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Jargon Explained

Many of my clients have worked previously consultants and SEOs that inundated them with jargon, especially where proposals and sales calls are concerned. I find myself sometimes using too much jargon - easily done when you spend so much time working in any field. This jargon guide explains the industry terms in simple language.

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the text used to link to another site. In this example - Google Web Search - the anchor text is "Google Web Search".


Atom is a file format used for web feeds. It is a type of XML document, and is used in syndication.

Black Hat

Black Hat is the term used to describe techniques used by some search marketers to promote websites. These techniques are those that go against guidelines published by search engines, and in many cases their use can result in a site being penalised or removed from search engine listings. Black Hat is the opposite of White Hat.


A ccTLD is a country-code top level domain. .uk, for example, is a ccTLD, as are .au (Australia), .de (Germany), .fr (France), .ca (Canada) and .nz (New Zealand).

Click-through Rate

See CTR.


Cloaking is a technique used to show content to a search engine and different content to a user. The content shown to the engine is usually designed to help a page rank very well for a certain phrase or word, and the content shown to the user usually designed to maximise the conversions from that page. Search engines dislike this technique and many sites are banned for using it. It is a Black Hat technique.


A conversion is when a website user completes a specific goal. With some sites that can be to complete a sale; with others, to sign up to a newsletter; and with others to make an enquiry.

A cookie is a small text file stored on a website user's computer. It identifies a repeat visitor to a site, often with a unique code, allowing people to shop online and removing the need to log in to sites repeatedly. Cookies are often considered dangerous by less experienced web users. You can find out more about cookies in Are Cookies Dangerous?


CPA stands for "Cost-Per-Action", and is a form of advertising model. The idea is that an advertiser pays a specific amount for each successful conversion, be that a sale or a signup.


CPC stands for "Cost-Per-Click", and is a form of advertising model. The idea is that an advertiser pays a specific amount for each visitor referred to their website, regardless of whether that user converts to a sale or not.


CPM stands for "Cost-Per-Mille", and is a form of advertising model. The idea is that an advertiser pays a specific amount for every thousand times his advert is seen on a site, regardless of how many of the users who see the advert click on it and visit the advertiser's site.


See Spider.


CTR stands for "Click-through Rate". It is an indicator of the percentage of people who see an advert who actually click on it. For example, if one out of every hundred people who view an advert click on it, the advert with have a CTR of 1%.


A directory is different to a search engine in that it organises the sites it lists in categories. Sites are usually added by hand, rather than found using a spider, and often a small fee is charged for this addition.

Data Center

A data center is a large collection of computers that hold information for a search engine. Major search engines have several of these around the world. Their purposes is to process search queries.

Doorway Page

A doorway page is a page designed specifically to rank well in search engines. Often a visitor to a doorway page will not notice they have visited one, as they will be sent straight on to the target page instantly. Use of doorways is a Black Hat technique.


A feed is a file that users can download that contains information about recent updates and additions to a website. Often these feeds are used for syndication purposes. Using feeds and programs designed to use feeds, users can often keep up to date with many hundreds of websites.


FFA stands for "Free-For All". It is usually used in conjunction with links pages that allow anyone and everyone to add a link to the page.

Google Dance

The Google Dance is the name for the process Google used to go through very regularly when it updated an algorithm. As various data centres around the world were progrssively updated, people would be able to make the same search several times in succession and see different results each time. The Google Dance does not happen as often now, but can still be seen when major changes are made to the Google infrastructure or algorithms.


A "hit" can mean one of two things.

  • When searching the web, a hit can be a result found by a search engines that matches the search criteria.
  • In analytics, a hit is when a file is requested by a server. Some people have used hits as a measure of website traffic, however hits to a server include images and repeat visitors, and are a poor indicator of traffic. One thousand hits very rarely equals one thousand visits.


IBL stands for "Inbound Link", and refers to a link pointing to a website from a separate website (unlike an internal link, which refers to a link within one website pointing to somewhere else within the same site).


Impression is the word used to describe a single viewing of something. A page impression would mean a single view of a web page. In advertising, one impression is a single view of the advert.


A keyword is simply a word used to describe a page. It can also be a word used by someone trying to find a site, entered into a search engine.


A keyphrase is very similar to a keyword, except that it is a phrase made up of several words.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of repeating a keyword (or keywords) far too many times throughout a page. It may be that the keyword is repeated so many times in the text that as a result the text reads badly. It may be that it is repeated lots of times in meta tags, or elsewhere in code, or it may be a combination of these things. Common practice in the late 90s, this is now considered a technique that may harm a site more than help it.

