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SEO/SEM glossary - jargon, terminology and definitions

With search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) such hot topics these days - and constantly evolving, it's easy to get lost in all the various terminology and jargon used - especially when you're starting out and trying to learn SEO/SEM strategies. 

Even if you don't intend to handle search engine optimization yourself and contract the work to others, it's important to understand what your contractors are telling you. After all, it's well known that some SEOP's run their businesses by the principle "if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with BS". 

That aspect aside, with some basic familiarity of SEO terminology, you'll also be able to tell if a contractor is heading down the wrong path - possibly taking your site with them in the form of a ranking penalty.

The following glossary lists some common SEO/SEM terms and definitions, with links to articles in some instances discussing the topic in more detail:

301 - A server response code, meaning "page has been permanently moved to x" A 301 redirect is commonly used to redirect sites or individual pages in cases where a domain or page name is changed and is usually the preferred method of redirection by search engines. Learn more about using a 301 redirect

302 - A server response code meaning "page has temporarily moved". 302 redirects are a touchy subject with many people involved with SEO as they can be also used against a site through a process called 302 hijacking or pagejacking.

Anchor Text - The visible text component of a hyperlink. Learn more about anchor text optimization.

Alexa ranking - Alexa is a search engine that provides extra information such as traffic rankings. An Alexa ranking is an indicator used to gauge site performance, based on comparisons drawn against other sites.

Algorithm - A  mathematical formula used in calculating search engine ranking. The goal of any SEOP is to understand the algorithm as best as possible. Algorithms of course are very closely guarded secrets and I have never met anyone who has "cracked" an algorithm. Search engine algorithms change regularly to prevent anyone from gaming the system.

ALT Image tag - Search engines aren't able to read images as such, so the alt tag or text attribute describes what the image represents. Learn more.

Black hat - A person engaged in or tactic used to increase search engine rankings using methods frowned upon by search engine companies.

Bot - usually used in reference to a search engine robot or spider; software applications that retrieve web page information to feed into a database.

CSS - Cascading Style Sheets. Used mainly to decrease the amount of source code on a page, by referencing a single set of instructions on how to display various elements. Learn more about using cascading style sheets.

COA - Cost Of Acquisition. The expense associated with acquiring a visitor or converting a visitor to a sale.

Crawl - the process by which search engine spiders retrieve web page information.

CTR - Click Through Rate. A ratio of views of a page, link or advertisement that result in a click to another page.

DMCA - Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A set of USA laws designed to defend the rights of authors and creators of digital content from copyright infringements.

DMOZ - Directory MOZilla is a human reviewed directory, the contents of which appear on many sites, including Google. A listing in DMOZ is said to assist boosting rankings in in Google's general search results.

Doorway Page - a page used for driving traffic to another page and usually focusing on specific keywords. Generally, doorway pages are designed for search engines only, human visitors never see them - consequently, they are frowned upon. Doorway pages should not be confused with landing pages, a legitimate strategy.

Dupe/Duplicate content - usually used in reference to a penalty applied by a search engine for the same content appearing on different pages/sites. In theory, the site/page that was added to the search engine last should be the one that is penalized.

FFA - Free For All pages; basically a link farm. You add your site link to the page, it then gets pushed down as other links are added until your link is ultimately pushed off the page. Not a suggested method of promotion or link building. Read my article on FFA pages.

Flux - A term to describe the shuffling of positions in search engine results in between major updates.

G  - Google, also known as The Big G or The Mighty G.

Grey bar - A Google toolbar score that can indicate a ban in place on the page currently being viewed; i.e. the page does not appear in Google search results.

Grey hat - Optimization strategies that are in a unknown area of reputability/validity.

IBL - Inbound Link. Links pointing from another site into your own.

KDA - Keyword Density Analyzer or Analysis. The ratio of keywords or keyphrases in relation to other text on a page. 

Keyword/Keyphrase - A word or words that strongly relate to a page/site topic or search engine query. Learn more about keyword and keyphrase strategies

Keyword Stuffing - Where a keyword or phrase is used excessively in page content or alt tags in an attempt to gain higher rankings. Can result in page penalties or bans.

