Written by Lisa Buyer –
🚨 Call the SEO word police.
These days in the SEO world, sometimes it’s more complicated than ever to tell what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to SEO terminology, phrases, and words.
As brands and marketers start to embrace Web3, the next generation of the internet terms come and go.
To ensure you are on top of it, we tapped the minds of the industry’s leading SEO and digital marketing professionals to dissect the over-used, underrated, and up-and-coming SEO words.
Just like styles change with the season, SEO changes with the algorithms and the modern times.
What might have been last season’s must-have buzzword just might be this year’s red flag waiting for a Google penalty.
Are we still talking about wearing black hats and white hats? Is this still a primarily male-dominated, exclusive industry? Are press releases still a tactic or a strategy?
Some SEO words have just run their course, classifying them as overused, overvalued, and in some cases, just plain over.
Next-Gen SEO World Of Words
As we enter the Web3 era, also known as the next generation of the internet, marketers and brands must adapt accordingly.
Besides Web3, brands of all sizes need to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion as a strategy, leadership, and culture checkpoint.
Including content and addressing accessibility, equality, equal pay, work from home, etc., are not just buzzwords. They are the new normal when it comes to keywords, culture, and innovation,
In Search Engine Journal’s recent interview with Rachel Heseltine, she shared her story of coming out as an SEO professional and thoughts on the impact of diversity in leadership and beyond.
“Public relations” and media coverage continue to positively impact SEO as the results unravel from the perks of links to the positive SEO bumps, thanks to brand mentions in the media.
Let’s also keep on the radar what SEO will look like in the metaverse as Google tiptoes into one of the biggest Google Trend buzzwords of 2021: the “metaverse.”
As we enter into a Web3 world, terms like decentralization, privacy, and blockchain will be trending up.
For the average person, SEO has been somewhat of a mystery of how it works, how long it takes, and who is the expert.
Using outdated terms and language can be a sure sign of incompetence, ignorance, or transformation and modernization.
When we asked leading SEO professionals which words to eliminate, the most overused SEO word is… SEO.
SEO: The Most Overused SEO Word Ever?
Here’s why you can’t be all things to all people.
SEO is not magic, and it’s not a catchall.
“The word SEO on its own isn’t bad,” said content marketing consultant and SEO expert Kelsey Jones. “But shady agencies are using vague terms to not be transparent with clients about the actual work they are doing on their website.”
“I have small business owners coming to me, asking for ‘SEO’ and assuming it will magically make them number one in search results simply because other SEO practitioners have said it’s possible within months. As professionals, it’s just not right to be taking advantage of people who have no idea what you’re talking about,” Jones added.
“I also think the term ‘content’ is slightly misleading and misunderstood because many business owners or C-suite executives don’t understand the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to create a piece of content from the initial idea to research, writing, and promotion.
They think anyone can create ‘content,’ but it takes a team of professionals who know how the entire process works to make it effective.”
Considering SEO’s birth dates back to 1997, making it just over 20 years old, there’s still a ton of growing up.
We’ve gone from birth to infancy to middle school to teen years and graduated from college.
SEO was quite simple in the early years.
Gaming the system was easy.
Manipulating search results was the game.
Now that SEO is in its mid-20s, things are starting to mature and get serious.
As SEO grows up, so does the vocabulary, terminology, and best practices.
In today’s post-pandemic, complicated, and fast-moving digital marketing world, change is a way of life. It’s true. If search marketers had to pick a specialty, it would be “expert in change.”
And so the SEO goes.
What worked last year is old news and what was amazing five years ago is ancient history in Google years. Unlike fashion, dated SEO terminology doesn’t make a comeback.
Optimizing to win results on Google’s page one search results needs an attitude of “adapt or die.”
To keep up with the changes, here are 26 SEO words industry professionals would like to delete, die, and say bye-bye.
DELETE: SEO Words That Just Need To Go Bye Bye
- Content is King.
- Content Marketing.
- DA Score.
- Do ‘this,’ and you will succeed.
- Integrated Campaigns.
- Hacking… anything.
- Implied links via brand mentions.
- Keyword Density.
- Link Building.
- Link Juice.
- Matt Cutts.
- Meta Description.
- Outbound Marketing.
- Ranking Factor.
- SEO is Dead.
- The “Hats” Black Hat, White Hat.
- Toxic Links.
SEO Words To Add
- Artificial Intelligence.
- Chief Digital Officer.
- Customer anything.
- Danny Sullivan.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
- Driverless Vehicle Optimization Expert.
- Featured Snippets.
- Google Business Profile.
- Holistic SEO.
- Women SEO Experts.
Who Thinks What & Why
The SEO words you should delete and the SEO words to add in 2022 and beyond.
Kelsey Jones, SEO Content Leader
Let’s review the word “content.”
