SpiderWriting SEO - Search Engine Optimisation in Scotland

Glossary of Search Engine Optimisation Terms

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L
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A version of pay-per-click advertising run by Google and displayed alongside their natural search results.
A system of pay-per-click advertisments that Google place on your site and which earn you revenue when users click on them.
Alt attribute
Sometimes wrongly described as an Alt tag, it should contain an alternative text description of an image for people browsing with images switched off or for people with visual difficulties.
Anchor Text
See Link Text
The process of analysing data on the traffic to a website in order to understand the users' behaviour and reactions to the site with a view to improving it and increasing traffic, retention rate, and conversion rate. Various programs are available to help in this process; some of which use the site's log files while some use tracking scripts to record visitor behaviour.
Open source web server software first developed in 1995 which has gone on to become the most popular web server in the world. Normally runs on Unix or Linux platforms but is also available for Windows.
Active Server Pages. Microsoft's scripting language/database combo.
The file suffix for files produced in the .net development environment - a development of ASP which uses the C# language and a variety of visual devleopment tools.


Links to your site from other sites.
Bid management tool
Tool used in PPC account management to maintain the positions of advert and the spending on them.
Black Hat SEO
Search engine optimisation which relies on techniques which are against the guidelines of the search engines and are regarded as "unethical".
Body Text
The main text content of a page.
Universally adopted contraction of Weblog - originally conceived as an online journal but now widely used for a much wider range of comment and journalism. Blogs can be very useful for building site bulk as well as attracting links.


A system of holding recently accessed data, designed to speed up subsequent access to the same data. Search engines keep caches of pages and it can be useful to check the dates of these caches in Google and MSN/Windows Live. Unfortunately Yahoo does not report cache dates.
A variety of techniques which attempt to serve different content to the search engine spiders than to the human user. Such techniques are regarded as "unethical" or "Black Hat".
Content Management System. There are many off-the-shelf content management systems available - some are relatively search engine friendly while others are decidedly unfriendly. There are also many bespoke systems which can vary widely in their effect on SEO and whether they can be effectively optimised.
Conversion Optimisation
Adapting and improving a website with a focus on removing barriers to making a purchase or direct enquiry and improving the user experience to improve trust in the site.
Conversion Rate
The percentage of visitors to a page who go on to purchase a product from that page.
Cascading Style Sheets - method of styling and positioning elements within a web page without using inline styling. This powerful technique allows a much greater degree of central control over a website's appearance while separating the styling from the content. While not directly relevant to SEO the effective use of CSS can allow site coding to be much simpler and more elegant, making it easier to spot errors and anything that might cause a spider to choke on a page.


Catalogues of websites arranged by subject. Usually have some degree of human review and assessment.
Domain Name Service or Server - The system which translates domain names into IP addresses.
A piece of code put at the top of an html file which tells the browser what standard the page has been written to conform to. The Doctype also controls whether the browser will operate in Standards Compliant Mode or Quirks Mode.
Doorway Page
Usually referring to a single page site which exists purely for the purposes of feeding users to another larger site but has no value in itself. They are often "optimised" using unethical techniques in order to try to attract rankings and broaden the chances of the main site attracting visitors. (We do not approve of or recommend the use of doorway pages)


A general description for selling products over the internet.


Framed Site
A site that uses a web design technique which puts more than one page of content into a single framework page. For instance the header section may come from one page, the navigation from another, and the main text content from another. Framed pages/sites are difficult to make search engine friendly unless you are expert in designing them and understand the SEO implications. They were popular in the late 1990s but are much less so now.
File Transfer Protocol - Used to transfer files from a local computer to the web site's server using an ftp client program.
A web browser written by the Mozilla foundation which has around 20% of the market. Very standards-compliant and under constant development. Many extensions are available for it which can assist SEO analysis.


Currently the most popular search engine company in the world. They have also expanded into PPC advertising, email provision, comparison shopping, and video.
The spider used by Google to retrieve web content.


The section of the document containing information read by the browser including the title, meta tags such as the meta-description, meta-keywords, language, geography and code page. It may also contain links to external CSS and JavaScript files.
Search spider used by the Mirago search engine.
Hidden text
Text which is hidden from the user but which can be seen by the search spiders. Various methods can be used to do this, from the simple ones such as making the text the same colour as the background, to more more advanced ones such as displaying the container element off screen using CSS, to cloaking methods which detect the user agent and serve them different content. All these methods are against the search engines guidelines and their use will frequently get a site banned from the indexes.
Hosting Company
The company which owns the servers on which your site files are stored. Hosting can vary substantially in facilities, including operating systems, available scripting languages, allowed web space and allowed bandwith, amongst other things.
A special file on an Apache web server which can be used for various purposes such as security, redirecting, and rewriting URLs.
HyperText Markup Language - the basic langauge of web sites which the browser interprets in order to put the content on the screen. It was based on an earlier more generalised language called SGML.
HyperText Transfer Protocol
HTTP Headers
The server responses which are returned when a browser or search spider requests a page and its associated files. They indicate such things as the type of server, the languages available on it, the last time the document was updated, and whether the document has moved or is no longer available.


