), Google has publicly stated that social signals are not a direct ranking factor. Popular sites that have a lot of social media engagement tend to rank well for other reasons.

Spam

See: Webspam

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Spider

See: Bot

Split Testing

A controlled experiment used to compare at least two webpages to measure the effects of a different variable on conversions. After the pages are shown for a long enough period of time to site visitors to gather an adequate amount of performance data, a “winner” can be declared.

Also known as: A/B Testing.

SSL Certificate

A digital certificate used for website identity authentication and to encrypt information sent to the server using Secure Sockets Layer technology.

Status Codes

The response codes sent by a server whenever a link is clicked, a webpage or file is requested, or a form is submitted. Common HTTP status codes important to SEO:

  • 200 (OK)
  • 404 (Not Found)
  • 410 (Gone)
  • 500 (Internal Service Error)
  • 503 (Service Unavailable)

Stop Word

A frequently used word. For example: a, at, for, is, of, on, the. Search engines have, in the past, ignored these words to save time/resources when indexing. Search engines have evolved greatly since the early days, and stop words sometimes are meaningful, so this isn’t something to worry much about for SEO purposes.

Recommended reading:

Subdomain

A separate section that exists within a main domain. For example: http://jobs.searchenginejournal.com/ is a subdomain that exists within the main domain of https://www.searchenginejournal.com/


T

Taxonomy

Organizing and categorizing a website to maximize content findability and help users complete desired on-site tasks.

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Time on Page

An inexact estimation of how long a user spent looking at a particular webpage. Pages with high exit rates can greatly skew this data.

Title Tag

An HTML meta tag that acts as the title of a webpage. Typically, the title tag is the title search engines use when displaying search listings, so it should include strategic and relevant keywords for that specific page. The title tag should also be written so it makes sense to people and attracts the most clicks. Typically, title tags should be less than 65 characters.

Top-Level Domain (TLD)

The extension of a given web address. These include:

There are also many more industry and country-specific options.

Also known as: gTLD (Generic Top-Level Domain); Domain Extension.

Traffic

The people (and sometimes bots) who visit your website.

Trust

Generally applies to the history of a domain (e.g., whether it cites or features expert sources, builds a positive reputation, adheres to Webmaster Guidelines).

TrustRank

A link analysis technique used to separate good “reputable seed pages” from web spam.

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Recommended reading:


U

User-Generated Content (UGC)

Any form of content – videos, blog posts, comments, reviews, etc. – that is created by users or customers.

Universal Search

When search engines pull data from multiple speciality databases to display on the same SERP. Results can include images, videos, news, shopping, and other types of results.

Also known as: Blended Search.

Unnatural Link

Any links Google identifies as suspicious, deceptive, or manipulative. An unnatural link can result in Google taking manual action on your website.

URL

A uniform resource locator is the specific string of characters that lead to a resource on the web. The term URL is usually short-hand for the letter-based web address (e.g., www.searchenginejournal.com) entered into a browser to access a webpage.

URL Parameter

The values added to a URL in order to track where traffic comes from (i.e., which link someone clicked on to discover your website or webpage). Here’s an example of a URL parameter (bolded):

https://www.searchenginejournal.com/example-article-url/999999/?utm_source=share-back-traffic&utm_medium=desktop-share-button&utm_campaign=twitter

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Also known as: Query String.

Usability

How easy it is for people to use your website. Site design, browser compatibility, disability enhancements, and other factors all play a role in improving usability and making your site accessible for as many people as possible.

User Agent

Web crawling software.

User Experience (UX)

The overall feeling users are left with after interacting with a brand, its online presence, and its product/services.


V

Vertical Search

A specialized type of search where the focus is only on a specific topic, type of content, or media. For example, YouTube (video), Amazon (shopping), Kayak (travel), Yelp (business reviews).

Virtual Assistant

A bot that uses natural language processing to perform tasks, such as conducting web searches. For instance, Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana.

Visibility

The prominence and positions a website occupies within the organic search results.

Voice Search

A type of voice-activated technology that allows users to speak into a device (usually a smartphone) to ask questions or conduct an online search.

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W

Webpage

A document that exists on the World Wide Web and can be viewed by web browsers.

Website

A collection of webpages hosted together on the World Wide Web.

