International SEO glossary: Key terms and definitions
International SEO is all about optimising your search presence for people who are in different countries or who speak different languages. But like any specialised industry, SEO is full of jargon, technical terms and acronyms that can potentially be confusing. Oban’s international SEO glossary is an A-Z guide to the key definitions – so if you’re looking to distinguish your alt text from your anchor text, or your subdomains from your subdirectories, read on.
A is for…
A search engine’s internal rule set that determines where and which sites/pages rank in its index.
Refers to a search engine changing certain aspects of an existing algorithm.
Refers to a search engine re-running an existing algorithm using the same signals as last time.
A description of a graphic, which usually isn’t displayed to the end user, unless the graphic is undeliverable or a browser is used that doesn’t display graphics. Alt text is important because search engines can’t distinguish one picture from another.
The text that a user would click on to follow a link. Where the link is an image, then the image alt attribute may act in place of anchor text.
The ability of a page or domain to rank well in search engines. Key factors associated with site and page authority are link equity, site age, traffic trends, site history, and publishing unique original quality content.
B is for…
A link from one website to another. High quality backlinks can help to increase a site’s ranking position and visibility within search engine results.
The dominant search engine in China. Founded in 2000, Baidu has similar features to Google, but its focus is on China, where it controls most of the market. Baidu censors search results and other content in accordance with Chinese regulations.
SEO practices designed to manipulate a site or page’s ranking in search engine results which violate search engine guidelines. The term ‘black hat’ originated in Western movies to distinguish the ‘bad guys’ from the ‘good guys’ who wore white hats.
A branded keyword or branded search is any search query which includes the name of your brand or product.
Web site navigation in a horizontal bar above the main content which helps the user to understand where they are on the site and how to get back to the root areas.
A broken link is a hyperlink which is not functioning or a link which does not lead to the desired location.
C is for…
Copy of a web page stored by a search engine. When you search the web, you are not actively searching the whole web, but are searching files in the search engine index.
Refers to multiple pages competing for the same keyword. The conflict occurs when there are duplicate themes and the search engine cannot determine which page should appear for the given search term. This usually happens for general terms which don’t have a strong landing page.
The canonical version of any URL is the single most authoritative version indexed by major search engines. Search engines typically use page authority, links or a similar measure to determine which version of a URL is the canonical URL.
A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is a top-level domain name that is used to define the domain for a particular country or a geographical area.
Businesses generally know who their brand competitors are in the overall market. But these are not necessarily the same as SEO competitors – i.e. companies that compete for the same keywords and organic search visibility but may well sell products or services that address different needs or target audiences to you. For international marketers, it’s especially important to understand how both your direct and SEO competitors may vary by market.
Content gap analysis:
The process of reviewing and identifying gaps in your existing website content. Companies can use the results of a content gap analysis to activate hidden and unused potential. This applies to both the optimisation of existing content as well as the creation of new content.
A small data file written to a user’s local machine to track them. Cookies are used to help websites customise your user experience and help affiliate programme managers track conversions.
Refers to specifying the target country and/or region of a region with an international-friendly URL structure.
How deeply a website is crawled and indexed. Since searches which are longer tend to be more targeted, it is important to try to get most or all of a site indexed so that the deeper pages have the ability to rank for relevant long tail keywords.
Crawlability describes the search engine’s ability to access and crawl content on a page.
Crawlers/ spiders/ bots:
A computer program which moves through the internet or a website following the link structure to gather data.
Stands for Cascading Style Sheet. They are used to format the layout of web pages, define text styles, table sizes and other aspects of web pages.
D is for…
A hyperlink on a website which points to a web page which has been deleted or moved. Sometimes also called an orphan link.
To have your site de-indexed means to have it either temporarily or permanently taken out from search engine rankings.
Deep linking is the use of a hyperlink that links to a specific, generally searchable or indexed piece of web content on a website, rather than the website’s homepage. The URL contains all the information needed to point to a particular item.
