The SEO industry is full of acronyms, abbreviations, and industry-wide inside jokes. There are other publications that have extensively covered what SEO industry jargon means and how to interpret it–that isn’t my goal here.
The elephant in the room for any SEO firm or individual consultant is that SEO has a massive reputation problem. The issue is part lack of regulation, part scale, and part perception. As an industry we can’t hunt down every person who claims they’re an SEO who will get you “first in the search engines, guaranteed!” We can’t stop the mountains of spam that fall into small business owner’s email inboxes daily. The Internet is a very large place, with a lot of hidey-holes.
One of the few things that we can control as an individual or company is how we talk about ourselves, how we speak to our clients, and how we speak to other industry professionals. When your industry is the Internet, nothing is private; the only face that we have is our public one.
Allow me to step on the soapbox here, just a little bit, and say–as someone who has studied the English language extensively–what you say and how you say it matters. “RCS” or “link juice” may be a term that will catch a person’s ear and become “buzzworthy”, but it is not a term that will leave potential clients impressed with your authority, knowledge, or business acumen. We need to elevate our language as well as bridge the disconnect between Internet and traditional marketing.
Here are a few ways to sound like the more mature SEO industry we’ve become:
- Black hat, white hat, gray hat, and everything in between: Let’s stop talking about hats and instead discuss risk tolerance. Are you using high-risk link SEO tactics, low-risk or something in the middle? Hats make us sound like evil villains not savvy marketers.
- Link juice: This term has made me wince since I started in the industry. Link “juice” is the associative authority of a link. Call it link authority, or call it passed link value. We want to explain our industry and how it works while still sounding professional.
- Link condom: I hadn’t actually heard this before until Rhea mentioned it when I was initially brainstorming–a link condom is the rel=”nofollow” attribute, which as SEOs know, kills any passed link value. (See, look at me, following my own advice!) We don’t need sexual connotations to get attention, SEO is an established enough industry that (most) people listen to us without the shock and awe routine.
- Link love: Quite the opposite of a link condom, a “loved” link is a link to an external site that is fully followed. While this is a term I use internally with my co-workers, I would say a more appropriate term to whomever you’re reporting to would be “citation” or “co-citation.”
- Linksploitation: (from SEO-Theory)This is targeting links in a “formulaic process according to precise criteria.” Don’t use made up words! A more appropriate term would be “targeted link building.”
- RCS (Real Company Stuff or Real Company S**t): While it may have been a trending hashtag on Twitter during Mozcon and it’s easy to throw around the virtual water cooler, RCS is a very industry specific term. It’s more than fine to use internally, but when walking into a Fortune 100 boardroom “RCS” is tough to explain quickly. Use marketing terms that resonate better like an integrated marketing campaign. Avoid unnecessary barriers to understanding when you’re speaking with a client or potential client.
- Splog: Can we stop word mashing? Especially random words with blog? “Vlog” should be avoided, too. A splog is a spam blog. Someone who doesn’t know what “splog” is will probably go somewhere at least vaguely sexual. Even the impression of derogatory language comes off as unprofessional. Clean up the connotations and call it a low-quality blog.
- Linkerati: This is an old school SEO term that few new marketers hear anymore. The linkerati are the people who control web properties that you want to get links from. Today the majority of us just say, “link prospects” or “potential contacts” and let’s keep it that way.
- Blacklisted or penalty: Neither of these terms are inherently wrong, but they’re used incorrectly everyday. Let’s be more cautious when talking about what may be happening with a site. Blacklisted means the site is literally out of the index. A penalty may be manual or algorithmic and causes a noticeable drop in rankings. Not every site that experiences a loss has been blacklisted or penalized.
SEO is a maturing industry, and our language should mature along with it. While I have no inherent objections to most of this terminology (expect for “link juice”) the industry reputation is what it is partially because all of this SEO jargon alienates those who want to educate themselves. Satire has its place, but we seriously need to re-vamp our communication habits. While so many of us are advocating the importance of understanding a client’s brand message and aligning our work with other departments, we are helping to create and establish the divide between SEO and traditional marketers when we use the expressions that we do.
We need to present a uniform front, eat a slice of humble pie, and acknowledge the inheritance of the SEO industry. We are marketers. Marketing was around long before the Internet was a glimmer of an idea. Why are we not using marketing language with more frequency? To really move forward, SEO needs to speak the language of traditional marketing and branding, not the other way around.