A worldwide system of computer networks - a network of networks in which users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer (and sometimes talk directly to users at other computers).
Internet Explorer - Microsoft's web browser. The most commonly used web browser as it is the default one installed within Windows. IE6 has rather poor standards compliance and is notorious amongst web designers for its poor rendering of CSS and its history of security problems. IE7 is much better in this regard though it still has some problems, while IE8 is currently in Beta release and it is hoped that many of these problems will have been overcome when it is released in final form.
Web server software produced by Microsoft. Runs on a Windows platform.
An inline frame. A technique which allows another page to be brought into a page at a specific place in the content rather than being controlled by a frameset.
Internet Protocol - Lowest level communications protocol upon which the Internet is based. IP enables a packet of information to travel through multiple networks to get to its ultimate destination.
Internet Service Provider - A business that delivers access to the Internet, usually for a monthly fee or any business that provides Internet services such as web sites or web site development.


A client-side scripting language. Frequently used for controlling image rollovers and layer movements. When used to display links or menu systems it can, if badly handled, prevent search engines from following the links thus causing them to miss some of the site's content.


Keyword or Keyword Phrase
The words or phrases that a website owner wishes to rank well for in search engines with their site.
Keyword Density
The proportion of keywords in the total word count of a document. Too low a density will mean that a page isn't likely to be relevant enough to rank for those keywords, while too high a density will appear artificial and the page's ranking may be downgraded for it.
Keyword Research
The process of investigating the terms that are searched on by users when attempting to find information on a particular subject. Such research is fundamental to successful SEO and ensuring a good conversion rate. Further information is available in our SEO Tutorials Page 1.
Keyword Stuffing
An outdated and unethical technique of including large numbers of keywords in a document, often using hidden text, comment spam, or excessive inclusion in meta-tags or body content.


Landing Page
Usually taken to be the page that a PPC advert will direct the user to. It is normal to make this a special page specifically tailored to the query that produces the advert so that the user is more likely to convert to a sale. Such a page is often not linked to from the rest of the site but does link to the rest of the site.
A hyperlink which allow the user to move to another site, another page, or another part of the page. Such a link can be on either text or an image.
Link Farm
A collection of sites set up for the sole purpose of interlinking and trying to boost the PageRank of its constituent parts. You should avoid any connection to such arrangements as they can seriously damage your site's trust in the eyes of the search engines.
Link Text
The section of text which is clickable on a link - also known as Anchor Text. Most search engines use this text to judge the relevance of the site to the queries that it ranks for.


Meta content
Refers to the metadata which is stored in metatags in a web document. It is designed to be machine readable and to assist in the classification of the document it refers to.
Meta Description Tag
Used to describe the content of a web document. Is usually used by the search engines as the description line in the search listings.
Meta Keywords Tag
Used to indicate the keywords that the author of a document believes it is relevant for. Due to spamming and keyword stuffing most of the search engines pay little if any attention to it now.
Microsoft's proprietory version of an sql database
An open source sql database.


An interconnected grouping of computers which share a common set of communication paths and which can all connect to each other.


Web browser noted for its speed and good standards compliance. Also available for mobile devices.
Organic Search Results
These are the results that appear in the main body of engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN/Live Search and are derived from the indexes which are generated by their spiders. Also called Natural Listings. (See also PPC Results for the opposite type of results)


A system of assessing webpages, invented by the founders of Google, based on the number and quality of other pages linking to them.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
A form of advertising where the advertiser pays an amount of money based on the number of times their advert is clicked and thus visited by a user.
Pay Per Click Fraud
A much discussed scam involving an attempt to artificially inflate the number of clicks that an advertiser has to pay for by employing either humans to repeatedly click on PPC adverts or using robot programs to generate apparent clicks.
Portable Document Format - A file format developed by Adobe who supply a free reader program for displaying these files. Editing them is not possible without the commercial program which Adobe sell. Most search engines are now able to index the content of pdfs but often that content contains no structure or title information unless great care has been taken in building and saving the documents.
An open-source server-side scripting and programming language. Usually teamed with MySQL to create database driven dynamic websites.
Publishing audio files or video files in a format that can be downloaded and viewed or listened to on an iPod or similar device. If the podcasts prove popular then the download page will usually attract useful links and the site's reputation will improve.


