SEO Glossary: Search Engine Marketing Definitions

We have gathered a comprehensive list of acronyms, words and phrases often found in search engine marketing industry to help educate the new user. If you've got a term you want more information about, go ahead and email us: contact@bigoakinc.com. The following terms pertain predominately to the SEO industry:

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the text for a hyperlink. For example:
<a href="http://www.bigoakinc.com/">Search engine optimization firm in Richmond, VA</a>. The phrase "Search engine optimization firm in Richmond, VA" would be the clickable link that would take you to www.bigoakinc.com. The text other sites use to link to your site can make or break your site's success. See our Bush & SEO article for more information.

Automated Robot or Search Engine Spider

There are web programs crawling all over the world wide web inspecting, indexing and cataloging web sites. Obviously we focus on the search engine spiders (A.K.A. bots) attracting them to your site often.

Back Link

Any link on another web page that points to the subject page. Also referred to as inbound links or IBLs. These links are what connect sites (hence the web analogy in "world wide web") and help determine popularity. Every back link to your site is a vote that the search engines tabulate to decide the popularity and ranking of your site.

Cloaking

Any of several varying techniques used to provide a different web page for the search engine spiders to scan than what a human user would see. Cloaking is one of the most controversial methods used in search engine optimization. It can be an unethical attempt to mislead search engines regarding the content on a particular web page. On the other hand, it can be used to provide human users with content that a search engine would not be able to process or parse. An ethical use of cloaking would be to provide website accessibility to blind people and people with other disabilities. A good benchmark on whether a given act of cloaking is ethical or not is whether it enhances accessibility.

CPC

Abbreviation for Cost-per-Click. Used in online advertising, it is the cost an advertiser pays each time a link pointing to their site is clicked. This can range from $.05 to $150 depending on the link text.

CTR

Abbreviation for Click-through Rate. It is a ratio of clicks to impressions in a Pay-per-Click (PPC) campaign.

Description META Tag

Refers to the information in one of the META tags that holds the description of the web page and/or website. This information is used by some search engines when search results are displayed. While not critical, it is a good idea to give this attention when optimizing your website.

Search Directory

A large volume of websites categorized by theme or subject. In addition to being a good place to look for information about a specific topic, directories are also a valuable source of one-way back links.

Doorway Page

Also called a gateway page, a doorway page exists for the purpose of driving traffic to a website. They are designed and optimized to target one specific key phrase and are written for search engines to obtain high rankings and drive traffic to the site. Using doorway pages is a violation of the Terms Of Service of most search engines and could be grounds for banning a website. Stay away from the use of doorway pages.

FFA link page (Free For All)

A Free For All link page (FFA) is a web page that allows anyone to set up a link to their site without having to link back to the FFA page. Webmasters typically use placement software to place a link to their site on hundreds of FFA sites hoping that the resulting back links will increase the ranking of their site in search engines.

Experts in search engine optimization techniques do not give much value to FFAs and search engines consider many of these sites to be bad places to link from. First, most FFAs only maintain links for a short time; too short for search engine crawls to pick them up. Second, the "human" traffic to FFA sites is almost completely webmasters visiting the site to place their own links manually. Search engine algorithms do more than count link numbers, they also check for relevancy and the unrelated links on FFA sites aren't relevant. Another drawback to FFAs is the amount of spam webmasters receive from the owners and paying members of the FFA. Using an FFA can be considered a form of spamdexing.

Header Tags

Areas on a web page enclosed by heading tags. Example: <H1>Page Heading</H1>. Heading tags vary in importance, with regard to SEO, depending on the number used in the headings or sub-headings (i.e. H1,2,3,4.). Title, heading tags and content should relate to the key phrase targeted by a web page.

IBL

Abbreviation for In-bound Link. Any link on another page that points to the subject page. Also called a back link.

