Update Your SEO Vocabulary

The SEO field changes constantly in response to the search engines. These days, though, visitors find your site via Facebook, Twitter, and other resources in addition to Google. That means your approach to SEO needs to expand – and so does your vocabulary.

SEO now embraces a range of fields. A well-rounded SEO understands some of the technical aspects of websites, the wider field of Internet marketing, conversion metrics, how to test ads, and much more. If you want to keep up with the field and understand where it is going, you need to get acquainted with the concepts I’ll be explaining in this article. Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve already heard of these, but don’t be surprised if you see a few you’ve never encountered before.

Let me give credit where it’s due. Tad Chef, writing for SEOptimise, covered these terms and more. If you want to see them explained in greater detail, he links out to an article for every single one of them.

We’ll start with a number: 503. You know about 404 not found codes, 301 redirects, and probably even 200 (which means the URL is accessible). What is a 503 code? It tells search engine crawlers, and anyone else who visits your site, that it is temporarily down for maintenance. Google notes in a Webmaster Central blog post that using a 503 HTTP result code is a way “to deal with planned website downtime…that will generally not negatively affect your site’s visibility in the search results.” You can even specify the length of time your site will be down in an optional Retry-After header, to let the Googlebot know when it can come back for something to crawl.

The next term I’d like to discuss is “A/B testing.” Also known as split testing, this is not a new technique. You’ve probably known about it for years. Google even offers ways for you to do A/B testing of your ads with them. In its simplest form, split testing involves comparing two versions of a page to find out which one gets more visitors to do what you want them to do: make a purchase, sign up for a newsletter, request more information, and so forth. Doing it right is both an art and a science, as small changes can sometimes lead to big differences in a page’s conversion rate.

A new phrase you might be seeing a fair bit of these days is “content farm.” What, exactly, is a content farm? Demand Media, eHow, About.com, and many other sites have been tarred with this brush – fairly or otherwise. A content farm is supposedly a huge website that posts tons of low-quality content for the purpose of appearing high in the search engine rankings.

Chef notes that “Blekko and Google consider them to be almost as bad as webspam.” Michael Martinez, as you might expect, offers a somewhat different view, pointing out that the matter isn’t quite so clear-cut. I expect that how search engines handle content farms – and indeed, the very definition of what constitutes a content farm – may become a point of contention over the next few months.

The next new phrase I’d like to discuss is “content marketing.” Think of this as copy writing on steroids. It includes everything you do to promote your website online. This means text, images, video, and more. Sonia Simone, writing for copyblogger, notes that content marketing is the creation of valuable content that has a marketing purpose, while copy writing is designed to convince the reader to take a specific action. The two approaches complement each other – and if you’re doing one, it makes sense to keep the other in mind.

You’ve probably heard the next term, “CRO,” before. It stands for Conversion Rate Optimization. This is “the art and science of streamlining traffic once it reaches your site,” according to Chef. Are you trying to get visitors to complete purchases? It might involve tweaking your shopping cart so users go through fewer steps before hitting the “buy” button. Do you want visitors to subscribe to your newsletter? CRO could mean making sample articles or whole copies of newsletters available on your site so users will see what they’d be getting. Basically, CRO means altering your site to convince visitors to do whatever it is you want them to do.

Somewhat related to this idea is the “shopping cart abandonment rate.” Don’t confuse this with a website’s bounce rate. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your site that leave it after doing nothing at all. The SCAR is the percentage of visitors that get a shopping cart and start up the checkout process, only to abandon it sometime before completion. As Chef notes, on e-commerce sites “the SCAR leaves scars on your revenue.” That’s an easy, if painfully accurate, mnemonic.

That covers the terms I have for today. Start using the terms – and the concepts themselves — in your SEO work and research, if you aren’t already, to help you get and stay on top of your game. If there’s interest, I’ll write about this topic again with some more terms you need to know to keep up with the ever-changing SEO field. Good luck!

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