To disavow in SEO means to discard harmful links pointing to your site. If you believe your site’s rankings are being damaged by low-quality links you don’t control, you can ask search engines not to take them into account when assessing your site by disavowing them.
In international SEO, domain strategy refers to deciding upon the best approach for your website domain – for example, using ccTLDs, subfolders or subdirectories or subdomains. The best domain strategy will depend on your circumstances and what your objectives are.
Content which is duplicate or near duplicate in nature. Search engines do not want to index multiple versions of similar content. For example, printer friendly pages may be search engine unfriendly duplicates. Duplicate content is a common issue for international websites and something to avoid.
E is for…
Stands for Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness. The concept comes from Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines – a 168-page document used by human raters to assess the quality of Google’s search results.
An SEO campaign designed to increase rankings specifically for an e-commerce brand, category page or product pages. Often, an e-commerce SEO campaign focuses on product names or product SKU keywords.
Links which a website acquires naturally – i.e. they are not paid for or asked for. Editorial links typically arise as a result of good website content or marketing.
The amount of interaction a user has with content. High engagement indicates that your content is useful while poor engagement helps you identify areas for improvement. Measuring the engagement of your content allows you to understand whether your target audience thinks it’s relevant or not – an important aspect of SEO.
Search-optimised content that is continually relevant and stays ‘fresh’ for readers for a long period of time.
A link which references another domain from your site.
F is for…
Often used on e-commerce websites, faceted navigations offer filtering options to help visitors more easily locate the URL they are looking for out of thousands or even millions of URLs. For example, you could sort a clothing page by price: low to high, or filter the page to view only size: small. Also known as faceted search.
Also known as Position Zero, featured snippets are brief excerpts from a web page that appear in Google’s search results in order to answer a user’s question. Featured snippet content is automatically pulled from pages that have been indexed by Google. The most common forms of featured snippets are definitions, lists, steps and tables.
G is for…
Gated content is any content that your visitors can access only after providing their information. In most cases, this means a name and email address. Sometimes referred to as a lead magnet, gated content trades access to the content in exchange for an action from readers.
Terms that describe a physical location or service area. For example, ‘coffee shops’ is not geo-modified, but ‘coffee shops in Dublin’ is.
Stands for generic top-level domain. A gTLD covers a thematic field rather than a geographic field – for example, .org stands for .organisation and is typically used by not-for-profit organisations, whereas .info lets you know the website is of an informative nature.
Google Keyword Planner:
Keyword research tool provided by Google which estimates the competition for a keyword, recommends related keywords, and will tell you what keywords Google thinks are relevant to your site or a page on your site.
Grey hat SEO is a set of practices which combine both white hat and black hat SEO techniques. Grey hat SEO is riskier than white hat SEO because it exploits the search engine guidelines to increase a page’s rankings on the SERPs.
Guest blogging, also called guest posting, is the act of writing content for another company’s website. Generally, guest bloggers write for similar blogs within their industry in order to attract traffic back to their website.
H is for…
Heading elements are indicated in HTML from H1 to H6 with the lower numbered headings being most important. You should only use a single H1 element on each page and may want to use multiple other heading elements to structure a document. An H1 element source would look like: <h1>Your Topic</h1>
An HTML attribute used to specify the language and geographical targeting of a web page. If you have multiple versions of the same page in different languages, you can use the hreflang tag to tell search engines about these variations. This helps them to serve the correct version to their users.
Hyper Text Mark-up Language directives or ‘mark-up’ which are used to add formatting and web functionality to plain text for use on the internet. HTML is the mother tongue of the search engines and should generally be strictly and exclusively adhered to on web pages. Some newer web pages are also formatted in XHTML.
The .htaccess (short for ‘hypertext access’) file is a distributed server configuration file. This means that it configures the server only in the directory the .htaccess file is in. The .htaccess file allows you to set server configurations for a specific directory. This could be the root directory for your website or an /images or /downloads directory.
I is for…
The process of optimising the images on your website so they are easy for search engines to interpret and find, therefore improving the visibility and rankings of your content in search engines.
