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If you are new to SEO, then you are sure to have questions about what some of the jargon means. Here you will find a list of the most common terms you are likely to encounter.
Do you want to optimize your website but have trouble communicating with the technical folks running it? SEO Glossary shouldn’t stop you from making your site the powerful marketing tool it can be. This is a list of essential search engine optimization (SEO) terms to help marketers communicate with developers and understand how to optimize their websites.
SEO Terms and the language used to describe web and online marketing can sometime be confusing. For example do you know the difference between CTR or CTC or conversions and goals? In this SEO Glossary we explain some of the common SEO Terms that you need to know to better understand search engine marketing.
With the complexity and variety of web technologies and SEO techniques expanding all the time, we will look to expand this SEO Glossary to include new terms to make it a valuable resource for understanding the basics of SEO.
Absolute Link – An absolute link is one where the destination href value of the anchor tag is fully qualified and includes all of the following:
- the transfer protocol: http://
- domain name: www.example.com
- file name: my-page.html
Example of fully qualified link: <a href=”http://www.example.com/index.html”>Example</a>
Relative Link – A relative link is one where the destination href value of the anchor tag is relative to the location of the current page.
- Example of relative link: <a href=”../index.html”>Example</a>
Alt Attribute – The “alt attribute” or “alt text” is used to indicate the alternative textual information which is to be displayed instead of an image in case the subject image cannot be rendered by the browser.
- Example: <img src=”http://www.example.com/images/test.gif” alt=”The alt text for the image goes here”>
Analytics – Analytics or website analytics refers to the collection, organization, and presentation of website traffic and user activity data through a script/software. The data gathered is used to track the performance of the site, and also help improve the functionality, and conversion rate of the website.
Anchor Text – The visible, clickable text in a hyperlink is called the “anchor text”. The anchor text is generally a descriptive term which tells the user the topic or name of the destination page.
- Example: <a href=”http://www.evoba.com”>Search Engine Optimization Company</a>
- In this example “Search Engine Optimization Company” is the anchor text.
Black Hat SEO – Black hat SEO is the practice of manipulating search engine rankings by utilizing methods which are against the general guidelines set forth by the major search engines. These practices are designed to circumvent the algorithmic safeguards developed by the search engines, helping websites gain high rankings in search engine result pages without having the intrinsic merits to do so without such tactics.
White Hat SEO – White has SEO is the process by which websites can gain higher organic rankings in search engine result pages. White hat SEO activities fall within the guidelines set forth by the major search engines, and do not utilize questionable methods to trick search engine algorithms to gain an unfair advantage over competing websites.
Borken Link – A broken link is a link which no longer works, due to a variety of causes, often resulting in an error page. A broken is caused by several reasons. The most common result of a dead (broken) link is a 404 error, which indicates that even though the web server where the request was sent to responded, the specific page requested could not be found. A broken link which results in a DNS error is caused when the server which hosts the target page no longer works or has been moved to a different domain name.
Cache – Cache or “web cache” is the temporarily stored copy of a web document such as an HTML file, PDF document, image, etc (or a combination thereof). Search engines use such copies of web pages to facilitate their search functionality. The cached files in the search engine indices allow users to search for web pages and documents a copy of which has been cached (saved) by the search engines for this purpose.
Canonical URL – Canonical URLs or “canonicalization” refers to the elimination of duplicate content through the designation of one version of a particular page of data as the dominant (authoritative) one. For example, in an ecommerce website, a certain set of products can be organized in a variety of ways on a search results page, creating pages which have the same exact content but have different URLs. To fix this, a canonical tag is added to the non-primary pages which tells the search engines where to find the primary page of content.
For example, a website which sells furniture, which includes tables of different colors and materials we can arrive at the same set of products through the following scenarios:
- Furniture > Tables > Blue > Wooden (example.com/tables/blue/wooden)
- Furniture > Tables > Wooden > Blue (example.com/tables/wooden/blue)
- Furniture > Wooden > Tables > Blue (example.com/wooden/tables/blue)
- Furniture > Wooden > Blue > Tables (example.com/wooden/blue/tables) and so on…
By the use of the Canonical Tag, the website indicates which of these pages should be considered the primary page, eliminating the risk of duplicate content in search engines by instructing search engine spiders to not index the secondary pages.
Cloaking – Cloaking is the practice of serving (displaying) content to search engines which is different than that served to regular website users. Generally, in the world of Black Hat SEO, cloaking is used to manipulate search engine rankings; however, there are legitimate uses (e.g., location based content variations) of cloaking which are within search engine guidelines.
Content Management System (CMS) – As the name suggests, a CMS or content management system is a set of scripts which work as a unit to enable management and manipulation of web content.
