Dictionary of SEO terminology
Confused by SEO jargon? We're not surprised. Let us help clarify.
Please do let us know if there other terms that you would like including here.
Mathematical formula used by search engines to rank the web pages found by their spiders.
These display a short text description of an image when a mouse cursor is held over the image. The ALT description is also displayed in place of the image if the user is browsing with image display turned off. Image ALT tags are useful to your page's visitors. Alt tags can also help with your search engine rankings by increasing the keyword density (if you use your keywords in your ALT tags).
<img src="/silver-porsche.jpg" width="150" height="225"
ALT="Photo of a Silver Porsche">
The "clickable" part of the link structure. Using keywords in the link anchor text of your inbound links will help your search engine rankings for those keywords.
<a href="http://www.yoursite.com">This is the link anchor text</a>
Apache Web Server
Widely used web server software.
Abbreviation for AllTheWeb, a search engine powered by FAST.
A web page that has been penalised by a search engine for using unethical SEO tactics.
Links from another web page to your web page. Most search engines provide an easy way to get a list of all of the backlinks to a specific page. Also referred to as Incoming or inbound Links. Sometimes referred to as "IBLs".
Irrelevant low grade traffic from misleading adverts/banners or spam.
A link that no longer takes the user to the destination page when it is clicked on. This is usually the result of the destination page having been renamed or deleted from the server. Also known as a Dead Link.
The act of clicking on a link to visit a web page.
The number of times a link is clicked on divided by the number of times that same link is displayed (called an impression). Example: A link is displayed 100 times (100 impressions) and clicked on 5 times. The CTR is 5% (5/100=.05).
Where one version of a page is served to a human visitor, but a different version of the same page is served to the search engine spiders (or 'bots). This is usually done to "fool" the search engines into giving the page a higher rank than it would normally receive while making sure the human visitor sees a useful and attractive page. Sites discovered cloaking may be penalised. Note: Cloaking is discouraged by most major search engines, including Google.
Used in a web page's HTML source code to indicate certain information about a section of the page code. Some search engines will consider keywords contained in comment tags for keyword density purposes, others (including Google) will not.
<!--This is a comment-->
The information located within a web page. This includes text, images, and any other types of visible information that a webmaster places on the page.
Content Targeted Advertising (CTA)
Refers to the placement of relevant Pay Per Click ads on content pages for non-search engine websites.
Conversion refers to site traffic that completes the goal of the site (such as buying a product, registering for a newsletter, and so on). Webmasters measure conversion to assess the effectiveness (and ROI) of their Pay Per Click and SEO campaigns. Effective conversion tracking requires the use of scripting/cookies to track visitors'actions within a website, as log files are insufficient.
Cost Per Click (CPC)
The base unit of cost for a Pay Per Click campaign.
A script that counts the number of hits, unique visitors, and page views that a web page (or an entire site) receives.
A program used by search engines to "crawl" the web by following links from page to page. This is how most search engines "find" the web pages that they place in their index. Crawlers are also referred to as spiders, robots or "bots".
Crawling the Web
Search engines use crawlers to move from web page to web page by following the links on the pages. The pages "found" are then ranked using an algorithm and indexed into the search engine database.
This is where the owner of two or more websites link the sites together, in order to boost their search engine rankings. If detected, cross linking often results in penalisation by the search engine.
Cascading Style Sheet. Gives complete control over how web pages are displayed.
See "Broken Link".
Linking to a page that is one or more levels removed from the home directory. Deep linking is often desirable to build PageRank to a specific page on a website. Example: http://www.yoursite.com/helpfiles/seo-copywriting.html
A short sentence or paragraph describing the contents of a web page, usually used as part of a link to describe the page being linked to. See also link anchor text.
Description Meta Tag
A Meta tag that describes the content of the web page in which it is found. Used by some search engines for keyword density purposes. Also, some search engines will use the description Meta tag for the description provided to a user when the page is returned in a listing of search results. It is recommended that you use a couple of your targeted keywords in the description Meta tag.
<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="This sentence describes the content on this page.">
A categorised list of websites that is maintained by human editors instead of crawlers. Yahoo.com is the most widely recognised directory on the web, but there are literally thousands of others, although only a few of any consequence.
The URL (Uniform Resource Locater) of a website. When a user types a URL into a web browser, a dedicated computer on the web known as a Domain Name Server, or DNS translates the URL into a discrete IP address which is then used to find the actual website being requested. In the URL http://www.yoursite.com, yoursite.com is the domain.
Domain Name Servers (DNS)
These are computers that translate human-friendly URLs into computer-friendly IP addresses. This process takes place every time a user requests a page from a website.
