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SEO Glossary, Computer Terms Definitions

404 Pages – Where someone lands when they make a typo in your domain name or other part of your URL. These pages can (on some servers) be customized. It is a good place to put a site map or other links so that user can find their way to what they were looking for.

Affiliate Programs (Associate Programs) -- The terms both refer to the same thing. You act as a salesperson for some other web site. You link to another site where your visitors, if you can get them to click through, earn you income for any money they send.
Amazon is probably the most well known of these. Join their program, put a link on your site, and if anyone leaves your site and makes a purchase at Amazon, you get a commission.
The principal is like McDonalds fast food. One restaurant in one town does OK. But for the business owner, a restaurant in every town does better. If I sell widgets to every visitor to my site, I'll do even better if I can sell widgets to every visitor to your site too! Even if I have to give you a cut of the profit.

Algorithm – A complex mathematical formula that search engines use to return results to their users.

ALT Tags – A code attribute used with images, that displays onscreen when a user hovers over that image. Important to use for those that surf with images turned off, or those who do not use browsers that support images. Used in SEO as a place to put keywords. Used properly this is an acceptable way to get a keyword onto a page. Used improperly as in using keywords that are not relevant, or stuffing the tag, is not acceptable and will be in violate of all major engines Terms of Service.
<img src="blue-widget.jpg" width="156" height="175" ALT="Photo of blue widget">

Apache Web Server – Web server software. Used primarily with Linux.

Associate Programs -- See Affiliate Programs.

Backlinks – Links from others websites inbound, or incoming, to your website.

Bad Neighborhood – A web page penalized by a search engine or engines for unacceptable SEO tactics.

Bing – A search engine run by Microsoft. One of the top three.

broken Link – A link that does not go to the intended destination when clicked on. These links usually generate a 404 Error page, although there is a way to redirect these bad links to your site map or home page using the .redirect file.a

Click-Through – What happens when you click on a link and arrive at the destination.

Click-Through-Rate (CTR) – A calculated percentage of the number of times a link is clicked on divided by the number of times that link is displayed.
Fred has a banner ad displayed 100 times (also referred to as 100 impressions). Fred gets that banner clicked on all of five times. The CTR is 5% (5/100=.05). Not bad Joe!

Cloaking – Bad news. Plain bad news. Don't do it. Usually the use of software to serve up a different version of a web page to a search engine spider than it does to the general user who surfs on in. The reason is to provide the search engine with a page loaded with keywords. Used as a cop-out by some webmasters instead of creating useful content. They figure it's easier to simply serve the spider a page full of keywords, than it is to incorporate them into a readable (by a human being) web page.
Sometimes also referred to as the use of the same color background as the type, or the use of an image as a background that is the same color as the type used.

Comment Tags – A method of incorporating notes into the HTML source code. Used by webmasters to mark or name certain areas of code. Makes it much easier to find your way around, and remember what you were doing when you need to go and update that page you created last year. Ignored by most search engines.
<!--This is a comment-->

Content – The text that makes up the readable portion of a web page which is what gets indexed by a search engine. Sometimes a general reference to all the text, images and scripts that comprise any web page.

Counter – A script that counts the number of visitors to a web page. Some count all visitors, others unique visitors. Counters can be used for a single page or a whole site. Also see Hits to understand the difference between a visit to your site and a hit.

Crawler – Software used by a search engine to "crawl" the web by following links from one page to another page. Also referred to as a spider or robot. Look in your logs for Googlebot the Google robot, or Daddy Long Legs which is the spider.

Crawling The Web – The act of the search engine spider or robot moving from one site or page to another indexing the content and adding the links to it's "to do" database.

Cross Linking – Loosely used as linking one site to another site, but really refers to pages owned by the same person or company linking back and forth to each other, with the idea of boosting their page rank or importance in the eyes of the search engines. If the engine realizes what is going on you'll probably get banned, blacklisted or penalized.

Dead End – A web page or site with no external links. No where to go from here. As said in New England ... "ya cahnt git theyah frum heeah."

Dead Link – See broken Link.

