Our Complete SEO Glossary for Lawyers

Our Complete SEO Glossary for Lawyers

| September 22, 2016

We use a lot of terms and phrases about legal-specific platforms on Attorney Rankings. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that not everyone knows what we are talking about. A post may mention a service, tactic or term without elaborating on what it means.

That’s why we have created this comprehensive glossary for lawyers. Use the navigation below to jump around, and feel free to leave suggestions in the comment section on ways we can improve the glossary or add to it.



This is a legal networking and resource website for consumers and attorneys. It’s structured as a question and answer forum where people can go to receive advice on their legal situations. You have to be a pro member to answer questions, and the platform is reserved for licensed experts only.See also:

An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations. During the information age, algorithms are commonly used to refer to problem-solving scenarios involving computers. For example, Google’s core algorithm is perhaps one of the most famous mainstream algorithms.

See also:

Google Inside Search

About Algorithms (Wikipedia)

Alt Attribute
Also known as alt text, alt is an attribute of the image (<img />) tag. It is used to describe an image since search engines cannot decipher what images are about just by crawling the file name. They also serve as a fail-safe for when images cannot be rendered by a browser so a user can still determine what an image depicts.

See also:

Moz on-page ranking factors

W3 Schools — About the Alt Attribute

Anchor Text Distribution
A measurement of the types of text and objects used to hyperlink web pages together. Why is anchor text distribution important in SEO? According to experts, keyword-rich anchor text offers a powerful signal to search engines. This “signal” indicates that a page receiving an inbound link is relevant to the topic of the anchor text. Optimizers watch anchor text distribution closely when building links because an unnatural distribution can indicate to search engines that a webmaster might be trying to manipulate search.

See also:

Link Audit: Competitive Backlink Analysis

Anchor Text Distribution: Avoiding Over Optimization

How to Check Anchor Text Distribution for Your Law Firm

Attorney Article Directories
These are directories that specialize in legal content. Most cater to end users who are looking for legal advice on a topic. Common directories include Targetlaw.com, Lawyers.com and NOLO.

Attorney SEO
These are optimization techniques that relate specifically to marketing legal professionals and their services in search. Tactics are customized to be beneficial for marketing legal services through search and reaching an audience relevant to attorneys.


A link leading from one site to another. As it relates to SEO, links are strong indicators for the popularity, relevance and authority of a website.See also:

Wikipedia — what is a backlink

Black Hat SEO
Optimization tactics that are considered deceptive, misleading or used exclusively for the purpose of manipulating search results.

See also:

Search Engine Land — The Secret Life of the Black Hat SEO

Also known as a “web bot,” “Internet bot,” “web robot” or (as when named after the company that produced it) Googlebot or Bingbot; bots are software applications that perform automated tasks on the Internet. For the most part, bots perform structurally repetitive and simple tasks.

As it relates to SEO, bots crawl the web and index content for search engines to store in their databases.

See also:

Wikipedia — Internet Bots

Robotstxt.org — Web Robots Pages


This term has gained a reputation on the web as an SEO word, but it actually has its roots in computer science. It is a process for converting data that has more than one possible representation into a standard form.In search engine optimization, it refers to choosing a standard URL for representing a page. For example, indicating to a search engine whether the www or non-www version of a page is the canonical (or standard) version.

See also:

Google on Canonical URLs

Wikipedia — What is Canonicalization

Circle of Legal Trust
A non-commercial website founded by a group of attorneys. The goal is to educate and mentor other attorneys in the practices of online marketing and outreach.

The COLT is a great resource for attorneys who are seeking advice and resources on how to market themselves or their firms online.

See also:


The Circle of Legal Trust on Google+

The Circle of Legal Trust on LinkedIn (Group)

The Circle of Legal Trust on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

The practice of showing one set of content or a full web page to search engines and a completely different set of content or web pages to visitors.

See also:

Webmaster Tools — What is Cloaking

This stands for “Content Management System.” A CMS is used to make the construction and upkeep of a website easy for a novice to do with little or no programming knowledge.

There are tons of CMS systems both commercial and home-grown.  Some of the most popular mainstream systems include WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

See also:

Wikipedia — What is a Content Management System

List of notable content management systems

Content Silo
A method of organizing content on a website. In SEO, content silos help optimizers create websites that perform well in search. The practice involves creating an overarching theme for a website, then creating sub-themes or categories for the connected pages.

ConversionThis is literally the process of changing an object, person or concept into something else. As it relates to SEO and the Internet, a conversion is the act of changing a visitor to a website into a buyer or customer.

See also:

Bruce Clay — SEO Siloing: How to Build a Website Silo Architecture 


Duplicate Content
Text that is similar in order and concept to other text. In SEO, duplicate content refers to content that is already present in a search engine’s index.Duplicate content can be an issue for websites because a search engine may not index content that is substantially similar to other content already in its database. For the most part, duplicate content is not a huge worry. There are many kinds of duplicate content that are not malicious in nature. Examples include privacy policies, printer-friendly versions of pages or boilerplate content.