After a page is discovered, search engines try to understand what the page is about. This process is called indexing. The search engine will analyse the content of the page, catalogue images and video files embedded on the page, and otherwise try to understand the page.
The accessibility and transparency offered by a web page to search engine crawlers to facilitate downloading and cataloguing.
Search intent – sometimes called user intent – refers to the main goal a user has when typing a search query into a search engine. For international marketers, understanding how user intent may vary across languages and cultures is especially important.
An internal link is a hyperlink between two pages on the same website. They pass SEO value as well as context through anchor text and surrounding content.
International SEO refers to activities aimed at improving a website’s organic search presence in more than one country or language. This includes technical SEO changes that indicate language and country targeting preferences, content localisation, and multilingual link building.
An IP address is a unique address that identifies a device on the internet or a local network. IP stands for ‘Internet Protocol’, which is the set of rules governing the format of data sent via the internet or local network.
J is for…
K is for…
Keyword or key phrase:
A word or phrase which implies a certain mindset or demand that targeted prospects are likely to search for. Long tail and brand related keywords are typically worth more than shorter and vague keywords because they typically occur later in the buying cycle and are associated with a greater level of implied intent.
Refers to the number of times a keyword appears on a given web page or within a piece of content as a ratio or percentage of the overall word count. Sometimes also referred to as keyword frequency.
Keyword funnels track the relationships between keywords used by search engine users. Essentially, these funnels help to categorise keywords as part of a keyword research technique. Typically, the keyword research process will involve ‘funnelling’ keywords to go from broad topics to more specific ideas.
The distance between keywords, or more importantly, how close together keywords are within a section of text.
Keyword stuffing is when a brand fills or ‘stuffs’ a web page with the same target term to make it rank higher for that term in search engines. Sometimes referred to as webspam or spamdexing, this is not a recommended technique.
The Google Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google and its services to enhance its search engine’s results with information gathered from a variety of sources. It is used to answer direct spoken questions in Google Assistant and Google Home voice queries.
Knowledge panels are information boxes that appear on Google when you search for entities (people, places, organisations, things) that are in the Knowledge Graph. They are meant to help you get a quick snapshot of information on a topic based on Google’s understanding of available content on the web.
L is for…
The process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. Link building can increase the number of high-quality links pointing to a website, in turn increasing the likelihood of the website ranking highly in search engine results.
The act of exchanging money for backlinks. Frowned upon as an SEO technique and actively penalised by most search engines including Google.
A search engine ranking factor based on the idea that certain links pass value and authority from one page to another. The value is dependent on various factors, such as the linking page’s authority, topical relevance, http status and more. Colloquially known as link juice.
Link diversity is a strategy of obtaining inbound links from different kinds of pages (for example, directories, articles, news links). The idea is that obtaining inbound links with diversity will make a site’s backlink profile appear more natural to search engines.
The practice of building as many inbound links to one’s own website and at the same time refraining from giving outbound links – in the mistaken belief that this will maximise one’s own website’s rank because outbound links ‘drain’ their own page rank (it doesn’t).
A link profile is the make-up of links directing to your site. It is widely believed that search engines favour links from a variety of sites as well as high-authority sites, since this appears more natural and therefore authentic.
The rate at which others are linking to your website. Essentially, it is the rate at which your backlink profile is growing over time.
An SEO strategy which helps your business be visible in local search results. This is particularly relevant to businesses which have bricks-and-mortar physical locations.
Local in-market experts:
Also known as LIMEs. Refers to digital marketing professionals based in market who provide the linguistic, cultural and digital insights relevant to a specific target market.
A comprehensive process which involves taking your existing content and ensuring it is fit for purpose for your target audiences in different countries. This goes well beyond translation because it considers cultural and non-textual components as well as linguistic issues.
M is for…
Machine translations refer to the use of software to translate text or speech from one language to another. Machine translations don’t compare to copy which has been written by native speakers based in market. They often offer a poor user experience and aren’t particularly great for SEO either.
