Search Engine Optimization Terms & Definitions

301 Redirect

A permanent server redirect . A change of address for a web page found in the htaccess file on apache servers. Useful for dealing with canonical issues.


Google Pay Per Click contextual advertisement program, very common way of basic website advertisement.


An affiliate website markets products or services that are actually sold by another website or business in exchange for fees or commissions.


A program used by search engines to determine what pages to suggest for a given search query.

ALT text

A description of a graphic, which usually isn’t displayed to the end user, unless the graphic is undeliverable, or a browser is used that doesn’t display graphics. Alt text is important because search engines can’t tell one picture from another. Alt text is the one place where it is acceptable for the spider to get different content than the human user, but only because the alt text is accessible to the user, and when properly used is an accurate description of the associated picture. Special web browsers for visually challenged people rely on the alt text to make the content of graphics accessible to the users.


A program which assists in gathering and analyzing data about website usage. Google Analytics is a feature rich, popular, free analytics program.

Anchor Text

The user visible text of a link. Search engines use anchor text to indicate the relevancy of the referring site and of the link to the content on the landing page. Ideally all three will share some keywords in common.


The amount of trust that a site is credited with for a particular search query. Authority/trust is derived from related incoming links from other trusted sites.

Authority Site

A website which has many incoming links from other related expert/high quality websites. Multiple citations from trusted hubs and authority websites usually build high trust, pagerank, and search results placement. 

Back Links

Any link into a page or site from any other page or site.

Black Hat

Search engine optimization tactics that are counter to best practices such as the Google Webmaster Guidelines.


A website which presents content in a more or less chronological series. Content may or may not be time sensitive. Most blogs us a Content Management System such as WordPress rather than individually crafted web pages. 


A program which performs a task more or less autonomously. Search engines use bots to find and add web pages to their search indexes. Spammers often use bots to “scrape” content for the purpose of plagiarizing it for exploitation by the Spammer.

Bounce Rate

The percentage of users who enter a site and then leave it without viewing any other pages.

Canonical Issues

(duplicate content) canon = legitimate or official version - It is often nearly impossible to avoid duplicate content, especially with CMSs like Wordpress, but also due to the fact that,, and are supposedly seen as dupes by the SEs - although it’s a bit hard to believe they aren’t more sophisticated than that. However these issues can be dealt with effectively in several ways including - using the noindex meta tag in the non-canonical copies, and 301 server redirects to the canon.

Click Fraud

Improper clicks on a PPC advertisement usually by the publisher or his minions for the purpose of undeserved profit. Click fraud is a huge issue for add agencies like Google, because it lowers advertiser confidence that they will get fair value for their add spend.


The practice of delivering different content to the search engine spider than that seen by the human users. This Black Hat tactic is frowned upon by the search engines and caries a virtual death penalty of the site/domain being banned from the search engine results.

CMS Content Management System

Programs such as Joomla and Drupal, which separate most of the mundane Webmaster tasks from content creation so that a publisher can be effective without acquiring or even understanding sophisticated coding skills if they so chose.


The part of a web page that is intended to have value for and be of interest to the user. Advertising, navigation, branding and boilerplate are not usually considered to be content.


Achievement of a quantifiable goal on a website. Add clicks, sign ups, and sales are examples of conversions.

CPC (Cost Per Click)

The rate that is paid per click for a Pay Per Click Advertiser

CPM (Cost Per Thousand impressions)

A statistical metric used to quantify the average value / cost of Pay Per Click advertisements. M - from the Roman numeral for one thousand.

Crawler (bot, spider)

A program which moves through the worldwide web or a website by way of the link structure to gather data.


A site devoted to directory pages. The Yahoo directory is an example.

E-Commerce website

A website devoted to retail sales.


Acronym used by Google to describe rank factors: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness 


A web page design where two or more documents appear on the same screen, each within it’s own frame. Frames are bad for SEO because spiders sometimes fail to correctly navigate them. Additionally, most users dislike frames because it is almost like having two tiny monitors neither of which shows a full page of information at one time.


A web page that is designed to attract traffic from a search engine and then redirect it to another site or page. A doorway page is not exactly the same as cloaking but the effect is the same in that users and search engines are served different content.

Google juice

(trust, authority, pagerank) trust / authority from Google, which flows through outgoing links to other pages.


Google’s spider program

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)

Directives or “markup” which are used to add formatting and web functionality to plain text for use on the internet. HTML is the mother tongue of the search engines, and should generally be strictly and exclusively adhered to on web pages.

Impressions (page views)

The event where a user views a webpage one time.

Inbound Links

Inbound website links from related pages are the source of trust and pagerank.

Indexed Pages

The pages on a site which have been indexed.


The word or phrase that a user enters into a search engine.

Keyword Density

The percentage of words on a webpage which are a particular keyword. If this value is unnaturally high the page may be penalized.

Keyword Research

The challenging work of determining which keywords are appropriate for targeting.

keyword stuffing

Inappropriately high keyword density.

Landing Pages

Pages that a user lands on when they click on a link in a SERP

Latent Semantic Indexing

This mouthful just means that the search engines index commonly associated groups of words in a document. SEOs refer to these same groups of words as “Long Tail Searches”. The majority of searches consist of three or more words strung together. See also “long tail”. The significance is that it might be almost impossible to rank well for “mortgage”, but fairly easy to rank for “second mortgage to finance monster truck team”. Go figure.


