[glossary of seo terms for the common man]
Oftentimes in working with a website optimization consultant, a term will come up that you are unfamiliar with. The consultant doesn't realize they've just used jargon unfamiliar to you and you may feel too embarrassed to ask for a definition.
For these situations, I have created the "Glossary of SEO Terms for the Common Man". It is intended to provide you with more information about search engine optimization than you'd ever want to know. Use it as a reference. Don't let it intimidate you - it is merely a resource.Above the Fold - In print media, "above the fold" refers to the top portion of a newspaper. In the world of the internet, it refers to the content viewable before having to scroll down a page (or the top portion of the screen). This is the most important part of a webpage and is used to entice the viewer to read further. If this top portion doesn't grab the viewer's attention, they are apt to leave your page or even the website.
AdSense - AdSense is a program offered by Google to allow for content related ads to appear on a webpage. For instance, if you sell hotel accommodations, AdSense might display ads on your website for travel agents, car rentals and tour guides. This is a money earning program.
AdWords - This is Google's CCP (see "Cost Per Click") program which allows for preferential placement on Google's results page. It might be used by a commercial printer to get their website listed on the first page of Google when people search on "business cards", "letter head" or "custom printing". Then, each time a viewer clicked on their ad, they would be charged whatever dollar amount they bid. The higher the bid, the closer to the op of the page the ad is placed. You can apply for AdWords Select at http: - - adwords.google.com.
Algorithm - Operational programming rules that determine how a search engine indexes content and displays the results to its users.
AllTheWeb - Search engine which was created by Fast, then bought by Overture, which was bought by Yahoo. Yahoo may use AllTheWeb as a test bed for new search technologies and features.
Alt Attribute - Visually impaired computer users and most major search engines are not able to easily distinguish what is in an image. Using an image alt attribute allows you to help screen readers and search engines understand the function of an image by providing a text equivalent for the object. This is also the text that appears when a user "hovers" over an image with their mouse. Example usage: <img src="http: - - www.sales-training.com - images - PerformanceGraph.gif" alt="Average increase in performance as a result of sales training.">
AltaVista - Search engine bought out by Overture prior to Overture being bought by Yahoo. AltaVista was an early powerhouse in search, but on October 25, 1999 they did a major algorithmic update which caused them to dump many websites. Ultimately that update and brand mismanagement drove themselves toward irrelevancy and a loss of mindshare and marketshare.
Anchor text - This is the actual text part of a link (usually underlined). Used by search engines as an important ranking factor. Google pays particular attention to the text used in a hyperlink and associates the keywords contained in the anchor text to the page being linked to. Also see "Google bombing."
ASP - An acronym for Active Server Pages, a Microsoft-invented, proprietary programming language for building dynamic web sites. Also an acronym for Application Service Provider, a hosted service available via the Internet.
Back links - Inbound links pointing to a web page. Also known as backlinks or inlinks.
Banned - When a search engine blocks your site from appearing in its search results.
Bidding - The act of placing a bid price that you are willing to pay as an advertiser on a pay-per-click search engine. The highest bid for a given keyword generally achieves the top spot in the PPC search results. A charge is incurred when an ad is clicked on.
Black Hat SEO - Certain optimization techniques which are deceptive in nature and are created solely for the express purpose of fooling the search engines into placing a website higher on their results page than they deserve to be. Opposite of White Hat SEO.
Blog - Also known as a "weblog". An online diary with entries made on a regular if not daily basis. Some blogs are maintained by an anonymous author who uses a nickname or handle instead of his or her real name.
Bot - Short for robot. See "spider"
Cache - Copies of web pages stored locally on an Internet user's hard drive or within a search engine's database. A cache is the reason why web pages load so quickly when a user hits the Back button in their web browser, since the page is not being redownloaded off of the Internet.
Clickthrough rate - The ratio of clicks on a link (such as a search engine listing or a banner ad) to the number of times it appears. Studies show that clickthrough rates are six times higher for search engine listings than banner ads.
