SEO Terminology Cheat Sheet

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Janet Mobley

If you’ve ever worked with an SEO vendor, or if you’re just trying to learn more on your own, you may hear new and unfamiliar terms. Most of  the terms on this page are pretty technical. While technical SEO is important, it’s not nearly as important as your content strategy.  So, don’t get bogged down in the technical details at the expense of creating good content that homeowners want to read. 

If you own or manage a home improvement company, we don’t think you need to be an SEO expert, but you do need to  know enough to make sure your vendors and staff aren’t just blowing smoke! With that in mind, we hope this terminology cheat sheet will help you on your journey to generate more of your own exclusive home improvement leads.



Think about the index in the back of a book. Google’s index of the internet is similar. It’s a  database of all the content on the internet organized – or “indexed” – so that the search  engine can return results to queries quickly.  

One way to think about Google’s index is to think about a paper-based office filing system.  

Imagine you hand an intern a stack of thousands of pieces of paper (documents) and tell  them to organize these pieces of paper in a filing cabinet (index) to help the company find  information more efficiently.  

The intern will first have to sort through the papers and get a sense of all the information  contained within them, then they will have to decide on a system for arranging them in  the filing cabinet, then finally they’ll need to decide what is the most effective manner for  searching through and selecting from the files once they are in the cabinet.  

Google (and other search engines) are doing this same exercise digitally on a global scale,  instead of in just one office.  

The content on your site will determine how your site is indexed.  


Keywords are the words or phrases that you’ve determined are the most relevant to your home improvement business. Although the technical term is “keyword” it can be multiple words or an entire  sentence. Keywords are the things that Google will Index so it can add your website to its  database. Keywords for the foundation of your SEO content strategy. 

Examples of home improvement keywords include:  

  • Painting contractor 
  • Shower replacement 
  • Painting contractors near me 
  • How much does it cost to replace my bathtub with a walk-in shower? 

Rank or Ranking

Once your home improvement website has been online for a while, it will naturally rank for several keywords.  Some sites will rank for 20-30 keywords. Other sites will rank for 20,000 keywords. 

The term “rank” has two parts: a keyword and a number.  

Example:  painting contractors in Tampa (13) 

This means 12 other websites show up before yours for the term “painting contractors in Tampa” 

Your site’s list of currently ranked keywords is just a reflection of what Google thinks your  site is about. You may disagree, but it’s what Google thinks. 

When it comes to ranking think about it from two different perspectives: 

  • What does your site currently rank for? Are those keywords in-line with your business  goals? 
  • What do you want your site to rank for? How far are you from those goals?  


Robots.txt is a text file located in the root directory of your site. This file creates the rules in which tells search engines how to crawl your site, and which pages of your website to include in search results.

For example: if you have a certain page on your website that you don’t want the world to see, unless you send them the link, then you can create a rule in your robots.txt file that will explicitly tell search engines not to include this specific page in search results.

The page will still be live on your site, and you can manually share it with the specific users the page is meant for by simply sharing the link with them.

404 Error

A 404 error is when a page has not been found. You may also know it as a “broken link.” It is essentially a “dead page” on your website. This happens with another website links to page on your site that’s not there. Or when you have internal links inside your site that are broken.

Dead pages are bad for user experience and your SEO rankings and therefore should be dealt with through the use of 301 redirects or other means.

301 Redirect

A 301 redirect is the when one URL is permanently redirected to another.

This tells search engines to focus on the new destination URL, rather than the old one. When used sparingly, 301 redirects can be effective in dealing with 404 errors, as it gives you the ability to permanently redirect the “dead page” to a live one.

Mobile First Indexing

This concerns which version of your website that search engine robots will “crawl” and index first. As the majority of website users are now using mobile devices, most search engines crawl the mobile version of your site first.

Mobile First Indexing 

This concerns which version of your website that search engine robots will “crawl” and  index first. 

As the majority of website users are now using mobile devices, most search engines crawl  the mobile version of your site first.  


A sitemap is an XML file (ie. sitemap.xml) that contains all of the URLs of your website. It helps search engine bots easily crawl through your website and allows for quicker  indexation of new pages. 

Domain Authority  

Domain authority (DA) is a logarithmic scale developed by Moz that scores a website’s  ability to rank in search engines. It is based out of 100, where the higher your score is, the  higher your ability to rank in search engines. 

Although it is a third-party metric that isn’t necessarily 100% accurate – it is a good  benchmark to use when assessing your website and your competition. 

Web Crawler / Bot 

A web crawler, sometimes called a spider or spiderbot and often shortened to crawler, is  an Internet bot that systematically browses the internet and is typically operated by search  engines like Google for the purpose of web indexing. 


A backlink is simply a link from an external website that points to your website. They are  used to established relevancy and authority of your website. 

You can think of them like research paper citations: The more times a specific paper is cited  by other research papers, the more credible that specific paper seems. 