The term ‘content’ is slightly misleading and misunderstood because many business owners or C-suite executives don’t understand the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to create a piece of content, from the initial idea to research, writing, and promotion. They think anyone can create “content,” but it takes a team of professionals who know how the entire process works to make it effective.
Heather Lloyd-Martin, SEO Copywriting Expert and Trainer
My pet peeve term that needs to go?
At least once a week, I receive an email from an SEO writer complaining that their client wants an X% keyword density – and it’s messing up the content flow.
Yes, back in the day (over 20 years ago), we needed a 5.5% key phrase density to position in Alta Vista.
Today, Google has said that keyword density isn’t a ranking factor.
Randomly shoving keywords into content won’t help positions. Yet, I still see companies (and some SEO tools) pushing for a specific keyword density because they think that’s what Google wants.
Victoria Edwards, Online Marketing and Social Media Manager
Most Overused SEO Words:
SEO Is Dead
This really annoys me, since it clearly isn’t. Who only knows how our business will change with regard to this Net Neutrality situation, but I am sure we will just find another way to give our consumers the content they’re looking for.
This one gets me and feels a bit overused. Maybe the phrase digital marketing should take it over.
Yes, outbound is different from inbound, but we need to get on with it and try something else.
Content Is King
This is my absolute favorite overused phrase. I agree content can be king. You must factor in that if your site isn’t optimized, the content isn’t strong, and you don’t have a decent budget to promote it… then it’s not king. People just won’t see the content.
Carrie Hill, Local SEO Analyst
‘Must-Have’ SEO Word To Add:
I’d add the word “TESTING” in really big bold letters. I think many SEOs talk a big game around testing, but very few implement, test, tweak and learn with measured scientific testing.
What produced results and what did not? How can we better design our test? How can we improve our results?
In my opinion, the number one rule of testing is “be prepared to be wrong.”
I think there’s a lot of ego in the SEO industry and many can’t handle being wrong about a theory or tactic they’ve been using (and heavily promoting) for YEARS.
It’s hard to eat crow – but if it makes my clients more money – I’ll add ketchup and dig in.
Lily Ray, SEO Expert by Day, DJ by Night
- Toxic Links
- DA (Domain Authority) Score
SEO tools created the notion of “toxic links” and now the industry has gone overboard with assigning relevance and importance to this score.
However, the same SEO tools that measure “toxic links” are mostly just looking at spammy links, which are entirely ignored by Google.
Every website has spammy links, and Google knows this. The real “toxic” links are links that violate Google’s guidelines, which are generally difficult for SEO tools to identify.
This idea of a “toxicity score” is misleading for SEOs and website owners alike.
Another metric created by SEO tools has been blown completely out of proportion.
While Google likely uses some version of a domain-wide evaluation of authoritativeness, we don’t have access to those metrics and DA is certainly not it.
E-A-T Score / Algorithm / Algorithm Update
E-A-T is extremely important, but using terms like “E-A-T score,” “the E-A-T algorithm,” or “the E-A-T algorithm update” greatly oversimplifies what E-A-T actually does and how it works. The term E-A-T is likely used across all of Google’s organic algorithms, but it can’t be boiled down to a simple score in the same way something like Core Web Vitals can be.
Also, no single algorithm update focused only on E-A-T, although it has played an increasingly important role in algorithm updates of recent years.
Rebecca Murtagh, Author of Million Dollar Websites
Most Overused SEO Words:
“Best” And “Top”
I have probably even been guilty of using these words in the past.
However, in the era of brand democratization where customers are part of the brand story, search results favor brands when customers are the ones saying they are the best or top in what they offer.
So, let customers and audiences have their say!
SEO Words Trending In:
It is time to embrace the softer side of SEO!
Customers become emotionally attached and fiercely loyal to brands they love. So, words will vary by brand and marketplace.
To attract the most qualified visitors to a website from search engine results, brands can leverage two key elements in content and snippets in the hope they will appear in SERPs:
For example, Apple’s snippet reads: Discover the innovative world of Apple and shop…
Customers are loyal to the Apple brand because they are connected and continually anticipate the brand’s innovation.
Use of brand differentiators calls to action (CTA) like “discover” and “shop” promote action (the click!).
When SEO becomes more human, everyone wins!
Joy Hawkins, Google My Business Expert
New Term To Be Added:
Google Business Profile
Since Google rebranded Google My Business recently, we should add the new name: Google Business Profile.
The frustrating thing with this rebrand is that it sounds very dumb when you abbreviate it to GBP as Google thinks you’re talking about the British pound.
It will take a lot of practice to get used to saying Google Business Profile instead of GMB.
I agree with “Link Juice” for words that should be removed. I can’t stand how this word sounds and usually opt for something like “link power” or “link equity” instead.
Melissa Fach, SEO Consultant, Community Manager, and Editor
Most Overused SEO Words:
“Do ‘this,’ and you will succeed.”
Everyone writing and giving advice need to stop saying anything like this.