Every time a new domain name is registered (or an existing one is transferred to a new DNS), the information about the domain and the DNS that hosts it must make its way around the entire internet. This process usually takes around 24 hours, during which time the domain will be inaccessible to users.
A page that is usually optimised for a particular search engine and search term. Multiple doorway pages are often used to help ensure that the same basic content is ranked well on several different search engines. The use of doorway pages for this purpose is frowned upon by most larger search engines, including Google.
This is where two or more web pages contain substantially the same content; they are categorised by the spiders as containing duplicate content. Search Engines spiders have filters to detect duplicate content. When pages containing duplicate content are detected, they are often assigned a duplicate content penalty, lowering the pages'rankings from what it would have received naturally.
Dynamic Content (dynamic pages)
Web pages generated from database information within a content management system, based upon queries from users. Dynamic pages often include characters such as question marks in the URL. The URLs of dynamic pages often use these extensions: .asp, .cgm, or .cgi. Most search engines don't index dynamic content well, though Google is improving.
Dynamic IP Address
An IP address that changes every time a computer logs on to the internet. See also Static IP Address.
A filter is a software routine that examines web pages during a robot's crawl looking for search engine spam, and if it detects the use of spam on the page, a ranking penalty is considered. Common filters look for hidden text (such as white text on a white, or near-white, background), links to bad neighbourhoods, and many other unethical SEO techniques that the search engine doesn't like.
Graphic Programme from Macromedia. Fantastic graphics but spiders and robots can't 'see' them. Looks good but doesn't improve your ranking.
Free For All (FFA)
FFA sites post large lists of unrelated links to anybody who wants them. FFA sites, and the links that they provide, are essentially of no positive value to human or engine.
The largest and most used search engine on the internet today.
The crawler (there are actually many) that Google uses on a daily basis to find and index new web pages.
Nothing to do with Terry Wogan singing, thank goodness. "Google dance" is an unofficial term used to refer to the period when Google is performing the update to its index. At a specific time, updates to the Google indexing servers may be out of synchronisation, leaving to results changing position, minute by minute. Google may well be changing their index calculation method to allow for a continuous update (which will effectively end the dances, which take place every 2-3 weeks).
A downloadable toolbar for Internet Explorer that allows a user to do a Google search without visiting the Google website. The toolbar also displays the Google PageRank (PR) of the page currently displayed in the browser. The Google Toolbar can be downloaded from: http://toolbar.google.
HTML tags that help outline a web page or draw attention to important information. Keywords located inside header tags can, if correctly structured, provide a rankings boost in the search engines.
<h1>This is an H1 header tag.</h1>
<h2>This is an H2 header tag.</h2>
Hidden Text and Hidden Links
Using a text font that is the same (or nearly the same) colour as the background colour, rendering the text or link invisible or very difficult to read. The same effect can also be achieved by using various HTML tricks. Hidden text and hidden links are often used to artificially increase a web page's keyword density for a keyword or keyphrase and/or to artificially boost the link popularity of other pages on your site(s). The use of hidden text and hidden links is discouraged by Google and most other search engines, and their use may incur ranking penalties.
The term "hits" is commonly misunderstood. A hit is commonly perceived as a visit to one of your web pages. This is not the case. A hit occurs every time a file is accessed on your website. For example, if your home page has a logo gif file and 18 jpegs on it, then each time a visitor loads that page, 20 hits will be recorded, including 1 hit for the page itself.
The only meaningful way to evaluate the traffic flow of a site is to consider the average daily or monthly number of unique visitors and page views a site receives.
The main directory where your site's main index page is located.
Placing separate hyperlinks on different areas within the same image. Clicking on different parts of the image will take the user to different web pages. Not SEO friendly.
The list of web pages stored and ranked by a search engine.
When a search engine has crawled the web, it ranks the URLs found using various criteria (see algorithm) and places them in the index.
A unique numerical Internet Protocol Address (IP Address) that is assigned to every computer that connects to the internet. IP addresses can be either static (never unchanging) or dynamic (changes with every internet connection).
Your computer's IP address is what enables it to be "found" on the internet. In simple terms, when you request a web page or receive an email, the IP address tells the sending server where to send it to.
Returning an IP address that is different from the one that is actually assigned to the destination website. This is frequently achieved with redirects. A huge no-no for SEO and it can be a criminal offence.
A word or phrase typed into a search engine in order to find web pages that contain that word or phrase. A web page can (and should be) optimised for specific keywords/phrases that are relevant to the content on that page.