Keyword/Key phrase

Keywords and phrases are words used in search engine queries. Each variation of a keyword, such as the plural form of the word, is treated like a separate term. SEO is the process of optimizing web pages for keywords and key phrases so that the pages rank highly in search engine results.

Keyword Frequency

How often a keyword appears on a page and in specific areas on a page. The more times a keyword shows up on a webpage, the more relevant that page is considered to be for that search. If overdone, some search engines and directories will downgrade the page due to what they consider to be spamming.

Keyword Placement

Refers to the areas on a web page that a search engine looks for keywords. Most important are the page title, body text, headings and link text.

Keyword Prominence

How close to the beginning of the content a keyword appears on a page. A keyword that appears closer to the top of the page will be more relevant to some search engines. However, your keywords and phrases should be peppered throughout the page, in the middle and end for best results.

Keyword Stuffing

The practice of adding extra keywords to a web page. The words are added for the 'benefit' of search engines and not human visitors and the words may or may not be visible to human visitors. While not necessarily a violation of search engine Terms of Service, at least when the words are visible to humans, it detracts from the impact of a page and looks like junk content. It is also possible that search engines may discount the importance of large blocks of text that do not conform to grammatical structures (i.e. lists of disconnected keywords).

Keyword Weight or Density

The number of times your keyword or phrase is used in relation to all the other words on a page. It is often expressed as a percentage.

META Tags

META tags are part of HTML but are there for the sole use of search engine spiders. The most important two are the description and the keyword META tags but these have lost much weight in SEO over the past few years due to misuse by unethical SEO consultants.

Mirror

A nearly identical or duplicate website or page. Using mirrors is a violation of the Terms Of Service of most search engines and could be grounds for banning.

Out-bound Links

Links from your website to another website.

PPC

Abbreviation for Pay-per-Click. An advertising model where advertisers pay only for the the clicks on their advertisements.

PageRank or PR

Google's proprietary measure of link popularity for web pages. It is expressed as a score in a range of 0 to 10 (e.g. 4/10) with 0 being low and 10 being high.

Reciprocal link

A link to another website placed on your site in exchange for a link to your site from theirs.

Robots.txt

Robots.txt is a file which well-behaved spiders read to determine which parts of a website they may visit.

Sandbox, Google The

Supposedly used by one large search engine as a probation period for new sites. Gaining a high PR or ranking is not possible during this period.

SEM

Abbreviation for Search Engine Marketing. Search Engine Marketing is the task of locating, researching, submitting and positioning a website within search engines for maximum exposure. SEM includes the function of choosing the target keywords and keyword phrases for the website's META tags. It can also include the purchase and placement of advertising in search engines.

SEO

Abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization. SEO covers the process of making web pages spider friendly (so search engines can read them) and helping web pages be relevant for targeted keywords.

SERP

Abbreviation for Search Engine Results Page/Positioning. This refers to the organic search results for a given query in a search engine.

Search Directory

A search directory is similar to a search engine in that they each compile databases of web sites. A directory differs in that it only enters sites that are directly submitted to it and, instead of crawling a site, they send humans to inspect and decide if the site is worthy of a listing. The listings are then categorized, and sometimes alphabetized, so that the results of any search will start with site descriptions that begin with some number or non-letter character.

Spam or Spamdexing

The practice of deliberately and dishonestly modifying HTML pages to increase the chance of them being placed close to the beginning of search engine results, or to dishonestly influence the category to which the page is assigned. Spamdexing refers exclusively to practices that mislead a search and indexing program to give a page a ranking it does not deserve.

Spider

Also called a bot (or robot). Spiders are software programs that scan the web. They vary in purpose from indexing web pages for search engines to harvesting email addresses for spammers.

Stop Word

Small common words, such as "a," "as" or "the," that are ignored by search engines when indexing web pages and processing search queries.

Title

The META/HTML tag that contains the page title which SHOULD be determined by the contents of that page. Many designers pay little attention to the title versus the page content.

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