SEO Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Initialisms – A Glossary of SEO Terms

Let’s get this one out of the way. SEO is an abbreviation that stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s the science, and some would say art, of tailoring your website and content in such a way that it ranks as high as possible in Search Engine Results Pages, or SERPs. Oh look, there’s another one.

boy searching through binoculars

A distinction that I’m going to take this opportunity to make, is the difference between an acronym and an initialism. While they are both usually comprised of the first letter of each word in the phrase they represent, the letters are only defined as an acronym if they actually form a word you would say out loud. If you just say the letters, it’s an initialism.

An example of an acronym is NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), while an initialism would be FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Both are classified as abbreviations and it’s not just government departments that love using them. We love to use them in IT as well. 😉

Common abbreviations used in SEO

AJAX: Asynchronous Javascript and XML

AJAX is used to create fast and dynamic web pages. It allows web pages to be updated asynchronously by exchanging small pieces of data with a server behind the scenes. This allows for the updating of certain parts of a web page, without reloading the whole thing.

ALT: Alternative Text Attribute

An ALT tag is used in the HTML code of a webpage to describe images in a text format. This exists for those who can’t see the images for whatever reason, whether their device can’t display it or if the user is visually impaired. You can usually get the ALT text to appear by hovering your cursor over an image. As far as SEO goes, it helps by giving search engines an idea of what the image is about. In turn, they may display it in image search results.

AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages

Google asks developers to use their open-source code AMP to improve website performance on mobile devices. Needless to say, Google likes when you follow their recommendations.

ASCII: American Standard Code for Information Interchange

ASCII is a character encoding standard for electronic communication. Put simply, it’s the letters and symbols you’ll see on your average keyboard. It’s important to be familiar with, as there are areas of SEO where it’s best to only stick to ASCII characters – URLs for instance.

Here’s an example of some standard ASCII characters:

ASCII characters shown in an image

BL: BackLink

A backlink is a hyperlink from one website to another. The more backlinks you have from other reputable websites, the better your website is perceived by search engines. The number of backlinks, and the authority of the websites that they come from is a huge factor in where you appear in SERPs.

BR: Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of users that navigate, or ‘bounce’, off your website or page straight away, without viewing any other pages. A high bounce rate is not a good signal for SEO, as search engines like to rank websites highly if they are shown to engage users for long periods of time.

CAPTCHA: Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart

captcha ratfaced pest

I’m sure you’ve come across these annoying roadblocks while browsing before. They may be annoying but they save web admins a lot of headaches. Captchas are designed to stop spam. They’re Turing tests to help websites detect robots, and prevent spam.

ccTLD: country code Top-Level Domain

A country code top-level domain is a domain reserved for a country or other territory that can be identified with a country code. You’ll often see them at the end of local website addresses. They are always two letters long, and an example would be ‘.nz’, for New Zealand.

CSS: Cascading Style Sheets

CSS is a style language that tells browsers like Chrome or Safari how to display and format a web page. It works in conjunction with HTML, and is then interpreted by a browser to display a website to the end user.

CMS: Content Management System

Content management systems like WordPress or Squarespace are platforms that allow users to create, publish, edit, and modify websites without having to type raw code. They’re great for web admins and content managers, allowing them to make simple edits without typing hundreds of lines of HTML.

Content management systems are so advanced and easy to use these days that anyone can set up a decent looking and well functioning website with little experience.

CRO: Conversion Rate Optimisation

A ‘conversion’ differs between websites. For some websites it may mean a sale of a product, while for others it may be a user downloading a file, or submitting their email address. The process of conversion rate optimisation simply means optimising the website so that more conversions are acquired. A simple example of implementing CRO would be testing whether a blue button or a green button attracts more clicks on your website.

spotify call to action shown on a phone

CTA: Call to Action

A call to action is usually found as a button or link on a website. It’s pretty self-explanatory as it is literally calling the user to take a certain action. You’ll find it’s often accompanied by an exclamation mark as well. ‘Click here!’, ‘Sign up!’, ‘Buy now!’, ‘Learn more!’, ‘Download free!’, are all classic examples of a CTA.

CTR: Click Through Rate

Click through rate is the ratio of clicks a certain link or button receives compared to the amount of users who viewed it. It’s often shown as a percentage, so it’s the amount of users who viewed the link, divided by the amount that clicked on it. It’s an abbreviation used often in digital marketing.

In terms of SEO specifically, it usually refers to the amount of users who saw your listing in the search engine results divided by those who clicked through to your website.

DA: Domain Authority

Domain authority is a metric created by MOZ, thought leaders in the SEO space. It gives a web domain an authority score out of 100, based on a myriad of factors. It’s meant to give you an idea of how easily a domain can rank highly in search results. One of the main drivers of DA is the amount of backlinks your website gets from other websites.

FTP: File Transfer Protocol

This is the standard protocol used by a computer to send files to a server, and your website.

GA: Google Analytics

Google Analytics is Google’s own tool for tracking the metrics and performance of a website. There’s a lot you can do with GA, enough to fill many blog posts. If you want to track your website numbers, GA is the way to go.

GSC: Google Search Console

Google Search Console is another Google tool similar to Google Analytics, however it only deals with your website in relation to Google Search Results. You can manage certain aspects of your website in GSC, as well as look at statistics around your organic search marketing reach.