A request sent to a database for information governed by various paramenters. The most common standard language for forming a query is known as Structured Query Language.
Quirks Mode
A mode of operation of your web browser where it tries to be as backwards compatible with old methods of coding as possible. While this will mean it will usually manage to display old pages in some manner, it also means that it is not following current standards and may display modern pages in an inconsistent manner with considerable layout anomalies.


Reciprocal Links
Links to other sites which are reciprocated by the receiving site.
An automatic system of moving a user from one page or domain to another.
The site from which a user arrives on a site, whether by following a link or by following search results.
A file placed on a web site which tells search engine spiders where they are allowed to retrieve data from within the site. Badly written robot.txt files can cause unexpected problems in site rankings.
Really Simple Syndication - A method of making news and other often-updated web site information available via an automatic feed. Such feeds can be read either directly in a browser - there are buit in systems in IE, Firefox and Opera while Firefox users can also use a number of extensions. For frequent users or those who prefer a standalone system there are programs such as Feedreader.


Search Engine
An online or local program which returns results relating to a search query. A search engine can be global such as Google and Yahoo, specific to a particular subject or geographical area, or local to a particular site or machine.
Search engine optimisation audit
A report on the health and status of a website from an SEO perspective. It should explore all aspects of a site that relate to SEO and provide a blueprint for further developmetn and improvement.
Standard Generalised Markup Language - the language from which HTML developed. It was created by NATO in order to have a standard method of constructing documents and specifications that could be interpreted consistently amongst the various member nations.
The search spider sent out by Yahoo.
Splash Pages
Pages which generally consist of an image or animation, frequently produced by Flash, or similar branding or advertising content rather than normal text content on the subject of the site. There is usually only a single outgoing link which takes you to the "real" site. Splash pages are usually detrimental to search rankings and can in some cases stop the spiders from accessing and indexing the other pages.
Structured Query Language - A programming language for interacting with databases.
Secure Sockets Layer - a protocol for creating a secure encrypted connection for the transmission of private data. Used most commonly for the transmission of credit card information and similar data which should not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.
A host computer on a network that holds information and responds to requests for information from it.
Social Bookmarking
The generic name for sites such as Digg, del.icio.us, Technorati, Stumbleupon and Mr Wong, where, instead of keeping them in your browser's bookmarks system you store bookmarks online so you can always find them even when you are working away from home or office on another computer. From an SEO point of view such sites can be a source of useful links to the sites included in your bookmarks and can be picked up by other people who are members of the same bookmarking site. However care should be taken to avoid excessive pushing of commercial sites
Social Networking
The generic name for taking part in sites such as Bebo, Facebook, LiveJournal, and MySpace, which allow interaction with other members who are interested in a variety of different subjects. Once again care should be taken to avoid pushing commercial sites too blatantly or in inappropriate forums.
Standards Compliant Mode
A mode of operation of your web browser where it conforms as closely as possible to the latest W3C standards for the interpretation of HMTL and CSS. In theory this should means that all browsers will display the page consistently, although in practice there are still variations, particularly with Internet Explorer 6.


Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol - the connection system that makes the internet work.
Title Tag
Normally the first item in the head tag area of a site, this tag controls the text that is shown in the title bar of the browser when it displays a page. This is also the most important tag for telling the search engines what the page is about and should be chosen very carefully.


Operating system, most commonly used in servers.
Uniform Resource Locator - the technical name for a web address.


Viral Marketing
Method of marketing where you attempt to produce some content, often an online game or a video, that becomes sufficiently "cool" that news of it takes off by being passed from user to user to such an extent that you no longer have to do any other marketing. The point is to attract a lot of page views which will include an advert or branding excercise.


White Hat SEO
Search engine optimisation that follows the guidelines of the search engines and is thus considered "ethical".


eXtensible Markup Language - a language which allows the creation of customised tags, enabling the definition and interpretation of data between applications and organisations. Often used to supply feeds of product data between different sites.
A method of providing content through the use of XML files drawn from other places or sites.


One of the major internet companies which runs a search engine, a directory, an online advertising agency, and various social networking systems such as YahooGroups. The Yahoo search engine is generally found in second place in terms of the number of searches in most geographical areas.


A spider used by Looksmart.



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