Keywords Meta Tag
An HTML Meta tag that lists all of the main keywords and key phrases that are contained on that web page. Some search engines use the keyword Meta tag to help rank web pages in their databases. Google currently does not.
<META NAME="KEYWORDS" CONTENT="search engine optimisation, SEO, chicken soup">
Keyword stuffing refers to adding redundant keywords to a web page. The words are added in an attempt to improve search engine ranking, not for the benefit of human visitors. The words may or may not be visible to visitors. Search engines likely disapprove and to humans, it detracts from the usability of a page, in that it looks like spam.
See "Anchor Text"
Building links to and from other web sites to improve popularity and rankings.
The placing of a link to another website on your own site in exchange for a return link back. Also known as reciprocal linking and should be ranked low as a link building strategy.
A web page, created solely a for search engine ranking purposes, that consists almost entirely of a long list of unrelated links. These types of pages are penalised by almost all search engines.
A measure of how "popular" a web page is on the internet as measured by the number of inbound links pointing to your web page. Link popularity is one of the main factors used to help determine search engine rankings. However, the quality of inbound links is more important than the number, and poor links can even be damaging.
Placing a URL link on one website that takes a user to a page on another website.
URLs placed within a web page so that, when clicked on, the browser is served with a different web page, often on a different web site.
Files that are constantly and automatically created and updated on your web server that provide very specific details about the activities taking place on your web site.
This includes referring URLs, IP addresses, pages visited, number of unique visitors, total page views, total hits (see "Hits"), and much more. Careful reviewing of your log files can provide valuable information about your site's performance and visitors.
Submitting web sites or web pages to search engines or directories for inclusion using their guidelines.
Meta Description Tag
Although not all search engines use them, lets you describe the site/page. Some search engines will display this on the listing instead of the first few lines of the site.
Meta Search Engine
A website that takes your search query and passes it on to several different search engines and directories, then summarises the results for you to review.
Identical, but separate websites on different domains. They are frequently used, validly by large websites, to share heavy server loads. They are also used by search engine spammers to generate more search engine referrals.
Generally, most search engines Terms of Service do not allow mirrors and do not hesitate to assess duplicate content penalties when they feel they are justifiable. In short, this could be grounds for banning your site from the search engines.
Links from your web page to another web page, usually on another site.
A proprietary numerical score that is assigned by Google to every web page in their index. PageRank for each page is calculated by Google using a special mathematical algorithm, based on Google's measure of the importance of the page. (See also "Google Toolbar")
PageRank (PR) For Money
Selling or buying a link from a web page with a high Google PageRank for the stated purpose of increasing the other page's PR. This is highly discouraged by Google and will result in a penalty for both pages if Google finds out.
Each time a web page on a site is accessed by a visitor, it counts as one page view. Irrespective of whether the same user viewed the same page 5 minutes ago, it still represents another page view.
Paid Inclusion (PFI or Pay for Inclusion)
Some directories will only consider placing your URL into their database if you pay them a fee. Yahoo charges a £250 evaluation fee for commercial sites in the UK, and $299 per year in the US. Note that this fee does not guarantee that your site will be accepted and placed in the Yahoo database, but only that Yahoo will consider your site for inclusion in a timely manner. If your site is rejected, you'll be out of pocket by £250, so it pays to make sure you know what you're doing before you submit your site. However, you do have an opportunity to appeal against the decision.
Other smaller directories will guarantee to list your site upon payment of their fee, provided that your site meets their guidelines (that are clearly explained in advance).
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Search Engines
This is a traffic generating method where a search engine or directory places your link in their searchable database and charges you a fee every time your URL comes up in a search and it gets clicked on. The amount of the fee that you pay is usually determined by bidding on keywords or keyphrases.
The two largest PPC search engines are Overture and Google AdWords. There are also numerous smaller PPC engines.
A punishment levied against a web page by a search engine as a result of using an SEO tactic that it doesn't approve of. A penalty usually results in a web page being credited with a lower Google PageRank (PR) than it has actually "earned". Penalties also result in a page being "buried" deep within the SERPS (See "Search Engine Results Pages") where it will almost never be found again by searchers.
Term for websites that are either respected hubs for a given subject or popular, content driven sites that people use as their homepage. Most portals offer hefty content and offer advertising for appropriate sites. Yahoo is an example of a portal.
The order in which individual web pages are returned in the SERPS for a given search query. Search engines rank the web pages based upon relevancy to your search terms according to their proprietary algorithm.
Links to another website placed on your site in exchange for links back to your site from theirs.
