A Glossary of SEM Terms


A Glossary of SEM Terms

To help our clients understand what the heck we’re talking about when we discuss keyword reporting and search engine marketing strategy we have created a glossary of standard terms used in SEM applications and research.

Basic Search Engine Concepts

Boolean search: A search allowing the inclusion or exclusion of documents containing certain words through the use of operators such as AND, NOT and OR.

Concept search: A search for documents related conceptually to a word, rather than specifically containing the word itself.

Full-text index: An index containing every word of every document cataloged, including stop words (defined below).

Fuzzy search: A search that will find matches even when words are only partially spelled or misspelled.

Index: The searchable catalog of documents created by search engine software. Also called “catalog.” Index is often used as a synonym for search engine. Index is commonly pluralized as “indices.” However, Search Engine Watch instead uses the alternative plural form “indexes.”

Keyword search: A search for documents containing one or more words that are specified by a user.

Phrase search: A search for documents containing a exact sentence or phrase specified by a user.

Precision: The degree in which a search engine lists documents matching a query. The more matching documents that are listed, the higher the precision. For example, if a search engine lists 80 documents found to match a query but only 20 of them contain the search words, then the precision would be 25%.

Proximity search: A search where users to specify that documents returned should have the words near each other.

Query-By-Example: A search where a user instructs an engine to find more documents that are similar to a particular document. Also called “find similar.”

Recall: Related to precision, this is the degree in which a search engine returns all the matching documents in a collection. There may be 100 matching documents, but a search engine may only find 80 of them. It would then list these 80 and have a recall of 80%.

Relevancy: How well a document provides the information a user is looking for, as measured by the user.

Search Engine: The software that searches an index and returns matches. Search engine is often used synonymously with spider and index, although these are separate components that work with the engine.

Spider: The software that scans documents and adds them to an index by following links. Spider is often used as a synonym for search engine.

Stemming: The ability for a search to include the “stem” of words. For example, stemming allows a user to enter “swimming” and get back results also for the stem word “swim.”

Stop words: Conjunctions, prepositions and articles and other words such as AND, TO and A that appear often in documents yet alone may contain little meaning.

Thesaurus: A list of synonyms a search engine can use to find matches for particular words if the words themselves don’t appear in documents.

SEM Marketing Terms

Dynamic Content – Content on a page from a database which is called based on the query parameters. This content is generally not able to be indexed by the search engines.

Frames – Multiple HTML sources (pages) that are displayed in the same page-view by a browser. The visitor will see a single page displayed that can contain top, bottom, left, right, and middle sections (the frames). Search engine spiders generally do not like frames.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) – The means through which web pages are uploaded to a server.

Image Maps – A single image broken up into parts, or slices. These are often used for navigation. Different areas of a single image can be linked to different pages. Image maps are fine to use, as long as accompanying text links and ample body copy is included as well on all pages.

Incoming link – A link on another web site that is to your web site.

Indexing – The act of a search engine spider listing your site in its database so it will show up in search results

Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) – A basic programming language used to create web pages. Optimizing the HTML code on a page is essential for obtaining top search engine rankings.

Hyperlinks – Text or images that, when clicked on, take the visitor to another web site or page within your site. These are most commonly known as simply links. The more web sites that link to your web site, the higher your search engine rankings.

JavaScript – A coding language used within browsers for various effects. Can cause a lower search engine ranking in some cases.

Keyword – A term for which you want your site to show up in the results when searched. Generally you will want to compile a list of relevant and potential keywords and then optimize a page on your site for each.

Keyword Effectiveness Index – A term coined by the Wordtracker service that is a function of the competitiveness of a keyword and the number of searches for that keyword.

Keyword Frequency – The number of times your targeted keyword is in a specific area of your page including the meta tags, heading tags, body tag, and alt-tag. Generally you will want your keyword to be listed a number of times in each. As an approximate rule of thumb, use your keyword no more than three times per meta tag, four times in heading tags, twenty times in the body tag, and ten times in the alt-tag.

Keyword Prominence (Density) – How close to the start of an area that your keyword appears. The closer to the beginning your targeted keyword appears, the higher the prominence, the higher the prominence the better. Prominence applies to the words within the title, body of the document, the meta tags, the heading tags, and the alt-tags.

Keyword Spamming – Using a keyword repeatedly out of context in an attempt to gain additional frequency and in turn obtain a better search engine ranking.

Meta Tags – the description and keyword tags with the tag at the top of every web page. These are not as important as they once were, but it is still recommended to have them and insert your targeted keyword for that page within.

Link Popularity – The number of other web pages that link to your web site. Search engines view links as votes of confidence so the more links you can obtain, the better. You should avoid low quality links from places such as Free For All (FFA) pages and link farms.

Link Reputation – The quality of the incoming links to your site. The more closely related and greater trafficked sites you can obtain sites from, the better your link reputation and the higher your rankings.

Off-site optimization – Optimizing factors such as domain name, link popularity, and link reputation that cannot be changed through modifications in the HTML code.

On-site optimization – Optimizing by modifying page source code factors such as keyword frequency, keyword prominence, title, meta tags, body copy, alt-tags, navigation, etc.

Pay Per Click (PPC) – see Cost Per Click

Ranking – The number that your web site is listed for a specific search term in a specific search engine.

Ranking Algorithm – the proprietary mathematical formulas, variables, and set of weights that a search engines uses to determine a site’s ranking for a keyword search. Search engines guard these carefully.

Registrar – Company through which you can register domain names

Search Engine – a utility that enables a user to quickly search the Internet to find web sites on searched for topics.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – The act of optimizing a webpage and/or web site to perform well in the search engines. There is a growing niche of consultants and firms who specialize in this.

Site Map – A page on a web site that lists and links to every other page on that web site.

Source Code – The code of a web page that must be optimized for the search engines. You can view top ranked sites source code to gain information on what they have done to obtain their top ranking.

Spider – A software robot that continuously crawls pages on the Internet and collects data that will be analyzed using a ranking algorithm.

Static Content – Content on a web site that is hard coded onto the page and does not come from a database. Search engines have no problems indexing this content, unlike dynamic content.

Submission Service – A service which charges a fee to submit your site to the search engines for you. Using these will usually be unnecessary as it is free to submit to the search engines and you only need to submit to five separate engines to be listing in every one of the top ten.