This glossary of terms is all about local SEO and what you as a small business owner need to know when you’re just getting started. I’ve focused here on the main words that are not super obvious, and kept it to the most relevant to the topic at hand.
This list right here is the stuff I got really stuck on when I first started my content marketing journey as a small business owner operating in the local services space. I’m a wedding photographer that never learned SEO formally. I learned by doing.
Table of Contents
The helpful and easily-digestible glossary of terms used specifically in local SEO
Everything seemed geared towards SEO professionals – or was super technical or really, really basic! I had no idea if it was something I needed to know or just more fluff to clutter my brain with!
In fact, when I first started out with understanding local SEO, I knew nothing (learn about my mistakes here so you can avoid them!:)
You can skim through all of these and hopefully, really learn something that you can take and actually apply to your local service or brick and mortar business! So, here we go!
The algorithm makes sense of what a user is looking for, and shows them results that are the most relevant to their query. Google’s algorithm is an artificially intelligent, smart functionality that ranks and indexes trillions of webpages and how well they match search intent. Neil Patel wrote an excellent, in-depth resource on this.
Backlink (or inbound link)
When another website hyperlinks your website, that is a backlink. They might link the homepage, or a specific post. But it has your domain actively linked on their site, where people can click it. Think of a backlink like a ‘vote’ for your site. The more votes the better – but you do want to watch where they’re coming from!
Black hat SEO
Black hat SEO uses unscrupulous and / or spammy techniques to trick Google’s algorithm into ranking a site or page. Black hat SEO is outdated and rarely works long-term as the algorithm continues to evolve. Practices include keyword stuffing, cloaking the true content, and using private blog networks (PBNs). Read the Hubspot guide if you want to know more.
All websites have a way of creating posts (as distinct from web pages) where you can add text, images, videos and more – and publish them yourself. These are then indexed by a search engine, so people can find them! Blog posts are probably the easiest way to pump out content and get seen.
Blog posts are the most commonly referred-to content for our purposes, but content is just information on the web. Examples of content is: a video on YouTube, a social media post, a Pinterest pin, a sales page, or a brochure. Content is simply materials that are published on the internet.
GMB (Google My Business)
A GMB listing is Google’s local product. The listing appears on the right-hand side of the search engine results page when you Google your (or any other) business. That’s how you can tell whether you have one, and ‘claim’ it if it isn’t already. It contains information such as reviews, opening hours, phone number, website, address and more.
Hyperlocal websites or content deals specifically with just one neighborhood or area – it’s more specific than a city or town. Personally I think hyperlocal is a great way to go, especially if you live in a large city. One neighborhood may have thousands of inhabitants! An example is a blog post called ‘best Mexican restaurants on Valencia in San Francisco’s Mission District’. You should read SEJ’s detailed guide about optimizing for micro-moments.
This is simply when you link to pages and posts on your website from your website! For example, you have a blog post called ’11 ways to prevent mold in your home’ and within that article, you link to your page ‘mold removal services [in your city/ state]’ which explains your services. You may actually have a bunch of articles that are also related to the topic at hand.
When someone enters a term into Google, this is known as a keyword. For example ‘plumber New York City’ or ‘what to do when my toilet is blocked’. Did you notice one of these examples is a local search and the other isn’t? Keywords are used naturally today rather than stuffed into a piece of content to try to trick Google. Google sees right through that! Yoast has a great resource about how keywords work.
Links matter, but content matters more when it comes to local search. Link building is the process of acquiring inbound links to a site or page. Links oftentimes equal relevance but the quality of the link matters greatly. A link from a spam site can actually hurt your ranking.
Low-volume, less competitive phrases used by searchers to find businesses or websites on Google. Examples include “cheapest wedding caterer for under 50 guests los angeles” or “dog walking service for multiple dogs in boulder co” As these examples illustrate, there is often high buyer intent behind long-tails in local search as they are so highly targeted.
The map pack, 3-pack or local pack, are the three results that appear at the top of the SERPs for local queries. It will vary greatly depending on where the user is located, with more prominence given to businesses that are both closest and the most relevant to the user’s query.
NAP citation (Name/ Address/ Phone number)
This refers to a mention of your name, address, and phone number somewhere on the web. That could be in a directory or local aggregator website, or another website promoting or talking about your business. Want to know how to optimize for NAP citations? Read Bright Local’s extensive guide!
Organic results (or organic search)
Anything ‘organic’ in search means it hasn’t been paid for. Some SERPs have a number of ads in the top few positions (the number of ad placements varies depending how competitive the term is), but they are clearly marked ‘ad’. The other results are organic. You do not pay for organic ranking – not directly, anyway.
Paid advertising (so, not SEO) term referring to a model by which the advertiser (your business) is charted every time a searcher clicks on the ad. The PPC ad is set up only to appear when it matches the searcher’s intent closely. Google Ads is the main PPC channel that works this way. PPC does not have a monthly fee, like some traditional advertising channels.
Search intent is a very simple term meaning the intent (desired outcome) behind the search. There are four main kinds of search intent: informational (‘what is…’) , navigational (‘Facebook login’), transactional (‘buy running shoes’) and commercial investigation (‘best camera for YouTube’). Read more from Ahrefs’ guide.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
The process by which you make your site look trustworthy and high quality to Google. It’s a combination of things you can take care of on the page itself, and there’s also ‘off-page SEO’, which as you can probably imagine, isn’t done on your website but helps it. SEO focuses on organic results. There are thousands of resources on this, but I like Backlinko’s guide as it is focused specifically around local search.
SERP (Search Engine Results Page)
When you type any keyword into Google or any other search engine and press ‘go’, what you’ll see is the results page. This used to be the simple ‘ten blue links’ (plus a few ads) but nowadays you’ll see much more. The knowledge panel, a snippet, ‘people also asked’, videos, maps, news, business listings… it’s an ever-evolving panoply of features. Every SERP serves slightly different features, determined by the algorithm.
That familiar bunch of results you get from Google is known as the ‘SERPs’ or search engine results page.
Snippet (or featured snippet)
Featured snippets appear at the very top of some search engine results pages. Google pulls information from its results that best answers searcher’s question most accurately. That means searchers can find the answer – and read your information – without ever leaving the SERPs. If your website appears in the snippet, it may or may not appear the SERP, and the exact position may vary. Google is constantly adjusting this functionality. Search Engine Land has a huge news section devoted exclusively to snippets!
Shares (or social shares)
When people share your blog post on facebook, or retweet your tweet, or save one of your graphics to Pinterest for example, that’s as a social share. It’s all counted and works in your favor to have a lot of shares – after all, people won’t share content unless they find it either useful, valuable or entertaining!
UGC (User-generated content)
Content that’s created by the customers/ clients that use your product/ service. Examples include when a customer posts a picture of herself eating one of your donuts to their Instagram (and hopefully tags you or uses your branded hashtag). The customer creates and publishes the content themselves – and wasn’t paid by the business to do so. Hootsuite’s guide takes you through it.
And there you have it – simple and to-the-point. Hope this is helpful at least a little bit! Check out our other posts linked below.