Therefore, the more relevant, authoritative backlinks you have pointing to your website, the  more credible and trustworthy your site will be seen in the eyes of search engines. All else  being equal, this will allow you to rank higher in search engines. 

Anchor Text 

“Anchor text” is simply the text that you click on in a website link. It looks like this. 

The anchor text of a link can add to the relevancy of the backlink or an internal link between  two pages on your own website. 

Link Equity / Link Juice 

Link equity or “link juice” is the idea that a linking page can pass its ranking power to the  website in which it links to. 

The link equity of a specific link comes down to a lot of factors, such as the domain  authority of the linking domain, the relevance of the linking page, if the link is a dofollow or  nofollow, and many others. 


Page Speed & Load Times 

The page speed and load times of your website are critical for your SEO strategy. Why?  Users are impatient. They won’t wait more than a second or two for your site to load. And,  Google will give ranking preference to websites that load fast.  

If your keyword strategy and content are all dialed in, but your website loads really slow,  you won’t win the SEO game. 


You may also hear vendors use terms like “smush”. This term is related to the process of  trying to compress or simplify all the code on your website so it’s easier (and faster) to crawl.  

Image Compression 

This is similar to “minify”. It’s another attempt to reduce the file size so your site will load  faster.  

Canonical URLs  

If you do have duplicate content on your website, inserting a canonical tag can be helpful. A  canonical tag specifies to search engines which page contains the preferred website URL,  which in turn reduces the amount of duplicate content on your site. 

Structured Data 

Building structured data is the act of helping Google understand your website content  through creating a detailed site description in a language (code) that Google can readily  understand. For example, your structured data might include the title of the article or  content, the description, and other elements baked into a code (schema) that Google likes.  

Schema Markup  

Schema markup is a form of structured data that specifies additional information of your  website to search engines. By implementing schema markup, you can better communicate  specific details of your site. 

You can include rich results like reviews of your products or services in search results, your  business address, logo, location, and much more. 

DoFollow vs NoFollow Links 

A “nofollow” link tells search engines not to follow a specific website link and to ignore it  completely. Nofollow links do not pass link equity. 

On the other hand, a “dofollow” link tells search engines to indeed follow website links.  These types of links do pass link equity to the linking site. 

SSL Certificate 

An SSL certificate is used by websites that have “HTTPS”. It ensures your website is secure  and safe to use. An SSL certificate is especially important for websites that accept credit  card and other forms of payment. It is an explicit search engine ranking factor. 

If your website does not have a valid SSL certificate, Google may show your visitors a  warning like, “This site is not safe.”  

Many hosting companies will provide free SSL certificates. Don’t let someone talk you into  paying a bunch of money to get one and install one.  



This one should be pretty obvious. When discussing SEO, the word “content” can be used  to describe the words on a specific page, or the overall content of your entire site.  

Short-form Content 

Short form content is typically less than 1,200 words on a page. It’s typically quick and easy  to digest content that covers a specific area of a topic, but doesn’t go too deep.  

Examples of short form content include: 

  • Short blog posts 
  • Areas served pages 
  • Company news announcements 
  • Social content 

Long-form Content 

Long form content is typically more than 1,200 words on a page. The term refers to content  that takes a deep dive into a specific topic. Examples of long form content include: • Detailed Featured Project pages  

  • Resource Guides (ex: The complete guide to stucco remediation for PA homeowners.)  • Tutorials 
  • Buyers Guides (ex: 10 questions to ask your contractor about your shower replacement  project.
  • Detailed and lengthy blog posts 

Duplicate Content 

Duplicate content occurs when you have a similar amount of content on separate pages on  your website or content on your website that matches what’s on another website. 

Duplicate content makes it difficult for search engines to understand which page to rank  over the other, which sometimes leads to both pages not being ranked at all. 

In many cases, search engines will show the webpage in which the content showed up first  in their search results. 

HTML Tags 

Just as search engines can’t read images, they also find it difficult to decipher which text on  each webpage is most important if it’s not specified. 

H1, H2, H3, all the way up to H6 are all examples of “heading tags”. This is a way to tell  Google the different between the main title of your page (H1) and a much less important  subtitle (H3).  

Think of it like an outline you had to make for your high school term paper.  

HTML tags give structure to the text and images on your page. It tell the browser how to  display those elements and it tells Google how to interpret them.  

ALT Text 

Alt text is just another example of an HTML tag.  

Search engines can’t read images. So, the “alt text” tag is used to describe the images on  your website. So, search engines will read the “alt text” to understand the images on your  page. Furthermore, alt text is useful to screen readers – used by visually people. Alt text  therefore brings a benefit to both humans and machine, and should be included to describe  all of your images. 

Meta Descriptions 

Every page on your website should have a meta description. It’s a summary of what’s on  that page. It’s the blurb that shows up right below the website link on a Google search  result page. 

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