technical seo glossary

Glossary of Technical SEO Terms

A big part of my job is to put together technical audits for our clients’ sites, which includes running through the issues with the client afterwards. To properly explain the issues, a lot of technical SEO terms are used.

For newcomers and those who aren’t particularly well versed with SEO, especially technical SEO – there can be a lot of jargon in there. So, if you’re a newcomer or are just looking to become more well-versed with the SEO terms that lean on the techy side of things, we’ve put together a glossary of common technical SEO terms.

Alt Text – Each image can have alt text attributed to it within an alt tag, this is used to essentially provide information about an image. Search engines will use this, along with elements such as the file name of the image, to identify what an image is about.

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages, a Google-backed initiative that focuses on providing a separate version of a page for mobile users, with it being much lighter, focusing on page speed.

Anchor Text – The text used to accompany a link. This can be used to help entice a user to go through to another page, and also gives information about the page being linked to; helpful for search engines.

Breadcrumbs – These are elements of a page, often product and category pages on eCommerce sites, which help dictate where you are in the structure of the site. They’re useful for both search engines and users to find other parts of the site’s structure.

Canonical – A tag which dictates the preferred URL of a page to search engines. This is something that search engines can ignore if they disagree with it, but it’s a helpful way of providing a signal to them regarding the exact URL you’d like to be included in search results. Its most common use would be to avoid duplicate content – you can take two pages which are precise duplicates of each other and give them the same canonical tag, telling search engines to only focus on that one page.

ccTLD – Country-code Top Level Domain, referring to the country code used within the URL of a website, used at the end of it, designated for certain countries – .uk, .fr, .and .de would all be examples of ccTLD’s. Our own domain has .uk as a ccTLD:

CheiRank – This is similar to PageRank, but a term that’s rather seldom used. It works similarly, but instead focuses on the number of links going from that page through to other pages, an inversion of PageRank’s calculation.

Chrome DevTools – a key part of an SEO’s tool kit, this is a set of developer tools built into Google Chrome, accessible via right-clicking a page and selecting Inspect.

Cloaking – the use of hidden content or URLs, used to show different content to users and search engines.

Client-side Rendering – tying into Javascript, this refers to the contents of a Javascript-based page being rendered in the user’s browser. This results in very little, if any, HTML being made visible to search engines upon their request for the page, hindering the search performance of these pages.

More Information: JavaScript SEO: Server Side Rendering vs. Client Side Rendering

Crawling – in order to find content that is to be included within search results, search engines go through the crawling process. This sees them send out a crawler, often referred to as a bot/crawlbot, which will find new pages by going from link to link.

Crawl Budget – when search engines crawl a site, they’ll crawl a certain amount every time they visit it – this is referred to as the site’s crawl budget. This is impacted by areas such as page speed and the importance of pages.

More Information: A Guide to Crawl Budgets

CSS – Cascading Style Sheets, a language to describe the style used for an HTML document, used alongside JS and HTML to present web pages.

CTR – Click-through Rate, referring to the rate at which users have clicked through to a particular element. This is often attributed to organic search, where we aim to find out the CTR of pages within search results – identifying how many people click through to the page once it appears within a SERP.

gTLD – Generic Top Level Domain, otherwise known as a TLD, this refers to the extension used within the URL of a domain. Unlike a ccTLD, these don’t have a specific country as its target.

H1-6 – the header tags of a page, helping to build the internal structure of content found on a page. Search engines use the H1 tag to help identify the core subject of a page, with other headers being useful for the page’s structure.

Hreflang – a tag used to indicate an international variant of a page. These need to be set up, either within the code of the page itself or in the sitemap, when a site has multiple international variants to help search engines understand which content should be served for which region/language.

.htaccess File – A key part of a site, this is a configuration file for Apache web servers. They’re used to alter how the server it’s located on operates, giving it instructions. It’s common to include items such as redirect rules in here, such as an HTTP > HTTPS redirect rule, automatically taking any user who attempts to visit an HTTP URL through to its HTTPS counterpart.

HTML – Hypertext Markup Language, the foundational code that is used to build web pages.

Indexing – the actual process of search engines including pages within search results. Pages are indexed following the crawling process, once the requisite information has been taken from the page.

Index Coverage – this can refer to the actual act of identifying how well your site has been indexed within search engines, but also refers to a report in the new version of Search Console, showing you how Google have treated the pages of your site with regards to indexing them. Regarding the former, this is also commonly referred to as Indexation, which some people aren’t a fan of.

Javascript – An enormously important programming language, and the bane of many SEOs. It’s a key part of web pages, with its use growing each year – it ties into SEO, and more specifically technical SEO, due to the importance of being able to ensure that search engines are able to view and crawl Javascript websites.

Keyword Cannibalisation – referring to the use of the same keyword across multiple pages, leading them to compete with each other for relevance.

Log Files – often referring to the web server access logs which collect information such as the IP address, time of request, size of the request, and URL whenever a page is requested. This is the best way to find out how search engines are actually crawling and interacting with your site.

Log File Analysis – tying into Log Files, this is the identification of potential issues and search engine behaviours through the use of log files. The information taken from these log files, including the URL requested, response codes, and request size, can be used to view what search engines are crawling within your site.

Machine Learning – the application of artificial intelligence, giving systems the capability to learn and provide information based on experience. It’s a growing part of SEO, with it tying into areas such as automation and generating content, with it also being a part of how Google serves content in search results.

More Information: How Machine Learning in Search Works

Migration – a website making a move from one version to another. This can refer to switching servers, redesigning a site, or restructuring it entirely – it’s key to ensure that everything from the former iteration of the site migrates to the new version, creating a simple transition for search engines and users.

