Essential SEO Terminology Explained

seo-vi4Search Engine Optimization (abbreviated SEO) describes all techniques used to achieve as good a position as possible in the results of search engines.

There is no field of expertise without it’s own terminology. Let us help you understand the magic and meaning behind on-page optimization, cloaking, domain popularity and more.

ALT attribute

Using the ALT attribute, an alternative description can be set in the HTML code for every picture on your website. This description will appear when the picture cannot be shown for whatever the reason.

Search engines cannot yet perfectly detect picture contents. For this reason, they use the alternative description to determine the content of a picture.

Using the ALT attribute, you can influence for which content search engines classify your website as relevant. Ideally, the alternative descriptions should also contain the keywords for which the website was optimized.

Backlinks (“incoming links”) are all those links from other websites which refer to your website.

When sorting search results, search engines orient themselves around a concept from real life: recommendations! Whoever is recommended often is good. Search engines interpret a link to a website (backlink) as a recommendation of it. The more backlinks a website has and the higher their quality in particular, the higher up this website appears in the search results.

Good backlinks are, for example, links from websites with similar topics.

Bad neighborhood

Websites can have a so-called bad neighborhood. This refers to all those websites whose ratings were drastically cut by search engines because, for example, they violated the search engine’s guidelines. Bad neighborhood websites appear either very far down in the search results or not at all.

Example: Websites are considered to be bad neighborhoods if they contain topics like gambling, casinos, pornography, or Viagra.

Be careful when linking to or from bad neighborhood websites. These have a bad effect on your position in search results. Search engines include, for example, the value of linked websites when evaluating your website.


A so-called blocker on a website blocks search engines from accessing the website. This means that the website will not be added to the index of the search engines and will not appear in the search results.

For example: Password protection applied to the entire website blocks search engines from accessing it.

Business directory

A business directory is similar to an online version of the “Yellow Pages”.

Every business directory contains an ordered folder of companies alphabetically sorted according to the business sector. Here, the individual entries are often linked to the website of the corresponding company. The business directory helps users find companies, services or products in their area.

From a search engine optimization point of view, an entry in a business directory is important, as your website can be found more easily through it and an additional backlink will be generated by it.


Cloaking is a method used to trick search engines into thinking that a website contains different content than what is shown to its visitors:

Visitors will be shown a user-friendly, optically appealing website. It can contain, for example, little text and lots of graphical or multimedia elements.
Search engines cannot yet perfectly detect the contents of graphical and multimedia elements. For this reason, a different website (under the same URL) is shown to them. This website contains texts specifically optimized for search engines. Cloaking violates the guidelines of search engines. If a search engine detects cloaking, the website will be penalized. The website will be permanently removed from the engine’s index and will no longer appear in the search results.

Note: If a website is displayed differently for mobile phones and for computers, this is not deemed to be cloaking. Search engines allow a version of the website which is optimized for mobile phones.


A crawler is a program that uses search engines to collect data from the Internet.

When a crawler visits a website it reads all of the content (that is, the texts) of the website and saves it to a database. Additionally, it saves all internal and external links of the website. The saved links are then visited by the crawler at a later date and this is how it moves around from one website to the next. It records and indexes all websites that are linked to at least once from another website.

A broken link is one where the target of the link does not exist. The link leads nowhere. The causes of broken links can be, for example, programming errors, a temporarily unavailable website or when the Internet address of a linked website has changed.

Broken links reduce the quality of the website and make the crawler’s job more difficult. As a result, broken links lead to a poorer position of the website in the search results.

Domain popularity

Domain popularity describes the number of backlinks (“incoming links”), from different domains which refer to a single website. Per domain (“Internet address”, for example, “”) a maximum of one backlink is counted.

Example: In a blog about “Cars”, 10 different blog entries link to the website of a car dealership. However, just one backlink from the blog will be counted.

Duplicate content

Duplicate content refers to when multiple websites have the same or very similar content.

Search engines want to offer their users the optimum search results for the keywords. So naturally, it is not good when exactly the same content shows up in multiple places on the Internet. For this reason, search engines check to see if duplicate content is offered and give poorer ratings to websites with copied content.