Landing page - A page that is optimized and very targeted towards a particular subject. An effective/valid optimization and sales conversion strategy when implemented correctly. Learn more about creating effective landing pages.

Link Farm - A page that consists of little else but links to other sites and usually the sites listed have links back to the farm page. The goal of a link farm is to artificially boost rankings through link popularity and is consequently at risk of penalty or ban.

Link popularity - A gauge of a site's popularity based on the number of inbound links. Link popularity is a factor in search engine ranking and has greater strength (in theory) where inbound links are from other quality sites.

Meta tags - These mainly refer to the title, keywords and description tags. They are basically a summary of the content that is on the page in different formats. Metatag content does play a role in rankings for many search engines. learn more about meta tags and title tags.

M$N - A reference to Microsoft's search engine.

Mirror - A copy of a site with some content differences to target particular keywords. Not a recommended strategy as it can trigger a penalty or ban.

NDA - Non-Disclosure Agreement. You may be asked to sign one of these when engaging the services of an SEOP so that the practices the company use to assist you remain confidetial.

OBL - Outbound Link. A link pointing from your site to another site.

ODP  - Open Directory Project  - DMOZ

Off-page factors - Issues such as inbound links and the popularity of sites with links pointing into your site that you have little control over, but that still play a role in your rankings.

On-page factors -  A reference to the elements on your site and their role in your rankings, for example, keyword density, title tag relevance etc.

OOP - Over Optimization Penalty. Where a search engine algorithm detects that changes you are making to a page or the way the page is constructed is to influence rankings over being useful to a site visitor.

Organic search results - the results displayed after a search engine query that are not paid for by the listed site's owner.

P2P - Pay To Play. Any search engine marketing strategy that requires payment to the search engine company.

Pagejacking - the copying of a page by unauthorized parties in order to filter off traffic to another site. Learn more about detecting and dealing with pagejacking.

PFI - Pay For Inclusion. Payment paid to a search engine company for inclusion in results

PPCSE - A Pay Per Click Search Engine. Learn more about pay per click.

PR/ PageRank™ - A ranking used by Google that is meant to act as indication of the quality of a site and its authority status.

PR0/PageRank Zero - Another term relating to Google PageRank. It can indicate that a page has been spidered but appearing in general results as yet, or could also possibly indicate a penalty.

Reciprocal link - An agreement between two sites to exchange links. Sites exchanging links can risk a penalty or ban if they are not of a related topic. Learn more about effective link exchanges.

ROAD/ROI - Return on Advertising Dollar, or Return on Investment. The measure of effective of expenditure vs. the number of visitors received or sales.

SE - Search engine

SEM - Search Engine Marketer/Marketing

SEO - Search Engine Optimization

SEOP - Search Engine Optimization Professional. Someone who claims to have the skills to increase a clients' search engine rankings. Learn more about sourcing SEOP's and SEM companies.

SEP - Seach Engine Placement (or Positioning/Promotion) 

SERPs - Search Engine Results Pages. The pages that display after a query is submitted.

Spamming the index - Related to black hat optimization techniques. Pages that have high ranking but are non-relevant or exist purely to redirect traffic to other sites. 

Spider - A software application used by search engine companies to visit web sites and return information about pages.

Stop words - common non-query specific words that are ignored by a search engine when a query is made. These can include words such as I, and, if; depending on how the query is constructed.

Submission - the process by which a search engine is manually notified of a new site or page.

URL - Uniform Resource Locator. The web address of a site or page.

White hat - legitimate optimization techniques employed that are agreeable to search engine companies, such as the proper use of meta-tags, an adequate keyword saturation and spider friendly page design. 

As you can see, the SEO and SEM sector has a language all of it's own :). I hope this glossary has clarified a few terms you were puzzled over, but were too afraid to ask about. Is there a term not listed you'd like explained? You're welcome to contact me and I'll add it to this page on the next update.

Further learning resources

Online marketing/advertising terminology

The dangers of jargon

Search engine optimization tutorials and articles

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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