Glossary

SEO Dictionary, Terms and FAQ

As with any industry, search engine optimization (SEO) has its own terms of art (jargon). Here are some commonly used terms and acronyms that may arise in discussions related to search engine marketing and optimization:

Related Pages: Abbreviations | SEO FAQ


301 Redirect
A function of a web server that redirects the visitor from the current page or site to another page or site, while returning a response code that says that the original page or site has been permanently moved to the new location. Search engines like this information and will readily transfer link popularity (and PageRank) to the new site quickly and with few issues. They are also not as likely to cause issues with duplication filters. SEOs like 301 redirects, and they are usually the preferred way to deal with multiple domains pointing at one website.
302 Redirect
A function of a web server that redirects the visitor from the current page or site to another page or site, while returning a response code that says that the original page or site has been temporarily moved to the new location. Search engines will often interpret these as a park, and take their time figuring out how to handle the setup. Try to avoid a 302 redirect on your site if you can (unless it truly is only a temporary redirect), and never use them as some form of click tracking for your outgoing links, as they can result in a “website hijacking” under some circumstances.
mod_rewrite
Mod_Rewrite is an Apache extension module which will allow URL’s to be rewritten on the fly. Often this is used by SEOs to convert dynamic URL’s with multiple query strings into static URL’s. An example of this would be to convert the dynamic URL domain.com/search.php?day=31&month=may&year=2005 to domain.com/search-31-may-2005.htm
htaccess
htaccess (Hypertext Access) is the default name of Apache’s directory-level configuration file. It provides the ability to customize configuration directives defined in the main configuration file. You can execute a mod_rewrite script using the .htaccess file.
httpd.conf
Apache is configured by placing directives in plain text configuration files. The main configuration file is usually called httpd.conf. The location of this file is set at compile-time, but may be overridden with the -f command line flag. In addition, other configuration files may be added using the Include directive, and wildcards can be used to include many configuration files. Any directive may be placed in any of these configuration files. Changes to the main configuration files are only recognized by Apache when it is started or restarted.
Redirection (302)
A default redirection function of IIS that redirects the visitor from the current page or site to another page or site, while returning a response code that says that the original page or site has been temporarily moved to the new location. Search engines will often interpret these as a park, and take their time figuring out how to handle the setup. Try to avoid a 302 redirect on your site if you can (unless it truly is only a temporary redirect), and never use them as some form of click tracking for your outgoing links, as they can result in a “website hijacking” under some circumstances.
 Permanent Redirection (301)
An optional function of IIS that redirects the visitor from the current page or site to another page or site, while returning a response code that says that the original page or site has been permanently moved to the new location. Search engines like this information and will readily transfer link popularity (and PageRank) to the new site quickly and with few issues. They are also not as likely to cause issues with duplication filters. SEOs like 301 redirects, and they are usually the preferred way to deal with multiple domains pointing at one website.
Algorithm
A set of rules that a search engine uses to rank the listings contained within its index, in response to a particular query. No search engine reveals exactly how its own algorithm works, to protect itself from competitors and those who wish to spam the search engine.
Backlinks
All the links pointing at a particular web page. Also called inbound links (IBL’s)
Banned
When pages are removed from a search engine’s index specifically because the search engine has deemed them to be spamming or violating some type of guideline.
Cloaking
In terms of search engine marketing, this is the act of getting a search engine to record content for a URL that is different than what a searcher will ultimately see. It can be done in many technical ways. Several search engines have explicit rules against unapproved cloaking. Those violating these guidelines might find their pages penalized or banned from a search engine’s index. As for approved cloaking, this generally only happens with search engines offering paid inclusion program. Anyone offering cloaking services should be able to demonstrate explicit approval from a search engine about what they intend to do. If not, then they should then have explained the risks inherent of unapproved cloaking.
Crawler
Component of search engine that gather listings by automatically “crawling” the web. A search engine’s crawler (also called a spider or robot), follows links to web pages. It makes copies of the web pages found and stores these in the search engine’s index.
Delisting
When pages are removed from a search engines index. This may happen because they have been banned or for other reasons, such as an accidental glitch on the search engines part
Directories
A type of search engine where listings are gathered through human efforts, rather than by automated crawling of the web. In directories, web sites are often reviewed, summarized in about 25 words and placed in a particular category.
Doorway Page
A web page created expressly in hopes of ranking well for a term in a search engine’s non-paid listings and which itself does not deliver much information to those viewing it. Instead, visitors will often see only some enticement on the doorway page leading them to other pages (i.e., “Click Here To Enter), or they may be automatically propelled quickly past the doorway page. With cloaking, they may never see the doorway page at all. Several search engines have guidelines against doorway pages, though they are more commonly allowed in through paid inclusion programs. Also referred to as bridge pages, gateway pages and jump pages, among other names.
Hat – White and Black
White Hat SEO’s typically operate within the accepted guidelines of the search engines that they are optimizing for. “Black Hat” SEO’s (“search engine spammers”) do not.
Index