Cloaking - Serving different content to search engine spiders than to human visitors. Cloaking is basically a "bait and switch" tactic, where the web server feeds visiting spiders content that is keyword-rich, thus fooling the search engine into placing that page higher in the search results. Yet when the visitor clicks on the link they are given different content, which may be totally unrelated. Search engines frown upon this practice and some will penalize or ban sites that they catch doing it.
Cold Fusion - A web scripting language with limited capabilities, mostly centered around database access. ColdFusion program files are saved on the web server with a .CFM file extension.
Conversion - The act of converting a web site visitor into a customer or at least taking that visitor a step closer to customer acquisition (such as convincing them to sign up for your e-mail newsletter or complete a form).
Conversion rate - The rate at which visitors get converted to customers or are moved a step closer to customer acquisition.
Cookie - Information placed on a visitor's computer by a web server. While the web site is being accessed, data in the visitor's cookie file can be stored or retrieved. Mostly cookies are used as unique identifiers (i.e. user IDs or session IDs) to isolate a visitor's movements from others' during that visit and subsequent visits. Other data that may get stored in a cookie include an order number, email address, referring advertiser, etc.
Cost Per Action (CPA) - The cost incurred or price paid for a specific action, such as signing up for an email newsletter, entering a contest, registering on the site, completing a survey, downloading trial software, printing a coupon, etc.
Cost Per Click (CPC) - The cost incurred or price paid for a clickthrough to your landing page.
Crawler - See "spider"
CSS - Cascading Style Sheet - used to unify the look and control the design of website.
Directory - A database of websites collected by human editors who group websites into categories and either provide site descriptions or edit descriptions that are submitted to them. With a directory, picking the right category and composing a description rich in key phrases will ensure maximum visibility. Contrast this with a search engine, which is unedited and concerned primarily with the HTML of a site's constituent pages.
Doorway page - Also known as a "bridge page". A doorway page is a web page full of keyword-rich copy that doesn't deliver any useful information on it other than a link into the site, and whose sole purpose is to be fed to the search engines. Search engines strongly advise that you stay away from doorway pages.
Dynamic - Website content that is generated 'on-the-fly' from a database. Often used for product listings.
Flash animation - A technology developed by MacroMedia Corp. that allows a web designer to embed interactive multimedia into web pages. Often used for Flash intros, games, and animating navigation. If you visit a web page and see letters and numbers flying around, most likely it was created using Flash animation.
Frames - When separate web pages are combined into one, each potentially with its own scrollbar. You can assume you're on a framed website when part of the page scrolls while the rest of the page stays in place. Search engines don't like frames. Most search engines support frames, but only, as Google says in its FAQ section, "to the extent that [we] can."
Froogle - Froogle is a price comparison service launched by Google Inc. The name Froogle is a pun on the word frugal, which means thrifty, and the name of the company, Google. (Froogle is pronounced the same as frugal.) Froogle is different from most other price comparison services in that it neither charges any fees for listings, nor accepts payment for products to show up first. Also, it makes no commission on sales. Any company can submit product information (via a “data feed”) and be included in the Froogle engine.
Google - Currently the most widely used search engine.
Google Base - Google Base is an online database provided by Google into which any user can add almost any type of content. A major component of Google Base is acting like a classified ads service. However it has also been used for such items as current events, real estate, recipes, people profiles, and more.
Google bombing - When a group of sites such as blogs join forces to link to an unflattering page about a company such that this page rises to the top of the search results in Google. Google bombing takes advantage of the power of hyperlink text and of PageRank. For example, if a group of sites with high PageRank all link to a page about XYZ Company's inappropriate behavior with hyperlink text of "XYZ Company sucks" then the linked page can shoot to the top of Google's search results for the term "XYZ Company."
Google Local - See "Google Maps"
Google Maps - Google Maps (for a time named Google Local) is a free web map service provided by Google that offers street maps, a route planner, and an urban business locator for numerous countries around the world. It is also a great place to list your business and website.
Googlebot - Googlebot is a search bot used by Google. It collects documents from the web to build a searchable index for the Google search engine.