Content management systems come in a variety of flavors and include commercial as well as open-source options. One of the most well-known and widely used open-source content management systems is WordPress. Though it started as a blogging platform, it has grown to be a tremendously powerful content management system.
Contextual Advertising – Contextual ads are advertisements which are displayed in relation to relevant content. Google AdSense, the most popular contextual advertising program, is a great example. For example, if a home improvement website is a Google AdSense publisher, the ads that would show on its pages would be determined based on the topic of each web page–a page on a household furnace may show ads for furnace filters, or other parts and services.
Cookie – A cookie is a small text file which stores data about the user on his local machine. The cookie can be used to store a variety of information including the contents of a user’s shopping cart, the login status, and website preferences. Cookies are often cited as a privacy concern, but are an essential part of utilizing the web and the many services offered by websites.
Crawl Depth – Crawl depth is the depth to which a website is crawled by a search engine. Depth is the degrees of separation as measured by the number of clicks (through links) it takes to get to a particular page from the home page of a website. Since search engine spiders follow links to discover pages, the deeper a search engine spider is willing to go into a site the more content it is able to find. Search engines determine the crawl depth of each website based on the authority assigned to it by the search algorithm–higher quality sites are rewarded by a deeper crawl which in turn makes more of their content available to searchers through a search engine’s index.
Crawl Frequency – Crawl frequency is the frequency by which a website is crawled. Generally, most sites/pages are on a 30-day crawl cycle, which means that the site will get crawled every thirty days. This does not necessarily mean that the entire site will be crawled in one day, but that each page of the website will get recrawled about thirty days after the last crawl.
Like crawl depth, crawl frequency is determined by the search engine algorithm and the value which it assigns to a particular page or website. For example, if a website is updated often, and is given ‘enough’ value by the algorithm, the crawl frequency of the site may be as high as hourly or it may even be measured in minutes.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) – Cascading Style Sheets is a method of formatting (adding styles to) web documents. CSS offers a variety of formatting options which can be applied through the use of “external” style sheets, that control the formatting options of site-wide elements. For example, an external cascading style sheet can set the look of an H1 (heading) tag across an entire website, by setting elements such as the color, type-face, and spacing.
An external style sheet is linked to an HTML document through the use of a tag as follows:
- <link rel=”stylesheet” href=”http://www.example.com/style.css” type=”text/css” />
Conversion – A conversion is the completion of a goal which has been predetermined as the desired outcome for a particular advertising campaign. A conversion happens when a desired goal is completed. There are a variety of goals that can be set the completion of which can result in a conversion, some of these goals are:
- completion of a quote/lead form
- the visiting of a particular page on a website
- the completion of a purchase
- phone call
- a sign-up for a newsletter
Deep Link – A deep link is a link which points to an internal page of a website (a page other than the home page) from an external source.
Deep links are important as they are specifically targeted to deep content, and not just the home page of the website. Deep links are generally highly relevant as they point from closely relevant pages. Also, the typical link profile of a high quality website will have a variety of deep links and not just links pointing to the home page, so many webmasters attempt to mimic this phenomenon when working to acquire links for their websites.
Meta Description – Is a meta tag which allows a descriptive sentence or two about the website or specific web page. Relevant meta description tag content can appear in the search results below the page title.
Example of a meta description tag:
- <meta name=”description” content=”The content of the meta description goes here.” />
Directory – A catalog of websites which is generally categorized by topic. High quality directories are manually organized and have editorial experts which vet submissions based on specific criteria. There are a variety of directories including general directories which have a multitude of general categories. There are also niche directories which cater to specific industries or groups.
Some of the most well regarded directories are DMOZ and Yahoo! Directory. The more editorial control is exercised by a directory, the more likely it is that the links from the directory will be judged positively by search engine algorithms.
Doorway Pages – A doorway page is a webpage which is designed to rank for a small number of highly targeted keywords, but has no logical place in the hierarchy of a website. Doorway pages funnel traffic to other parts of a website which usually are filled with ads or a facility to help the owner of the page make money from the traffic.
Since these types of doorway pages are generally of low or no value to the user, search engines take great measures to algorithmically find and penalize such pages and sites; however, since it takes time for the search engines to catch on to such schemes, the owners of such pages continue to develop new pages/sites solely for this purpose, and run the websites/pages until the search engines penalize/ban them, and then they move on to a new website and a new set of doorway pages.
Dedicated Server – A dedicated server is a web server which is operated by a single entity for hosting one or more sites owned by said entity. A dedicated server has the benefit of allowing the owner to not share server resources (e.g., processor cycles, hard drive space, RAM, etc) with other websites.
Deep Link Ratio – Deep link ratio is the ratio of links which point to the internal pages of a website to the overall number of links pointing to a website. Since natural/organic linking occurs with a high deep link ratio, search engines are more likely to see a high deep link ratio as a sign of link profile legitimacy.