Deep Linking – Linking to a page that is one or more directories below the home directory. Deep linking to a specific page may boost your Page Rank.

Description – A short sentence or paragraph that describes a web page's content, usually used as part of a link to describe the page being linked to. See also link anchor textlink anchor text, and
Directory – A categorized list of websites that is maintained by human editors. The sites listed in these directories are generally by submission only, although some smaller directories to crawl the web. Results are generally presented to the user from categories they navigate to, rather than typing in a search term. Yahoo! and the Open Directory Project ( are the most widely recognized directories on the web. There are thousands more if you care to have a look around. Many of these are "topic specific" and may just be an excellent place to list your website!

Domain Name Servers (DNS) – Computers that maintain a list of domain names. These computers translate a domain name as we know it, into an IP address that computers use to navigate the web. A DNS server will direct your browser to the correct web server to display the website you are requesting.

DNS Propagation – The time it takes for a DNS change to get updated on all the DNS computers all across the Internet. Generally 24 to 48 hours.

Domain – The name, or what your website is called. Like or This is the readable address to find your website. All domains have a set of numbers to go with them known as IP numbers. When someone types a URL into a browser, a dedicated computer (known as a Domain Name Server [DNS]) finds the IP number associated with that domain name and then sends the user to the location of that domain. (Sheesh! ... that is simplified!)

Doorway Page – A page that is usually optimized for a particular search engine and search term. Multiple doorway pages are often used to help ensure that the same basic content is ranked well on several different search engines. The use of doorway pages for this purpose is frowned upon by most larger search engines, including Google. Doorway pages have become software generated pages that make absolutely no sense to a human trying to read them. Software generates a page of keywords, one after another, with some other words thrown in. The sole purpose of these software generated pages are to spoof, or fool, search engines into thinking that the page is important or valuable.

Duplicate Content – Two or more web sites that contain the same, or very, very similar content. Some engines can identify this. Webmasters need to be careful about this, especially when using content feeds from other sources, that are published on numerous websites.

Dynamic Content (dynamic pages) – A web page that is generated by software when a user requests information. An example would be a catalog website, the user asks for half inch bolts and the software looks into it's database and returns all results about half inch bolts. The same way Google or any other search engine returns results from your search queries.
The URLs of dynamic pages have extensions like: .asp, .cfm, or .cgi. Search engines can't index this content, or at least have trouble doing so. Without trying to get too far into this dilema, a software company called has a program called Links that takes dynamic content from a database and builds static web pages from it. It's the best of both worlds. You can have your easily updated database of information, and simply rebuild the database to incorporate new entries, and you have static, indexable web pages.

Dynamic IP Address – An IP address that changes each and every time a computer logs onto the internet. See also Static IP Address.

Filters – A filter is part of a search engine spider's software that looks for specific things in web pages that could can be identified as SPAM, cloaking, links to bad neighborhoods, hidden text or other unethical methods used within that web page. When found, the site will be penalized, banned or blacklisted depending on the severity of the problem. Here is a good reason select your optimization company very carefully! – The King of the search engines (2004). The figure changes frequently but somewhere between 76% and 80% of all searches done on the Intenet are done through Google. Google is fast, easy to use, and provides good search results. These things all put together have made it the leading search engine going. Of course is doesn't hurt to have a colorful logo and a name that people just love to repeat.

Googlebot – The crawler that Google uses on a daily basis to find and index new web pages.

Googlebot Smile – The shape your face takes when you look into your logs over morning coffee and see that the Googlebot has crawled over your site.

Google Toolbar – A must have, free toolbar for Internet Explorer. Google provides it for free to anyone by a simple download. It shows information about the website you are viewing. It displays the Google Page Rank (look for it in the options), as well as backward links and other information. It also has a keyword box to make searching the Google index a breeze from anywhere. It also contains the best Pop-Up blocker this webmaster has ever seen. Get yours right now at the following link. Google Toolbar.