The collection of information a search engine has that searchers can query against. With crawler-based search engines, the index is typically copies of all the web pages they have found from crawling the web. With human-powered directories, the index contains the summaries of all web sites that have been categorized.
Landing Page
The specific web page that a visitor ultimately reaches after clicking a search engine listing. Marketers attempt to improve conversion rates by testing various landing page creative, which encompasses the entire user experience including navigation, layout and copy.
Link Popularity
A raw count of how “popular” a page is based on the number of backlinks it has. It does not factor in link context or link quality, which are also important elements in how search engines make use of links to impact rankings. Google’s Page Rank is a type of popularity measurement.
Link Text
The text that is contained within a link. Also known as “Anchor Text”.
Listings
The information that appears on a search engine’s results page in response to a search. Also called a SERP or result.
Meta Tags
Information placed in a web page not intended for users to see but instead which typically passes information to search engine crawlers, browser software and some other applications.
Organic Listings
Listings that search engines do not sell (unlike paid listings). Instead, sites appear solely because a search engine has deemed it editorially important for them to be included, regardless of payment. Paid inclusion content is also often considered “organic” even though it is paid for. This is because that content usually appears intermixed with unpaid organic results.
Outbound Links (OBL)
Links on a particular web page leading to other web pages, whether they are within the same web site or other web sites.
Paid Inclusion
Advertising program where pages are guaranteed to be included in a search engine’s index in exchange for payment, though no guarantee of ranking well is typically given.
PPC
Stands for pay-per-click and means the same as cost-per-click.
Paid Listings
Listings that search engines sell to advertisers, usually through paid placement or paid inclusion programs. In contrast, organic listings are not sold.
Paid Placement
Advertising program where listings are guaranteed to appear in response to particular search terms, with higher ranking typically obtained by paying more than other advertisers. Paid placement listings can be purchased from a portal or a search network. Search networks are often set up in an auction environment where keywords and phrases are associated with a cost-per-click (CPC) fee. Overture and Google are the largest networks, but MSN and other portals sometimes sell paid placement listings directly as well. Portal sponsorships are also a type of paid placement.
Rank
How well a particular web page or web site is listed in a search engine results. For example, a web page about apples may be listed in response to a query for “apples.” However, “rank” indicates where exactly it was listed — be it on the first page of results, the second page or perhaps the 200th page. Alternatively, it might also be said to be ranked first among all results, or 12th, or 111th. Overall, saying a page is “listed” only means that it can be found within a search engine in response to a query, not that it necessarily ranks well for that query. Also called position.
Reciprocal Link
A link exchange between two sites.
Results Page
After a user enters a search query, the page that is displayed, is call the results page. Sometimes it may be called SERPs, for “search engine results page.”
Robots.txt
A file used to keep web pages from being indexed by search engines.
Search Engine
Any service generally designed to allow users to search the web or a specialized database of information. Web search engines generally have paid listings and organic listings. Organic listings typically come from crawling the web, though often human-powered directory listings are also optionally offered.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
The act of marketing a web site via search engines, whether this be improving rank in organic listings, purchasing paid listings or a combination of these and other search engine-related activities. Also called SEM.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The act of altering a web site so that it does well in the organic, crawler-based listings of search engines. In the past, has also been used as a term for any type of search engine marketing activity, though now the term search engine marketing itself has taken over for this. Also called SEO.
Search Terms
The words (or word) a searcher enters into a search engine’s search box. Also used to refer to the terms a search engine marketer hopes a particular page will be found for. Also called keywords, query terms or query.
SEM
Acronym for search engine marketing and may also be used to refer to a person or company that does search engine marketing (i.e.., “They’re an SEM firm).
SEO
Acronym for search engine optimization and often also used to refer to a person or company that does search engine optimization (i.e., “They do SEO”).
SERP
Search Engine Results Page. The page you see after you do a search, usually referred to in context of organic listings only, but technically also includes PPC, local listings, and other information on the page.
Spam
Any search engine marketing method that a search engine deems to be detrimental to its efforts to deliver relevant, quality search results. Some search engines have written guidelines about what they consider to be spamming, but ultimately any activity a particular search engine deems harmful may be considered spam, whether or not there are published guidelines against it.
Submission
The act to submitting a URL for inclusion into a search engine’s index. Unless done through paid inclusion, submission generally does not guarantee listing. In addition, submission does not help with rank improvement on crawler-based search engines unless search engine optimization efforts have been taken. Submission can be done manually (i.e., you fill out an online form and submit) or automated, where a software program or online service may process the forms behind the scenes. Also referred to as registration.
Wiki
A wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. A good example: http://en.wikipedia.org/ which is what many people are referring to when they use the capital “W”.
Blog
Short for weB LOG – A blog is a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is “blogging” and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.” Kind of an online diary.
Forum
An organized place for people to post messages to each other publicly.