Duplicate Content – Duplicate content is content which is duplicated across two or more pages on one or more websites. Duplicate content can include text, images, and file names.
Duplicate content is undesirable as it is demoted by search engine algorithms, so it is important for a website to avoid the creation of duplicate content whether by design or accident. Many websites fall prey to a duplicate content penalty by inadvertently creating duplicate content by such features as sorting through HTML links, and printer friendly pages.
Ethical SEO – Ethical SEO is the process of providing full disclosure regarding risk, possibilities, and expectations as it relates to search engine optimization services. Furthermore, ethical SEO practices require that the SEO service provider be forthcoming with their level of expertise and charging a fair fee for the services they are able to provide.
Editorial Link – Editorial links are those which are earned based on a websites merits and generally without direct solicitation. Search engines want to see these types of links, and value them highly, which in turn can result in improved search engine rankings.
External Links – An external link is a hyperlink from a website which points outside the domain of origin. For example, on our site we have several links pointing to SEO-related resources on Google…those are external links. External links can be a helpful signal for search engines to determine the topic of a website, assuming the links are pointing to relevant resources and are designed to help users find answers or solve a problem.
FFA Directories or Pages (Free for All) – An FFA (Free for all) directory or page is a web property which allows anyone to add a link. These types of links are considered highly undesirable as these pages can be easily spammed and thus hold very low (if any) value when it comes to helping improve organic search engine rankings.
Flash – Flash is a vector graphic-based software which facilitates the creation of highly interactive and rich-looking websites. Flash is owned by Adobe and is widely supported by browsers and platforms; however, currently Apple’s mobile devices do not support Flash.
Websites which are developed entirely in Flash have a tough time gaining high rankings in search engines as search engine algorithms have very little on which to base ranking decisions. So it is recommended that if you will be utilizing Flash to ensure that your website is not made in its entirety with Flash software, and only uses Flash elements.
Frames – Frames are HTML elements which allow for the placement of multiple site elements on a single page to create a larger cohesive unit, or to place content from external files onto an HTML page. Though in the early days of the web frames were very useful in providing useful tools for webmasters, they have become mostly obsolete for general web design and development purposes. Furthermore, the use of frames provides particular challenges when it comes to linking, and search engine rankings.
Fresh Content – Fresh content is newly developed content which has hitherto not been published anywhere on the web. Fresh content is beneficial in helping attract attention to a website, whether the attention is given by users or search engines. The re-editing of old content does not make it fresh.
Fresh content provides a variety of advantages including, growing archive of content (which will improve ranking possibilities), can coax the search engines to crawl your website more often (to find new content), and giving people a reason to return to your website.
Fuzzy Search – Fuzzy search is the technology which helps retrieve relevant results even if the search terms are misspelled (or fuzzy).
FTP – FTP (or File Transfer Protocol) is a protocol for transferring data between two or more computers. FTP capabilities are built into many pieces of software such as Dreamweaver (a web development software). FTP software is also available as a standalone tools which allows for transfer of files between computers, and is mostly used by web developers to transfer files from local machines to web servers.
Sitemap – A sitemap is a list of pages (usually only the important ones) of a website which is accessible to search engine spiders and users. Usually it is coded in an HTML format; however, sitemaps which are submitted directory to search engines (e.g., Google Sitemaps) are coded in XML.
Hidden Text – Using hidden text on web pages is a risky SEO technique which is basically the process of hiding optimized, and often voluminous text stuffed with keywords from regular website visitors while still accessible to search engine spiders. This approach goes against search engine guidelines and will (once discovered) get a website banned from search engines.
.htaccess – It is an Apache directory-level configuration file which can be used to perform a variety of functions including the password protection of pages, URL rewriting, and redirects.
HTML – Stands for HyperText Markup Language. HTML is the markup language by which most website pages are created.
Inbound Links – Inbound links are links which point from one website to another. The link terminology is subjective, since the website receiving the link would describe it as an inbound link, and the website providing the link would describe it as an outbound link.
Internal Links – Internal links refer to hypertext links which point form one page on a site to another page on the same site.
Information Architecture – Information Architecture (AI) is the art/craft/science of developing a user-interface, and organizational structure for websites to improve user-experience (UX).
Keyword – A keyword in the online marketing context is a keyword or phrase which describe a product, service, or piece of information that a user with a specific intention (i.e., buying, or learning) will use to query the index of a search engine.
Keyword Density – An outdated measure of the relevancy of a page for a search term based on the frequency with which the keyword or phrase appeared on a particular page. This measure of optimization and relevancy is no longer a valid technique as it can be easily manipulated.
Keyword Research – The process of researching and discovering keyword and keyword phrases relevant to the topic at hand. The keywords are then used to develop an SEO and PPC campaign and strategy.
