Glossary of SEO Terms

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Algorithm : A logical step-by-step procedure to solve a problem. In as much as it relates to the world of search, it is the mathematical formula that a search engine uses to determine the most likely answers to a given search query. The results are ranked or listed in order from what the search engine determines the most relevant website to websites that are less likely to be what the searcher is looking for. In the case of Google the algorithm has over 200 elements that can be individually manipulated to refine the search results. The exact formulation is a closely guarded secret to avoid search results being falsely manipulated.

Alt Tags: tags or labels that are designed to appear if the image is not viewable. The text or tag is an alternative to viewing the image. Alt in this case would be short for alternate. In simple terms, a website is actually held together in code (HTML) and since computers don't normally "see" pictures like humans do, the computer relies on the tags attached to an image to understand how or where that image might be relevant.

Automated Search Queries: Software designed to inflate the popularity of a given site by automatically looking for that site on a search engine. Performing searches on a search engine by program rather than actual human users. If the Search Engine determines the ranking of a site by the number of times it is clicked on or searched for, this would falsely inflate that ranking. As Search Engines become more complex these attempts to falsely manipulate search results are easy to identify. Companies that promise ridiculous amounts of clicks on your site to make it rise in search results could end up getting your website banned from the search results entirely. Generally, bad for business.

Back Links : Some people try to build links by posting a comment containing a link back to their website on articles or blogs that have a high page rank. Most of these high ranking pages now employ a "no follow" tag so that search spiders discount the link. Further, Search Engine algorithms are able to take into consideration where the link comes from, the text around it, the content of the page it originated from and the context in which it used. In short, a link of this kind has little if any value and for the most part amounts to a waste of time as a link building strategy. That being said, if the link is placed to add information or understanding to the human visitor, and it actually has some relevance to the subject being discussed then it can be a source of quality traffic.

Bad Neighborhoods: On the internet, some countries and some companies have been identified by Search Engines as a source of scams, spam, and schemes intended to falsely manipulate search results. Therefore linking to those areas can hurt your results because your site then becomes guilty by association.

Black Hat: In regard to SEO, Black Hat is a technique or person acting in a way that is outside of the Search Engine guidelines for optimization of a website. The goal being to gain what would be considered an unfair advantage in search results. Some techniques that were fairly common a few months ago have been determined to be unethical or deceptive by Search Engines and are now considered “Black hat.” Not everything on the web is easy to determine as good or bad. I have friends that are engineers of search for Google and others that are Search Optimizers for major companies that see opposite sides of certain practices. I also know people that push those boundaries until they break on a regular basis. The guiding principle for your business should be to ask yourself if you can afford to risk having your business website banned or penalized in search results for using some questionable practice. Most can't. Best practice is to work building your web presence and making it be the most relevant, best answer to search queries that best describe what you have to offer.

Browser: The software that you use to view the internet. Such as Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer. The Browser interprets the HTML and presents it to you, the end user. If the website is built correctly, the code tells the browser how to “show” the page, what to link to and what text to use if a picture is not viewable. Meta tags can give information alternatives to visually impaired users as well as give specific information to search engines. For instance a page description can be listed in a meta tag for the search engine to read that is not readily available to the human user. However putting false information in a meta tag would be detrimental to search results.

Context Links: One of the factors that Search Engines consider when they are evaluating the value or weight of a given link is the context surrounding the link. For instance if you have a website that sells tires for automobiles and you get a link pointing to it from a doughnut shop, there is a pretty good chance that link is out of context. However if that doughnut shop has a page dedicated to talking about how happy the owner was when he bought his last set of tires from your store and that page has a link to your website, the context around the link would support the link.

Doorway Page: Pages that are designed to present one thing to Search Engines and something else to human users. A page that offers little or no content to users but is specifically designed to falsely manipulate search results. May also be defined as cloaking. Not long ago some less reputable companies would offer “Optimized Pages” to businesses attempting to boost their search results. These pages were little more than Doorway pages that were stuffed with text not visible to the human user, since they were redirected to a different page, but designed to be found by the search engine. See Black Hat above, but understand anything like this is going to be frowned upon by search engines.

Excessive Cross Linking: Normal linking between websites is how users go from one page to another. Websites have to be connected together by links to make up the web. Generally website links to another page or another site. Search Engines use "spiders" to follow links between pages and websites. When a search spider finds an abundance of back and forth links between pages on a site or between sites, the search engine uses that information to determine if those links are an attempt to make a website or page appear more important in search results. There is no hard and fast rule on this but the best practice would be, if a human visitor to the website would find the link useful and relevant to the subject at hand, then you're probably okay.

Hidden Links: Links that are pointing at another site but are not visible to the human user of the site are called “hidden links.” Again the only purpose for attempting this would be an attempt to falsely manipulate search results. If discovered, Your site could be removed from any result on that search engine (banned).