Link Building

Link Building is the process used to increase the number of links to a website. This can include submitting a website to directories, creating more content for a website, link rental, and many more techniques. Most search engines now use link data extensively in their algorithms, and so link building has become far more common.

Meta Data / Meta Tag

Meta Data is information held about a page or document. It is usually held invisibly within the page, and may include a description of the page, a list of relevant keywords, or the name of the author. For a full explanation of common meta tags, and how to work out which ones are worth using, please read Meta Tags.

Page Title

A page title is an important part of a page - it is usually the part of the page that appears as a link in search results. It is usually visible in the title bar of your browser while you are viewing a page.

PageRank / PR

PageRank is an algorithm, developer by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google. It allows you to find the "best" pages of a group of pages by looking at how the pages link to each other. The more links a page has, the better it is considered, and the more important its links, in turn, are considered. PageRank is named after Larry Page.

Pay Per Action

Pay Per Action advertising is the same advertising model as CPA, in that an advertiser will pay every time a user completes a specific action.

Pay Per Call

Pay Per Call advertising is a subset of Pay Per Action, and is the same advertising model as CPA, in that an advertiser will pay every time a user calls a specific number.

Pay Per Click

Pay Per Click advertising is the same advertising model as CPC, in that an advertiser will pay every time a user clicks on their advert.


PFI stands for "Pay For Inclusion". Some engines will charge sites to be listed at all in their results (notably Yahoo for many years). Prices vary greatly, and some engines charge annually, where others charge a one-off fee. This is a far more common feature of directories than search engines.


See Pay Per Click.


A robots.txt file is a simple text file that contains instructions for search engine spiders. It can tell specific spiders to slow down, or not to index specific area of a site. For more information, please read robots.txt.


ROI stands for "Return on Investment". It is a measure of the success of any marketing campaign. A marketing campaign that cost ?10,000 but made ?3,000 would obviously have a low ROI. A marketing campaign that cost ?10,000 but made ?100,000 would have a high ROI.


RSS is a type of XML file, and is the most commonly used file format for website feeds.


SEM is an acronym of "Search Engine Marketing". SEM is a broader topic than SEO, and can include, for example, an online PR campaign or PPC (and other forms of) advertising.


SEO is an acronym of "Search Engine Optimisation", and is the art of altering a website to improve a site's performance in search engines (note: an improvement in performance does not equal an increase in traffic!).


SERPs is an acronym for "Search Engine Result Pages".


SE is an abbreviation of "Search Engine".

Site Map

A site map is a page, or set of pages, on a website, designed to help users and search engines find their way around a site.


Spam has many different meanings on the web. The most common meaning is related to email, where spam describes unwanted email, often commercial in nature, and often sent out indiscriminately to millions of people at once. In a search engine context, spam refers to pages that are listed out of place. This can mean pages that are found for keywords unrelated to their content. It can also mean pages appearing unnaturally high in search engines. These pages are often promoted using Black Hat techniques, especially cloaking and doorway pages.


A spider, also often called a "crawler", is a program created by a search engine to index pages on the web. It visits pages on the web, collects their content, and finds links within that page. It then adds the links found on that page to those it intends to crawl.

Splash Page

A splash page is an introduction page to a website, often created using flash. They are much derided, as they slow down access to a website and often provide no useful information to the user.

Stop Word

A stop word is a word that is ignored by the search engines. It is a word that appears so often on the web as to be useless to a search engine. Examples include "a", "and", "I", "you" and "it".


Syndication is where a website makes information available for others to use. In the majority of cases, the information available is a list of the content most recently added to the site (a feed), to allows visitors to keep up to date easily with new content added to many sites.

Text Link Ad

A text link ad is a type of advert on a website, placed in return for a simple monthly fee. These types of advert can have a positive effect on a website's SEO campaign, and can directly generate traffic to websites.


A TLD is an acronym for "Top Level Domain". .com, .org, .net, .biz, .info, .name and .pro are all examples of TLDs. They are usually global TLDs, unlike ccTLDs, which are country-code domains.


A URL (Uniform Resource Locator), sometimes (more correctly) referred to as a URI (Uniform Resource Identifier), is in basic terms a web address. For example, "" is a URI.


A visit is different from a Hit or an Impression, in that it indicates a single person's visit to a website. A visit may include many page impressions, and many hits.

White Hat

White Hat is the term used to describe techniques used by some search marketers to promote websites. These techniques are those that adhere to the guidelines published by search engines. White Hat is the opposite of Black Hat.


XML is a file format designed to create files that are easy to share and understand.

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Hi! I'm Dave, a fanatical entrepreneur and developer from Brighton, UK. I've been making websites since Netscape 4 was a thing.

I built, ApolloPad and Cheatography.