Header or Heading Tag – HTML code that creates type of specific sizes. Heading tags are from H1 (large) to H6 (small). The H1 and H2 tags are looked at by Google as important and any keywords used within them should help your ranking.
As an SEO person I have to caution webmasters who try to spoof with this tag. For instance, I have seen people put comment tags inside of an H1. These tags can also be changed through CSS to be any point size at all, instead of the enormous size of the default H1. Doing these things is really trying to pull a fast one on Mother Google. It's best to not try and fool Mother Google.
<h1>This is H1 copy.</h1>
<h2>This is H2 copy.</h2>
Here is a good place to learn about headings, or any other HTML code or tag. It's an HTML Guide or Tutorial. HTML and Headings Tag Tutorial.

Hidden Text and Hidden Links – Creating text or links in the same color as the background so they are invisible. Sometimes also used within graphics where they do not show, placed with a one pixel image, or against a background where they do not show up. Not a good idea and if caught your site will be penalized. This is an unethical SEO practice used by many webmasters and some SEO firms. It never ceases to amaze me when I see the amount of effort put into trying to fool the engines. That same effort directed at proper SEO techniques would result in a decent ranking.

Hits – Confusion about this has resulted in a hit referring to a visitor to your site. Actually, a hit is each item, photo, graphic, logo etc., called for off the server. That means that every time someone accesses a webpage it generates numerous hits as it calls out the page itself, the graphics, the photos, etc., etc.
As stated, everyone calls a hit a visitor. Each visitor is actually a unique, meaning it's a new visitor. Yes, it's confusing, and yes, it's a mess. Just understand a hit really means a call off of the server for each and every item within a web page. A visitor is someone who arrives at your site, and a unique visitor is someone who is there for the first time.
The hit counter on your site is counting each and every visitor to your site whether they are visiting for the first time, or have been sitting there clicking reload/refresh all day.

Home Directory – The base or main directory where your index.html page is located.

Hover – The act of placing the mouse cursor over a link or image without clicking.

Image Map – Not good SEO, but it is the act of chopping an image into pieces and creating a different link out of each piece. There are different methods of doing this using pixel maps to locate areas. An example might be a map of the United States where each state has a link of it's own.

Inbound Links – Links coming into your site from some other site. Also known as backlinks. Strive to get inbound links from sites with a high Google Page Rank.

Index – The database of information stored on a web server by a search engine. The Google index is huge and holds millions upon millions of web page statistics.

Indexing – The act of putting your website into the index and ranking it by the particular search engines algorithm.

Index Page – The home page of a website. The file, or web page, that is displayed when a domain is requested in a browser. Here is a link to the Google Home Page.

IP Address – Internet Protocol Address is a numerical designation used to identify your computer when it is connected to the Internet. Some users, often those with Cable Modem access, will have the same IP Address every time the log on, referred to as a static IP. Others, like dial-up modem access will be assigned a different IP Address each time the log on. Example:

IP Address – Internet Protocol Address is a numerical designation used to identify your computer when it is connected to the Internet. Some users, often those with Cable Modem access, will have the same IP Address every time the log on, referred to as a static IP. Others, like dial-up modem access will be assigned a different IP Address each time the log on.

IP Spoofing – The act of changing the IP Address from what it is to something else. Used to hide. This is just bad news and done by unscrupulous people doing something that is no doubt illegal. A method so they cannot be found or caught. Used by SPAMmers and hackers so you can't trace the email or virus back to them.

Keyword (Key Phrase) – A word or phrase used to find a website. The keywords get typed into the search box at a search engine.

Keywords Meta Tag – An HTML tag used to contain all the keywords that are relevant to that particular web page. These tags are not really used anymore, but you should definitely include them in your HTML code. Be sure to change them to be relevant for each and every page of your site. Example:
<meta name="keywords" content="seo, search engine optimization, search engine placement, marketing, web design">

Keywords Meta Tag – An HTML tag used to contain all the keywords that are relevant to that particular web page. These tags are not really used anymore, but you should definitely include them in your HTML code. Be sure to change them to be relevant for each and every page of your site.
<meta name="keywords" content="seo, search engine optimization, search engine placement, marketing, web design">

Link Anchor Text – The "clickable" part of a link. It's good to use keywords in the link anchor text.
<a href="">Link Anchor Text Goes Here</a>

Link Exchange – The act of linking one web site to another website, and the other site linking back to your site. Known as reciprocal linking.