Mobile First Indexing – a recent update by Google regarding how they crawl and index pages within search results. As opposed to crawling and indexing the desktop version of a page/site, the mobile version will be the first port of call for search engines in this process, when the site has been moved to mobile first indexing.

NLP – Natural Language Processing, a growing part of SEO, which focuses on the automatic interpretation and manipulation of speech/text by AI.

More Information / Related Guide: On-page SEO for NLP

Nofollow – A tag that can be used for both entire pages and individual links on a page, it tells search engines that they shouldn’t follow the link it’s attributed to, or any links on the page it’s attributed to if used for the entire page.

Noindex – A tag which, when added within the code of a page, will instruct search engines to avoid including it within its index, subsequently excluding it from search results pages.

PageRank – This is a calculation/algorithm, named after one of Google’s founders, Larry Page. It aims to evaluate the authority of pages via the quality and quantity of internal links to that page.

Page Speed – a key part of SEO as it ties into areas like user experience and search engine crawling, also being a ranking factor – this refers to how quickly pages across a site actually load.

Pagination – this refers to a sequence of pages, splitting up content across several pages. This is most often seen on blogs and categories.

PWA – Progressive Web App(s), web applications that are similar to web pages but offer additional functionality. You’ll notice these when you see a banner on a mobile page, such as “Add to Home Screen”. A key additional function is the ability to browse its contents offline, with the web page acting as an app.

Redirect Chain – as opposed to a single redirect where URL A will redirect to URL B, a redirect chain indicates further steps along the way. It’s recommended that these are avoided, as search engines will eventually give up if there are too many – they’ll stop crawling the chain once it reaches 5 URLs.

Redirect Loop – where a URL redirects to itself, creating an infinite loop. Similar to a redirect chain, search engines won’t want to crawl these, and users won’t be able to reach the intended target page.

Regex – Short for Regular Expression, this is something that can be used to find patterns between elements, identifying matching strings. This can be powerful in technical SEO, often being used to extract and scrape data from pages across a site in bulk.

More Information: How to Use Regex for SEO

Rel=”prev” – A tag which is used to order pages within a logical set, with this one referring to the next page in that set.

Rel=”next” – Used in conjunction with the rel=”prev” tag, this indicates the page that appears prior to the current one within the set.

Here’s an example of prev + next tags used in conjunction with pagination (taking the 3rd page of our own blog pagination as the example):

<link rel=”prev” href=”” />

<link rel=”next” href=”” />

Response Codes – When a request for a URL is made, a response code is issued that essentially dictates the status of the page. Here are the most common response codes:

/ 200 – This is the most common status code you’ll see, with this essentially meaning that the page works properly and has been found.

/ 301 – A permanent redirect, where one URL will be redirected through to another. The use of the permanent redirect as opposed to a temporary one tells search engines to focus on the new destination URL.

/ 302 – A temporary redirect, where the same principle applies, though it will be seen as a short-term move. Due to the temporary nature of the redirect, search engines will still index the former URL, whereas it will be replaced in the event of a 301 redirect.

/ 404 – The page has not been found. This indicates that the page no longer exists, in the case of a deleted page, or never existed in the first place, in the case of a malformed URL.

/ 410 – Though similar to a 404 in the sense that it indicates that the page doesn’t exist, the 410 response code tells search engines that the page has gone. It’s essentially a stronger signal than a 404, with pages that serve 410 response codes being removed from search results quicker than those that serve a 404.

Robots.txt – This refers to the robots.txt file, a small text file in the root directory of a site that is used to provide rules to search engines regarding how they should crawl the site. These rules can be created to tell search engines that they explicitly shouldn’t crawl certain parts of the site.

More Information: Robots.txt Guide to Improve Crawl Efficiency

Schema Markup – This is additional code that, when added to a page, offers search engines information about the page and its structure. It can be used to generate rich results, such as star ratings that you see within search results pages for products. This ties into Structured Data, which is a more holistic use of this, though Schema is the most common form of this markup.

Search Console – this is a key part of the SEO tool belt, with it being one of Google’s own resources which provides information and insights regarding how Google have handled your site. Information in Search Console includes organic clicks, errors seen by Google, as well as the pages that have been included and excluded from search results.

SERP – Search Engine Results Page, the list of results that you find when you search for something within a search engine.

Server-side Rendering – tying into Javascript, this refers to the contents of a Javascript-based page being rendered by the server as opposed to within the user’s browser, meaning that search engines are able to crawl and read its contents.

Service Worker – essentially a script which functions in the background, providing access to features that don’t require any interaction. Examples of service worker purposes include push notifications and background sync, the latter helping with the serving of offline content.

SSL – often referring to an SSL certificate, something used to provide a secure version of a page, using the HTTPS protocol.

Spider Trap – a lesser-used term, but this refers to parts of a website where search bots will be “stuck” in a loop of unnecessary pages, through the generation of infinite URLs.

TTFB – Time to First Byte, referring to the time taken for a browser to receive the first byte of data from the server, with it being a measure of how responsive a web server is.

URL – Uniform Resource Locator, otherwise simply known as the web address of a page.

User-Agent – in SEO, this often refers to the identification of where a request originates from. For example, when conducting log file analysis, you can identify the user-agent of the bot that requested a URL, telling you which search engine made the request. Each search engine will have their own bots that are identifiable via the user-agent used.

Web Crawler – there are a few terms for these, such as bot, spider and crawler, but these are used by search engines to find pages throughout the web, referring back to the Crawling section.

XML Sitemap – A file which contains a list of URLs across the site. This file can be directly submitted via Search Console and is a helpful way to provide a direct list of URLs for search engines to crawl.

More Information: Beginner’s Guide to XML Sitemaps

For help with your technical SEO, get in touch with the experts here at Ricemedia!