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Glossary of Terms

This Glossary of Terms is brought to you by Yesup SEO, an established Toronto SEO service.

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing remain emerging fields, so you are likely to hear terms defined in different ways by different vendors. To make SEO and SEM more understandable, here is an A to Z glossary of industry terminology.

Algorithm: A set of mathematical rules that describe or determine a circumstance or action. In the case of search engines, unique algorithms determine the ranking of Web sites returned within search queries. Although some of the qualities used to determine ranking (for example, meta tags and number of referring sites) are known, the search engine companies closely guard the precise functioning of search engine algorithms to prevent the manipulation of the system.

Above the fold: The portion of a Web page visible without scrolling down. (Derived from the newspaper industry where the top stories appear just below the newspaper’s name and above the fold of the paper.)

Affiliates:Web sites that get a commission of some kind in exchange for sending sales or other predetermined conversion activity to merchants’ Web sites. Affiliates range from hobbyist sites to highly evolved commercial ventures with multiple merchant relationships.

Automated submission: Submitting a page or pages of a site to multiple search engines via software to automate the process. Most search engines frown upon auto submissions because they eat up unnecessary bandwidth. The exception may be when you have a prior relationship with the search engine, such as through a paid inclusion program or trusted feed relationship.

Black hat practices: Unethical practices. For example, loading your page with invisible text in order to “trick” the search engines into ranking your page highly is often considered black hat SEO.

Cache: Some search engines (most notably Google) show the page of a site as it existed when it was added to the engine’s database. If a page has been edited since it was added, the cached version will not be exactly the same version a user would see when visiting the page.

Cloaking: Showing the search engine one page and the end user a different page. Search engines (surprise!) frown upon this tactic.

Conversion: In search engine marketing, this usually refers to the number of visitors from the search engines who take the desired action when they reach the Web site. Conversions can include signing up for a newsletter, calling or emailing for more information, or making a purchase.

Crawl: What a search engine’s automated robot (also known as a spider or bot) does when following links from page to page on the Internet.

Doorway pages: Pages that are created primarily to rank highly in the search engines and are not generally meant for human visitors to see. These are often hidden within a site (or perhaps hosted separately and link to a site) and cannot be navigated to through normal site navigation. Doorway Pages are also known as Gateway Pages.

Duplicate Content: Content which completely mirrors or is almost identical to another block of content. Duplicate content is usually unintentional (such as a standard Web page or print-friendly page) but sometimes it is by design, such as when sites recycle content to artificially increase its traffic. Various methods are used by search engines to limit duplicate content from appearing in search results, such as discarding these types of pages.

Dynamic URL: A Web page address that is created on the y at the server level from content contained within a database. Dynamic URLs often contain query strings such as question marks, ampersands, and equal signs. The search engines are hesitant to crawl dynamic URLs because they can lead to in nite loops that may trap their spider and cause a server crash. Dynamic URLs can often lead to duplicate content, which is another reason the search spiders are reluctant to crawl them.

Everflux: The frequent updating of search results at Google, almost on a daily basis. Everflux occurs between major updates, when individual pages are updated, added or removed from the engine’s index.

Gateway pages: See Doorway pages.

Google PageRank: A website indexing system employed by the Google search engine, in which page rank values assigned to sites reflect their perceived online value and/or significance. Values range from 0 to 10; websites with higher Google PageRanks are perceived by the engine to have greater online value and/or significance.

Index:A database of Web pages the search engine has crawled and found useful and unique enough to include.

Invisible text: Using a font for page content that is the same or similar color as the page background so a search engine will read it but a human visitor will not. All search engines consider the use of invisible text to be a deceptive practice.

Keyword density: The number of times a keyword or phrase is used in relation to the number of words on the page in total, usually presented as a percentage. If the page has 100 words and 10 of those are keywords, then density is 10 percent. The idea is to make the site more relevant to engines by increasing the frequency of keywords on a page.

Keyword phrase/key phrase: The words a person uses when querying a search engine to find what they’re looking for. A keyword phrase is also what an SEO would optimize a given page to rank highly for.

Keyword prominence: The position of keyword phrases within the HTML code and copy of a Web page.

Keyword stuffing: Repeating keywords excessively or putting an inordinate number of keywords into the copy or HTML tags of a page. All search engines frown upon this practice.

Landing pages: The page a user lands at after clicking a link.

Link bursts: a rapid increase in the quantity of links pointing to a website. Unsubstantiated link bursts can be a red flag warning to search engines, but there are now ways to qualify the value of new incoming links (i.e. the quantity of traffic passed from the link source).

Link churn: a rapid decrease in the quantity of links pointing to a website.

Link farms: Subsets of sites where each member of the community must link to each other members’ sites. Because the links are required, the search engines generally place little value on these types of links.

