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Glossary of terms

We've compiled a glossary of terms that may be used in the search engine optimisation and marketing field - so if you're not sure what a term means, see if it's listed amongst our definitions of common terms.

Algorithms

The calculations made by search engine software that determine how a website is ranked within a search result list. Each search engine will use a different set of algorithms (which are closely guarded secrets) and factors such as a website's title, body copy, meta-tags and link popularity may be important in achieving a high search engine ranking.

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Bridge pages

See Gateway pages

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Crawlers

The term used for the tools that search engines automatically send out to find websites, record them and index them within their databases. Also known as robots or spiders. Some crawlers will only visit the home page of a website while others may 'deep crawl' and index many sub-pages, depending on the structure of the site.

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Directories

A web search tool compiled manually by human editors. Once websites are submitted with information such as a title and description, they are assessed by an editor and, if deemed suitable for addition, will be listed under one or more subject categories. Users can search across a directory using keywords or phrases, or browse through the subject hierarchy. Best examples of a directory are Yahoo and the Open Directory Project.

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Doorway pages

See Gateway pages

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FFA sites

Free For All sites are often included within the lists used by some companies or software, offering submission of your website to 'thousands of sites'. However websites are added to FFA sites on a 'most-recent' basis and are used to front a marketing site. As a result, submissions to FFA sites will usually result in your website only being listed for a short time and in return, your e-mail address will receive hundreds of 'junk' marketing e-mails, many of which will require a manual opt-out.

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Frames

This is the HTML technique that creates a fixed element to a web page, usually containing navigation buttons for the website that will be constantly visible. Frames were a popular technique several years ago but can cause problems for search engine optimisation as they restrict the ability of some crawlers to index the site. However, frames are not as big an obstacle as some people will make out and may also offer advantages when optimising a website.

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Gateway pages

Pages designed specifically to improve a website's search engine placement. These pages are also known as bridge pages or doorway pages and are used for a variety of reasons, such as to emphasise particular keywords or phrases; to target the optimisation requirements of a specific search engine; or to overcome the elements of a website that are not 'search engine friendly', such as frames or software applications like Flash. However, gateway pages can also take many different forms and care must be taken when using these to achieve a good search engine placement as they can be viewed as spamming if prepared incorrectly.

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HTML

Hyper-Text Mark-up Language is the common coding used to create websites that can be read by Internet browsers (such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator). Part of the HTML coding for a website should include the meta-tags required for search engine optimisation.

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Keywords

To achieve a high search engine placement for a relevant search, a website must contain the appropriate positioning and density of keywords or phrases related to the search terms used. This is a critical part of the search engine optimisation for any website.

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Link popularity

The term used to describe the number of hypertext links coming into a website from other websites. This factor is being used by many top search engines to improve a website's ranking and is therefore an important consideration for any website, but especially for new ones who need to build up such links as quickly as possible.

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Meta tags

An element of HTML coding on a website that is used by search engines to index a website. Most meta-tags are included within the 'header' code of a website and the most important tags are the title, description and keyword tags. Rules used by different search engines govern how such tags are used, how many characters they should contain, and how they should be formatted.

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Metasearch engines

A type of search tool that will allow a user to conduct a search across 2 or more search engines and directories in one go. These tools don't hold an index of their own but are programmed to search across many of the top search tools simultaneously.

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Pay-per-click search tools

These search tools are becoming increasingly widespread as they provide 'sponsored results' to many partner search engines or directories. The concept enables companies to achieve a top placement by bidding an amount of money for a search term. Once a user clicks on the link from the search results, the bid amount is deducted from the website owner's account. Examples of these tools include Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing.

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Robots

See Crawlers

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Search engine

A web search tool that automatically visits websites (using crawlers), records and indexes them within its database, and generates results based on a user's search criteria. Submitting a website to a search engine usually requires just the page URL (and often an e-mail address) and optimisation techniques are essential for a website to be indexed and ranked appropriately by search engines. Best examples of a search engine are Google, Yahoo, MSN and ASK.

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Search engine marketing

The term used to describe the range of marketing techniques required to make a website visible on search engines and directories so that it will attract visits from its target audience. This includes the optimisation of a site, the submission to directories, the use of 'pay-per-click' search tools and keyword related advertising.

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Search engine optimisation (SEO)

The term used to describe the marketing technique of preparing a website to enhance its chances of being ranked in the top results of a search engine once a relevant search is undertaken. A number of factors are important when optimising a website, including the content and structure of the website's copy and page layout, the HTML meta-tags and the submission process.

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Search engine placement

The marketing term used to describe the process of ensuring that a website appears in the top results list of a search engine or directory once a relevant search has been implemented. Can also be referred to as 'positioning'.

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Search results

The ranked listing that appears once a search is submitted on a search engine or directory. Results are often displayed in groups of 10 and research has shown that websites appearing lower than 20-30 in the search results are less likely to be seen, or visited. A search results list (or page) may sometimes be referred to as SERPs - Search Engine Results Pages.

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Spamming

The term used to describe techniques that might be used to 'trick' search engines into ranking a website high up in their search results - such as the repetitive use of keywords, hidden text or keywords unrelated to the site's content. Search engines will penalise websites that use such methods and will either downgrade them in their rankings, or exclude them completely.

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Spiders

See Crawlers

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Submission

The process of notifying search engines or directories about a website. Every search tool has a form to enable the submission of websites, varying from a simple URL address (for a search engine), to more detailed information (for a directory). Submissions may be made manually or by using automated software, although the former method is generally accepted to be more effective for search engine placement.

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