Search Engine Optimization Terms for Beginners

What SEO Beginners Need to Know – 12 Definitions That Matter

S SEO is a trade that exists solely on the internet, and even then it is comprised almost entirely of the hot air of so-called “expert opinion.” Plenty of it blowing around these days as search maintains position as one of the most important marketplaces in the modern business world. Many DIY webmasters will end up searching for blog entries, articles, informational web sites, etc to help get them up to speed. The problem is that in most cases certain key terms are flung around like household names while the people doing the flinging are way out of touch with the average web browser. What some of us don’t realize is that not everyone knows even the basics of SEO.

This list of twelve SEO-related definitions in alphabetical order (with notes) serves as a great companion for your initial SEO reading. Read alone it will get you up to speed on some key terminology that you’ll need to know to intelligently engage the ever-changing world of SEO.

• Algorithms. A search algorithm is, in short, the incredibly complex mathematical formula that a search engine uses to “rank” web sites for keywords. Based on a huge number of variables and calculations, algorithms are among the most closely-guarded secrets on the internet. Why? Imagine if they were leaked – suddenly the less-than-honest would have a very specific guideline to follow in climbing to the top of search results in a less-than-organic way, ruining the quality of Google’s search results and their entire competitive advantage with it.

• Bot or Bots. See also “crawlers”

• Crawlers. Googlebot, for example, is a search engine crawler. Googlebot periodically traverses the web in record time, indexing content, links – everything contained in page source code – and storing it in Google’s search index. Then, when a user visits Google and enters a search phrase, the index, filtered by the algorithm, is what the user gets. Please note: there is some delay in this process since the results you’re getting are from the index and not the live web.

• Directories . When webmasters realized just how much power inbound links have in determining search rankings they quickly set out to do two things: 1) get inbound links and 2) set up web sites where other webmasters could achieve inbound links (meaning big traffíc revenues for the site). Hence the directory farms you’ll find today. Link building has been a priority on the líst of any SEO-savvy webmaster for years, and as a result “quick fix” directories that allow streamlined listing submissions get a ton of traffíc. However, Google and the other major search engines are on to this tactic, and the word among SEO “experts” is that the benefits of listing your site at directories are diminished if not gone.

• Frames. Frames are a way of laying out a website with multiple documents in one browser window. Essentially, there is one main document which contains the frameset tag – this document specifies the dimensions/placement of the frames and also the documents that will “populate” those frames. From an SEO standpoint the use of frames for your layout is not recommended. Since frames do not use links in the same way, and since links may point to one frame from another, they may cause serious problems for crawlers. Additionally, there are almost no uses for frames that can’t either be 1) duplicated with other methods or 2) thrown away without much fuss. If your site was built with frames and you’re thinking you don’t want to rebuild – it might be tough luck if you’re interested in optimizing for search. Consider it a learning experience – build yourself a CSS-based layout.

• Gateway Pages. Also “doorway pages.” Although there isn’t a real consensus about what these pages are, their function is always cited as their definition. In other words, these pages are created to “rank well in search engines” by playing to the algorithms. Often viewed as “spammy,” “gray hat” or even “black hat.” However, any page written with search in mind, and geared towards search, can be construed to be a “gateway page.” The difference between a page well-optimized for search and a “gateway page?” No clear lines there, but quality of content is probably the determining factor.

• HTML. Okay, most of you probably know this one, but there are probably some of you who don’t. HTML stands for Hyper-Text Mark-up Language, and it is the core building block that has made the web the greatest modern tool for business, social, informational, political and any other causes. Search engines look exclusively at a web page’s HTML code to determine its relevance. Therefore, it’s a good idea to pay attention to HTML and familiarize yourself with proper tagging techniques if you’re hoping to get a good handle on SEO.

• Link Popularity. Inbound links are probably the most important optimization point for web pages. Number, quality, trust – these are all factors that affect the value of an inbound link. Going back to the HTML root of search, link popularity (in terms of quantity) measures how many pages point to your site using anchor text ( [a href=””]link text[/a] ).

• Link Building. In short, the process of gaining links at other web sites pointing in to pages on your own.

• Link Baiting. The process of generating high-quality content on your pages that users will appreciate and link to voluntarily.

• Meta Tags. Meta tags are found at the top of a page’s source code. They are used to specify certain things that might not be found in the page content. They also allow webmasters to put up certain “flags” that search engine crawlers can react to. There are many Meta tags available for use, and many of them can help with SEO to a great extent and for a variety of purposes. However, Meta tags are no longer used in the way they originally were – as a place to stuff keywords to drive your site up in rankings. Some webmasters out there are still doing this, but they are decidedly behind the times and unaware of the impending, or already cast-down, penalties.

• Robots. See also “crawlers.”

