Glossary of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Terms

Algorithm - a statistical formula used by a search engine to rank a web page - different search engines weight differently the factors involved, keywords, links etc.

Anchor text - see Link anchor text

Authority site - a measure of the quality (in the opinion of the particular search engine) of a given site, gauged by their own combination of size, importance and relevance. A link from an authority site to your own is more valuable because of its importance to the search engines. Article sites are considered "authority sites" because of their massive amount of relevant content.

ALT tags - used to display a short text description of an image when your mouse is pointing to it. Using keywords or keyword phrases in ALT tags increases keyword density as seen by robots. Alt text is also required for W3 compliance.

Bad neighborhood (to be in...) - sharing a server or IP block with sites penalized for using questionable SEO tactics, such as hidden text or link farms. You run the risk of getting penalized just for associating with these sites.

Backlink - any link from another web page to your own. In other words, an Incoming link.

"Black Hat" - methods used by search engine optimizers that Google considers "illegal, immoral, and fattening". In other words, if Google catches you using these methods, and sooner or later they always figure them out, they will either ban you or shove you so far down in the listings that you'll never get found. See "White Hat".

Blank link - a link that opens a new page in a new window rather than just taking you to the new page. This way, when the page is closed, you are still on the page you found the link on.

Broken link - the target page of the link has been deleted or moved; disliked by search engines. Regularly check all your outgoing links to keep them up-to-date. If you have one of the better WYSIWYG editors, it should have a broken link checker.

Click-Through - clicking on a link, usually an advertisement, to visit a web vendor.

Click-Through-Rate (CTR) - the number of times a link is clicked on divided by the number of “impressions”.

Cloaking - serving one version of a page to a human visitor and a different version to the search engines. The cloaked version usually contains a list of targeted keywords unintelligible to humans. This will get you banned by major search engines.

Content - in this regard, the text of a web page, visible or not, examined by search robots.

Counter - a small software application (written in perl, php, etc.) that counts the number of hits, unique visitors, and/or page views that a web page receives. Your web host should give you access to this information.

Crawler - another term for spider or robot.

Dead Link - See Broken Link.

Description - a summary of a web page's content, often used verbatim in search engine results pages. Google only displays approximately 152 characters of your description so keep it short and put your keyword phrase first.

Description Meta Tag - a meta tag describing the content of the web page. Used by some search engines for keyword density purposes. It is recommended that you use a couple of your targeted keywords in the description meta tag.

<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="Surround Sound stereos - analyzed and rated by experts.">

Directory - a categorized list of websites, maintained by human editors instead of robots. Yahoo is the most widely recognized directory on the web.

DNS Propagation - when a new domain name is registered (or an existing one is transferred to a new DNS), the information must make its way around the entire internet. This process usually takes around 24 hours, during which time the domain will be inaccessible to many or all users.

Domain Name Server - computer that translates human-friendly URLs (words) into computer-friendly IP addresses. This happens every time a user requests a page from a website.

Doorway Page - a page optimized for a particular search engine and/or search term, followed by a redirect to the real page. Multiple doorway pages are often used to help ensure that the same basic content is ranked well on several different search engines. Another “black hat” trick that will get you banned by the search engines. (Also called a gateway page)

Duplicate Content - separate web pages with substantially the same content. Another nifty way to get penalized by search engines.

Googlebot - the crawler Google uses on a daily basis to find and index new web pages.

Google Desktop - downloadable application, providing a search function for files on the user's computer. It slowed my computer down so badly I immediately removed it. Maybe it’s gotten better (he said, dubiously).

Google Toolbar - a downloadable toolbar for Internet Explorer that allows a user to do a Google search without visiting the Google website. It has some other neato-keeno tricks.

Hidden text (and hidden links) - used to artificially increase a web page's keyword density for a given word or phrase. For example, white text on white background, or very, very small print. Search engines can detect these stupid animal tricks and they will hammer your rankings for it.

Hits - vague term, differently calculated depending on the stats counter used - one web page with 10 picture files can count as 11 hits. Don’t put very much stock in it.

Home Directory - the directory in which your site's main index page is located. Usually named /public_html/, or /www/ or /web/.

Image Map - placing hyperlinks on different areas of an image. Not search engine friendly.

Inbound link - see Backlink.

IP Address - a unique numeric Internet Protocol address assigned to every computer that connects to the internet. IP addresses can be either static or dynamic (changes with every internet connection). They are often used to trace web users back to their site.

IP Spoofing - returning an IP address that is different from the one that is actually assigned to the destination website.

