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What Does all this SEO Stuff Mean? A Search Engine Dictionary

Sitting down with a SEO rep can be like falling down a rabbit hole. All of a sudden, just like Alice, there you are in an unfamiliar environment with a slightly grinning person chanting acronyms and nonsense at you.

This wasn’t the reason you went to law school.

At Foster Web Marketing, we like it much better when our potential clients are well informed about search engines. This makes it easier to explain, and it makes it easier for us to adequately describe what we do. Here is a list of often used terms by people and companies that focus on search engine placement. If you read this before a meeting with an SEO, then you might have a better idea as to what is going on. And even if these definitions aren’t clear to you, at least having them floating around in your brain might be helpful once you see how these terms are used in context.

Anchor Text - The visible text component of a hyperlink.

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 are very closely guarded secrets. Search engine algorithms change regularly to prevent anyone from taking advantage of how they work.

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.

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.

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.

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, and consequently, they are not considered honest search engine optimization.

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

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.


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. 

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.

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.


Tom Foster
CEO, President, Founder