SEO Dictionary

Algorithm. The proprietary formula (mathematical equation) that a search engine uses to calculate the relevance of a web page to a search word or phrase entered by a search engine user. Search engines guard their algorithm secrets carefully and constantly adjust them to incorporate new techniques and accommodate cultural changes in search activity.

Anchor text. The description of a hyperlink and commonly referred as a link text. In short, the anchor text describes where the link takes the reader. eg. This link takes you to the ABC News website.

Article marketing. The aims of article marketing are to attract internet visitors to a web site, and to encourage incoming links from other web sites and thereby improve search engine rankings. This is achieved by writing and submitting interesting articles about a particular niche to article directories.

Backlink (also Inbound Link). A link to your site from another web site. All things being equal, the more backlinks your web site has, the higher the page rank and the higher your web site will feature in the search engine results.

Banned. A web site that has been ignored by search engines. Those site operators who attempt to gain position or monopolise search engine results by unscrupulous means, such as spamming or deceiving spiders with content different from what human visitors see. Such sites run the risk of being permanently banned from a search engine’s results, even after they may have reformed.

Click-Through-Rate (also CTR). The number of clicks on a link, as a percentage of the number of views of the link.

Cloaking. The practice of serving one page to human visitors, but a different page to search engine spiders. Although there can be legitimate reasons for cloaking, and it is possible to deliver different versions of a page to specific search engines, it is a risky process that should only be done with a search engine’s knowledge. Cloaking to produce misleading search results is a more typical situation, and usually results in being banned.

Contextual Link Inventory. Text-link advertising that displayed based on the relevance of surrounding content.

Conversion Rate. The number of people who purchase or request information (or take other desirable action), as a percentage of the total number of visitors. Google Adwords and other analytics programs allow web site owners to track conversion rates by inserting special code on the payment or thank you page.

Cost-Per-Click. The amount an advertiser, or advertising service provider, pays an ad host (such as a site owner, search engine or ad network) each time a visitor clicks on the advertiser’s link.

Cost-Per-Thousand (also CPM). A common term from traditional media advertising; online it refers to the cost per thousand people viewing an ad or listing (regardless of whether they respond to it).

Delisting. The removal of a site from search engine results (similar to banning).

Directory. A web site listing other web sites whose index is compiled by human editors (as opposed to web spiders). Although editors may proactively include sites they consider to be of value, most inclusions are the result of submitted requests. The decision to include a site, and its subsequent ranking and categorization, is one of editorial judgment rather than being computed by an algorithm. There may be a review fee involved, but many are free. 

Doorway Page (also Bridge, Gateway or Jump Page). An entry into a site other than the homepage. It may be a legitimate landing page, used to measure the results of a specific promotion or campaign. But such pages are often created exclusively to spam search engine results, or misrepresent a site’s content. Search engines frown heavily on the use of doorway pages, and may penalise sites if the practice is reported or discovered.

Exact Match Relationship. A search result that precisely matches a user’s search term. In Google such search terms are entered in quotation marks. eg. “nike shoe stores

Index. A search site’s database, consisting of all the site content it has recorded. A directory’s index typically consists only of titles and descriptions, while a search engine’s database may include excerpts of page copy and cached pages. (v.) The act of recording a site, page or data into an index.

Keyword (also Search Term or Query). The word(s) or phrase(s) a person types into a search box. Also refers to the word or phrase a site owner wants to be found under.

Landing Page. The page a visitor arrives at when clicking through to a site, typically from a paid advertisement. Similar to a doorway page, but a legitimate marketing function — it is used for counting and tracking arrivals and determining the effectiveness of a marketing campaign.

Link Amplification. The process that seeks to strengthen the power of incoming links (see backlinks), by building links to pages that have links to the ultimate destination web page.

Link Popularity. The number of backlinks a page has, regardless of the quality of the pages or sites linking to it.

Link Text. A word or phrase that is linked (“hot”).

Listings. The results appearing on a search engine results page.

Meta Search Engine. A search engine that gathers the results of other search engines, rather than gathering and analyzing information directly from websites. Meta search engines acknowledge the sources of their data, and may display it by engine or in aggregate.

Meta Tags. Special HTML tags containing instructions for spiders or a user’s browser. Many tags are available, specifying everything from copyright information to page refresh dates. In search engine marketing and search engine optimisation, the most widely used meta tags contain the description, keywords, redirection instructions and instructions for robots.

Meta Description Tag. Contains a description of the page, which a search engine may consider or display at its discretion.

Meta Keywords Tag. Contains keywords for the page, which a search engine may consider at its discretion. Because this tag is often abused, many search engines ignore it.

Meta Robots Tag. Instructs visiting spiders not to index the page, and/or not to follow its links to other pages. Some robots disregard this tag and index at their discretion. Other spiders may index the pages regardless, but not report found links to their search engine.

Natural Listings (also called Organic Listings). Web page listings that appear in a search engine’s results, based on the engine’s own algorithm. The website/web page owner has not paid for these positions in the results. However, search engine results often include a mix of paid (paid inclusion) and unpaid listings. As long as a listing has achieved its position naturally (not paid for), it is a “natural” or “organic” listing.