Website Navigation

How a website connects its webpages to help visitors navigate that site. Website navigation comes in a few different forms, including:

  • Main Navigation: The major topics or subjects your website is focused on. For instance, on SEJ our Main Navigation consists of SEO, News, PPC, Content, and Social.
  • Secondary Navigation: Topics related to the main navigation. For instance, on SEJ secondary navigation includes links to webinars, podcasts, guides, SEJ Summit, and other topics.
  • Footer Navigation: Typically this includes links to pages that contain important informational resources about a brand or business. These pages usually aren’t important for ranking purposes. For example, SEJ’s footer navigation links to our About Us page, privacy policy, and our various social profiles.
  • Related Links: This area usually appears in the right rail or beneath content. It might be called “Most Popular,” “Most Read,” or “Trending Now.”
  • Content Links: Links that appear within your main content (e.g., articles, landing pages).
  • Breadcrumb Navigation: This type is less popular than it once was. Essentially, each webpage shows a “trail” to help quickly tell visitors where they are on your site. For example: Home > SEO > Link Building > What Is Website Navigation?

Also known as: Internal Links (or Internal Linking), Site Architecture

Webspam

Any methods that exist solely to deceive or manipulate search engine algorithms and/or users.

Also known as: Black Hat SEO, Spam, Spamdexing, Search Spam

White Hat

Tactics that comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Word Count

The total number of words that appear within the copy of content. Too little (or thin) content can be a signal of low-quality to search engines.

WordPress

A popular blogging and content management system.

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X

XML

Extensible Markup Language is a markup language search engines use to understand website data.

XML Sitemap

A list of all the pages on a website that search engines need to know.


Y

Yahoo

Yahoo was born in April 1994 and was an incredibly popular search engine and portal in the ’90s. Yahoo search was mostly human-powered, at least until June 2000 when a then-unknown search engine called Google began powering Yahoo’s organic search results. That deal continued until 2004, when Yahoo started using its own search technology. Since 2010, Yahoo’s organic search results have been powered by Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.

Yandex

The most popular search engine in Russia, Yandex was founded September 23, 1997 by Arkady Volozh and Ilya Segalovich.


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SEO

A Guide To Social Media Algorithms & How They Work

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A Guide To Social Media Algorithms & How They Work

Why do so many marketers keep asking, “How do social media algorithms work?” Because the algorithms for the major platforms can change quickly.

But, marketers should also keep asking, “Which social media platforms have the most users?” Because that data can change frequently, as well.

So, here are the latest answers to the first question about the algorithms for the eight platforms that you should be considering today.

Spoiler alert: This update contains some surprising shifts in the latest data on monthly unique visitors, monthly visits, and monthly average visit duration from SimilarWeb.

How Does The YouTube Algorithm Work?

YouTube got 1.953 billion unique visitors worldwide in May 2022. The platform received 35.083 billion monthly visits that month with an average visit duration of 21:41.

Now, some social media marketers may be shocked, shocked to find YouTube ranking ahead of Facebook.

But, SimilarWeb’s data above is only for desktop and mobile web channels. It doesn’t include data for connected TVs, which became the fastest-growing screen among YouTube viewers in 2020.

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This makes it imperative to know how YouTube’s algorithm works.

YouTube’s algorithm tries to match each viewer to the videos they’re most likely to watch and enjoy. But, with over 500 hours of video content uploaded every minute, this is a Herculean task.

YouTube’s search and discovery systems tackle this challenge by paying close attention to:

  • What viewers watch.
  • What they don’t watch.
  • How much time do they spend watching?
  • What do they share and like?

Next, you need to learn that YouTube has multiple algorithms, including ones for:

  • YouTube Search: Videos are ranked based on how well titles, descriptions, and video content match the viewer’s search and which videos get the most engagement for a search.
  • Up Next: The ranking of suggested videos is based on machine learning’s understanding of which ones viewers are most likely to watch next. These videos are often related to the video a viewer is watching, but they can also be personalized based on the viewer’s watch history.
  • Your homepage: Videos are selected based on how often viewers watch a channel or topic, how well similar videos have interested and satisfied similar viewers, and how many times YouTube has already shown each video to a viewer.
  • YouTube Shorts: YouTube wants both short and long videos to succeed. So, relative watch time is generally more important for short videos, while absolute watch time is generally more important for longer videos.

So, what should you do next?

