Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Jargon

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Jargon

The world of SEO is no stranger to a bewildering term or two, with almost as many confusing acronyms and mystifying expressions as can be found in the average end of year tax form.

But thankfully, I’ve put together a glossary of the main words you can expect to come up against when delving into the (not so) mysterious world of search engine marketing.

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation

A very familiar expression, but what does it actually mean? Well, the simplest definition is that SEO is a series of strategies and actions that are designed to drive visitors to a website through having them click relevant results in a search engine.

So if your site is about holidays in France, you would want people who search Google for relevant phrases – eg holidays in France, France holidays – to see your site listed in the search results, in order that they can then click through and visit your site.

Search Engine

A website that you visit in order to find other websites that will be relevant to your particular query. Google is obviously the prime example of a search engine – especially in the UK where it enjoys an 85% + market share in terms of the number of searches performed – with other less popular engines being Bing and Yahoo. (There are also country specific search engines, such as the Chinese Baidu).


The position a webpage listing appears in the results pages for a search engine query. The higher up the page, the more likely the listing is to be clicked.

The debate rages furiously within the SEO world as to whether there can actually be such a thing as an actual “ranking”, with Google having introduced many different elements to their results (including personalised search and localisation) that will affect what one person sees in their search results compared to another – based on geographical info, previous searches they’ve carried out etc.


In essence a piece of software that simply jumps from website to website, following each of the links on any and all webpages that it comes across, cataloguing the information on each page as it goes along. Spiders are also commonly known as crawlers or bots.


The literal definition of the word “metadata” is “data about data”. Not too helpful so far, eh? A good analogy for it is the Contents page of a book. What you might see on the Contents page is a Chapter heading and brief description of what is contained within that chapter. This information (the Heading and Description) is the metadata about the chapter in question.

When referring to a website’s metadata, we’re referring to elements that can be inserted into the HTML code of the page. These elements are there to inform the search engines what the page is about – ie they are data about the data on the page, in the same way that a book’s Table of Contents is data about the data in a chapter.

The 2 main elements of metadata for SEO purposes are what are known as the Title tag and the Description tag. As a general rule, the Title tag will be the clickable heading that appears in the search results, with the Description tag forming the sentence or two underneath that heading. For this reason, these 2 elements are considered to be among the most important for SEO purposes. (It is only the Title tag that will actually help boost a page’s ranking, but obviously the descriptive text can help persuade a searcher to click through to the site).


Hyper Text Markup Language – the code that websites are written in that enables them to be displayed correctly in your internet browser. (Other examples of website code are ASP and PHP, which are essentially different types of code that enable different levels of functionality within the webpage itself).


The program that allows you to view websites. The main examples are Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Google’s Chrome, Firefox, Apple’s Safari.

Domain Name

A website’s main address – eg Email addresses can be linked to a domain name, eg

Other example domains are:


Uniform Resource Locator – a specific webpage on a particular website. For example – is a URL within the domain.

Other example URLs would be:


Primarily the words that people use when they are searching for something using a search engine. So if you were to search on Google for the phrase:

world cup winning teams

– these 4 individual words would be the keywords you are using to perform your search.

For SEO purposes, we would include the whole phrase as being a single keyword. The reason for this is that it can be seen that the individual words themselves would be pretty meaningless in the context of this specific search without the other words around them, as it is unlikely that someone searching on any of the single words eg:


would be looking for the same information that was being sought with the original search for the phrase “world cup winning teams”.

So when we talk about keywords from the point of view of SEO, we are generally talking about phrases rather than individual words.


Essentially the words that make up a web page. There are, of course, multiple different types of content – including videos, podcasts, infographics, images, calculators etc – and each of these can be useful from an optimisation perspective, but primarily for search engine purposes, content means text content in the form of words.


Inbound links to a website from other sites. These became essential for SEO once Google became the dominant search engine. Larry Page and Sergey Brin – the developers and founders of Google – decided that they would base their fledgling search engine on one of the principals they were familiar with in their academic life. That is, they wanted to ensure that a webpage was deemed to be relevant to a particular search as a result of the quantity and quality of the “citations” it received from others.

So they built this into the Google algorithm by having their search engine spiders work out how many inbound links a particular webpage received from other websites – thus helping to determine whether a particular webpage was likely to be authoritative enough to be worthy of appearing in their results for a particular search query.


An algorithm is a step by step set of instructions, actions or operations that lead to a particular goal, usually related to mathematical calculations or software processes.

Taking its origin from the name of a mathematician from 1200 years ago, the Google algorithm (and that of other search engines) has attained mythical status in the SEO community, with people spending many thousands of hours attempting to interpret it in order to update their own websites to fulfil the algorithm’s criteria for search engine rankings success. (Though I have myself, on many occasions, discussed the idea with people from Google, and it is pretty clear to me that nobody even within Google itself knows the exact full extent or parameters of the fabled algorithm!).

The fabled algorithm updates are usually given names – either by Google or by the SEO community – such as Panda and Penguin.

Google Penalties

Google will penalise a site either algorithmically – ie its own system spots something it doesn’t like and marks the site down as a result – or manually – where a Google employee actually visits the site and determines it shouldn’t feature highly in the search results.

Google penalties became big news a few years ago after the Panda and Penguin updates, when multiple sites appeared to lose rankings as a result of not conforming to the rules.

Whitehat / Blackhat / Greyhat

Originating from the protagonists in old black and white cowboy movies – where the “good guy” would wear a white hat and the “bad guy” would wear a black hat – these terms refer to whether a particular activity is within the guidelines for the major search engines or not. Whitehat means the activity is above board and within the guidelines, blackhat means the activity would be viewed dubiously as it will be outside the guidelines, with greyhat being a bending of the rules, rather than necessarily breaking them. Essentially, whitehat activity is designed to avoid any Google penalties.

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