Link popularity: The part of a search engine’s ranking criteria which considers and analyzes the quanityt and quality of external links a site has. Pages deemed to be popular are often given a boost in the search engine rankings for the keyword phrases related to it.

Machine-generated pages: Pages that are created automatically to blanket the search engines with low-quality, high keyword-density pages in an attempt to dominate the search engine results. All search engines frown upon these types of pages. They often go by many different names and are sometimes said to be a “proprietary” system for gaining high rankings.

Manual submission: Personally visiting a search engine’s “Add URL” form and pasting in the URL and other information asked for in order to let the search engine know about any given page.

Meta tags: HTML codes that are not visible to the average site visitor but that are intended for the search engines to help them better classify a site. The two tags important for search engine optimization include the Meta keyword tag and the Meta description tag.

Mirror pages: Duplicate pages intended to gain extra rankings in the search engines. Most search engines ignore all but one copy of any duplicate content.

Natural results:See organic listings.

NoFollow:A link attribute designed by Google to tell search engines not to follow a particular link. NoFollow practices have led to a lower volume of link spam on blogs, but some argue that it diminished the valuable conversation taking place between sites.

Organic listings: Search page results that are provided free and are based on the search algorithms of the search engine. A site might have a high organic ranking without paying the search engine anything at all. Conversely, a high-spending advertiser in a keyword category might not appear anywhere near the top organic results.

PPC: An acronym for Pay Per Click Advertising A term from general online advertising indicating that the advertiser will pay for the ad by the click it receives (as opposed to by the money it makes, the views it gets or the time period it’s displayed.) Many search engine advertisers use the term PPC to describe their campaigns, not realizing it has a broader meaning.

Paid inclusion: Paid partnership programs with some search engines permit you to feed information about your pages through a direct feed to the search engine without the search crawlers needing to visit your site. This is generally reserved for large (500-plus pages) sites, such as dynamically generated ecommerce sites with query strings (question marks and equal signs) in the URL. Google and MSN do not accept paid
inclusions. Also known as trusted feed or direct feed.

Ranking: Where a page shows up in the search engine results of any given search query.

Reciprocal linking: Exchanging links with another site.

Relevancy: How a search engine determines where any given page’s ranking should be. Relevancy is based on a complicated mathematical formula called an algorithm, which takes hundreds of factors into consideration.

ROI: An acronym for Return On Investment. The amount of money made from a campaign (search engine marketing or otherwise), less the amount spent.

Robots.txt: A file located within a root directory of a website which offers instructions to search engines on which files to crawl or omit.

SEM: An acronym for Search Engine Marketing. Any form of marketing that includes the search engines. SEM encompasses paid search engine ads (PPC), as well as the optimization of pages in the organic search results (SEO).

SEO: An acronym for Search Engine Optimization. The process of altering a Web page’s copywriting and HTML coding to be relevant for specific, targeted keyword phrases that relate to the site in question.

Search engine optimization copywriting: Writing the visible text on pages so they use the targeted keyword phrases being optimized for in order to gain search engine visibility.

Search engine spam: Pages that make use of deceptive techniques in order to appear more relevant to a search engine query than they really are.

Search marketing: See Search engine marketing.

Spider: An automated robot that crawls through the Web via links on site pages.

Supplemental Results: A secondary index for Google which appears on-screen to the user when matching page is not shown in the main index. Documents with supplemental results are not as trustworthy, because of low link authority, complex URLs and duplicate content or some variation). Supplemental pages will rank lower than primary search index pages and are crawled less often, with their outbound links carrying far less value.

Title tag: An HTML tag used by search engines and browsers to help describe what the page is about. The information provided in this tag is assumed to be highly relevant to the page, and therefore it is generally given a lot of weight in the search engine ranking algorithms when determining relevancy.

Trusted feed: See paid inclusion.

URL: An acronym for Universal Resource Locator. This refers to the address system employed by the Internet to locate resources such as websites. URL information includes the type of resource accessed, the server address and the file location.

Vertical creep: When non-paid, non-organic listings appear in search engine results pages. For instance, the results may be news stories or maps the search engine deems relevant to a query.

Webmaster: a person who is responsible for creating, designing, revising and/or posting information on the worldwide web.

White hat practices: Ethical SEO practices. While there is far from a consensus on what constitutes white hat and black hat practices, Google’s Webmaster pages ( lay out some “quality guidelines” as a basis practices it considers ethical.

Zero PageRank: This is the lowest Google PageRank value assigned to any given site by that search engine. A zero page rank is not good news for a website, since it means that Google has not accorded any online value or significance to it.

If you have any questions regarding our glossary of terms, or wish to make your own suggestions, please contact Yesup SEO, an established Toronto SEO service.