Link Farm – A web page that is nothing but links to other sites. Link farms are created with the intention of it increasing the popularity of the links it contains. It's an unethical SEO practice that never worked. Most link farms are full of unrelated links to sites of little or no importance. Google will penalize you for linking to one of these sites. They are considered to be bad neighborhoods.

Linking – The act of connecting one site to another part of the same, or a different, site by use of HTML code and a click of a mouse.

Link Popularity – A term used to indicate how popular a web page is. It uses the number of inbound links as a measure of importance. On Google link popularity is one of the main ingredients to a well ranked site.

Links – HTML code that connects one page or website to another page or website, or one spot on the Internet to another spot on the Internet by means of a mouse click.

Linux – A Unix based lanaguage that is freely available and distributed. Linux is used to run the majority of web servers on the Internet.

Log Files – Files, often with a .log extension that keep track of certain information. Server logs keep track of all activity on a website. Some of the things kept in a logfile are referring URLs, pages visited, errors, IP addresses, unique visitors, total hits, page views, as well as many other things. These file contain worthwhile information.
Many programs utilize logfiles, from database indexers, spiders, tracking and statistics, and the list goes on and on.

META Description – A meta tag that contains a description of the web page it is used in. Few search engines still use META tags at all because they are so frequently abused. Some still do. It is foolish to overlook, or not use, these standard tags. Always use keyword rich content here.
<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="This sentence describes the content on this page. Use your keywords to describe the content of the page.">

Meta Search Engine – When you type in a search term a meta search engine will query several search engines and return the results to you. You wind up with results from more than one engine.

Mirror Sites – Websites that are exactly the same, but on different web servers, and of course with different domain names. The valid reason for this is to allow access to the information. Sites that are so busy they can't keep up with the demand of traffic will duplicate themselves on other webservers to be able to deliver themselves to the users. Mirror sites are generally located on different continents, or at least very far from others. A common scenario would be to have one server in Boston, another in Chicago and another in Los Angeles.
A site that has no "heavy load" reason to exist, is deemed as a SPAM site, where a webmaster is trying to get more than one listing on a search engine for the same page and consequently get more traffic. In general, the search engines frown upon mirror sites.

Outbound Links – Links leading away from your website to another website. Say goodbye.

PageRank (PR) – What Google has assigned to every website in it's database. It's numerical from 0 to 10 and works like the Richter scale for Earthquakes. Each step is is harder and harder to attain. It is twice as hard to get from a PR of 5 to 6 then it is from 4 to 5. Google places a great deal of importance on a website in relation to it's PR.

Page Views – Each time a page is displayed on someone's screen.

Paid Inclusion – The act of paying to be included in a directory or search engine database. This is like the permanent paid submissions. Don't confuse this with Pay Per Click (PPC). They are different. Some paid inclusions directories charge by the year, others a one time fee.

Penalty – You can be penalized from using unethical SEO practices like hidden text, cloaking, linking to bad neighborhoods and a wealth of other no-no's. Penalties can be a lowered Google Page Rank or the site being buried into the end of search results on page #999, blacklisting or who knows what else they may think of!

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Search Engines – You place some money into your account. You bid on keywords. When someone clicks on your link the amount you bid is deducted from your account. Eventually you run out of money and need to deposit some more. You can bid to be in the number one position with PPC.

Rankings – The way your site gets ranked determines where it shows up in the results. Your ranking is anything from position #1 to infinitum. Search engines determine your position in the ranks through their algorithm.

Reciprocal Links – Outbound links from your website to another website in exchange for an inbound links from that website. This is the best way to build link popularity which Google uses to determine the importance of your website.

Redirect – Some code placed in a website, or in a .redirect file, that sends the user to another page or domain. A legitimate thing sometimes, but often used to send a user to some bogus page that the unscrupulous webmaster wants people to arrive at.