An element on a web page that can be clicked on to cause the browser to jump to another page or another part of the current page.

Link Bait

A webpage with the designed purpose of attracting incoming links, often mostly via social media.

Link  Exchange

A reciprocal linking scheme often facilitated by a site devoted to directory pages. Link exchanges usually allow links to sites of low or no quality, and add no value themselves. Quality directories are usually human edited for quality assurance.

Link Juice

(trust, authority, pagerank)

Link Partner

Two sites which link to each other. Search engines usually don’t see these as high value links, because of the reciprocal nature.

Long Tail

Longer more specific search queries that are often less targeted than shorter broad queries. For example a search for “widgets” might be very broad while “red widgets with reverse threads” would be a long tail search. A large percentage of all searches are long tail searches/

META tags

Statements within the HEAD section of an HTML page which furnishes information about the page. META information may be in the SERPs but is not visible on the page. It is very important to have unique and accurate META title and description tags, because they may be the information that the search engines rely upon the most to determine what the page is about. Also, they are the first impression that users get about your page within the SERPs.

Mirror Site

An identical site at a different address.


To extract income from a site. Adsense ads are an easy way to Monetize a website.

Natural Search Results

The search engine results which are not sponsored, or paid for in any way.


A command found in either the HEAD section of a web page or within individual link code, which instructs robots to not follow either any links on the page or the specific link. A form of link condom.


A command found in either the HEAD section of a web page or within individual link code, which instructs robots to not index the page or the specific link. A form of link condom.

Non Reciprocal Link

if site A links to site B, but site B does not link back to site A, then the link is considered non reciprocal. Search engines tend to give more value to non-reciprocal links than to reciprocal ones because they are less likely to be the result of collusion between sites.

Organic Link

organic links are those that are published only because the webmaster considers them to add value for users.


A value between 0 and 1 assigned by the Google algorithm, which quantifies link popularity and trust among other (proprietary) factors. 


A web service which offers a wide array of features to entice users to make the portal their “home page” on the web. IGoogle, Yahoo, and MSN are portals.

PPA (Pay Per Action)

Very similar to Pay Per Click except publishers only get paid when click throughs result in conversions.

PPC (Pay Per Click)

A contextual advertisement scheme where advertisers pay add agencies (such as Google) whenever a user clicks on their add. Adwords is an example of PPC advertising.


Any of several methods used to change the address of a landing page such as when a site is moved to a new domain, or in the case of a doorway.


A file in the root directory of a website use to restrict and control the behavior of search engine spiders.


Copying content from a site, often facilitated by automated bots

Search Engine

search engine (SE) a program, which searches a document or group of documents for relevant matches of a users keyword phrase and returns a list of the most relevant matches. Internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo search the entire internet for relevant matches.


Short for search engine marketing, SEM is often used to describe acts associated with researching, submitting and positioning a website within search engines to achieve maximum exposure of your website. SEM includes things such as search engine optimization, paid listings and other search-engine related services and functions that will increase exposure and traffic to your Web site.


Short for search engine optimization, the process of increasing the number of visitors to a website by achieving high rank in the search results of a search engine. The higher a website ranks in the results of a search, the greater the chance that users will visit the site. It is common practice for Internet users to not click past the first few pages of search results, therefore high rank in SERPs is essential for obtaining traffic for a site. SEO helps to ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be indexed and favorably ranked by the search engine.

SERP Search Engine Results Page

Site map A page or structured group of pages which link to every user accessible page on a website, and hopefully improves site usability by clarifying the data structure of the site for the users. An XML sitemap is often kept in the root directory of a site just to help search engine spiders to find all of the site pages.

Social Bookmark

A form of Social Media where users bookmarks are aggregated for public access.

Spider (bot, crawler)

A specialized bot used by search engines to find and add web pages to their indexes.

Splash Page

Often animated, graphics pages without significant textual content. Splash pages are intended to look flashy to humans, but without attention to SEO may look like dead ends to search engine spiders, which can only navigate through text links. 

Static Page

A web page without dynamic content or variables such as session IDs in the URL. Static pages are good for SEO work in that they are friendly to search engine spiders.

Supplemental index (supplemental results)

Pages with very low pagerank, which are still relevant to a search query, often appear in the SERPs with a label of Supplemental Result. Googles representative’s say that this is not indicative of a penalty, only low pagerank. 

Text Link

An HTML link that does not involve graphic or special code such as flash or java script.

Time on Page

The amount of time that a user spends on one page before clicking off. An indication of quality and relevance.

Toolbar Pagerank (PR)

A value between 0 and 10 assigned by the Google algorithm, which quantifies page importance and is not the same as pagerank. Toolbar Pagerank is only updated a few times a year, and is not a reliable indicator of current status. Often confused with Pagerank.

Trust Rank

A method of differentiating between valuable pages and spam by quantifying link relationships from trusted human evaluated seed pages.

URL Uniform Resource Locator

AKA Web Address

User Generated Content

Social Media, wikis, and some blogs rely heavily on User Generated Content.

White Hat SEO

techniques, which conform to best practice guidelines, and do not attempt to unscrupulously “game” or manipulate SERPs.

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