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SEO Glossary

Algorithm
This is the mathematical formula that search engines use to determine how relevant your page is to a users search query. The ‘algo’ is the secret-sauce that makes one search engine’s results better than another‚ and is a heavily guarded secret. The reason? Well, if people knew how to manipulate the algorithm, they would just build their pages so they rose to the top of the results page, even if it wasn’t relevant to a users query. Search engines make their money by providing relevant results, so they keep their formula to themselves. Algorithms are constantly changing to provide better results and to weed out search spam.

Anchor Text
The words used in a hyperlink. For example: Google is my favorite search engine. The key phrase “search engine” is the anchor text. It is important to use keywords or phrases in your anchor text. It helps search engines determine relevancy. (And more relevant pages get better rankings.)

Backlinks
Also called “Inlinks”. These are links back to your website from an outside source. As the theory goes…the more backlinks that you have from other important and trusted websites, the more important the search engines will think your site is (and they will rank it accordingly). On the other hand, if many bad, untrusted, or spammy websites link to you, the search engines will either give you no credit for those links, or they will issue you a spam penalty and lower your rankings. Hint: Don’t buy links from link farms…let people link to you naturally.

Keywords (and Key Phrases)
These are the words and phrases that people type into search engines to find information. You want to ‘think like a searcher’ when determining which phrases to use on which pages of your site (Hint: Each page should target specific keywords). Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of both Search Engine Optimization and PPC Advertising. You want to use the actual phrases that people use in your copy (using two, three and sometimes four or five-word combinations). It’s really simple, if your copy doesn’t talk about what people are looking for, it isn’t likely that you’ll be found. Don’t underestimate the importance of your keyword strategy, some people make entire careers out of getting it right.

META Tags
These are tags placed at the top of your HTML document (but not visible to users) that provide additional information about your page. The only ones to really worry about are the DESCRIPTION and the KEYWORDS tags. The DESPRIPTION tag should, obviously, describe what the page is about (keep it under 15 words). A search engine will sometimes use this as the description for your listing on the SERP, sometimes not.In the KEYWORDS tag, place a dozen of the top keywords that appear ON THAT PAGE. Don’t stuff this tag with worthless garbage with the expectation that you’ll achieve better rankings. The KEYWORD tag just isn’t that important any more. I have read that some engines will look for common misspellings in this tag, though, so you may want to take advantage of that.

Organic Listings
These are the search results that happen naturally (hence, organic) based on how important a search engine thinks your web page is. These listings do not include any kinds of paid inclusion, sponsored listings or other advertising. Generally speaking, the more relevant, useful, and keyword rich information that you provide to your visitors, the better your chances of ranking higher in the organic search listings.

PageRank (PR)
This is Google’s method of measuring the importance and value of a Web page (based on connectivity). Google considers a link to other website as a ‘vote’ for that site. The more links, the more votes, and the more important Google assumes you are. It’s way more complicated than that, though, and cannot be thoroughly explained in a sentence or two. You can read all of the juicy details in Larry Page’s (the ‘Page’ in PageRank) and Sergey Brin’s paper, “The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web“.

Pay Per Click (PPC)
An advertising model where a business can have ads placed on a search engine result pages based on a user query. The advertiser creates an ad and bids on keywords so that the ad will appear for different searches. They are charged the bid cost when a user clicks on the ad.

Robot (See ‘Spider’)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
An umbrella term for marketing your products or services over the Internet and WWW. Methods include (but are not limited to): search engine optimization, paid inclusion, online press releases, opt-in newsletters, pay per click advertising, website log file analysis, public relations, copywriting, managing affiliate programs, and more. Any activity that makes your website more visible and effective.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The act of modifying your website so that you rank well in the organic listing section of a SERP. These are the free listings; the ordering of results is based on how relevant a SE (Search Engine) thinks your page is based on a user query.

SERP
Search Engine Results Page. This is the page displayed after a user searches a keyword or key phrase. It includes both paid and unpaid (organic) results.

Spider
A spider (or ‘bot’ or robot) is a little software program that crawls the Web, jumping from hyperlink to hyperlink, finding and collecting content. These little guys are constantly trying to keep the search results fresh and up-to-date and they never take a vacation. Some sites get crawled daily, some weekly and some monthly. Some cannot get crawled at all due to bad site design, server problems, dead links, database problems, or other technical issues. A spider visiting your site is a good sign, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll see results right away. The spider just collects the data, a lot more processing has to go on behind the scenes before your page gets updated in the engines. There are different kinds of spiders. Some just look for 404 errors, some just look for images, some for blog feeds, etc.

Stemming
Variations on a keyword using the root of the word (to obtain new words). E.g. optimize, optimization, optimized, and optimizing. While search engines may treat all these words as the same, stemming gives you the opportunity to use more of your keywords more naturally throughout your content.

more to come…

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PubCon as Seen by Mediadonis Marcus Tandler

Awesome PubCon Las Vegas footage that absolutely captures the flavor and spirit of the event. Final Matt Cutts scene is priceless.

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Chatting with Seth Godin

I had the opportunity to chat with Seth Godin yesterday for a little while. The author of Permission Marketing, Unleashing the Idea Virus and Small Is The New Big was in Rochester to speak with members of the Rochester Chapter of the American Marketing Association (RAMA). He’s a down-to-earth and genuinely nice guy…I think the word, “authentic” would best describe him. We talked about word-of-mouth marketing, blogs, and the influence that blogging has on the behavior and emotions of its readers. He’s got this uncanny way of telling you things that you already know…but in a way that gets you totally stoked up and ready to to move the bar higher. It was a great time and I appreciate that my employer, Innovative Solutions, sponsored the event.

Seth Godin: small is the new big