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SEO Glossary

An ever-growing glossary of SEO Jargon

SEO Glossary » s

Sandbox effect

The Google Sandbox or sandbox effect is a term that describes the inability of some new websites to rank well in Google for a period of weeks to months—often associated with particular niches. One theory describes sandboxed websites as having their benefits from regular ranking signals, such as backlinks diminished.

The existence of a Google Sandbox has been long debated, in part, due to semantics. A specific, isolated index or "sandbox" might exist for new websites, or, a sandbox effect may be due to set of filters, applied until sufficient authority and trust are earned.

Scraper site
See Website scraping Top
Screen reader

A screen reader is a software application that enables the blind and visually impaired to use a computer by translating on-screen information into speech or Braille.

Basic text-to-speech (TTS) screen readers are included with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems; however, those most widely used are separate, commercial products.

Screen readers make the importance of website accessibility immediately clear. In contrast with typical site visitors—who use visual cues to scan content—screen readers rely on well-structured, semantic markup, in order to give the visually impaired quick overview of page format and headings.

Search engine

A search engine is a software system that is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web.

A search engine operates in the following order:

  1. Web crawling: Automated software robots that follow links through the Internet in search of content to index
  2. Indexing: Crawled content is stored on enormous data servers in an efficient manner for lightning fast results to user searches
  3. Searching: Specialized algorithms return results from the index based on numerous relevance signals
Search engine Top
Search engine algorithm
A search engine algorithm is an automated procedure that determines the order of websites returned for queries made to search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo!.

In order to return the most relevant results to the top of natural search engine listings, algorithms match pre-indexed web page data to numerous ranking signals—all in a fraction of a second.

Google claims to use over 200 ranking signals in its search algorithm.

Search engine algorithm Top
Search engine index

A search engine index is a database-based infrastructure where information—crawled by automated bots called spiders—is stored for later retrieval. Queries made to search engines are sent to the index in order to return results as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Search engine index Top
Search engine index update

An index update occurs when new data is pushed to a search engine's data centers, in turn making those results available to searches. Algorithms remain unchanged during index updates, but because they affect search results, they've traditionally been monitored along with algorithm updates.

From 2000 to 2003, Google's index was updated about once a month, with noticeable changes in search results referred to as the Google Dance. The 2003 Fritz Update marked the beginning of a daily index updates, known as the Everflux.

With Google's 2010 infrastructure overhaul dubbed the Caffeine Update, its index switched to continuous, incremental updates, making freshly discovered content available almost immediately

See our complete list of all Google algorithm updates. Top
Search engine marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process of driving internet traffic from search engines. Originally an umbrella term for search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC), SEM is now typically used to describe PPC activities only. In recent years, the term search marketing has come to replace 'search engine marketing' as an encompassing word for SEO and PPC.

See also: pay-per-click Top
Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing a website's visibility in natural search engine results. SEO activities include improvements made to website content and construction to increase accessibility and relevance for desirable keywords.

Learn more about Search engine optimization Top
Search engine penalty

A search engine penalty generally refers to an action taken against a website participating in deceptive or black hat SEO techniques. Penalties can range from lowered rankings to complete blacklisting from the search engine's index.

Google's definition of a "penalty" is when manual action is taken against a site, opposed to that of an algorithm or automated filter.

Learn more about search engine penalties Top
Search Engine Results Page

("Rankings" and "listings" redirects here)

A search engine results page or SERP is a web page returned by a search engine that lists the results to a keyword search. Each result in the SERPs normally includes a title, short description, and link to its web page.

Learn more about search engine results pages Top
Search engine submission

Search engine submission refers to the process of making a request to a search engine that a website be included in its index. Unlike search engine optimization, submission does not affect how well a website will rank, it merely alerts search engines to its existence.

Learn more about search engine submission Top
Search marketing

Search marketing is the process of driving search engine traffic with search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC).

See also: Search engine marketing Top
Secondary navigation

Secondary navigation refers to any navigation aid that supplements a website's main menu. Sections or pages that don't serve the primary goal of a website should be linked to from a secondary. Secondary navigation is commonly seen in sidebars of web pages as vertical menus, which help visitors navigate to subsections of a website.