Learn how to create unique, relevant content: Content Marketing: The Key to a Successful WordPress Website Is Engaging and Valuable Content 


Frames can be used in HTML code in order to make the content of the website easier to manage.

Search engines often have problems recording the content of frames in their indices. For this reason, frames shouldn’t be used if you want your site to be found more easily by search engines.

Google Places

Google Places are the local listing search results of Google. Google Places appears high up in the search results of Google when users look for local information. Here, a small map shows the locations of those companies which are both relevant to the keywords entered and registered on Google Places. Links to the websites of these companies can be found right beside the map.

Placing an entry on Google Places is free. Alongside the location and Internet address (URL) of your website, you can also enter the company’s opening hours or add company photos or products.

A Google Places entry is very important particularly to those companies who are primarily looking for local customers or whose customers primarily search locally (for example, hotels, theme parks).


The index is the database of a search engine. It contains information on all websites which can be found via the search engine.

If a website is not listed in the index of a search engine, users will not be able to find the website via the engine. Search engines regularly update their indices.


Companies usually know who their competitors on the free market are. But are they the same competitors with whom your website does battle in the war for search engine placement? Not necessarily! In the area of search engine optimization, competitors are all those websites which can be found using the same keyword.

For example: A hairdresser in Missoula provides consulting in the area of cosmetics, among other things. As a result, their website will be found using the term “Missoula cosmetics”. The same keyword will also return a drugstore in Missoula which sells cosmetics. As such, the two companies are competitors for this keyword.

Link popularity describes the number of backlinks (“incoming links”) which refer to a single website. Unlike domain popularity, every backlink is counted here.

Example: In a blog about “Cars”, 10 different blog entries link to the website of a car dealership. The 10 backlinks from the blog will be counted.

In the past, link popularity was an important figure for search engines. Since then, however, many search engines have started to use domain popularity because this figure, in addition to quantity, provides information on the quality of the backlinks as well. Nonetheless, it is important to get as many quality backlinks as possible, as every backlink brings visitors to your website.

The link text is the text of a link which is shown on the website. Users click on it to access the linked website.

Link texts like “Here” or “Continue” are not suitable. These do not inform the user of where the link goes. The probability is low that visitors will click on these link texts.

Furthermore, search engines try to determine from the link text to which website the link leads. For this reason, the backlinks (“incoming links”) which refer to your site should contain descriptive link texts. Ideally, the link texts should include terms such as your product name or company name.

Meta tag

Meta tags are sections of the HTML code which contain information about the website. This information is not visible on the website.

Search engines access some meta tags in order to, for example, display the page description and the page title in the search results.

Meta keyword

Keywords can be saved in the meta tags of the HTML code of every website. These meta keywords do not appear on the website. They inform search engines for which keywords the website is optimized. This increases the probability that the website will be found for these keywords.

Nonetheless, many search engines (for example, Google) do not take meta keywords into account when rating websites.

No follow attribute

Links can be given a no follow attribute in the HTML code. This attribute means that search engines will not follow the link, and for this reason:

  • the link will not be rated as a backlink for the linked website
  • the linked website will not be added to the index if only no follow backlinks refer to the website

As such, no follow backlinks do not help achieve a good position in search results. Nonetheless, no follow backlinks are still important to your own website. They have the effect that search engines assume a natural build-up of links. Additionally, no follow backlinks contribute to visitors of other websites being forwarded to your website.

Example: A number of entries and comments were published in the past on forums and blogs with the sole aim of getting new backlinks for their own websites. For this reason, forums and blogs have since started using the no follow attribute in many cases.

Off-page optimization

Off-page optimization involves all measures “outside” of the website which can be taken to improve search engine placement. These are measures which build up as many high-quality backlinks (“incoming links”) as possible.

On-page optimization

On-page optimization involves all measures directly within your own website which can be taken to improve search engine placement.

These include, for example, measures to optimize the content or the meta tags.


Robots.txt is a text file which can be stored to the server of a website. It determines whether or not, and which, subpages of the website search engine crawlers can visit and add to their indices. This prevents specific subpages from being added to the search results.