Heading tag - An HTML tag that is often used to denote a page or section heading on a web page. Search engines pay special attention to text that is marked with a heading tag, as such text is set off from the rest of the page content as being more important. Example: <h1>Highlighted Text< - h1>
Hits - A download of a file from a web server. Hits do not correlate with web page visits. Every graphic on a web page counts as a hit. Thus, a single access of a web page with 20 unique graphics on it register as 21 hits - 20 for the graphics and 1 for the HTML page. Web metrics guru Jim Sterne says hits "stand for How Idiots Track Success." People who talk in terms of hits are usually either ignorant or are trying to snow someone into thinking the website is doing better than it really is.
HTML - Stands for HyperText Markup Language. The programming language used to create websites. It's up to the web browser software, e.g. Internet Explorer or Netscape, to render the HTML code and each browser software could potentially create a different webpage from a single HTML file.
Hyperlinks - See "links"
Impression - The number of times your search ad is presented to users by search engines.
Inbound links - Links that point to your site from sites other than your own. Inbound links are an important asset that will improve your site's PageRank.
Index - A search engine's database in which it stores textual content from every web page that its spider visits. Also, another name for the home page of a website.
Key phrase (or keyword phrase) - A search phrase made up of keywords. See "keyword."
Keyword - A word that a search engine user might use to find relevant web page(s). If a keyword doesn't appear anywhere in the text of your web page, it's highly unlikely your page will appear in the search results (unless of course you have bid on that keyword in a pay-per-click search engine).
Keyword density - The number of occurrences that a given keyword appears on a web page. The more times that a given word appears on your page (within reason), the more weight that word is assigned by the search engine when that word matches a keyword search done by a search. Too many occurrences of a keyword on a page leads to keyword stuffing, a frowned upon practice of trying to fool search engines.
Keyword prominence - The placement of a given keyword in the HTML source code of a web page. The higher up in the page a particular word is, the more prominent it is and thus the more weight that word is assigned by the search engine. Consequently, it's best to have your first paragraph be chock full of important keywords rather than superfluous marketingspeak. This concept also applies to the location of important keywords within individual HTML tags, such as heading tags, title tags, or hyperlink text.
Keyword research - The act of determining the words and phrases that people use to find something, then compiling them into a list for use in optimizing and promoting a website.
Keyword stuffing - Placing excessive amounts of keywords into the page copy and the HTML in such a way that it detracts from the readability and usability of a given page for the purpose of boosting the page's rankings in the search engines. This includes hiding keywords on the page by making the text the same color as the background, hiding keywords in comment tags, overfilling alt tags with long strings of keywords, etc. Keyword stuffing is just another shady way of gaming the search engines and, as such, its use should be strongly discouraged.
Keyword-rich - An adjective used to describe a webpage or bit of text that is chock full of good keywords.
Landing page - The web page that a visitor first sees when clicking through from a search engine, directory listing or some other link.
Link bait - Useful or entertaining web content which compels users to link to it.
Link building - Requesting links from webmasters of other sites for the purpose of increasing your "link popularity" and - or "PageRank."
Link farm - A network of sites that all host an identical links page containing links to all the network partners.
Links - Text or graphics that, when clicked on, take the internet user to another web page location. Links are expressed as URLs.
Manual submitting - Submitting by hand to an individual search engine, rather than using an automated submission tool or service. Manual submitting is the more polite way to submit, and as such is less likely to land you in trouble with the search engines.
Meta description - A meta tag hidden in the HTML that describes the page's content. The meta description provides an opportunity to influence how your Web page is described in the search results, but it will not improve your search rankings. Make sure your meta description reflects the page content or you may be banned for spamming.
Meta keywords - A meta tag hidden in the HTML that lists keywords relevant to the page's content. Because search engine spammers have abused this tag so much, this tag provides little to no benefit to your search rankings. Of the major search engines, only Yahoo! still pays any attention to the meta keywords tag.
Meta Search Engine - A search engine that returns the combined results from a group of other search engines.