See also:

Google — Duplicate Content


Error Pages (404)
These are pages that serve as placeholders when a resource (some other page) cannot be found by a web browser. Hosting providers typically generate their own error pages for all subscribers. Webmasters can also generate their own customized error pages.See also:

Wikipedia — 404 Error Pages


A business unit of Thomson Reuters, Findlaw provides online legal information and marketing services for lawyers. For consumers it is a free online legal resource.See also:
Wikipedia — About Findlaw


Grey Hat SEO
While definitions may vary, this term generally refers to SEO tactics that fall into a grey area of morality. It refers to practices that may not be inherently deceptive, but that are still frowned upon by search engines (such as building links manually).See also:

Attorney Rankings — White, Grey and Black Hat Lawyer SEO


The pound or number sign (#) commonly used on a variety of social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus) to identify a particular topic area or thread.Hashtags are used to group similar topic areas.  Marketers have leveraged them to gain exposure for content or promotions by using hashtags of trending topics or those that are very popular at a given point in time.

See also:

Unique uses — Twitter, American Express let users buy with Hashtags

Twitter — Using Hashtags

A web-based social media management software tool. HootSuite is one of the most popular free social media management tools. It allows marketers to publish content to all of the major social networks at once, schedule posts, monitor feeds, respond to interaction and generate reports on social engagement.

See also:

Hootsuite — About the Company


Inbound Marketing
A marketing concept coined by Seth Godin and proliferated by the likes of HubSpot and Marketo. It refers to the concept of a non-interruptive style of marketing where a brand becomes an authority and offers free and useful tools, advice, content or other things in order to attract new buyers.See also:

Wikipedia — What is Inbound Marketing

Seth Godin — www.Inbound.com


A legal online marketing and website generation service for law firms and attorneys.  The company’s mission is also to make legal resources easily accessible to consumers.See also:

Justia.com — About the company


Keyword Research
A practice used by marketers to determine popular and/or profitable keywords used by searchers. Another component of keyword research is determining searcher intent or what is meant by a searcher when they enter a query into a search engine.This type of research is the foundation of many search marketing activities including PPC, SEO, landing page design, and blogging.  There are various methods and tools that are used to generate the information needed to make sound keyword marketing choices.

See also:

Moz Q&A — Keyword Research Methods

Tools — Keyword Planner for Lawyers

Methods — (KEI) Keyword Effectiveness Index


Landing Page
The page that an Internet user lands on after they click on an ad or link. Any web page can be a landing page, but not all pages are appropriate landing pages.The term landing page is a marketing term and doesn’t necessarily refer to a specialized configuration of programming code or arrangement of elements on a web page.  Landing pages are crucial components in an online conversion funnel.

See also:

Hubspot — What is a Landing Page [FAQ]

Ash, Tim; Maura, Ginty; and Page, Rich — Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions

Law Firm Marketing
Marketing practices that are tailored to promote legal services.

Lawyer Internet Memes
A meme is a unit that carries cultural ideas, practices or symbols from one person to another through writing, speech or gestures.  Memes related to the legal profession found on the internet are typically images that parody the profession using pop-culture icons.

See also:

Wikipedia — What is an internet meme

Attorney Rankings — Social and SEO Benefits of Lawyer Memes

An article directory that specializes in in content that relates to the law and legal profession.

See also:

Lawyers.com — About the company

Legal Directories
Websites that specialize in maintaining listings of legal-related websites. Directories, in general, have long been targets for SEOs as viable ways to build links. While their value has diminished over the years, some are still good places to submit a website.

See also:

Best Free Law Firm Directories List

Top 3 Law Firm Directories

Link Juice
Also known as link authority, page authority, and PageRank, it refers to the value passed from one page to another as seen by a search engine. Link juice is essentially the vote that one web page gives to another when it is linked.

See also:

Search Engine Land — What is PageRank

Link Target
A website that is identified by a webmaster or marketers as a viable candidate to get a link to their own or a client website.  Note that this search marketing term should not be confused with the link target attribute used to specify how a new window will load.

See also:

Moz — Link Building Strategies

Link bait
Also known as link marketing, this is content that attracts organic links. Common forms of link bait include well-written blog posts, infographics, viral video and any other content that would entice someone to link to the website where the content resides.

While not exactly efficient, this approach can often produce the best results in terms of link building.  By becoming an authority in a given space or producing content that people love, the time spent on manually building links to a domain can be reduced.

See also:

Moz — 10 Extraordinary Examples of Effective Link Bait

Local SEO
The practice of applying search engine optimization strategies to a website so it ranks well for searchers in a specific geographic location, typically within a radius circle of a business location.

For some industries, success is hinged on serving a clientele held captive by geographic location.  For example legal services, restaurants, health care providers, auto dealers, and barbers are all businesses that depend on local clientele.  Those local customers still utilize search engines to find information on local businesses.  Well-done local optimization ensures that information can be found, indexed and displayed by search engines in an effective and appealing way.