First, read my column, How To Optimize YouTube Videos To Help Ukraine, which provides tips on keyword research, title optimization, writing descriptions, custom thumbnails, and other video SEO best practices.

Next, read Jon Clark’s article, 13 Key Elements Of Successful YouTube Videos. He focuses on how to make a great video.

Why is that important? Because YouTube’s search and discovery system “finds” videos for each viewer and their varying interests in order to get them to watch more videos that they’ll enjoy so they’ll come back to YouTube regularly.

How Does The Facebook Algorithm Work?

Facebook got only 1.620 billion unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 19.739 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 10:05.

Now, Facebook’s unique visitors started dipping worldwide in February 2022.

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But, as you can see in the chart below, there was a substantial drop in unique visitors in Russia in early March, after Russia blocked Facebook in an effort to control the spread of information on the invasion of Ukraine.

Screenshot courtesy of Similarweb, June 2022

This had a negative impact on Facebook’s total unique visitors worldwide, which were already losing momentum. Nevertheless, the platform is still too big to ignore.

So, how does Facebook’s algorithm work today?

Well, we knew how Facebook’s News Feed ranking process worked in December 2021 when Anna Stepanov, Head of Facebook App Integrity, wrote a post that said:

“News Feed uses personalized ranking, which takes into account thousands of unique signals to understand what’s most meaningful to you. Our aim isn’t to keep you scrolling on Facebook for hours on end, but to give you an enjoyable experience that you want to return to.”

And she summarized half a dozen of the biggest changes Facebook had made in 2021 to give users more control over, and insight into, how content appears in their News Feed.

This included publishing a new series of Widely Viewed Content Reports to share what content is seen by the most people in News Feed in the U.S.

Ironically, Facebook’s latest Widely Viewed Content Report showed the top four domains in Q4 2021:

  • youtube.com (168.1 million content viewers).
  • media1.tenor.co (118.4 million).
  • gofundme.com (112.4 million).
  • tiktok.com (105.0 million).

But, then in February 2022, Matt G. Southern reported Facebook Shifts Focus To Short-Form Video After Stock Plunge. And on June 16, 2022, Southern reported Facebook To Restructure Main Feed Around Video Content.

So, what should you do next? First, read Southern’s stories and learn why Tom Alison, head of Facebook, plans to turn its main feed into a “discovery engine” for video content.

According to Alison, the main tab in the Facebook app will become a mix of Stories and Reels at the top, followed by posts that its discovery engine will recommend from across both Facebook and Instagram.

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Next, follow Southern’s expert, authoritative, and trustworthy advice:

“The best way to prepare for this change, if Facebook is a priority for you and your business, is to get comfortable with creating and publishing more short form video. While Facebook will continue to surface text and photo posts, they’ll be ancillary to the main attractions of Reels and Stories.”

How Does The Instagram Algorithm Work?

Instagram got 1.050 billion unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 6.497 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 07:51.

Russia has also banned Instagram, but the growth in unique visitors from other countries around the world has offset that.

So, you still need to know how Instagram’s algorithms work.

In June 2021, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, wrote a post entitled, Shedding More Light On How Instagram Works. He revealed:

“Instagram doesn’t have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app. We use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.”

For the Feed and Stories, the key ranking signals are:

  • Information about the post: How popular a post is, when it was posted, how long it is, if it’s a video, and if it’s attached to a location.
  • Information about the person who posted: How many times users have interacted with that person in the past few weeks.
  • User activity: What a user might be interested in and how many posts they’ve liked.
  • User history of interacting with someone: How interested a user is in seeing posts from a particular person.

For Explore, the key ranking signals are:

  • Information about the post: How popular a post seems to be as well as how many and how quickly other people are liking, commenting, sharing, and saving a post.
  • User history of interacting with someone: (See above.)
  • User activity: What posts a user has liked, saved, or commented on as well as how they’ve interacted with posts in Explore in the past.
  • Information about the person who posted: (See above.)

For Reels, the key ranking signals are:

  • User activity: Which Reels a user has liked, commented on, and engaged with recently.
  • User history of interacting with someone: (See above.)
  • Information about the reel: The audio track, video data such as pixels and whole frames, as well as popularity.
  • Information about the person who posted: (See above.)

So, each part of the app uses similar ranking signals, but their order of importance varies. Mosseri explained:

“People tend to look for their closest friends in Stories, but they want to discover something entirely new in Explore. We rank things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them.”