Outbound Link. A link from your website to another site or page, regardless of whether the destination is at your same domain. (ant.) See backlink.

Page Rank (or Google Page Rank). A number between 0 and 10 that iuses a complex formula that rates a web page for its popularity (the number of other web sites that link to it). Very popular sites may have a page rank of 6 – 9. You average web site is flat out getting a Page Rank of 5.

Paid Inclusion. An exchange in which a site owner pays to have pages (or entire sites) immediately indexed into a search database. Sometimes the payment is arranged through an affiliate or partner of the database company. Unlike pay-for-placement marketing, the owner cannot influence how the pages will be ranked — that’s up to the search site using the data, based on its own algorithm. The site owner may or may not pay a Cost-Per-Click.

Pay-Per-Click. See Cost-Per-Click.

Paid Listings. Directory listings where the results display only advertisers who have paid for inclusion, and possibly for position.

Pay-For-Performance. Similar to Pay-Per-Click, but where the advertiser pays for sales rather than just clicks.

Paid Placement (also Pay-For-Placement). Any search results program where the order or assuredness of a listing’s appearance depends on payment by the site listed. Typically, the more an advertiser pays, the higher their position in the search results. Where paid placement listings and natural listings appear on the same page, the paid placement listings are set apart and identified, usually as “sponsored links.”

Pink SEO. A form of SEO for web sites in the adult products and services markets (eg porn, escorts, vibrators),  that overcomes the reluctance of webmasters to link directly to adult content sites by using intermediary sites to pass on Google PageRank.

Rank (also Position). Where a listing appears in search results, relative to the first listing. For example, in results delivering 10 listings per page, a listing that appears fifth on the third page is ranked 25th.

Reciprocal Link. A situation where two sites link to and from each other, though not necessarily to the pages that contain these links, usually the result of an agreement between the sites.

Relevancy. The extent to which the searchers who find your page(s) are interested in what you’re marketing. As with all marketing, the better the targeting, the greater the probability of positive conversion.

Results Page (also Search Engine Results Page or SERP). The page(s) that display the results of a search.

ROBOTS.TXT. A text file placed in a site’s root directory, built with specific syntax, instructing some or all spiders to ignore certain pages or directories. Some spiders respect these instructions, others disregard them.

ROI (also Return On Investment). Return on Investment associate with a particular marketing activity. The immediate return is usually expressed as a percentage of the amount spent (the ROI of a successful investment is greater than 100%). Influencing factors include calculable returns, such as revenues from repeat buyers over the long term, future sales, enhancement of brand image, awareness and public relations value.

Search Engine. A site or software that enables users to search a database of web pages, documents and/or other information. Contextually defined, a search engine’s primary function is to deliver relevant matches to human-entered search queries.

Search Engine Marketing (also SEM). Any marketing activity involving a search site, including advertising on search result pages, paying for placement and/or Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engine Optimisation. (also SEO). Planning and adjusting the content of a web page in order to improve its position in natural search results, including modifications to code and displayed content.

SEO services. The range of tasks performed by SEO companies to get the best position possible in the organic search results. It may also include setting up and managing pay-per-click campaigns.

Spam (also Spamdexing). Any search engine marketing technique that is inconsistent with a search engine’s intention to display relevant results. Precise qualifications vary from engine to engine. In general, if the method intentionally results in an unusually large number of pages displayed for the marketer, or if all the results ultimately lead to the same place, or if the pages have no content of relevancy to the user’s search topic, this is spam. By certain definitions, multiple sites of dubious value, established by one vendor in order to monopolise search results, are also considered spam, even if they initially appear to be different in content and appearance. Meaningless content on a page, such as nonsensically repeated keywords, is also search engine spam. Any site reported or discovered to be spamming risks being banned.

Spider (also Robot, Crawler or User Agent). Software developed and run by a search engine or other research entity that surfs the web without requiring human interaction. A spider gathers information from a web page, then follows one of its links to another page, gathers more data there, and so on until the entire site is indexed. (v.) This process of indexing, also known as “spidering” or “crawling.” Unscrupulous spammers use spiders to harvest email addresses displayed on web pages or contained in their HTML code.

Submission (also Registration). A request to be included in the database (index) of a search engine or directory. Submission does not guarantee inclusion, even if the submitter pays for consideration. In some cases, a description of the page or site is submitted, as well as other information. In other cases, only a URL is submitted.

Text Link Advertising. Paid advertising that is formatted as plain text on a web page, often set off from page content but clearly distinguished from banner ads and other forms of display advertising. Like banner ads, text link advertising space is served by a network, rather than being hard-coded into the page.

Website Promotion. All marketing efforts and communications involving Internet technology.

XML. The eXtensible Markup Language, used to format and structure information within documents. XML allows web pages to share information and content more easily.

XML Feed. An inclusion method of submitting a site’s pages to search engines, via an XML document that describes multiple pages. Search sites continue to introduce ever-broader arrays of content (such as images, audio, PDF documents, etc.) and more expeditious methods of submission, inclusion and indexing.