Hidden Text: Similar to hidden links, this is text intended to be visible only to the search spider and not the human user of the website. Also can be considered cloaking. One way to do this would be to have the text be the same color as the page background. Since it is not intended for human viewers, it would be considered an attempt to present a false relevance to the search engine. In the past, web masters would put the entire text of an encyclopedia in the background of their web pages. Their pages would come up as relevant to almost any search performed on the early search engine. This greatly frustrated users of the search engine, causing them to look elsewhere for better more relevant results.

HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language: The code or language in which a website is written so as to make it function as a website rather than just static text on a page. HTML can designate things such as the color of the background, color of the text, color of text links, where pictures should go, how big they are, what those pictures are among other things. if you select “view source” in your web browser, it will open up a new window that shows the web page you are on, as it appears in HTML.

Keywords: A word or phrase submitted to a Search Engine in an effort to produce relevant information. Specifically, the search Engine uses a program to produce results from its resources that pertain to the keyword. The program is designed to list these results in order from the websites that it determines to be most relevant to those least relevant regarding the word or phrase entered. See this page for information on choosing Keywords.

Keyword Stuffing or Spamming: overloading a web page or site with text designed to make that page or site appear to be the most relevant result for a given phrase or keyword.

Links: In regard to the internet, these are the connections between websites. When a website is written in html or Hyper Text Markup Language, it is a code that a browser interprets and presents. The Hypertext allows text to link to or connect to another site. These connections between websites are called links. See this page for more information on Links and how Search Engines use them.

Link Farms: Link exchange schemes for the sole purpose of improving the search ranking of the site involved.

Long Tail Search : These can either be a more specific search, using more terms to describe what is being searched for or search terms that are not used as often by searchers when looking for a particular product. The benefit of a properly optimized website is that it can show up in this type of search as well as for the targeted keywords. The resulting traffic from long tail search is usually more likely to convert than even traffic from the targeted keywords because they are more likely searching specifically for what the website has to offer.

Meta Tags: HTML codes for specific instructions to a browser or search engine. Such as the subject or description of the page content.

Natural/Organic Links: Natural link relationships between websites are easy to justify. A Natural link will enhance the human visitors experience. Also a natural or organic link is easily recognizable and obvious not hidden or disguised.

Organic/Natural Search Results : The results given by a search engine to a query that are NOT just paid advertising for that term. These would be the actual "best" answer that the search engine has determined for a search, listed from the most likely best answer at the top in descending value. If your website is listed at the top of page 28 in natural search results, the search engine has determined that every other result it listed before yours is more likely a better answer for the user.

Page Rank: Search Engines are not human. They are a complex computer program built to gather information, sort that information and produce the most relevant answers to humans enter a term or phrase. Since the way a Search Engine determines a website may be valuable to a search result is to apply the information from that site to the algorithm, the result of that formula is a value for the website. That value can be called Page Rank.

Robot or Spider: A program or software that gathers information about a website then takes it back to the Search Engine to be analyzed. If you think of the Robot like a blind spider, following a web of links from one site to another looking for food to feed the engine and that the food is text then it makes more sense. Blind because it can't tell what's in a picture unless you describe it with words. The text it consumes is not only words that show on a website but also the text that makes up the code that tells a browser how to present the page (the HTML). See this page for more information about Search Spiders.

Robot Tags: HTML code instructions to search spiders. Another tag not meant to be visible to the human user but instead is meant to assist or instruct the Search Spider when it comes to inventory the website. A robot tag can instruct the spider not to follow a link or not to visit a page.

Search Rank : The position of a specific web page when a relevant search term is queried an a search engine. Does the webpage in question show up in the top ten results or the top hundred? Being found when someone searches for a product or service you have to offer is the difference between success and failure on the internet. So Search Ranking high enough for a searcher to find you is vital.

SERP : Search Engine Results Page. The listings a search engine comes up with in response to a search query. The order of those results equates to your websites search ranking for the given terms used to perform the search. The closer your website is listed to the top of the list, the more likely your website will be visited. Ask yourself how far you go down the list of results before you just try another search.

SEO or Search Engine Optimization : Developing a website for better visibility on popular search engines when a search relevant to what is offered on the site is performed.

Spam : Before the internet was a trademark brand of a canned meat product made up mostly of bits of ham. It has now become synonymous with irrelevant content or the indiscriminate bulk email sent unsolicited to large numbers of email addresses. The internet version of "Junk Mail."

Spamming The Index: When a well designed website full of good content optimized for designed to rank well for relevant target keyword ____ is outranked in the natural search results by an inferior, poorly optimized website that has engaged in building links indiscriminately across the internet that serve no other purpose than to trick the Search Engine into seeing the site as more relevant than it would be.

Trust Rank : Reference Sites, School Sites, Nonprofit Sites, Authority Sites, Government Sites, Each have an inherent confidence from Search Engines that could be described as Trust Rank.