Keyword Stuffing – Is the practice of writing website copy/content which uses an excessive amount of keyword repetition in hopes of positively impacting search engine rankings.
Link Baiting – The art/craft of creating and targeting content specifically designed to provoke a reaction (attention) from a target audience, which in turn results in high quality incoming links.
Link Building – The process of acquiring inbound links for a website in order to positively impact its search engine rankings. Not every type of link is considered high quality so link building can be a laborious and time-consuming process, since the links which are worth having can only be obtained by providing high quality, useful, and/or engaging content.
Link Farm – One or more websites which provide linking opportunities and exercise virtually no editorial control over listings within the site or collection.
Link Popularity – A measure of the number of inbound links that a particular page or website has.
Link – A hypertext citation from one web document (i.e., webpage, website) to another, or another place (anchor) on the same page.
Long Tail – Describes a search term which is more specific but has a much smaller search volume compared to the main keywords of a category of keywords. For example, a ‘green widget’ being one of the top keywords in a category would have related long tails such as ‘custom wooden dark green widget’, which has a relatively small number of searches but is much more descriptive/specific. Though long tail keywords have small number of searches individually, they comprise the majority of the searches conducted in the search engines.
Meta Refresh – Is a meta tag which is used to make a browser refresh (this is not a redirect) to another URL.
Example of meta tag refresh:
- <meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”5;url=http://www.example.com/destination.html” />
Note: The number in the ‘content’ portion of the meta tag indicates the number of seconds the browser should stay on the page before refreshing. Using a ‘0’ would refresh to the destination page immediately.
Meta Tags – The term meta tags is generally used to refer to three of the multiple possible head tags which can be found in an HTML document: meta description, meta keywords, and title tag.
Meta Keywords – Is a meta tag which can be used to provide the search engines a list of keywords relevant to a page’s topic. The meta keywords tag has very (if any) impact on search results nowadays.
Example of meta keywords tag:
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”widget, blue widget, blue wooden widget” />
nofollow – Is a hyperlink attribute which is used to prevent a link from passing value/authority. This attribute is most often used in user-generated content (e.g., blog comments, and forum posts)to discourage link spam.
Organic Search Results – Organic search results refer to the portion of results on the search engine result pages which are unpaid. These listings are distinct from the paid ones which generally appear on the top, right, and bottom of the organic listings.
PageRank – Is a value between 0 and 1 which is assigned to a web document by the Google algorithm, which is one of the measures used to determine the value/relevancy of a page in relation to a particular search term. PageRank is distinct from Toolbar PageRank which is a value between 0 and 10 assigned algorithmically by Google which indicates the importance of a page as determined by the Google algorithm. The Toolbar PageRank is updated a few times per year.
Paid Inclusion – Is the process of obtaining listings on web properties such as business directories by paying a fee and going through an editorial review process.
Reciprocal Link – Is the practice of exchanging links in hopes of gaining better rankings in the search engine results pages. Basically, the idea is that “I’ll link to you if you link to me”. This generally results in a low quality link profile and not much (if any) improvement in rankings, especially if the only incoming links to a site are based on a reciprocal linking scheme.
Reinclusion – If a website has been penalized and excluded from a search engine’s index due to spamming, there is an appeals process put in place by the search engines which allows the website owner to request to be included back into the search engine index after having fixed the infraction which caused the penalty.
Redirect – A redirect is the process of redirecting a search engine spider or web browser from one location on a site to another location on the same site (or outside). There are two types of important redirect:
- 301: Moved Permanently – this is the preferred method of page redirection, especially for SEO purposes as it helps pass along any link/authority value the page has to its new location.
- 302: Moved Temporarily – this redirect reports that the page being requested from the server has been found, but has temporarily been relocated to a new URL.
Reputation Management – Is the exercise of ensuring that the message of your company/brand is prominent in search results when a search is conducted for your company/brand name or any other recognizable product, trademark, or copyright. Reputation management is also possible for individuals who are looking to protect their name.
robots.txt – Is a file which is/should be placed in the root folder of a website and provides directives for the search engines as to which pages of the site should not be indexed.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Search engine optimization is the art (and science) of presenting information to the search engines in a manner which helps the search engine algorithms best understand the relevance of a website’s content to search queries being conducted by search engine users.
SERP – Search Engine Result Page or SERP refers to the page which displays information generated based on a search query entered into the search engine.
Text Link Ads – A text link ad is an textual advertisement (sometimes inline) but often as a link on the side, or footer of a website.
Title – The title or title tag of a web page is used to describe the content of a webpage. Page titles appear in the search results as links which point searchers to the resulting pages which the search engine found to be relevant to the search conducted by the searcher.
TrustRank – TrustRank is the process of algorithmically (but through the initial help of human vetted web properties) separating good quality pages and spam by evaluating linking relationships.