A Review of the Basics: SEO Terms & Principles

May 28, 2015 Dawn Mortensen

This is the first post of a blog series on how to improve SEO on your e-commerce site, so it makes sense to start with the basics:  some main SEO terms and descriptions of various SEO disciplines. If SEO is what you do for a living, you’ll know these inside and out. But for those working in e-commerce with only partial SEO knowledge, this is a good place to start.

SEO Terms You Should Know

Bot – also referred to as a spider or crawler, a bot is a piece of software used to crawl your site. Internet search engines use them to gain an understanding of your entire site and its individual pages. There are desktop-specific and mobile-specific bots. Well-behaved bots identify themselves with a unique “user agent” string that is logged as part of the page request in your web server’s access logs.

SEO – search engine optimization – the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in Internet search engines. (Rand Fishkin, “What Is SEO,” Moz).

SERP – search engine results page – the page on which Internet search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo!) show search results after a visitor submits a query.

Ranking Factors – there are many ranking factors that search engines consider to determine your SERP position, including basic document relevance (relevant terms, word count, proving words), number of backlinks, site speed, anchor texts in internal and external links, engagement signals (bounce rate, time on site, pages visited per session), support for mobile devices, domain authority, etc.

Index Size – the number of pages you have listed in Internet search engines. There are two index sizes – the number of pages an Internet search engine knows about and the number of pages it has actually crawled and can send its visitors to. The first number is significantly higher (in particular for e-commerce sites) than the second and can result in unfavorable “large index size” messages sent to your Webmaster Tools account.

Snippet/Rich Snippet – the listing shown on a search engine results page below the title is a snippet; other details added to the snippet (e.g. review stats, price, availability, etc.) make it a Rich Snippet. A Rich Snippet causes your listing to be larger and appear more predominant on the SERP. In addition, the larger your listing the further it pushes down your competitors’ listings and the more likely it is to catch the attention of a searcher.

Rich Snippet Markup (RSM) – code elements that are added to the HTML of the webpages showing product or other information. RSM allows the Internet web engine crawlers to better understand the information shown on the webpages. If the information on the page is well understood and the page itself is considered RSM-relevant, the search engine might honor this with a rich snippet on the SERP or it might improve the ranking of the page containing the RSM.

DA, or Domain Authority – this term was coined by Moz but is widely used in the SEO community. DA is the best prediction for how a website will perform in SEO rankings. It’s used to compare one site to another or to track the strength of your site over time. The collection of domain-level ranking factors determine a site’s domain authority.

PA, or Page Authority – this term was coined by Moz but is widely used in the SEO community. PA is a metric predicting how well a webpage will rank in Google’s search results for a particular search phrase. A collection of page-level ranking factors determine a site’s page authority. The same page will have different PAs depending on the search phrase for which the page ranks.

Penguin / Panda / Hummingbird / Pigeon – a series of major algorithm updates from Google focusing on different aspects of ranking webpages.

  • Penguin focused on identifying and rewarding sites with a high number of legitimate inbound site links, while also identifying and penalizing sites with spammy “black hat” inbound links.
  • Panda focused on interpreting which content is of high quality. It allows Google to reward pages that have highly relevant content and penalize those that use black hat practices such as content spinning or keyword-stuffing to try to give a higher SERP ranking to irrelevant content.
  • Hummingbird focused on measuring the semantic relevance of webpage content in relationship to search queries. It focused on “intent” and not so much on exact keyword matching. It is less about what searchers are asking for and more about what they actually want.
  • Pigeon focused on identifying localized content and giving higher rankings to localized content searched for from a corresponding region.

Meta Description Tag – an HTML attribute that describes a webpage’s content and is frequently used on SERPs. A well-written meta description is important for gaining high clickthrough rates, as it sums up the information on the webpage. The meta description tag should be unique for each page on your site to improve its efficiency (Moz).

Title Tag – an HTML attribute often used on SERPs to provide an accurate and concise description of a page’s content. One popular format is to include the following three elements, in this order:

  • 1) primary targeted keyword 2) secondary targeted keyword 3) | your brand name
  • Example: Fashion Jewelry | JewelsRUs

WMT, or Webmaster Tools – Google (Google Webmaster Tools – GWT) and Bing (Bing Webmaster Tools – BWT) provide tools that allow webmasters to check the performance of their sites, monitor any crawling and indexation issues, test certain aspects of their sites affecting indexation and apply configuration to the way the search engines treat site information. Understanding the information provided within WMT is crucial to understanding the performance of your site.

Types of SEO Activities

There are various SEO disciplines or activities, each of which has a number of significant subdisciplines. Here’s a brief summary of each discipline and how it may be used to improve SEO on e-commerce sites. Not all activities need to be executed all the time, but it is a good idea to consider these items as a checklist when working toward optimizing your website.

On-page and off-page SEO: On-page SEO is any activity, on individual pages or the entire site, which is completed in an effort to boost ranking in Internet search engines (e.g. optimizing h1 tags). Off-site SEO is not related to the site but will cause ranking improvements indirectly (e.g. link acquisition, brand management, etc.).

Technical SEO: This encompasses any activity performed to ensure the site is technically sound so that bots can crawl it efficiently and effectively. Technical SEO is mostly on-page SEO and excludes content creation.

Local and international SEO: Local SEO focuses on ensuring high rankings for searches with local intent. International SEO focuses on sites with multiple geographic locations and possibly different languages. The aim is for the site to rank well in each target market and to avoid duplicate content issues.

Content creation and marketing: This discipline focuses on identifying relevant topics, creating highly engaging site content and ensuring this content is reaching target audiences. Content creators should keep in mind that great content doesn’t always yield immediate SEO results. As an example, it can take years of quality blogging to establish a new site’s domain authority. Content must be created and marketed to reach its audiences and provide an SEO benefit.

Site analysis/audits: This includes looking at specific metrics to identify why your site or competitors’ sites are ranking or not ranking well for particular phrases or topics. Site audits also typically focus on technical SEO and link profiles.

Competitive analysis: This includes the practice of understanding why competitors’ websites rank well for particular phrases or topics. This information is valuable for identifying how you can rank higher than your competition. It might also help you understand the level of effort required to outrank your competition on particular phrases or topics.

Brand management: This is the practice of ensuring your own brand is perceived well in all target markets or market segments. The higher the brand awareness for your business, the stronger your domain authority.

Come Back for More

Return to this blog in the coming weeks to learn specific ways you can use SEO to increase your e-commerce revenue. Also listen to our recent Webinar: How to Get the SEO-driven Revenue You’re Missing.

 

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