For more tips and advice, read the article by Shelley Walsh entitled, 22 Ways To Get More Instagram Followers Right Now. Then, read Amanda DiSilvestro’s article, How To Use Instagram Reels For Business.

How Does The Twitter Algorithm Work?

Twitter got 979 million unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 7.056 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 10.39.

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This data does not screen for fake or spam accounts. Nevertheless, it’s worth investing the time and effort to keep up with how Twitter’s algorithm works.

Like most social media platforms, Twitter has multiple algorithms.

Twitter says its “algorithmic Home timeline displays a stream of Tweets from accounts you have chosen to follow on Twitter, as well as recommendations of other content we think you might be interested in based on accounts you interact with frequently, Tweets you engage with, and more.”

If users want to, they can click on the star symbol to see the latest Tweets as they happen. But, few people choose to drink water from a firehose.

If they want to, users can click on “Explore” and see Trending tweets or ones about COVID-19, News, Sports, and Entertainment.

If users want to, they can click on “More” to see the Topics that Twitter thinks they’re interested in.

Like most social media platforms, Twitter’s algorithms use machine learning to sort content based on different ranking signals.

And it’s worth noting that Twitter is currently involved in analyzing the results of its algorithms as part of its “responsible machine learning initiative.”

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Here’s what Twitter has said publicly about its Home timeline, Trends, and Topics ranking signals:

Relevance:

  • ​​Users’ previous actions on Twitter, like their own Tweets and Tweets they’ve engaged with.
  • Accounts they often engage with.
  • Topics they follow and engage with most.
  • The number of Tweets related to a topic.
  • For Trends: their location.

Engagement:

  • For Tweets: “How popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with [the Tweet].”
  • For Trends: “The number of Tweets related to the Trend.”
  • For Topics: “How much people are Tweeting, Retweeting, replying, and liking Tweets about that Topic.”

Recency:

  • For Trends: “Topics that are popular now, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis.”

Rich Media:

  • The type of media the Tweet includes like an image, video, GIF, and polls.

For more advice and tips, read Lisa Buyer’s article, 8 Terrific Tips To Optimize A Twitter Business Or Brand Profile. Then, read the article by Julia McCoy entitled, How To Be A Top Tweeter: 10 Tips That Will Get Your Tweets Noticed.

How Does The TikTok Algorithm Work?

TikTok got 690 million monthly visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 1.766 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 03:48.

This data doesn’t include Douyin.com, which is counted separately. But, as the chart below illustrates, TikTok.com gets about 98% of the unique visitors worldwide for both of the ByteDance apps.

TikTok.com gets about 98% of the unique visitors worldwideScreenshot courtesy of Similarweb, June 2022

So, you should probably learn how TikTok’s algorithm works ASAP.

In June 2020, TikTok revealed how its recommendation system selected videos in a post entitled, How TikTok recommends videos #ForYou.

Little has fundamentally changed since then, except the U.S. government is no longer trying to ban the social media platform.

TikTok’s For You feed presents a stream of videos curated to each user’s interests, making it easy for a user to find content and creators they love.

In other words, there isn’t one For You feed for over one billion monthly active TikTok users. There are a billion For You feeds tailored to what each user watches, likes, and shares.

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TikTok added, “This feed is powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user.”

And recommendations are based on a number of factors, including:

  • User interactions such as the videos they like or share, accounts they follow, comments they post, and content they create.
  • Video information, which might include details like captions, sounds, and hashtags.
  • Device and account settings like their language preference, country setting, and device type.

TikTok also revealed:

“All these factors are processed by our recommendation system and weighted based on their value to a user. A strong indicator of interest, such as whether a user finishes watching a longer video from beginning to end, would receive greater weight than a weak indicator, such as whether the video’s viewer and creator are both in the same country.

Videos are then ranked to determine the likelihood of a user’s interest in a piece of content, and delivered to each unique For You feed.”

On the other hand, TikTok said:

“While a video is likely to receive more views if posted by an account that has more followers, by virtue of that account having built up a larger follower base, neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.”

So, what should you do next? First, read Miranda Miller’s article, 40+ TikTok Stats Digital Marketers Need To Know. Then, read my column, How TikTok’s Search Algorithms Power Content Discovery.