Other forms of secondary navigation include:

  • Sub-navigation: The most common example of sub navigation, being the dropdown menu
  • Footer menus: To provide quick access to a website's main sections without scrolling all the way back to the top of the page
  • Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs allow visitors to retrace their way back to previous sections of a website
  • Interface buttons: For example, those following each definition in this glossary, for quick access to the top of the page
  • Sitemaps: Sitemaps give visitors an overview of a site's section and structure in one glance
  • Specialized menus: For example, the alphabetical glossary menu at the top of this page
Secure Socket Layer

Secure Sockets Layer or SSL is the predecessor to Transport Layer Security (TLS), a communication security protocol that provides privacy and data integrity between two parties, often a web server and browser. When the SSL protocol reached version 3.0, its following version was replaced with TLS 1.0.

See also: Transport Layer Security Top

A seed site is a website considered to be of very high quality, trust and importance, used to help determine the trust of other sites, based on proximity though backlinks. Fewer links away from a seed site implies a more trustworthy website.

Examples of seed sites might include The Open Directory Project (DMOZ) and Wikipedia, while unlikely candidates would likely be social media platforms, and run-of-the mill small business sites.

See also: TrustRank Top
Semantic HTML

Semantic HTML is the correct use of HTML to reinforce the meaning of content on a web page, rather than merely define its appearance. Semantically correct markup helps search engines, screen readers, and other user devices determine the significance and context of content with appropriate selection of HTML elements.

Learn more about Semantic HTML Top
See Search engine marketing Top
See Search engine optimization Top
SEO Copywriting

SEO copywriting is the act of writing copy that targets specific keywords, as part of search engine optimization.

SEO copywriting has earned the stigma of being manipulative or spammy because of the fact that, when written with short-term goals in mind, it is often is. Content development of any kind should never detract from user-experience. Search engines are increasingly better at differentiating between weak and compelling content, and well written copy will win the attention of your visitors.

SEO Copywriting Best Practices

The most common mistake seen in SEO copy is an overt focus on keywords; liberally thrown in to satisfy search engines. The secret of effective SEO copywriting is

  • Prioritize people: Write for people first, and search engines second
  • Forget keyword density: There is no magic keyword density. If your overall content strategy is well planned, your copy—and keywords—will be naturally targeted.
  • Avoid fluff: Content is not a feature, or worse yet, an afterthought, there to fill in space—it's a website's main purpose
Read our popular blog post: 10 Steps To Writing Better Web Content Top
See Search engine results page Top
See Web server Top
Server-side Includes

Server side includes or (SSI) is a simple server-side scripting language which is used to include the contents from other files into a web page.

Server-side includes are a convenient way of adding blocks of HTML or other web code common to numerous pages of a website, such as headers, footers, and navigation menus, which can greatly simplify changes to static websites.

SSI Example

<!--#include virtual="../side-navigation.txt" -->

The default file extension for web pages using SSI is .shtml; however, this can be overwritten, using htaccess for example:

AddType text/html .shtml
AddHandler server-parsed .shtml
Options Indexes FollowSymLinks Includes

In the example above, files with the .html extension will be parsed as SSI.

The performance of server-side includes is usually slightly superior to PHP includes, as SSI is build into most popular web servers, and uses less RAM; however, the difference in speed is negligible.

SSI is supported by Apache, nginx, lighttpd and IIS web servers.

See also: Content management system Top
Session ID

A session ID or session token is a randomly generated number, or unique identifier, that a website assigns to a specific user for some predetermined duration of time, or session, to keep track of visitor activity. User authentication and shopping cart activity are two common uses for session IDs.

Learn more about session IDs Top
Short head

The short head or short tail is a term that describes the most popular items in any distribution. In many markets, the short head is composed of a much smaller percentage of individual "hits" compared with the long tail.

In relation to online marketing—especially search engine optimization—the short head generally refers to keywords most frequently used in search. While short head keywords drive the most traffic, they're the most competitive, and often lack the intent and conversion potential of transactional queries which reside a bit further along the tail.

Examples of Short Head Vs. Long Tail Keywords

Short head keywords "Middle" tail keywords Long tail keywords
'Search engine optimization' 'Search engine optimization companies' 'Search engine optimization companies Montreal Quebec'
'Fish tanks' 'Fish tank dangers' 'Fish tanks in apartments law'
'Piano' 'Play piano' 'Play piano keyboard for beginners'
'Montreal real estate' 'Montreal duplexes for sale' 'Montreal West condos two bedroom'
See ranking signal Top

Sitelinks are links that appear under some of Google's search results, that help users navigate directly to useful pages within a listed website. Sitelinks appear in groups of three to eight, and are automatically selected by Google's algorithms to be relevant to user searches.