A meta description is the small blurb that appears underneath your website on the SERP that includes information about your page. It is designed to provide users with a brief summary of your page content so that users know if the page will answer their question.
Code tags on a web page which can be used to tell search engines what a page is about. When localising a website into other languages, it’s important not to overlook elements such as meta tags.
A way of thinking about web design, app design and user experience which puts mobile users first. Google has switched to mobile first indexing for every website, which means that it uses the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking.
The process of adjusting your website content to ensure that visitors who access the site from mobile devices have an experience customised to their device. Search engines can penalise websites which offer a poor mobile user experience.
N is for…
Stands for name, address and phone number. Using NAP in your web pages is important if you want to rank for locally-based searches. Stating your name, address and phone number on your website will build your presence in the location in which you operate. Typically your NAP can be added to the footer of your website, which means it will appear on each web page and boost the number of times it is mentioned.
Launched in 1999, Naver is South Korea’s largest search engine. Naver established itself as an early pioneer in the use of user-generated content through the creation of the online Q&A platform Knowledge iN.
A nofollow link is a link which does not pass authority on to the website it is linking to. These links do not help in terms of SEO. To make a link nofollow, add rel=”nofollow” to the code when linking to a website. If you publish paid advertisements on your site — banner ads, text links, sponsored content, affiliate links, etc — the links going to your advertisers’ sites should be nofollow.
A noindex tag tells search engines not to include the page in search results. The most common way to noindex a page is to add a tag in the head section of the HTML or in the response headers. To allow search engines to see this information, the page must not already be blocked (i.e. disallowed) in a robots.txt file.
O is for…
Refers to the activities that you and others do away from your website to raise the ranking of a page with search engines. Link building is an example of off-site SEO.
The practice of optimising web pages for specific keywords in order to improve search visibility and traffic. It involves aligning page-specific elements like title tags, headings, content and internal links with keywords.
The search results of a search engine which are not influenced by paid advertising. Sometimes called natural search.
Orphan pages are website pages that are not linked to from any other page or section of your site. This means a user cannot access the page without knowing the direct URL. Additionally, these pages can’t be followed from another page by search engine crawlers, which means they are rarely indexed by search engines.
An outbound link, also called an external link, is a link from your website to a different website. An outbound link for you is an inbound link for someone else. Outbound links are important to both SEO and user experience.
P is for…
Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value. It includes Core Web Vitals, which is a set of Google metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity and visual stability of the page. This is important to keep in mind, especially if you handle international SEO.
Pagination is a web/SEO term used for a series of content that is broken up into a multi-page list. For example, on e-commerce websites, category pages often implement pagination to break up a series of products into multiple pages. On blogs, pagination is used when a list of articles spans across multiple pages.
Page speed measures the amount of time it takes for content on a particular web page to load. This is distinct from site speed, which refers to the average loading time of more than one sample page on a given site.
A Google penalty means that the rankings for your targeted keywords have dramatically dropped or that your website is no longer listed in the search results at all. When Google penalises your website, your target audience can no longer find you in the organic results. Google penalises sites in one of two ways – manual actions and algorithmic changes. In both cases, your rankings will drop, and you need to address the issues.
URL parameters are the parts of the address of a web page often visible after a question mark (?), ampersand (&), equals (=) or other attribute. Parameters may also be referred to as query strings and are commonly used on e-commerce websites. If not handled correctly, they can cause SEO problems when it comes to indexing your website.
People also ask:
People also ask (PPA) boxes are a dynamic search engine results page (SERP) feature that contains a set of questions related to the original search query. Upon clicking a question, the box expands to display a text snippet with a brief answer to the question.
Personas are fictitious examples of typical customers of your business. They can help you understand customers and potential customers so you can create SEO-focused content to match their needs and solve their problems. SEO personas often outline the keyword themes that your persona is likely to type in search engines. International marketers should remember that their buying and SEO personas may vary by market.
Refers to the way a search engine will modify a person’s results on factors unique to them, such as their location and search history.
R is for…
The criteria applied by search engines when evaluating web pages in order to compile the rankings of their search results. Also known as ranking signals.
