Glossary of website traffic terms

Anchor text – to create a clickable link on a web page, there has to be something on the page to click – either text or an image. In the case of text, what you click on is called anchor text. Your choice of anchor text can affect the amount of traffic that uses the link, both directly (some messages are more effective in encouraging people to click) and indirectly (the search engines may regard some anchor texts as more useful/less spammy than others and rate the target site more highly).

Backlink – links from other sites going to yours are called backlinks, inward links, or inbound links. These can be useful as some search engines determine the popularity, and therefore the authority of a website, according to how many backlinks it has. However, beware of backlinks coming from certain places such as link networks. Google’s Penguin update in April 2012 penalised many sites for this type of backlink.

Bounce Rate – this is the percentage of visitors who leave your site after visiting only one page. It’s an important metric because it can help you to identify whether any of your pages are able to engage the attention of your site’s visitors – and, if so, which pages – or whether they just leave as soon as they arrive.

Click-Through Rate (CTR) – this is usually expressed as a percentage and is calculated by dividing the number of clicks on a link or ad unit by the number of times the link was displayed. It’s an important metric when evaluating whether your links are performing well.

Conversion – what happens when a visitor to your website performs an action that earns you money or that you otherwise desire them to perform – typically clicking on an advert or, even better, buying something.

Exact match domain (EMD) – a domain that’s an exact match for the key phrase you’re hoping to obtain high SERPs rankings for, eg if you wanted to rank highly for “flying spaghetti monster” you’d try to get flyingspaghettimonster plus your choice of top-level domain (.com, .org, whatever). Various SEO gurus reckon that EMDs are the dog’s danglers when it comes to choosing a domain. But the evidence is inconclusive, and in any case who wants to make their site a hostage to search engine algorithm changes from the outset?

Google Analytics – a free, but valuable, tool which Google provides. It enables website owners to track visitors to the website. It enables you to distinguish between unique visitors (UVs) and repeat visitors as well as showing how the visitors found your site and where they first arrived on it. It also provides information about what the visitors did once they were browsing the site, eg which pages they visited.

Hits – this is probably one of the most misused terms when people talk about website traffic. A hit is a request for an individual file from your website server, so one visitor will very likely create many hits. Actually, even the use of an image on your server by another site will create hits, so it’s pointless telling anyone how many hits your site gets. Unique visitors is a much more useful metric.

Impression – this is related to page views. It’s the number of times your page (or advert) was displayed to the site visitor. Online advertising is often sold on the basis of cost per thousand impressions. In this case, the CTR is not relevant. The advertiser is paying for the volume of traffic who see the ads.

Keyword stuffing – excessive multiple insertion into a web page of the keyword or key phrase the webmaster wishes it to rank highly for in the SERPs. Not all of them may be visible in the main body of the text; keywords can also be stuffed into the page’s title, metadata (the description and keyword metatags in the header) and into title tags of page markup elements like images, headers and internal links.

Link network – a network of websites set up by an individual or a team of website owners for the specific purpose of generating loads of backlinks for their own money-earning sites. Link network websites are typically little more than shells, with little or no original or interesting content of their own.

Link popularity – see also backlinks. It’s a measure of how popular your website is. Many people have tried to game this metric by using link networks but it’s more difficult to achieve success with those methods post-Penguin.

Making Money Online (MMO) – initially simply meant exactly what it said. However, it soon got hijacked by the people who make their money out of selling their formula for making money online to mug punters. Basically, it’s degenerated into a shorthand term for recipes for online financial success that often don’t bring any substantial wealth to anyone but their creators/purveyors.

Natural links/unnatural links – when a new article is posted on a website, it’s natural to expect a flurry of interest (and thus backlinks) that dies down over the following days, and some variation in the link anchor text. On the other hand, if a search engine suddenly picks up a lot of links to the same website, with the same anchor text, all posted within minutes and abruptly tailing off, that will set the alarm bells, red lights and klaxons off.

Off-Page SEO: This refers to activities you can do on other sites to increase your website’s visibility and popularity. It includes strategies such as link building campaigns and raising your profile via social media sites.

On-Page SEO – Activities you can do on your own website to optimise your position in the search engines.

Organic search – also sometimes called natural search. It’s the process whereby search engines generate search results by displaying what they determine as being the most relevant sites or pages to show according to what keyword(s) the user was searching for. This is also known as free traffic. It’s also possible to be on Page 1 of Google by paying for it (via AdWords), but it’s usually desirable to achieve this position without spending money.

PageRank – Google assigns a value from 0-10 which is the website’s PR. The metric is often used as a plus point when buying and selling websites, because it’s supposed to show how popular the website is. However, even though it is still commonly used, the metric may be less useful than it once was because it has fallen out of favour with Google themselves.

Page views – each time a visitor loads a page of your website, it’s counted as a page view. One visitor can rack up many page views by browsing your site. Don’t confuse page views with hits (see above).

Panda – the name of a series of major updates to Google’s search result ranking algorithm, intended to penalise low-quality sites, that started rolling out in February 2011. Some of its effects (which are estimated to have affected nearly 12 per cent of all search results) have been controversial. Initially numerous webmasters complained that content stolen from them now ranked higher on the content thieves’ sites than on their own original site, and “evergreen” content is also thought to have suffered.

Penguin – a Google algorithm update implemented in April 2012 and aimed at thwarting the over-optimisation of websites to gain artifical advantage in the search engine ranking pages by using techniques contrary to Google’s guidelines. It’s estimated to have affected about three per cent of English-language search results.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – the process of using tools and techniques to enhance the position of your website in the search engines so that your site will be prominent when people search for your particular keywords or phrases.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP) – what you get as the result of performing a search engine query: a page listing links to web pages that are relevant to the word or phrase you’ve searched for. The SERP listing entry for a page typically includes the page title, a link to the page, and either the website owner’s description of the page or a brief extract from the page highlighting the keyword or phrase. It’s highly desirable to get a position towards the top of the SERPs – No.1 if possible, or on Page 1 at least.

Traffic – simply, the number of visitors to your site that can be tracked and measured. Don’t be dazzled by “traffic” – unless it’s targeted and you’re able to convert it, it’s often not of much use to you.

Unique Visitor (UV) – a person with a unique address (IP number) who has visited the site and been recorded in the webstats. It’s usually measured daily so if you visit the same website several times in one day, you will be counted as being one unique visitor. However, if you visited the site several times in a month, each visit on each day will count as being one unique visit.


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