Meta tags - Meta-information (information about information) that is associated with a web page and placed in the HTML but not displayed on the page for the user to see. There are a range of meta tags, only a few of which are relevant to search engine spiders. Two of the most well-known meta tags are the meta description and meta keywords; unfortunately these are ignored by most major search engines, including Google.
Mirror - A copy of a dynamic web site or a group of web pages from a dynamic site, saved as static HTML files. These files can cause problems in that the Search Engines think you have duplicate copy on your website, a common no-no. To avoid this, use your robot text to disallow Search Engines to crawl this page.
Optimize - See "Search Engine Optimization"
Organic Search Results - Most major search engines have results that consist of paid ads and unpaid listings. The unpaid - algorithmic listings are called the organic search results. Organic search results are organized by relevancy, which is largely determined based on linkage data, page content, usage data, and historical domain and trust related data. Also known a "natural" search results. Most clicks on search results are on the organic search results. Some studies have shown that 60 to 80% + of clicks are on the organic search results.
Pagejacking - Stealing high-ranking web page content from another site and placing it on your site in the hopes of increasing your own site's search engine rankings. Pagejacking is yet another shady way of gaming the search engines and, as such, is considered "black hat". It is nothing short of plagiarism.
PageRank - A weighted form of link popularity used by Google. Not all links are created equal. Google differentiates a link from an important site (such as CNN.com) as being better than a link from Jim-Bob's personal home page. The Google Toolbar (which is a free download from http: - - toolbar.google.com) has a PageRank meter built into it, to see which web pages are considered important by Google and which aren't. PageRank scoring ranges from 0 to 10, 10 being the best. PageRank scores get exponentially harder to achieve the closer to 10 they are. For example, increasing your own homepage's PageRank from a 2 to 3 is easy with not a lot of additional links, jumping from a 7 to an 8 is very difficult to achieve. The higher the PageRank of the page that's linking to you, the more your site's PageRank will benefit. The better your PageRank, the better you'll do in Google, all else being equal.
Pay-for-performance - A pricing model based on delivering sales or something else that can be directly attributed to the bottom line. Contrast this with traditional banner advertising which is based on impressions, a chunk of which come from people you have no desire or ability to do business with.
Pay-per-click (PPC) - A pricing model where advertisers pay each time their ad is clicked on.
Robot - See "spider"
Robots text - Text placed in a website. Allows for website owners to control the actions of search engine spiders on the site by allowing or denying them access to certain pages.
S.E. - See "search engine"
Sandbox Effect - The Sandbox Effect is the theory that new websites are placed in a sandbox (holding area) in the indexes of Google for a period of time before a ranking can commence. At such a time, their website will not place as well as it should in the search engine results page. This does not apply to new pages, only new websites.
Search engine - A web site that offers its visitors the ability to search the content of numerous web pages on the Internet. Search Engines collect their data using computer programs called robots which visit your website, read through it and use algorithmic formulas to determine where to place your website on their results page.
Search engine marketing (SEM) - Strategies and tactics undertaken to increase the amount and quality of leads generated by the search engines.
Search engine optimization (SEO) - Strategies and tactics undertaken to influence the rankings of web pages in the search engines.
Search Engine Results Page (SERP) - A page of search results delivered by a search engine.
Search term - A keyword or phrase typed into a search engine.
SEM - Acronym for Search Engine Marketing.
SEO - Acronym for Search Engine Optimization and - or Search Engine Optimizer.
SERP - Acronym for Search Engine Results Page.
Sitemap - A list detailing for visitors and search engines all the pages of your website. This is a useful tool to use in optimization to let the search engines know which pages to look at and index.
Spamglish - Keyword-rich gibberish used as search engine fodder instead of thoughtfully written, interesting content. Spamglish often includes meaningless sentences and keyword repetition.
Spamming - As in "spamming the search engines". Spamming is most commonly associated with the act of sending unsolicited commercial email, but in the context of search engine optimization, spamming refers to using disreputable tactics to achieve high search engine rankings. Such spamming tactics include bulk submitting spamglish-containing doorway pages.