See also:

Search Engine Journal — The Definitive Guide to Local SEO

Attorney Rankings — Local Law Firm SEO

Long Tail Keywords
Keywords that are more targeted because of their specific nature and generally easier to rank for in search because they are less widely used in SEO. Even though they are less popular, long tail keywords account for the bulk of user queries, and can be much better for conversions on a website.

Long tail keywords are much more helpful in determining searcher intent. For example, “six foot Ardent fishing pole” gives a much more in-depth look at what a searcher is looking for as opposed to the phrase “fishing poles.”

See also:

Search Engine Watch — The Resurgence of Long Tail Keywords

Wikipedia — Long Tail Keywords


Manual Action
This phrase refers to Google having a human employee manually demote or remove a website from the engine’s index. Manual actions can happen for a lot of reasons, but in general, it is because a webmaster has been using deceptive practices in an effort to manipulate search.See also:

Google — Manual Actions

Google Webmaster Blog — View Manual Webspam Actions in Webmaster Tools

Meta Description
An HTML and XHTML element that describes a web page to search engines.

Meta descriptions used to play a more prominent role in search engine rankings. Search has evolved to use much more sophisticated means of determining the relevance of a web page to a query. Despite this fact, meta descriptions still have a place in SEO and can influence not only rankings, but a user’s decision to click on a listing in a SERP.

See also:

Moz — What is a Meta Description

Google — Review your Page Titles and Snippets

Meta Tags
These are elements of HTML that describe the content of a web page.

There are many different kinds of meta tags that serve different purposes. Some (like the keywords meta tag) have depreciated over time and are no longer used by leading search engines to determine the relevance of a web page.

See also:

Google — What are Meta Tags


This is a value of the attribute CONTENT in the robots meta tag. It instructs robots that are crawling a web page to leave and not save a cached version of the page in a search engine’s index.Note that robots can be configured to not obey meta tags. Google and other search engines obey these directives for the most part, but more malicious bots will not. Especially those that are malware bots.

See also:

Wikipedia — What is Noindex

A legal directory that helps consumers get answers to legal questions online. It is a subsidiary of Internet Brands. Among other information, the site publishes do-it-yourself legal guides and software.

See also:

NOLO — www.NOLO.com


Off-Site SEO
Search engine optimization techniques that take place away from the domain being optimized. For example, generating business listings, building links, and creating active social networks are off-site SEO tactics.See also:

SEO Book — Off-site SEO

On-Site SEO
Search engine optimization techniques that take place on a website itself. For instance, enhancing page speed, writing content, blogging, configuring website content architecture and other tasks are all on-site or on-page SEO techniques.

See also:

Search Engine Journal — 12 Basic On-Site SEO Tactics

Organic Links
Inbound links built to a domain without any influence on the part of a site owner. In other words, these are links that happen naturally.

Over Optimization
As it relates to SEO, this happens when an optimizer performs more SEO tasks than are necessary to get a site to rank well in search.

See also:

Attorney Rankings — 15 Ways an Attorney Can Get an SEO Penalty


PPC Match Types
This refers to the ways keywords can be configured in an AdWords account in order to trigger ads only when a user exercises particular (and perceived) searcher intent.See also:

Attorney Rankings — Negative Keywords for Lawyers



Redirects (301, 302)
Codes that indicate to a search engine that a resource has moved. A 301 redirect refers to when a resource has moved permanently. A 302 redirect refers to when a resource has moved temporarily.See also:

Google — Redirecting URLs

Robots File
A text file used to instruct bots on which sections of a site are appropriate to crawl and index and which ones are off limits.

See also:



This acronym stands for “Search Engine Marketing,” and it refers to a variety of tactics including SEO, paid search campaigns and other marketing initiatives involving search.Semantic Search
This is a term that refers to serving results to users not because of relevant content, but because of the relationships the result have with one another.

Semantic search has been pioneered by Google and brought to life by the company’s work on Knowledge Graph. For instance, when you search for the place “Lake Tahoe,” not only do you get documents related to the place, but information that is related to the place such as the depth of the lake, the types of species that inhabit it, its geographic location and other data.

See also:

Wikipedia — What is Semantic Search

Cambridge Semantics — Semantic Search and the Semantic Web

Google — The Knowledge Graph – Inside Search

This is the acronym for “Search Engine Optimization.” The practice has enjoyed growth and added exposure in recent years. Even though it has been pushed further into the mainstream, the practice has been around since the beginning of search on the web.

See also:

Search Engine Land — What is SEO 

This is the acronym for “Search Engine Results Page.”


Tiered Link Building
This refers to a strategy where groups of links are built to a website on other web properties and then another (second) tier of links is built to those sites flowing PageRank through many tiers back to a main website (also called a money site).See also:

Matthew Woodward — The Ultimate Guide to Tiered Link Building

Title Tag
An HTML element that identifies a web page and its topic area.




White Hat SEO
Optimization tactics that are considered moral and/or acceptable. Generally, those tactics that promote a good user experience.Widget (aka gadget or gizmo)
An add-on software enhancement that can add functionality to a website.

See also:

Wikipedia — What is a Widget

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