By Mike Tekula
SEO is a trade that exists solely on the internet, and even then
it is comprised almost entirely of the hot air of so-called
“expert opinion.” Plenty of it blowing around these days as
search maintains position as one of the most important
marketplaces in the modern business world. Many DIY webmasters
will end up searching, what else, for blog entries, articles,
informational web sites, etc to help get them up to speed. The
problem is that in most cases certain key terms are flung around
like household names while the people doing the flinging are way
out of touch with the average web browser. What some of us don’t
realize is that not everyone knows even the basics of SEO.
This list of twelve SEO-related definitions in alphabetical
order (with notes) serves as a great companion for your initial
SEO reading. Read alone it will get you up to speed on some key
terminology that you’ll need to know to intelligently engage the
ever-changing world of SEO.
* Algorithms. A search algorithm is, in short, the incredibly
complex mathematical formula that a search engine uses to “rank”
web sites for keywords. Based on a huge number of variables and
calculations, algorithms are among the most closely-guarded
secrets on the internet. Why? Imagine if they were leaked –
suddenly the less-than-honest would have a very specific
guideline to follow in climbing to the top of search results in
a less-than-organic way, ruining the quality of Google’s search
results and their entire competitive advantage with it.
* Bot or Bots. See also “crawlers”
* Crawlers. Googlebot, for example, is a search engine crawler.
Googlebot periodically traverses the web in record time,
indexing content, links – everything contained in page source
code – and storing it in Google’s search index. Then, when a
user visits Google and enters a search phrase the index,
filtered by the algorithm, is what the user gets. Please note:
there is some delay in this process since the results you’re
getting are from the index and not the live web.
* Directories. When webmasters realized just how much power
inbound links have in determining search rankings they quickly
set out to do two things: 1) get inbound links and 2) set up web
sites where other webmasters could achieve inbound links
(meaning big traffic revenues for the site). Hence the directory
farms you’ll find today. Link building has been a priority on
the list of any SEO-savvy webmaster for years, and as a result
“quick fix” directories that allow streamlined listing
submissions get a ton of traffic. However, Google and the other
major search engines are on to this tactic, and the word among
SEO “experts” is that the benefits of listing your site at
directories are diminished if not gone.
* Frames. Frames are a way of laying out a website with multiple
documents in one browser window. Essentially, there is one main
document which contains the frameset tag – this document
specifies the dimensions/placement of the frames and also the
documents that will “populate” those frames. From an SEO
standpoint the use of frames for your layout is not recommended.
Since frames do not use links in the same way, and since links
may point to one frame from another, they may cause serious
problems for crawlers. Additionally, there are almost no uses
for frames that can’t either be 1) duplicated with other methods
or 2) thrown away without much fuss. If your site was built with
frames and you’re thinking you don’t want to rebuild – it might
be tough luck if you’re interested in optimizing for search.
Consider it a learning experience – build yourself a CSS-based
* Gateway Pages. Also “doorway pages.” Although there isn’t a
real consensus about what these pages are, their function is
always cited as their definition. In other words, these pages
are created to “rank well in search engines” by playing to the
algorithms. Often viewed as “spammy,” “gray hat” or even “black
hat.” However, any page written with search in mind, and geared
towards search, can be construed to be a “gateway page.” The
difference between a page well-optimized for search and a
“gateway page?” No clear lines there, but quality of content is
probably the determining factor.
* HTML. Okay, most of you probably know this one, but there are
probably some of you who don’t. HTML stands for Hyper-Text
Mark-up Language, and it is the core building block that has
made that web the greatest modern tool for business, social,
informational, political and any other causes. Search engines
look exclusively at a web page’s HTML code to determine its
relevance. Therefore, it’s a good idea to pay attention to HTML
and familiarize yourself with proper tagging techniques if
you’re hoping to get a good handle on SEO.
* Link Popularity. Inbound links are probably the most important
optimization point for web pages. Number, quality, trust – these
are all factors that affect the value of an inbound link. Going
back to the HTML root of search, link popularity (in terms of
quantity) measures how many pages point to your site using
anchor text (<a href=”www.yoursite.com”>link text</a>).
* Link Building. In short, the process of gaining links at other
web sites pointing in to pages on your own.
* Link Baiting. The process of generating high-quality content
on your pages that users will appreciate and link to voluntarily.
* Meta Tags. Meta tags are found at the top of a page’s source
code. They are used to specify certain things that might not be
found in the page content. They also allow webmasters to put up
certain “flags” that search engine crawlers can react to. There
are many Meta tags available for use, and many of them can help
with SEO to a great extent and for a variety of purposes.
However, Meta tags are no longer used in the way they originally
were – as a place to stuff keywords to drive your site up in
rankings. Some webmasters out there are still doing this, but
they are decidedly behind the times and unaware of the
impending, or already cast-down, penalties.
* Robots. See also “crawlers.”
* Search Engines. If you don’t know what a search engine is
congratulations on finally making it out from under that rock.
Search engines are essentially programs that scan an existing
index of the web based on a query of search terms, or keywords,
that a user enters. However, the word more commonly refers to
companies as a whole – Google, for example, controls a search
engine, while Googlebot is the crawler the gathers content for
its index, but most users and webmasters think of a search
engine as the whole package.
* Search Engine Marketing. Most often this refers to
Pay-Per-Click marketing in which an advertiser bids on chosen
keywords and writers several ads to be displayed should their
bid achieve placement. These ads are displayed in the
“sponsored” section of search engine result pages (SERPS).
However, in some circles this term is used to refer to any
action taken to gain rankings both paid and organic.
* Search Engine Optimization. This one is open to
interpretation. It is quite often used to encapsulate a huge
amount of different tactics. On-site optimization, off-site
optimization (link building, etc) and many other techniques all
feasibly fall under the SEO blanket. However, there is an
obvious difference between optimizing a page’s code to be clean
and search friendly and writing link bait that will be popular
and get linked to.
* Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The pages resulting from
a search engine query run by a user. Webmasters review these
pages to determine where their pages are ranking for certain
* Spamming. Basically, any unnatural effort to bring a page
higher in search results. What constitutes spam is open to some
interpretation, but the only interpretation you need to worry
about is that of the major search engines. If Google, for
example, considers a technique “spammy” you’d be wise to cease
* Spiders. See also “crawlers.”
* Submission. For SEO this has traditionally meant submitting a
web site to search engines so they’ll know about and crawl it.
SEO firms offered submission services as a big selling point to
bring in clients. However, for a long time now submitting your
site to search engines hasn’t done jack. They’re all much
smarter now – just focus on gaining quality inbound links and
your site will be indexed in no time.
This is just a sample of the core vocabulary associated with
SEO. Is this all you need to know? Absolutely not. But in my
experience these are the words and phrases that newcomers have
the most trouble with. If these definitions help one person have
a better understanding of SEO then I will be satisfied.
About the author:
Mike Tekula is the founder and Lead Strategist at <a
href=”http://www.tekwebsolutions.com/”>Tek Web Solutions</a> in
New York and specializes in W3C Standards compliance, search
engine optimization and <a
href=”http://www.tekwebsolutions.com/”>generating increased web