Spider - Also known as a bot, robot, or crawler. Spiders are programs used by a search engine to explore the World Wide Web in an automated manner. Spiders are mainly used to index a website and determine its value and thus it's placement in search engine results. When a spider indexes a particular website, this is known as 'being spidered'. Crawlers can also be used for automating maintenance tasks on a web site, such as checking links or validating HTML code. Finally, crawlers can be used to gather specific types of information from Web pages, such as harvesting e-mail addresses (usually for spam).
Splash page - A home page that is, for the most part, devoid of content. Often times created in Flash. Splash pages usually say something to the effect of "Enter Here" or "Choose our Flash-enabled site or the HTML version". Splash pages are an annoyance to Internet users as they introduce an extra hoop that the user has to jump through before they get to any meaningful content. Splash pages are also damaging to search engine rankings. Considering that your home page is typically considered by search engines as the most important page of your site, if your home page is a splash page void of content, then it's a wasted opportunity.
Static - As in "static web page." Means that the web page was not created dynamically from a database, but instead previously created and saved as a HTML file.
Stop character - Certain characters, such as ampersand (&), equals sign (=), and question mark (?), when used in a web page's URL, tip off a search engine that web page may be dynamic. Search engines are cautious of indexing dynamic pages for fear of spider traps, thus pages that contain stop characters in their URL run the risk of not getting indexed and becoming part of the "Invisible Web." Google won't crawl more than one dynamic level deep. So dynamic pages with stop characters in its URL should get indexed if a static page links to it. Eliminating stop characters from all URLs on your site will go a long way in ensuring that your entire site gets indexed by Google.
Stop word - Certain words, such as "the," "a", "an," "of," and "with," are so common and meaningless that a search engine won't bother including them in their index, or database, of web page content. So in effect, the stop words on your web pages are ignored as if those words weren't on your pages in the first place. Including a lot of stop words in your title tag waters down the title tag's keyword density.
Submitting - Submitting a web page address to a search engine in the hopes that it will index it. Submitting your pages using an automated tool (a.k.a. "automated submitting"), submitting multiple pages of the same web site (a.k.a. "deep submitting"), or submitting multiple times (a.k.a. "resubmitting"), particularly if those pages are already indexed, are techniques typically frowned upon by search engines.
Supplemental Pages - Supplemental pages are web pages that Google has found to be questionable and will not appear in the main index. Supplemental pages are usually shown after the main results. They are crawled less and not trusted by Google. You can tell if any of your pages are in the supplemental by going to Google and typing in site:www.yoururl.com (replace with your website address). Look at all the urls of your site. Supplemental results will indicate they are such next to the URL.
Title tag - The text displayed in the blue bar at the very top of the browser window, above "Back," "Forward," "Refresh," "Print," etc. Although inconspicuous to the user, the title tag is the most important bit of text on a web page as far as the search engines are concerned. Search engines not only assign the words in the title tag more weight, they also typically display the title tag in the search results, making the title tag an important potential call-to-action as well. Thus, the wording of each page's title tag should be thought through carefully.
Traffic - The amount of users that visit a site.
Unique visitor - A new visitor to your website. Contrasts with returning traffic and loyal visitors.
URL - (Uniform Resource Locator) Used interchangeably with web address. For example: www.mywebsite.com. URLs can specify the location of a web page, an email address, or a file on an FTP server, among other things.
Web browser - Software installed on a computer that allows him or her to view web pages. Popular web browsers include Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
Weblog - See "Blog"
White Hat SEO - Certain optimization techniques which are well within the guidelines established by the search engines and which will improve your ranking in the search engines. Opposite of Black Hat SEO. The search guidelines are not a static set of rules, however, and things that may be considered legitimate one day may be considered deceptive the next.
Wiki - A website that allows visitors to add, remove, edit and change content, typically without the need for registration. It also allows for linking among any number of pages. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for mass collaborative authoring.
XML - XML stands for Extensible Markup Language (filename.xml) - a scripting language that allows the programmer to define the properties of the document.
Yahoo! - One of the oldest and most established directories; also one of the top 3 search engines.