There are too many variables to consider when it comes to SEO to guarantee someone that they will be successful if they copy your strategy.
As an editor, I always remove these false promises from my articles.
Virginia Nussey, Director of Marketing at MobileMonkey
Most Overused SEO Words:
Can this concept please die? You’re either:
- Making amazing content and promoting it with ads and PR.
- You’re spamming.
SEO Words Trending In:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
For one thing, writers and SEOs need better tools for identifying long-tail and voice search queries.
We can use Google suggestions and “People also ask” along with FAQs from Answer the Public – but what else are we to do in response to AI’s impact on search and searcher behavior? That’s been a big focus for me and will be in the future.
Eric Enge, SEO Expert, Author, and President of Pilot Holding
Almost Overused SEO Words:
With all the work that Google is putting into snippet generation, it looks like the utility of meta descriptions is going to be 100% gone soon, if it isn’t already.
For now, I would still optimize your meta description, but I suspect in a year or two, we’ll get confirmation that it doesn’t matter anymore.
I have no confirmation, but I am speculating given how much work Google is putting into snippet extraction, I believe the need for meta descriptions will disappear.
SEO Words Trending In:
OK, I know people are talking about these a ton already, but I don’t think that everyone truly understands just how important this is.
The real featured snippets story will be told once more than half of all search queries are by voice, and most people take their one answer from a verbal SERP – a SERP that has only one answer, and that answer will be taken from what we call a featured snippet today.
Too many people focus solely on old-fashioned ranking signals, like content and links. These do remain important, but it’s also essential to take a broader view of how your brand is perceived online.
Google has told us repeatedly that they try to view our sites the way users do. Well, what does that mean really?
If users want to see brand results for a given query, that’s what Google will return. If users want to see a marketplace, Google will return that in the SERPs. If users want to see review sites, Google will return that.
If you’re not a particularly good result for a given query, then they won’t return you.
How does Google figure that out? Not simply by analyzing your content, because you can have pages that speak to a given query but still not be the company that users want to interact with related to that query.
You can go get links to your page that say you are authoritative for that query, but the presence of those links doesn’t mean that users want you either.
Try this: Engage in branding and advertising campaigns, or actively engage in, or create, conversations across the web about your brand related to the query.
That’s a clear sign that consumers consider you relevant to the query.
Joe Laratro, SEO/PPC Expert and President, Tandem Online Marketing Solutions
‘Unprecedented’ needs to go.
We should delete “unprecedented” from our SEO vocabulary today. I say that as it relates to Covid, March 2020 – March 2022. Some industries thrived online during the pandemic.
Examples I hear…
- Traffic was unprecedented.
- Conversion rates were unprecedented.
- Growth was unprecedented.
Those numbers are just not sustainable anymore.
Today’s performance has to be gauged against the years before The Great Covid Migration (the mass of people relocating that boosted every industry around home services).
Sustaining last year’s numbers maybe this year’s success.
The challenge for marketers right now is to make sure the KPIs are realistic.
Add these words to the current SEO conversation:
Inflation and Cost of Quality
Inflation and the cost of quality need to be added to the discussions about SEO.
The past two years have changed the landscape of search engine marketing professionals more than we have seen since the Google Penguin Update.
Work-from-home scenarios opened up the local workforces to international companies.
The value of a good search engine optimization specialist increased because of their scarcity and availability of positions. High quality has always cost more. It costs more in 2022.
Agencies need to make their service pricing reflect their increasing costs. Client-side marketers cost more, so those companies have to pass those costs on to their goods as well.
Most Overused SEO Word:
Storytelling was one of the big buzz terms of 2017. I think it should stay in 2017.
While there is huge value in storytelling, it is just another form of generating high-value engaging content.
SEO Words Trending In:
This is an old concept but has a broader place in today’s optimization world than maybe ever before.
Advancements in the SERPs with incredibly relevant and customized results make specific keyword targeting very difficult.
Having a broad approach to SEO that considers all facets of current best practices and technology (amazing user experience, speed, mobile-first) should be the ongoing commitment.
Marty Weintraub, Internet Marketing Expert and Founder of aimClear
Most Overused SEO Words:
Linkbait, PageRank, Cloaking, Matt Cutts
These are just seriously overplayed.
Weintraub provided a Sysomos MAP word cloud for public Twitter organic tweets showing semantic usage stats. Weintraub noted this is what words ALSO appear in Tweets about SEO.
Don’t get caught using outdated words and terms.
As SEO enters its third decade, new generations are redefining the search marketing industry. Innovation, technology, and culture impact new behaviors.
It’s up to all marketing professionals to stay educated and aware of trends and algorithms to attract the best talent, get the best results and stay up-to-date on best practices and Google updates.
What SEO words can you add to this story?
More SEO Resources:
Featured Image: Vasina Natalia/Shutterstock
In-Post Photo #1: Marty Weintraub. Used with permission.