Up until a few years ago, the realms of SEO were confined to the SEO geeks and didn’t concern us creatives in the marketing world. But with the evolution of search, social media and heavily reduced budgets, the world of website management is now falling more and more to marketers and PR’s. This isn’t a bad thing, the correlation between SEO and content marketing is closer than it’s ever been and, in fact, more can be achieved by integrating the two at a strategic level. Editor: It’s also a great time for SEO geeks to be creative and creatives to be a little geekier!

But unless you’re en expert, the best approach is often to outsource some of the more technical aspects of monitoring and managing your website visibility and traffic stats by using an agency. This is where it can get tricky. SEO is one of those areas that can be quite subjective, and as such it’s easy for not so reputable companies to sell you services you don’t really want or need purely because you‘re not familiar enough with the jargon to know what to ask for.

To help you navigate your way through, we’ve pulled together a list of the most common SEO terms which you’re likely to hear and given a brief explanation of each one. We also have some useful hints for avoiding the agencies you don’t want anywhere near your website.

What is SEO?

Basics first – SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, this is the term given to anything which is designed to help search engines understand the content of your site. This includes your copy, images, videos etc as well as the stuff going on in the background. You may hear SEO come under the banner of content marketing by some agencies, this is usually a good sign and should mean that SEO is integrated into the wider digital marketing themes.

Backlinks – These are links into your site from another site. Google sees these as a vote of confidence for your content and can help to boost your ranking. Many Black Hat practitioners will offer to ‘sell’ you backlinks. Don’t do it! Not only will they be fairly meaningless but Google could downgrade your site if it suspects you might be doing this. Aim for generating backlinks naturally by providing good content that other sites want to link to.

Black hat vs white hat – These terms are used to distinguish two very different approaches to SEO. White Hat is all about working in co-operation with the search engines and providing quality content to the end user. Black Hat is all about subverting the process, manipulating search engines and attacking competitor traffic.

Bounce rate – This refers to the number of visitors who exit your site on the same page they entered without visiting any other pages. You will always get a certain percentage of bounces from your site as some visitors will leave having found what they are looking. Contact pages often see the highest bounce rate. A high bounce rate (more than 30-40%) could indicate that your content is not compelling enough to hold the attention of your users and so could be worth looking at it more detail. The bounce rate is very subjective and shouldn’t be looked at it isolation but in conjunction with the overall level of traffics, the size of your website and the page content itself as well as wider trends that might be impacting.

Conversion rate – This is the percentage of users who fulfil pre-set ‘goals’ on your website. You may set a goal to gain X number of newsletter sign-ups. Your conversion rate would be the percentage of visitors who complete this ‘goal’.

Keyword density – Google uses keywords (a specific word or phrase that a user searches for) to establish the focus of your content. Google will look at each piece of content and look for a recurring word or phrase that it matches to a search term. The trick here is to get the balance right, use the term too often and your page could be penalised, too few and Google won’t recognise it. A rough guide would be to aim for between 2% and 4% of the total word count on the page. Keywords should also appear in the page title and headline to gain maximum effect but it’s not essential.

Landing page – The first page a user visits when they hit your site or ‘land’. A landing page does not need to be your home page, it could be a specific article or campaign page and allows you to focus specific messages on different pages rather than trying to cram everything into your homepage.

Long tail – Long tail search refers to the longer text strings we as users enter into the search box to help us narrow down what we are looking for. We may start by looking for ‘Jobs’ which will bring up hundreds of sites. If you trying to compete for this term, there’s stiff competition and it’s noisy. As a user we may expand the text string and look for ‘Marketing Jobs’. That will narrow down the search a little more and will be less competitive if we’re trying to get our site visible to the user. If the user continues to add more words to their search term, the pool of results get’s smaller. This is known as the long tail of search. The longer the search term, the less competition, the higher the chances of ranking. While there will be less customers searching for each phrase, the relevance will be higher to each.

Metadata – This is the detail that sits behind each webpage and tells Google the basic information about each page. This includes the page title, description and keywords. These used to be an essential part of developing your SEO, but recent research has shown that it’s not as vital as it used to be. Google is more interested in other ‘signals’ it receives about your content.

Organic/Natural search – This is any traffic which hasn’t been paid for through PPC, banner ads, adwords etc. This means a user has found your site through clicking on one of the results generated through a search. Your site will be visible because Google recognises its relevance rather than because you’ve paid to display it.

PageRank – Google assigns each page of your website a ranking between 0 and 10 and this indicates the level of trust in the page’s content. The figure can also be seen as an indication of the likelihood of an action being taken e.g. a user clicking on an element within the page. Google still uses PageRank as part of its search algorithm. However since they removed the pagerank tool bar in 2016 pagerank scores are not publically available to view.

SERPs – Search Engine Results Page is the list of results displayed after a search is performed. Where your website sits within these indicates how relevant the search engine believes your site to be in relation to the search query. The holy grail for most is the top spot, however anywhere above the fold on page one is your goal.

Stickiness – This term is one of my pet hates but you’ll hear it a lot from agencies. The stickiness of your site is determined by how enticed the user is to remain on the site and click through to different areas. Encourage users to visit different pages by providing quality links and calls to action. This will provide a better experience for your visitors, encourage repeat visits and reduce your bounce rate (see Bounce rate).

PPC – Pay Per Click is the most popular form of paid search. This involves paying to boost your website up the page of search results for specific keywords. It can be a useful tool if the industry is crowded with a lot of competition, or if you have a short term campaign that you want noticed quickly. Research has shown that the majority of users prefer to select the organic results as they see these as more relevant than paid ads however. PPC can be expensive and does little to boost your rankings long term so use it wisely.

SMWC (Slapping Myself With Celery) – I learnt a new one today. This apparently is used to convey an extreme reaction to the something and is often used together with ROTFL.

There are hundreds more but these are the ones you are most likely to hear. If you come across one you don’t know, post it in the comments below and we’ll explain it for you.

If you want to know more about SEO and content marketing we have a whole host of resources available. The Complete Guide to SEO covers everything from the basics of getting started to using tools and setting goals.

Also browse through the podcasts for more helpful advice and top tips.

Written by Felice Ayling