• Search Engines. If you don’t know what a search engine is congratulations on finally making it out from under that rock. Search engines are essentially programs that scan an existing index of the web based on a query of search terms, or keywords, that a user enters. However, the word more commonly refers to companies as a whole – Google, for example, controls a search engine, while Googlebot is the crawler that gathers content for its index, but most users and webmasters think of a search engine as the whole package.

• Search Engine Marketing. Most often this refers to Pay-Per-Click marketing in which an advertiser bids on chosen keywords and writes several ads to be displayed should their bid achieve placement. These ads are displayed in the “sponsored” section of search engine result pages (SERPS). However, in some circles this term is used to refer to any action taken to gain rankings both paid and organic.

• Search Engine Optimization. This one is open to interpretation. It is quite often used to encapsulate a huge amount of different tactics. On-site optimization, off-site optimization (link building, etc) and many other techniques all feasibly fall under the SEO blanket. However, there is an obvious difference between optimizing a page’s code to be clean and search friendly and writing link bait that will be popular and get linked to.

• Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The pages resulting from a search engine query run by a user. Webmasters review these pages to determine where their pages are ranking for certain search terms.

• Spamming . Basically, any unnatural effort to bring a page higher in search results. What constitutes spam is open to some interpretation, but the only interpretation you need to worry about is that of the major search engines. If Google, for example, considers a technique “spammy” you’d be wise to cease at once.

• Spiders. See also “crawlers.”

• Submission. For SEO this has traditionally meant submitting a web site to search engines so they’ll know about and crawl it. SEO firms offered submission services as a big selling point to bring in clients. However, for a long time now submitting your site to search engines hasn’t done jack. They’re all much smarter now – just focus on gaining quality inbound links and your site will be indexed in no time.

This is just a sample of the core vocabulary associated with SEO. Is this all you need to know? Absolutely not. But in my experience these are the words and phrases that newcomers have the most trouble with. If these definitions help one person have a better understanding of SEO, then I will be satisfied.


Using An SEO Company Versus Hiring an In-House Expert

It’s a common question that companies who are considering hiring a search engine optimization company often face – is this something that we can do in-house? More importantly, can we do this in-house and get the same results that an expert search engine optimization company would provide?

As this article will demonstrate, clearly the answer is “yes” to both questions. However, as this article will also demonstrate, getting the types of results that an expert at search engine optimization can provide will cost you – often more than outsourcing.

For the purpose of this article, I’m ignoring the multitudes of companies that decide to dump the job on somebody already in their organization (usually an IT person who already has too much to do) rather than hiring a search engine optimization company.

It has been my experience that while some of these people eventually provide decent results, they are the exception. More often than not, the project never leaves the ground, or the effort is halfhearted at best. In a worst case scenario, your internal person may embrace tactics that no expert search engine optimization company would ever use because they can put your site at risk of penalization or outright removal from the engine indexes.

My company often works with firms after they have used non-expert internal talent to optimize their website, and most of the time we are actually doing more work because much of what has been done is ineffective or dangerous. We have to take everything apart and put it all back together, often while making requests to the search engines to have penalties lifted.

The real goal of this article, however, is to assume that a business has decided to embark on a search engine optimization campaign, and that it is also committed to using a proven expert in search engine optimization.

The choice then is simple – does the business hire an experienced resource to work in-house or should it instead go with an outsourced search engine optimization company?

A recent study by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, published in the January 2008 edition of DM News (“Healthy SEM Salaries Rule: SEMPO Survey”), points out that experience in search engine marketing carries a high price tag.

For instance, if you were looking to hire someone with more than five years of experience in search engine marketing, you could expect to pay between $100,000 and $200,000 per year.

For somebody with experience but not five or more years, you can expect to pay anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 per year. If nothing else, these real world figures should convince discerning companies that expert search engine optimization and marketing is not something that you should dump off on an existing employee without any experience in the field.

The free market has determined that expert search engine optimization and marketing is worth at least $60,000 per year for a full time position, and up to $200,000 per year. On the other hand, most reputable search agencies have many more than five years of collective experience in the search engine marketing industry.

In addition, a high percentage of these agencies offer SEO services that cost considerably less than $60,000 per year, to say nothing of $200,000 per year. It should also be noted that this figure neglects to include any of the additional costs associated with hiring – benefits, training, and so on. In addition, an expert search engine optimization company will have a broad range of sites from which to draw knowledge, while your in-house expert will likely only have one, or a handful at best.

To be fair, there are certain advantages to hiring an in-house expert. First of all, experts will have their feet to the fire, so to speak. A search engine optimization company isn’t likely to go out of business if it under performs on your site, but an in-house expert in search engine optimization is likely to lose his or her job.

It’s also much easier to get the whole team together to discuss your SEO initiatives at any time you choose when you are working with someone in-house. And hey, when you’re paying someone $200,000 per year, you can be pretty certain that you’re going to get top-notch work. But can an expert search engine optimization company give you that same level of work for a lot less money? Probably.


