The New SEO Glossary: Say Goodbye to Link Condoms & Juice


new-seo-glossaryThe 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.

Your Comments

  • Scott Clark

    I feel that the terminology that is emerging around content marketing is much healthier. It’s not new to us, but callers to my firm are starting to use the vocabulary without me even mentioning it. Authorship, authority, authenticity and these kinds of pro-success phrases work really well and seem to resonate with executives.

  • steveplunkett

    Well said =) Thank you =)

  • Wil Reynolds

    Rhea, love where you are going with this, and also love how you framed “RCS”, we should never say that outside of SEO walls, but my reason for saying that is different…most companies have done RCS their whole lives, that is how they came to be companies, so RCS at a marketing conference would get me laughed out of the room b/c most marketers there are like, DUH. :) Great write up!

    • Rhea Drysdale

      Hey Wil! Thanks for the response, this one was all Amanda on the content (besides coming to me for some gross, old skool terms). ;) I agree though and we’ve talked heavily about RCS internally. Not sure if you saw Philip’s post on it here: As a concept it rocks, but so hard to pitch as an acronym or even extension of an SEO campaign sometimes. Doesn’t mean it isn’t vital and shouldn’t be a primary focus, it’s just in how we demonstrate value and get buy-in, so we can get our job done! :)

    • Amanda King

      Thanks Wil! Like you said, it’s all about the framing, and as an industry, we have the capability to re-frame SEO. :)

  • Alessio Madeyski

    “Link juice” is in my 10 most hated terms since I became an SEO. Really, when I think about it or hear “link juice” I truly think EVERYTHING but something related to SEO.

    Same for different hats: why not talking about what works and what doesn’t? And, anyway, it could be that what works for you, it’s not working for me.

    Thanks for sharing Amanda!

  • Todd Mintz

    How could you forget “Hand Job” (manual removal of a site from the SERPS) ? :.)

    Yeah, you wouldn’t use these terms with clients. However, amongst ourselves, I guess I’m not bothered by them. Every industry has its insider lingo…ours is just a bit more colorful than most.

    • Rhea Drysdale

      I cannot believe we forget about that one! Quick explanation for anyone terrified by this… a “hand job” is Google manually editing something on your site or a business listing, typically with a favorable outcome. I feel so dirty.

      • Zachary

        You should’ve said “happy ending” instead of favorable outcome :-) I can’t believe I just said that – I feel dirty now too… Oh well. The post was great, agree on all points!

    • Amanda King

      Todd – I’m all for the colorful…but behind closed doors. I guess one of my points in this article is that there are very few truly “closed doors” to talk behind as an SEO professional. Anything that we publish online, be that a blog post, presentation slides, interviews or sometimes a video of the actual presentation can be seen and digested by the entirety of the Internet population. So, maybe just limit the vocab to IRL interactions? :)

  • Falcao Ruiz

    Excelent idea Amanda! You’ve covered pretty much everything there is to explain about all these terms.

    I’ll have to come up with a Spanish version of this glossary for my readers.

  • Ryan Jones

    Pro tip: “Don’t splog your sticky link juices in strange widgets, use a link condom.”

    Ok, I’m sold. The very fact that the above statement actually makes sense is disturbing enough in its own right.

  • Justin Kofron

    I was going to share this on my Facebook, but I am afraid everyone would unfriend me. They are like parents, they just don’t understand. Quality post though, I will share elsewhere.

  • Rob Woods

    I have very conservative management ay my company. I always have to use “link equity” or “link value” … no link juice or condoms around our office :)

  • Rob Woods

    Having said that, I do agree that it’s time for this marketing discipline to grow up and start acting the way we seem to keep clamoring to be treated. We use all these terms and then cry because we get no respect. The changes I can see happening this year are finally, slowly, moving us out of the wild west and we can look to being an actual respected part of marketing and advertising. Personally I look forward to it (and yes, I’ve used just about every one of the link love, juice, condom, and hand job terms before…)

    • Amanda King

      Rob, I agree! It’s not like I don’t see marketing terms being used in the industry, I see it every day, but that also makes the more cringe-worthy terms stick out like a sore thumb. I look forward to the future of the industry, too. (And I think we all have…:P)

  • Matt A.

    Agree with all of your suggestions. At least to outsiders. Every industry has their own terminology – the best users of it are the ones who don’t use it with people who have no clue what you’re talking about. When a doctor explains what’s wrong, I guarantee she’s not chucking around the terms that will make your head spin. She says what’s wrong in plain English – or as close as can be.

    We have a similar role – provide a diagnosis and explain it in a way the client (patient) understands. If we do this, we’ll be ok and so will they.