For example: The robots.txt file can exclude all archive contents of a website from the search results.

However, some search engine crawlers ignore the robots.txt file. For this reason, subpages which are definitely not to appear in search engines should be password-protected.


Ranking is the position of a website in the search results. The ranking of a website depends on the keyword which was entered into the search engine.

How high up a website appears in the search results, that is, how good the ranking is, depends on a number of different ranking factors, for example, on the relevance of the content or the number and quality of backlinks. Here, each search engine evaluates ranking factors differently. If you enter the same keyword into different search engines, you will often receive different search results.


In a search engine context, the term “relevance” is used for the matching of content of a website with the keyword entered.

The relevance of the website content is of particular importance to search engines. It influences whether or not a website appears at the top positions of the search results for the keyword entered.

Page description

A short description of the website content can be entered for every website (for example, welcome page, subpage). This page description is stored as a meta tag in the HTML code and will not appear on the website.

Search engines show the page description in their search results (directly below the page title). If a website does not have a page description, text from the website will often appear in its place.

The active keywords are highlighted in bold in the search results. For this reason, the page description should also contain the keyword for which the website was optimized.

Page content

Page content refers to all of the content on a website. The page content can be in the form of texts, links, pictures, audio files, animations and videos.

Search engines cannot yet perfectly detect the content of pictures, animations, videos or audio files. In these cases, search engines try to determine the page content via the file name or the ALT attribute.

For this reason, important information should always be made accessible to search engines in text form.

Page title

Every website (for example, welcome page, subpage) has its own title. This page title is set as a meta tag in the HTML code and appears in the title bar of the browser.

Search engines show the page title in their search results.

Furthermore, search engines use the page title to determine what content the website contains. For this reason, the page title should ideally also include the keyword for which the website is optimized.


Sitemap.xml is an XML file which can be stored to the server of a website.

It contains a list of all of the subpages of the website. The file helps search engines become familiar with the structure of the website. This accelerates the crawling process and reduces the risk of the crawler missing subpages.

Furthermore, the file can provide information on specific content, for example:

  • information on the website’s pictures or videos, such as the duration and the content of a video
  • general information on the website, such as the date of the last update


Users enter keywords into search engines to find specific content.

That keyword can consist of one term or of a combination of terms, for example, “dentist” or “dentist Boston implant”.

Keyword density

Keyword density provides information on how often a keyword appears in a text in ratio to the total word count of the text.

For example: If a keyword appears three times in a text with a total of 100 words, the keyword density is 3%.

For search engines, a high keyword density is a decisive indicator of search engine spam. If a keyword is used too often on a website, the search engines will give the website a poorer rating. The website will appear lower down in the search results.

Keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the attempt to manipulate your position in search results by stuffing relevant keywords into your website.

Search engines can detect if keywords are “unnaturally” distributed throughout the content or in a website’s meta tags. If the same keywords are used too close to one another, the search engines will give the website a poorer rating. The website will appear lower down in the search results.

Keyword proximity

A keyword can consist of a combination of terms. Keyword proximity refers to the distance between the individual terms of the keyword.

For example: A website contains the terms of the keyword “Dentist Boston implant” in the heading: “Your Professional Dentist in Boston – Practice for Dentistry Minimal Invasive Implants”. The keyword proximity between “dentist” and “Boston” is one word. The keyword proximity between “Boston” and “implant” is five words.

The shorter the distance between the individual terms of the keyword is, the more relevant the search engine will deem your website to be for this keyword.

Search results

The search results are the links which appear as hits in a search on search engines. The search results are split into the following areas:

  • Natural search results (usually on the left-hand side of the search engine)
    Here, all those websites are shown which appear in the index of the search engine and which are relevant to the search. An internal evaluation algorithm of the search engine decides where a website is positioned in the search results. The position in natural search results cannot be improved by payment.
    Additionally, the natural search results often show Google Places entries, pictures or videos which are relevant to the keywords. These entries usually appear at the top of the search results.
  • Paid search results (usually on the right-hand side of the search engine)
    Websites are shown here for which search engine marketing was employed. For this reason, with paid search results, criteria such as click price bids, click rates and the competing keywords play an important role.