Rich snippets are any type of organic search result with enhanced information displayed alongside the URL, title and description. This extra data is usually pulled from Structured Data found in a page’s HTML. Common Rich Snippet types include reviews, recipes and events. Sometimes referred to as rich results.
A technique that sends a user (or search engine) who requested one web page to a different (but equally relevant) web page. There are two types of redirects – 301 redirects which are permanent, and 302 redirects which are temporary.
Refers to keywords unique to a specific locale. For example, whilst people in the US search for ‘candy’, people in Britain may search for ‘sweets’ and people in Australia for ‘lollies’. Understanding linguistic nuances across regions and markets is essential for international marketers.
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.
A robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which URLs the crawler can access on your site. This is used mainly to avoid overloading your site with requests.
S is for…
A software programme that helps people find the information they are looking for online using keywords and phrases. Examples include Google, Baidu, Bing, Naver, Yandex and Yahoo! Japan.
Refers to changes in search trends throughout the year due to seasonal events. For example, there may be a rise in chocolate-related searches in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, or a rise in swimwear-related searches in the run-up to summer. Focusing on these search terms at specific times of the year allows websites to drive conversions at key periods. International marketers should remember that cultural and e-commerce dates will vary by market and of course – the seasons are inversed depending on which hemisphere you are targeting.
Seed keywords are the baseline keywords and phrases most relevant to your business. This list of keywords provides the foundation for your expanded keyword research. Effective keyword research starts by building a thorough seed list to ensure no core opportunities are missed.
Stands for ‘search engine results page’.
Schema markup is code – also known as semantic vocabulary or microdata – that you place on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users.
Web scraping is the process of extracting data from a website. The process involves the collecting and exporting of data in a format that can be more useful to the user. The formats that the data mostly appear in include CSV files, Excel, and Google Sheets.
Share of voice:
SEO share of voice is analysis that shows which websites rank most frequently for a given set of keywords or topics in organic search. This type of exercise helps website owners understand competitive pressures in search engines as well as identify link building, content creation and social media opportunities.
Short tail keywords – also known as head terms, broad keywords or focus keywords – are search queries that are made up of no more than three words and refer to very broad topics. This inherently makes them popular, high-volume search terms.
Sitelinks are hyperlinks to website subpages that appear under certain Google listings to help users navigate the site.
Site structure refers to how you organise your website’s content. A website typically consists of content on a variety of related topics, presented on posts and pages. Site structure deals with how this content is grouped, linked and presented to the visitor. If you structure your website well, users will find their way around more easily and search engines can index your URLs better.
A list of pages on a website. There are two types of sitemaps:
- HTML:This type of sitemap, typically organised by topics, helps site users navigate a website.
- XML:This type of sitemap provides crawlers with a list of web pages on a website.
The response codes sent by a server whenever a link is clicked, a web page or file is requested, or a form is submitted. Common HTTP status codes important to SEO include:
- 200 (OK)
- 404 (Not Found)
- 410 (Gone)
- 500 (Internal Service Error)
- 503 (Service Unavailable)
In a URL, the subdirectory comes after the root directory or domain name. For example, Oban’s root domain is obaninternational.com. So a subdirectory URL might be obaninternational.com/lime-network.
A subdomain is also a type of website hierarchy under a root directory, but instead of using folders to organise content on a website, it gets a website of its own. This subdomain is still closely associated with the root directory, but it will usually have a separate content management system, template and analytics tools.
A standardised format for providing information about a web page and classifying the page content. For example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on. Search engines use structured data to understand the content of the page, as well as to gather information about the web in general.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and, in short, it’s the standard technology for keeping an internet connection secure and safeguarding any sensitive data that is being sent between two systems, preventing criminals from reading and modifying any information transferred, including potential personal details.
T is for…
A target keyword is a particular word or phrase that a website knows potential customers may type into a search engine when looking for the products or services that the particular website offers.