Referrer or Referring URL – The URL of the web page that a user arrived from when they clicked a link to your site.

Relevancy – Referring to the keywords searched for and what they return. The idea of relevancy is that when you search for widgets, you find a website about widgets. When a website is found that is not about widgets it is deemed irrelevant. Unscrupulous webmasters stuff a page with keywords that have nothing to do with the topic of their website. This is done in the hopes that it will bring traffic to their site. The stuffed keywords are usually something that is heavily searched on. These webmasters hope that even though you weren't looking for what they are selling it will be of interest to you and you will purchase it anyway.
Search engines are catching on to this trick and it is seen less and less all the time.

Robot – Software that follows links from one site to another site, and from URLs in it's own database. Robots are crawling the web at all times and indexing it.

Robots.txt – A file in the root directory on a webserver that holds information about what the webmaster wants the robots to do. Instructions can exclude certain files or directories.

Search Engine Friendly – A web page, or entire website, that a search engine spider or robot can easily navigate through and find and index all content and links.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) -- The task of making a website or webpage in such a way that search engines can access all of the content on the page or site and rate it well so that it appears high in the ranks of search results. This is achieved by placing keywords in certain places throughout a web page in accordance with search engine algorithms.

Search Query – What you search for. For example searching for widgets is a search query for widgets.

Search Term – Same as a search query really. Or, a search for multiple words like blue widgets or blue widgets with red trim.

SEO -- See Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) – The results you get when you search for something.

Server – The computer that a website is hosted on. Sometimes servers have double CPUs. Some are windows based, some are Unix, Linux, MAC or what have you. I believe the most prevalent is Linux running Apache Web Server software. A server is set up a little different than a regular PC is, as it's only job is to serve up web pages.

SPAM – Any unsolicited email, whether commercial in nature or not. The definition of SPAM, and the guilt associated with it, has been stretched to the limit. If I was to send you a joke I would be SPAMming you, simply because you did not ask me to send it to you, nor have you told me that it is OK for me to email you. When commercial in nature I agree SPAM is bad, but it has been pushed a little too far. As webmasters we all know the value of email. The potential value of email to us, as a business medium, has been destroyed due to the abundance of SPAM. Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE) is a little more defined and is the up and coming term to be used for SPAM. Also, about search engines, it means any technique used to trick the search engines, or fool them into delivering your website to a user when it isn't really the best choice of results.

Spider – Software that crawls around the Internet indexing web pages. uses DaddyLongLegs which is an example of a spider.

Static IP Address – A permanently assigned IP number. Cable modem users generally have a Static IP Address. Meaning it is the same all the time, no matter how many times they may disconnect and reconnect to the internet. If you have a dial-up internet access account with your ISP, each time you connect to the Internet you get a different IP address.

Submitting to search engines – The act of filling a form with your URL, and sometimes name and email address (or more) to give a search engine your URL to spider.

Terms of Service (TOS) – Any rules or guidelines that you must abide by to partake in use of said website. Google for instance has rules for sites that are listed. If you use unethical tactics to get a higher listing, which would be against the Google TOS, your site will be penalized or banned when Google finds the violation.

Title Tag – The bit of HTML that holds the Title of any particular web page. Good place to use your most important keywords. The Title tag is extremely important to your placement with some engines.

Top-10 Ranking – Any web page that is listed within the first 10 search engine results for any given search.

TOS – See Terms of Service.

Traffic – Referring to all the visitors to a website, whether unique or repeat. Often used as an average, or a generalization, like "traffic is up after my Adwords campaign".

Unique Visitors – Any visitor to your website. Differentiate the number of times that person visited a page at your site between his actual first visit (generally looked at within any 24 hour period). So if I visit your website and go to four different pages, or come back later four different times, I will have generated four web page views, but I am only counted as one unique visitor.

Unix – A computer language used for web servers and mainframe computers.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) – That code containing your domain name that starts with http://.

User – Someone who visits or uses your website.

Visitor – Someone who visits or uses your website.

WWW – World Wide Web. The Internet really, known also as the WWW.

Yahoo! – A search engine, and also a directory. One of the top three.