GTM: Google Tag Manager

Yet another Google tool. Who knew dealing with search engines would mean you’d be using so many Google tools? GTM is a free tool that allows you manage snippets of code or tracking pixels on your website in order to have a better idea of who is visiting the site and what they’re doing on it.

google analytics shown being used on a laptop

HTML: Hypertext Markup Language

HTML is the programming language that is used to create and format web pages and websites. It works alongside CSS to tell browsers what a website is supposed to look like.

HTTP(S): Hypertext Transfer Protocol (Secure)

HTTP is the basic underlying protocol used by the World Wide Web. It defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what servers and browsers should do in response to various commands.

HTTPS is the latest, more secure version of the above. It’s a benefit to SEO to ensure your website uses HTTPS.

JSON – LD: JavaScript Object Notation – Linked Data

JSON is an information request. In SEO, JSON-LD is used to encode schema into a web page. This allows search engines to access information about the website that isn’t usually visible to the user, and then display it in search results.

An example of schema would be when you see 5 little stars under a search result, showing the average rating of the business. Another example would be set times for a local performing artist.

LPO: Landing Page Optimisation

Landing page optimisation is a combination of SEO and CRO that focuses on improving the performance of a landing page. A landing page is any page that a user might ‘land’ on when they first visit a website. The homepage could be viewed as the most popular ‘landing page’. Other landing pages could be competition entry pages, sign up pages, special offer pages, and any other pages linked to by digital advertising.

Optimisation of landing pages is generally an attempt to improve the page performance in terms of visits and conversions.

LSEO: Local Search Engine Optimisation

Local SEO means optimising your website for search results in your local area. Search engines often tailor search results based on your location, that’s why you get those notifications on your phone asking ‘can this app use your location?’. LSEO will involve keyword research around your location name, and using the location name throughout the website you’re hoping to improve.

LSI: Latent Semantic Indexing

LSI is the method that search engines use to compare relationships between different keywords and phrases. Using words or phrases that search engines find similar will help you rank for those particular keywords.

NAP: Name, Address, Phone Number

Name, address, and phone number – three business details crucial for local search engine optimisation. Search engines use NAP listings from many different sources, and making sure your information is consistent across the internet gives it more authority.

PA: Page Authority

Page authority is the same as domain authority, but for a specific page. Again, it was created by Moz to determine how likely your page is to rank highly in search results.

PAA: People Also Ask

people also ask featured snippet on seo in google

You’ve seen these boxes in Google search results right? This is an example of a featured snippet. Google sometimes puts extra information in snippets separate to your main search results. Snippets can be anything from definitions of words, to cinema movie times. In this case the snippet shows questions similar to the one you’ve just typed into Google.

PAA snippets became very prominent after July, 2018, when PAA began to appear in more than 40% of SERPs.

PBN: Private Blog Network

PBNs are networks of websites that you control and then use to link to your main website for the SEO benefits. PBNs almost always get found by Google, who doesn’t like this sort of manipulation, and will likely penalise your main site for it.

PPC: Pay Per Click

Pay per click advertising is a type of digital marketing where advertisers only pay if a user clicks on their ad. Google Adwords is the most popular example of this. Advertisers bid on keywords in an attempt to appear in the paid search results at the top of Google’s SERP. They then pay a fee every time a user clicks on their advertisement.

PPC should be used alongside SEO, as each have their benefits. PPC also has its own big list of abbreviations such as:

COA: Cost of Acquisition
CPA: Cost Per Acquisition
CPC: Cost per Click
CPI: Cost Per Impression
CPL: Cost Per Lead
CPM: Cost Per Thousands
CPO: Cost Per Order
CPV: Cost Per View
QS: Quality score

PR: PageRank

PageRank is named after one of Google’s founders, Larry Page. It’s an aspect of Google’s algorithm used to determine where a website will sit in their search results. According to Google themselves, PageRank is determined by both the number and quality of links to a web page. This is similar to the aforementioned Domain Authority.

Note: PageRank is not the only factor that Google use to determine the hierarchy of search results. Most are kept secret, but a few have been confirmed (directly or indirectly) by Google to influence search results such as website speed and user engagement.

SEM spelled with scrabble letters

SEM: Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing includes all the practices involved in increasing a websites visibility in search engines. Although usually referring to paid advertising, SEM technically includes both SEO and PPC. CRO could also be considered a factor, as the more successful a website is in achieving its goal, the more likely it is to become popular in SERPs.

URL: Uniform Resource Locator

You likely already knew what a URL is, but perhaps not what it was short for. It’s simply a web address. A string of characters that tells your device where to find a specific web page.

UX: User Experience

The user experience is a huge consideration in all aspects of digital marketing. Does the website load quickly? Is the intention clear? It’s especially relevant to CRO, as these tests are completely focussed on how the user reacts to what they see on their screen.

WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get

A WYSIWYG field is a text editing box that you’ll find in the backend of a CMS. You edit what appears in the WYSIWYG box, and it changes what you see on the website. Simple.

XML: eXtensible Markup Language

XML is a metalanguage, or another type of code that gives information to search engines. In SEO terms, an .xml sitemap is useful to have on your website as it essentially spoon feeds the search engine a list of all the pages and content on your website.

Make things easier for search engines, and you’ll be rewarded with better rankings. That is half the battle of SEO. The other half is producing content that human users want to engage with.

google shown on a laptop on a desk

It’s a balancing act, and something that can always be improved on. Even if you already rank #1 for all of your target keywords, SEO needs to be continually implemented so that the competition doesn’t outrank you.

If you need help making your website more attractive to search engines, or creating content that humans want to engage with, get in touch.