    • Amanda King

      Matt – I like your doctor comparison! As the SEO industry is maturing, I see that to be more and more of an apt reflection of our role, because companies will often have the resources in-house to implement our suggestions, whereas 5 or 10 years ago they might not have. I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

  • Dr. Pete

    …and a “blog” is already short for “web log”, so wouldn’t spam web log be “spwelog” or something? My head hurts.

  • Chris Pantages

    “Link Juice” is by far the worst, especially since it only makes sense to other SEO’s. I have always used the terms “authority metrics” or “link weight” to describe links to clients.

  • Doc Sheldon

    Nice, Amanda- There a couple in there that make me cringe, too (particularly hats!), especially when I see them used outside of SEO circles.

    Every niche has some slang terms, but I agree, if we want to be seen as professionals, we should present ourselves as such.

    • Amanda King

      Doc – funny that all the hats terminology bothers you the most, I find it least grating, myself. But yes, when I hear or see a lot of these terms used outside of SEO circles it makes me wonder (more than usual) what kinds of impressions we’re leaving on outsiders. Glad you enjoyed the article!

  • Pramod Kumar

    Definitely needs to be shared, however because of the phrases link condoms, link love, hand job (in the comment) it’s not possible :)

    • Amanda King

      Pramod, I’m sorry you feel uncomfortable sharing the article – I’ll do better next time! And you won’t be seeing any of this language (from me, at least) again. :)

  • Greg

    This article made me smile as it highlights the fact that our industry continues to evolve into a standard business practice. I agree that speaking like a professional will speed up the trek to being referred to as professionals. Regarding the term linkerati, and potential replacement terms, “link prospects” or “potential contacts”. I actually think those terms don’t catch the meaning of the original term. Maybe “high value link prospects” or “prospects with high influence capacity” or I’ve heard a simple “influencers” mentioned before. At any rate, thanks for the article! Great read to assist in our continued evolution and growth!

    • Amanda King

      Greg, thanks for your thoughts! I appreciate your more nuanced take on “linkerati” – it’s true enough, and I agree!

  • SDGSteve

    The trouble is, marketing at large and especially Internet marketing is awash with people who don’t really know anything other than how to churn out vacuous buzzwords, take a browse through any selection of Internet marketing blogs and it’s just endless, over-copywritten rehashes of entirely obvious thoughts littered with buzzwords to sound dynamic and clever. Terms like these will never die, because they do convince some people they’re talking to some web guru. Now that Google are turning SEO into actual work killing off more and more “black hat” techniques it might get a bit better I guess, get rid of some of the tourists.

  • Keith Eastman

    I have never heard some of the langauge in this blog before and I have been doing it for 11 years… Is because I don’t have that many techy die hard marketing friends? LOL.. Love this post I am sharing it.

  • Dani Stein

    HA! Love this – Amanda, I’ll never forget the first time I heard the term “link juice.” It came from YOUR mouth, and I was a new little wee SEO, and I had no idea what you were talking about, but I knew even then that you hated it. I believe your exact words were, “Yeah, we use a lot of fancy language in this industry…” haha!

    Great post – sharing with the girls in the office :)

  • Nick Stamoulis

    I actually hadn’t heard of “link condom” either. Clever, but is it appropriate? I think you make a good point. How can we ever expect clients to understand SEO or respect what we’re doing if we’re throwing around industry jargon that they don’t understand, sounds silly, and possibly even unprofessional?

  • Lyena Solomon

    I think, we have SEOs that are just too good at their jobs. They are entertaining, use colorful metaphors, and make them extreme. That’s why those terms take off because they are somewhat shocking but accurate. So, we giggle and use them internally.
    However, I am in complete agreement with you, Amanda. We need to clean up our lingo if we expect people to take us seriously. That is when people will stop looking at SEOs as hacks and instead see us as professionals.

  • Kent

    Why human likes to make things complicated?

  • Devan Perine

    I didn’t realize until you put it all together in one area, but how ridiculous it is that majority of all the SEO jargon has some sort of sexual connotation. But honestly, what else do you expect from a male-dominated industry? *sigh*

    Grow up, boys.

    Amen, Amanda! Love this post!

    Thought you’d also get a kick out of my colleague’s post on why SEO is like a woman. It’s hilarious! ;)

  • Jason Grodsky

    I agree that if those in the industry want to be taken more seriously the lingo has to begin to transform and we have to clean it up. You make some great points, but getting the culture to change will be harder as most people are set in their ways. It’d be interesting to see if business for those who are more disciplined and make the change would see an increase in business. If we’re expected to be taken seriously there has to be a tweak to the lingo, once that happens the easier it will be for others to offer the respect most want.

  • Michael

    Link condom! hahaha, I haven’t heard that before.

    I know what you mean about professionalism, but being a little boy at heart i’m going to have to bring it into conversations now! :-)