A taxonomy in SEO is a group of URLs with a common attribute which therefore share relevance with one another. A taxonomy of URLs does not need to follow a specific URL structure, nor does it have to sit within the same architectural depth from the homepage.
SEO tracking is the process of measuring the performance and progress of a campaign. Professional SEOs track everything from rankings and conversions to lost links and more to help prove the value of SEO. International marketers should measure each of their international web properties independently, from the rankings for each country and language, to the visits and conversions.
Thin content is content that has little or no value to the user. Search engines consider doorway pages, low-quality affiliate pages, or pages with very little or no content as thin content pages. In addition, non-original pages, pages with scraped and duplicate content, are considered thin content too.
An HTML code tag that allows you to give a web page a title. This title can be found in the browser title bar, as well as in the search engine results pages (SERP). It’s crucial to add and optimise your website’s title tags, as they play an essential role in terms of organic SEO ranking. When localising an international website, it’s important not to overlook elements like title tags.
U is for…
Universal Search – also known as Blended Search or Enhanced Search – refers to the integration of additional media like videos, images or maps displayed above or amongst the organic search results of search engines like Google or Bing.
Artificial links mainly intended to manipulate a page’s ranking. These can include purchased links or links created by scrapers and spammers that attach themselves to your site under the radar.
Stands for Uniform Resource Locator. Also referred to as a web address, it’s a unique identifier used to locate a resource on the Internet. URLs consist of multiple parts – including a protocol and domain name – which tell a web browser how and where to retrieve a resource.
User experience (UX) describes how people feel when navigating a website, using a mobile app or otherwise interacting with a company’s digital products or services. UX is an important element in SEO, as search engines typically favour websites which offer a great UX. For international marketers, it’s important to understand how UX preferences may vary across your target markets.
V is for…
A vertical search engine is a search engine dedicated to a particular area of focus. Examples include YouTube (for video), Amazon (for shopping) and Skyscanner (for flights) – amongst many others. Google itself offers vertical search – such as Google Flights or Google Shopping.
Video SEO means optimising your video assets so they can be indexed and ranked on the search engine results pages for relevant keyword searches.
Video sitemaps contain metadata about each video you have on your site, helping search engines present these videos accurately in search results. The data you place into the video sitemap must match the actual content of the video for search engines to use it. Video sitemap metadata includes elements like the length of the video, a title and a short description of the video content.
Search engine visibility – also known as search visibility or SEO visibility – is the share of traffic that a website receives from its rankings in the organic search results.
Voice search is the action of using speech to ask questions and give commands to compatible devices like smartphones or smart speakers. Programmes such as Google Assistant, Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa all use voice search capabilities.
W is for…
Guidelines that are set out by search engine providers such as Google or Bing. These provide webmasters with guidance on how websites can be optimised so that they are found by search engines.
Refers to ethical or approved SEO techniques designed to increase a website’s position on a search engine results page (SERP).
X is for…
Stands for ‘extensible markup language’. A markup language is a set of codes or tags that describes the text in a digital document. The most famous markup language is hypertext markup language (HTML), which is used to format web pages.
An XML sitemap is a file that lists a website’s important pages, making sure search engines can find and crawl them all. You want search engines to crawl every essential page of your website. But sometimes, pages end up without any internal links pointing to them, making them hard to find. A sitemap can help speed up content discovery.
Y is for…
Launched in 1996 as the internet’s first Japanese language search engine. Yahoo! Japan is more than just its search engine – it is also a news aggregator, a weather website, an auction site and more.
Founded in 1997, Yandex is a popular search engine in Russia which also offers other internet-related products and services. The name is derived from the phrase ‘Yet Another iNDEXer’.
Z is for…
Zero click searches:
Zero click searches – sometimes called no-click searches – are when the top search result provides the answer to your query at the top of the page in a simple snippet, so you don’t have to leave the search engine results page to get the answer you need. It’s estimated that about 50% of searches currently end without a click on an organic search result.
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If you’re looking to expand your business internationally using digital marketing techniques, Oban can help. To find out how, please get in touch.
Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.