Keyword (Key Phrase) - a word (or phrase) typed into a search, producing web pages that contain that word or phrase.

Keywords Meta Tag - an HTML tag that lists all of the main keywords and key phrases that are contained on that web page. Some search engines pay attention to this tag, some do not.

<META NAME="KEYWORDS" CONTENT="organic search engine optimization, search engine marketing">

Link Anchor Text - the visible (perhaps underlined) text of a link. Should be used within the copy of a page to guide people deeper into your site or to link to definitions of the phrase or more information about the phrase. If you use a keyword phrase for the anchor text, it adds much greater power to the keyword phrase for SEO purposes.

And the best anchor text is within a list of bullet points. Google highly values bullet points and if the bullet points are links on top of it, they really give you SEO a boost (if the anchor text is one of your keyword phrases you've search engine optimized the page for.

Link Farm - a site created solely for search engine ranking purposes that consists almost entirely of a long list of unrelated links. These types of pages are penalized by almost all search engines. And being found on one will get YOUR site penalized. Another stupid pet trick used by SEO “experts” who don’t know real SEO. Don’t let anyone submit your site to link farms.

Link Popularity - the number and quality of inbound links pointing to a given web page. This is big medicine to the search engines.

Meta Search Engine - an application (website or software) that takes your search term and searches for it on several search engines and directories, then compiles the results and serves it to you. None of the popular search engines do this.

Mirror Sites - identical websites on different domains. Used legitimately by large websites to share heavy server loads, but by search engine spammers to generate more search engine referrals. While it has legitimate purposes, the search engines will penalize you for it.

Outbound Links - links from your web page to another web page.

PageRank (PR) - a score out of ten assigned by Google to each indexed web page. The visible result of the algorithm, but note that the 'public' PR is not the same as the 'true' PR and is only updated infrequently. Also, like the hidden PR, no one seems to be able to figure out how it works or, frankly, what it means.

PageRank For Money - selling or buying a link from a web page with a high PR for the express purpose of increasing the other page's PR. Can be expensive but effective.

Page views - each time a web page on a site is accessed by a visitor, it counts as one page view, regardless of whether the same user viewed the same page 5 minutes ago. (aka pageload)

Paid Inclusion - some directories will only consider including your site (especially commercial ones) in their database if you pay them an 'evaluation' fee. Note that in some cases this fee does not guarantee your site will be accepted. Not a big fan although some experts believe that paid inclusion on Yahoo is worth it.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) - a search engine or directory places your link in their database and charges you a fee every time your URL comes up in a search and is clicked on. The size of the fee is usually determined by bidding on keywords. The two largest PPC schemes are Overture and Google AdWords.

Reciprocal link - a link to another website placed on your site in exchange for a link to your site from theirs. Once very effective in achieving high search engine rankings, now, not so much. Although it still doesn’t hurt to swap links with a relevant site.

Redirect - a tactic used to send a user to a different page from the one clicked on in the search results, the final page being less relevant. Considered unacceptable by search engines, except when they employ it. Then it becomes known as 'an enhancement of the user experience.'

Referrer or Referring URL - the URL of the web page where a visitor clicked a link to come to your site.

Relevancy - the degree to which the content on a web page returned in a list of search results matches the topic the user is searching for.  Being relevant to particular searches is what SEO is all about.

Robot - a program used by a search engine to roam the web, finding, ranking, and indexing web pages. (spider, webcrawler, crawler, web-bot, bot)

Robots.txt - a file used to exclude some or all robots from crawling some or all the files or directories on a website. This file should be placed in your website's root directory (especially useful if you have content you don’t want publicly viewed).

Sandbox - allegedly used by one large search engine as a probation period for new sites. Gaining a high PR is difficult during this period.

Search engine - strictly, the program(s) used to provide internet users with a search facility.

Search engine friendly - a web page designed and optimized for high search engine rankings. Such pages are rich in keywords and structured for ease of crawling. (Take note: The same ease of crawling methods also makes the site easy for users to scan.)

SEO - Search Engine Optimization.

SEM - Search Engine Marketing; encompasses SEO and further marketing methods, eg. paid advertising options.

SERPS - Search Engine Results Pages.

Spider - see Robot.

Stop word - small common words like: a, as, the. These words are ignored by search engines when indexing web pages and processing search queries.

Traffic - visitors to a website, measured in a variety of ways, including unique visitors and total page views, or the meaningless term 'hits'.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) - a fancy name for what most people call a web address.

"White Hat" - search engine optimization methods. that google either approves of, or at least will not penalize you for. This is the province of professional search engine optimization experts. See "Black Hat".

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