A tactic sometimes used to send a user to a different page than the one she found in the SERPS. For example, a webmaster optimises a web page for a very popular keyword. When a user finds the page by searching on that keyword, she is subsequently redirected to a different, possibly non-relevant page that the webmaster stands ready to make money from.
This is considered by the search engines as an invalid use of a redirect and they will penalise pages that use redirects in this manner.
Referrer or Referring URL
The linking URL of the web page that a visitor clicked to come to your site.
The degree to which the content on a web page, returned in the SERPS, corresponds to the topic of information that the user was searching for.
A program used by a search engine to crawl the web in order to find, rank, and index new web pages. They are often referred to as "bots".
A special file that is commonly used to exclude some or all search engine robots from crawling certain files or directories on a website, or to tell the robots to include all files. This file should be placed in your website's root directory.
Scumware is a general label that applies to software that:
- Installs itself secretly, dishonestly or without consent
- Does not provide for easy removal Monitors or tracks users actions without the users awareness or consent (i.e. spyware)
- Alters the behaviour and/or default options of other programs without the users consent or awareness (i.e. thiefware)
- Does not provide for easy removal Monitors or tracks users actions without the users awareness or consent (i.e. spyware)
Search Engine Friendly
A web page that has been designed and optimised with search engines in mind, often with a view to achieving high rankings. A search engine friendly page also makes it easy for search engines to follow the links on the page.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
SEM encompasses SEO and search engine paid advertising, such as PPC.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
The process of optimising a web page for high search engine rankings for a particular search term or set of search terms. It includes making web pages both spider-friendly and relevant to appropriate keywords or keyphrases.
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS)
The ranked listing of web pages that are returned for a specific search query. In essence, when you put a search term into a search engine, what you get back are the SERPS.
The keyword, keyphrase, or list of words that you type into a search engine to find web pages on a topic that interests you. Also known as a Search Term.
See "Search Query".
Search Engine Marketing Professional Organisation
See "Search Engine Optimisation".
A computer that hosts web pages and delivers them to a user's internet browser when requested. A dedicated server hosts one website only. A shared server hosts multiple websites, so can be cheaper but often slower than a dedicated server.
See Search Engine Results Pages
UK Search Marketing Association, now not operational.
With reference to search engines, spam is loosely defined as any technique used to give your web page(s) an unfair ranking advantage over other pages. These techniques generally violate search engines' Terms of Service and are designed to achieve higher rankings for a web page. Clearly, spam can be grounds for blacklisting
Spamdexing describes the efforts to spam a search engine's index, and could be grounds for blacklisting.
A spider trap refers to either:
A constant loop where spiders request pages and the server requests data to render the page or;
A deliberate scheme designed to identify (and prohibit) spiders that do not respect the robots.txt file.
Introduction pages to a web site that are heavy on graphics (or flash video) with no textual content. They are designed to either impress a visitor or complement some corporate branding. Usually of little use in impressing visitors or improving search engine positioning.
Words that are ignored by search engines when indexing web pages and processing search queries, such as "it", "is" or "the".
Static IP Address
An IP address that is permanently assigned to a computer. The IP address doesn't change with each connection to the internet. See also Dynamic IP Address.
Submitting Your URLs
This is the process of telling a search engine or directory about your web pages. The URLs that you submit are placed into a queue for later crawling or human review, dependant upon the engine or directory. If you have backlinks (See "Backlinks") pointing to your web pages, there is usually no need to submit your URLs to the search engines because their crawlers will find the pages on their own and index them. You do need to submit your URLs to directories however because they use human reviewers rather than software robots to visit the sites that you submit and evaluate them.
Title Meta Tag
This HTML tag is used to provide web browsers and search engines with an "official" title for the page currently being displayed. Using a couple of keywords in your title tag can help boost the page's search engine ranking for those keywords.
For example: <META NAME="TITLE" CONTENT="Here is the page title">
Top Ten Ranking
A web page that is listed in the first 10 search results for a search query, which in Google, generally means on the coveted page one.
A website's average traffic within a given time period. It can be measured more than one way, including total unique visitors and total page views. Don't confuse hits with unique visitors and page views. The term "hits" is practically of no use when evaluating website traffic statistics.
The number of visitors who access a website within a specific time period (usually 24 hours) from unique IP addresses. If you visit the same website three times within a 24 hour period, your visits only count as one unique visit for that day.
URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
Each web page has its own specific human-friendly URL, or web address. URLs are mapped to computer-friendly IP addresses by Domain Name Servers.
Someone who visits your website. Also referred to as a User.
These are shorthand references to Google's different datacentres. You can add ".google.com" to the end of them to visit the data centre that corresponds to the term.