Search engine

A search engine is a website users use to search for content on the Internet. Here, the user enters a keyword into the search box according to what they want to find.

The search engine looks through its index of websites which offer relevant content. The search results show a list of relevant websites. An internal evaluation algorithm of the search engine decides where a website is positioned in the search results.

Well-known search engines are, for example, Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Search engine spam

Search engine spam refers to all measures used to manipulate the positioning of your website in search engines. These measures are, for example, the unnaturally frequent use of keywords in the content and in the meta tags of the website.

If search engines detect search engine spam on a website, the website will be penalized. For example, the website will be removed from the search engine and will no longer appear in the search results.

Search engine advertising

Fee-based ads can be placed on search engines for specific keywords. These ads do not appear in the natural search results. Instead they appear in the paid search results (usually to the right of the search engine) when the corresponding keywords are entered.

The advertising budget limit can be set individually. Additionally, you can state whether or not you want the ad to appear nationally or regionally. Billing is done according to the number of clicks on the ad. The higher the advertising budget, the better the position of the website for the keywords entered.

Search engine marketing is especially suitable when your website is not yet in the top positions of the search results, for example, because it is not yet very well known or the competition for the keywords used is too great.

Search engine submission

Websites can be registered directly to search engines. After registration it can take a number of days or even weeks until the crawler of the search engine goes through the website and checks if it will be added to the index.

Often, search engines only add a website to their indices if other websites link to it and these websites are already in the search engine’s index. However, since the crawler in this case will visit the linked website anyway and add it to its index, it is not necessary to explicitly register the website to search engines.

Search engine marketing

Search engine marketing includes all the measures taken to achieve a good position for your website on search engine search results pages, thus bringing more visitors to your website. This can include, for example, measures from the area of search engine optimization or from the area of search engine marketing.

Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization involves all the measures employed to improve the position of a website for specific keywords in the natural search results of search engines.

Here, lots of experience and continual updating are necessary. Even when you have managed to position your website high up in the search results, the success needs to be regularly monitored. This is because your competitors also use search engine optimization. If your competitors improve their position in the search results, it might be the case that your website disappears from the top positions in the search results.

Search engine guidelines

Most search engines provide guidelines. These guidelines inform website operators how their website can be indexed, found more easily by search engines and positioned as high up as possible in search results.

Additionally, the guidelines describe which methods are not permitted. If you use methods which are not permitted, your website will be penalized, for example, permanently removed from the search engine’s index.

Content relevance

In the search engine area, content relevance, above all in regard to backlinks (“incoming links”), is applied.

Content-relevant websites are those websites with similar content. Backlinks from websites with similar content have a greater effect on a good position in the search results than backlinks from websites with different topics. Search engines presume that content-relevant links are inserted in order to offer their visitors additional helpful information. With backlinks from a website with a different content, the probability is higher that they were purchased or were inserted with the sole aim of improving the position in the search results.

Web directory

Web directories contain a selection of linked Internet addresses which are usually sorted according to specific criteria, for example according to business sector. They help users find specific information.

Before search engines came about, web directories were the only way to find a website online.

From a search engine optimization point of view, an entry in a web directory is important, as your website can be found more easily through it and an additional backlink will be generated by it.

Web page

If you enter an Internet address (URL, for example into a browser, a web page will appear. A web page is a single page on the Internet.

The web page which appears when an entire website is opened is the welcome page (for example the “home” web page). All other web pages are subpages of the website.


A website consists of multiple web pages which are connected to each other.

A website can be, for example, the entire Internet presence of a company.

Website structure

The structure of a website refers to the website’s composition, that is, how the individual subpages of the website are linked to each other.

Search engines prefer well-organized websites. With larger websites, in particular, with a large number of subpages, it is important that the crawlers find all of the subpages quickly and do not overlook any.

For this reason, the welcome page of the website should link to the most important subpages first and foremost. Additionally, files like sitemap.xml and robots.txt simplify the work of the crawler.


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