How Does The Pinterest Algorithm Work?

Pinterest got 409 million unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 945 million visits that month with an average session duration of 05:29.

With Instagram declaring it is “no longer just a square photo-sharing app,” this is the time to learn how Pinterest’s algorithm works.

The ranking factors on Pinterest relate more to engagement metrics and social shares, but it also involves keywords.

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And Pinterest autocomplete provides ideas by automatically suggesting semantically related modifiers to a core keyword.

Pinterest’s search feature then curates a user’s “feed” based on what they’re searching for and how those key terms are used in the Pins being shared by content creators.

Pinterest also categorizes and sub-categorizes topics to make it easy to find keywords for your particular niche.

To optimize your Pins:

  • Use long images: The optimal Pin size is 1,000 by 1,500 px or a ratio of 2:3.
  • Use eye-catching colors: Catch users’ attention and stand out with high-contrast colors.
  • Use enticing, keyword-rich titles: Entice users to click through to your content.
  • Use detailed descriptions: Include your target keywords in your descriptions.

Then, optimize your boards. Boards provide a great opportunity to tell Pinterest’s search engine how you categorize your products and/or organize your content, which will only aid visibility.

Finally, aim for engagement, which can increase your Pin’s (and your profile’s) visibility in search, increasing your traffic.

For additional information and advice, read Southern’s story, Pinterest Updates Algorithm To Surface More Content Types. Then, read Jessica Foster’s article, 12 Pinterest SEO Tips For High-Traffic Success.

How Does The LinkedIn Algorithm Work?

LinkedIn got 306 million unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 1.479 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 07:32.

So, social media marketers – especially ones at B2B organizations – need to know how LinkedIn’s algorithm works.

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In June 2019, Pete Davies, Senior Director of Product Management at LinkedIn, wrote a post entitled, What’s in your LinkedIn Feed: People You Know, Talking about Things You Care About. He explained, “The more valuable the conversation, the higher in your feed the post will be.”

How does LinkedIn’s algorithm know if a conversation is valuable? It uses the following framework:

  • People you know: LinkedIn’s algorithm looks at a user’s connections and prioritizes who they’ve interacted with directly through comments and reactions; the user’s implicit interests and experiences based on information in their profile; explicit signals, such as who a user works with; as well as who would benefit from hearing from the user.
  • Talking about: A lot of sophistication goes into understanding a good conversation. As a rule of thumb, better conversations are authentic and have a constructive back and forth.
  • Things you care about: LinkedIn’s algorithm also looks at whether the content and the conversation are relevant and interesting to a user. It considers a number of signals, including joining groups and following hashtags, people, and pages.

So, what should you do next? First, read Jessica Foster’s article, How The LinkedIn Algorithm Works & Optimizing For It. Then, read Matt G. Southern’s article, LinkedIn Debunks Algorithm Myths In New Video Series.

How Does The Reddit Algorithm Work?

Reddit got 237 million unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 1.669 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 09:59.

With Facebook setting its sights on video to regain its momentum, this is a good time to learn how Reddit’s algorithm works.

In June 2021, the official blog for Reddit posted Evolving the Best Sort for Reddit’s Home Feed. It provided insights into how Reddit determines which relevant posts to show users.

The post revealed that:

“Reddit’s systems build a list of potential candidate posts from multiple sources, pass the posts through multiple filtering steps, then rank the posts according to the specified sorting method. Over the years, we’ve built many options to choose from when it comes to sorting your Home feed.”

Here’s how each sort option recommends content:

  • “Hot” ranks using votes and post age.
  • “New” displays the most recently published posts.
  • “Top” shows users the highest vote count posts from a specified time range.
  • “Controversial” shows posts with both high count upvotes and downvotes.
  • “Rising” populates posts with lots of recent votes and comments.
  • ‘Best” uses machine learning algorithms to personalize the order in which users see posts.

For more tips and information, read the article by Brent Csutoras entitled, A Beginner’s Guide To Reddit: How To Get Started & Be Successful. Then, read Southern’s story, Reddit Makes Comments Searchable.

Why Should You Keep Asking Questions?

The latest data from SimilarWeb indicates that you should continue asking “Which social media platforms have the most users?” as well as “How do social media algorithms work?”

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Things change too quickly and frequently in this particular arena for anyone to think that past performance is even remotely indicative of future results.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

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