Google Sitelinks Screenshot Sitelinks For Springboard SEO in Google Search Results

Sitelinks are usually considered desirable by site owners, as they can be interpreted as a sign of trust and authority. Additionally, sitelinks take up more space than regular search results, pushing competitors further down the page.

Sitelink Removal

Occasionaly, a sitelink in particular might not be desirable, or add any value for searchers. In these cases, site owners can "demote" individual sitelink URLs from inside Google's Webmaster Tools. Demoted URLs aren't guaranteed to be excluded from being chosen as sitelinks, but generally are. Demoted URLs may take several weeks to be removed from Google sitelinks. In cases where sitelink demotions don't result in URL removal, the "nosnippet" robots meta tag can sometimes be effective.

External Links


For the Sitemap protocol, see XML sitemap.

A sitemap, or sitemap, is a list of a website's pages that allows visitors and search engines to get a overview of the site's contents. Sitemaps are typically organized hierarchically, to represent the structure, or architecture, of a website.

Sitemaps are a form of secondary navigation that can help site abandonment by visitors who are lost; however, they should not replace efficient website structure.

The most popular forms of sitemaps are the user-friendly HTML sitemaps, and search engine optimized XML sitemaps.


A sitewide link is a link that appears on most or all of a website's pages. Sitewide links can be internal—linking to a page within the same site—or external—linking to a different website altogether.

External sitewide links have a history of being associated with link spam, as paid and manipulative links are often implemented on every page of a website. Sitewide links that don't appear manipultive shouldn't be a area of concern to webmasters and site owners.

See social media marketing Top
See social media optimization Top
Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking services allow users to add, organize, and share links to their saved website URLs, or bookmarks, online.

Fundamental advantages of social bookmarking services over browser bookmarking:

  • Organize large numbers of bookmarks
  • Access bookmarks from any computer
  • Share bookmarks with contacts
  • Discover websites based on you tastes

Common Social Bookmarking Features

Most social bookmarking services offer browser toolbars and bookmarlets that allow for quick and easy bookmarking. Other common feature include:

  • Tagging, which allows users to label bookmarks in flexible ways and develop shared vocabularies, or folksonomies
  • Rating and other voting systems
  • Privacy settings that allow control over which bookmarks are public, or viewable by specified people or groups
  • Descriptions and comments for public or private viewing

Popular Social Bookmarking Services

  • Delicious: Founded in 2003, Delicious coined the term social bookmarking, and was the first social bookmarking site to use tagging - Free - delicious.com
  • StumbleUpon: Includes a discovery engine that finds and recommends websites and videos to users based on preferences and history - Free - stumbleupon.com
  • Diigo: Allows text highlighting, "sticky notes", and other annotations to web pages for public or private viewing - Free or Premium - diigo.com
  • Pinboard: Low-frills and fast, similar to early versions of Delicious - One-time signup fee of $10 - pinboard.in
  • Google Bookmarks: No frills social bookmarking from Google - Free - google.com/bookmarks

Social bookmarking sites are often targeted by spammers as an easy source of backlinks; however, most of these links carry little to no value with search engines, and are quickly demoted or deleted. The real marketing value of social bookmarking is the potentially viral response to great content.

See also: Social networking Top
Social chiclet

A social chiclet is a small, clickable icon that allows website visitors to easily share content or follow via social media. Chiclets of various social media platforms are typically grouped together at the bottom of blog posts or other web content, each displaying its own logo.

Group of social chiclets Screenshot of a group of social chiclets
See also: Social media optimization Top
Social Media

Social media is a popular form of digital communication that allows people to create, share, and exchange information with one another in virtual communities and social networks.

Social media is a branch of Web 2.0 technology, which enables interaction and collaboration of user-generated content—in contrast with websites that limit visitors to passive viewing only.

Social Media Channels

Social media sites, or platforms, can be grouped into several categories, or channels, that best describe their main features:

  • Social networking: Social networking sites allow users to build and customize their own profile and communicate with friends. Examples: Facebook, LinkedIn
  • Blogging: Blogging allows users to post thoughts and updates about their life on the Web. Examples: Wordpress, Blogger, MovableType
  • Microblogging: Microblogging is similar to blogging, but on a much smaller scale, with platforms that favour short messages instead of full-length posts. Examples: Twitter, Tumblr, identi.ca
  • Social bookmarking: Social bookmarking lets users add, organize, and share links to their saved website URLs. Examples: Delicious, Diigo, StumbleUpon
  • Wikis: Wikis allow people to add, modify, or delete content in collaboration with others. Examples: Wikipedia, Wiktionary, WikiTravel
  • Social Gaming: Social network games are multiplayer games played via web browser, mobile device, or social media platform. Examples: Farmville, World of Warcraft, Words With Friends
  • Video Sharing: Video hosting websites allow people to upload, share, and comment on videos. Examples: YouTube, Vimeo, Metacafe
  • Photo Sharing: Image hosting websites allow people to upload, share, and comment on photos. Examples: Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket
  • Social news: Social news sites allow people to vote for articles and comment on them. Examples: Reddit,
  • Podcasting: Podcasting is the preparation and distribution of episodic audio and video files for download by subscribers
Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing (SMM) refers to the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to gain brand exposure and website traffic.

Learn more about social media marketing Top
Social Media Optimization

Social media optimization (SMO) refers to the process of making website content easier to share through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. SMO is a part of social media marketing.

Social media optimization can be as general as improving user-experience, but usually refers to adding plug-ins and chiclets to content, which helps visitors like, share, and bookmark web pages on social media platforms.

Social Networking
See Social networking service Top
Social networking service

A social networking service is a website or platform that allows people to connect with friends and build online social networks. The most popular social networking service in the world is Facebook, which, as of October 2012, has 1 billion active users.

Social Networking Features

Social networking services often share a variety of features that allows users to:

  • Create a profile
  • Upload pictures and videos
  • Segment contacts into groups that share common interests
  • Fine-tune privacy settings

Most Popular Social Networking Services

Name Active User Accounts Date Launched Country of Origin
Facebook 1 Billion February 2004 United States
Google+ 235 million June 2011 United States
Twitter 200 million March 2006 United States
LinkedIn 160 million May 2003 United States
See also: Social media Top Top
Social Signal

A social signal is a measure of social media activity, such as a vote, share, or other engagement that a search engine might take into consideration as part of its ranking algorithms.

Learn more about social signals Top
See Spamdexing Top

("Black hat SEO" redirects here)

Spamdexing (also known as web spam, search spam, or black hat SEO) is the practice of using deceptive tactics in an effort to manipulate search engine results. With continuously evolving algorithms, search engines are increasingly able to detect spam and penalize websites that violate their quality guidelines.

Learn more about Spamdexing Top
Span (HTML element)

A span is a generic HTML element, used for organizing and styling inline-level content such as text and images. As with the HTML div, spans should only be used when no other semantically appropriate element exists.

Spider, Search engine
See Web crawler Top
Splash Page

A splash page is an introductory page to a website, and often contains minimal content or navigation. Splash screens are often visually appealing—focusing attention on eye candy, promotions, or special messages; however, they're often seen only as an unnecessary obstacle in the way of to a website's content.

Splash pages rose to prominence at a time when Flash websites became popular, where they gave visitors the choice to decide between media-rich and HTML versions.

Splash Page Disadvantages

Many, if not all, of the benefits of splash pages are outweighed by usability and search visibility disadvantages. Splash pages are notoriously bad for search engine optimization, as the home page plays a pivotal role in how search engines crawl and rank a website.

Some of the problems presented by splash pages:

  • Images, animations, and other multimedia, which are typical of splash pages, are slow loading and inaccessible to many visitors and search engines
  • Minimal content on the home page translates into less relevance in search results
  • Higher bounce rates
  • Minimal navigation creates an inefficient flow of link juice from the home page to internal pages
See also: Web usability, website accessibility Top
See server side includes Top
See secure socket layer Top
Static web page

A static web page is a web page that is delivered to visitors exactly as it is stored on a web server, in contrast with dynamic web pages, which are pieced together "on-the-fly" in response to user requests.

Static web pages are suitable for relatively small, simple websites, whose contents rarely need to be updated. Larger, more interactive websites usually require a dynamically driven content management system (CMS).

See also: Dynamic web page Top
Status code
See HTTP status code Top
Structured Citation

A structured citation is an online mention of a business, or citation, from a traditional business directory or review site, opposed to an unstructured source, such as from a blog post.

See search engine submission Top

Sub-navigation or a submenu refers to a secondary menu which is accessed from inside another menu.

A common form of subnavigation is the drop-down menu; usually triggered by hovering over an item in a primary navigation. Drop-downs, which descend vertically from horizontal menus, are more natural to use than fly-outs, which extend horizontally from vertical menus.

See also: Navigation Top
Supplemental Result
See Google Supplemental Index Top
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