There are many compelling reasons why your business should hire an expert search engine optimization company rather than bring in an SEO expert internally or simply give the SEO project to an existing team member. Financially, it makes sense. But more so, you’re more likely to get the results over the short and long term with an outsourced company for all of the reasons noted above. I’m not saying you have to hire an SEO company – at first. I’m saying eventually you’ll probably want to.

About the Author

Scott Buresh is the founder and CEO of Medium Blue (, which was named the number one organic search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld in 2006 and 2007. Scott’s articles have appeared in numerous publications, including ZDNet, WebProNews, MarketingProfs, DarwinMag, SiteProNews,, and Search Engine Guide. He was also a contributor to The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Brown, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004). Medium Blue is an Atlanta search engine optimization company with local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Visit to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data.

Internet MarketingSEO

How To Find SEO Consultants That Get Results

If your web site is a major source or revenue, or could be, then you should have a formal search engine optimization program that monitors and improves rankings on a daily basis. Now you might be thinking that you don’t have the resources necessary to implement a productive SEO program, but the costs of not doing so are significant.

Starting an SEO program for your business is easier than you think. There are numerous SEO consultants and experts that can show you how to radically improve your rankings for much less than you might think. In fact, many search engine optimization consultants can save you significant dollars if managed properly.

Getting the most from your SEO consultant requires a number of considerations. I have found that the most productive engagements around optimization and SEO all have these same factors in common. By adhering to these principals, mutual expectations are set and each party has a clear understanding of what is being delivered by whom.

The first step is finding a credible source. There are many people out there who claim to be search engine optimization experts but have nothing to show for it. Find a legitimate company, ask for references, or find someone who has a proven track record and is an authority on the topic. A good bet is to find someone who has achieved number one rankings for their website or the web sites of their clients.

The second step is to mutually agree upon what’s being delivered. Most clients feel that by paying a search engine optimization consultant a sum of money that their site is going to instantly rank number one on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. I can tell you first hand that‘s not the case. The purpose of an seo consultant is to help you construct an effective strategy for the long term optimization of your web site.

The third and final step is to assemble a team to work with the consultant and implement his findings. Seventy percent or so of the companies I’ve worked with were very interested in learning how to optimize their websites but couldn’t or weren’t willing to follow through on what it takes to succeed. Commit time and resources dedicated to implementing the consultant’s finding and you will see the true value of your investment.

Whether you’re launching new website or trying to improve the rankings of an existing site, it’s important that you find a reliable resource that can help you succeed. Define what success looks like for both you and the consultant you will be working with. By doing so, you’re creating a mutual understanding of the work that’s being done and clearly understand what it means to your business.

Online AdvertisingSEO

SEO campaigns insights

SEO campaigns can consume a lot of budget very quickly with very little return in the short run. Let’s face it, there are a many things that need to be done and time is money. So what are the tricks to a successful (and cost effective) SEO campaign?

First – establish a benchmark. If you don’t know where you are starting, you won’t know if you are winning the battle. Find out how you rank on the search engines of your choice for your most cherished keywords.

Now choose carefully – you want to pick one or two search engines and a handful of keywords. Each search engine is different and while some will like your SEO tuning, others will hate it and your rankings may drop, so it is very important that you make a conscious decision as to the ones you want to improve on.

Once you have done that – then look at your competitors, and see what they are doing. If they have been successful, then by emulating them, you too will be successful.

Now go and make your changes – update your copy, your meta-tags, your titles, your image texts – all of the things that a decent SEO tune up will do.

Now for the hard part – have patience. It will take somewhere close to a month or maybe more for those changes to have any effect, so there is no point in making changes on a Monday and expect a shift in your rankings by Tuesday. It is simply not going to happen – so get back to your regular business and make a note in your diary to re-check your rankings in a month.

Rinse and repeat on a monthly basis.

Simple isn’t it – well not quite, because even if your site is fully SEO’d there are other factors that you need to work on, and those are called back links.


Selling Online is Easier Than Ever

According to recent publications, consumers spent more than $100 billion online at U.S. based e-commerce sites last year, which does not include online auction sites, travel spending, or corporate purchases. That’s a significant increase over last year – more than 20%. There has never been a better time to be on the receiving end of that spending pattern, and the market keeps improving.

Many people start an e-commerce site as their primary business. If you have a brick and mortar store where you sell products or simply operate a business from home, starting an e-commerce site can provide an additional sales channel for you.

Creating a Web site for the purpose of selling products or services online entails a large amount of research and planning. When you start an online business, forgetting one simple step can make the difference between success and failure.

Here are 8 steps to help you get started:

1. Create a business and marketing plan. Schedule a time to meet with your business partners or team members. Brainstorm together and lay out all of your plans in one document. This plan should incorporate all start-up and recurring costs. Set up an overall expense budget and sales forecast.

2. Choose a good Web site address (domain name) to help customers find you. You will need to select a domain name for the site that accurately represents what you are selling and helps brand your business. However, did you consider that the search engines will also be using your domain name as a symbol of what you sell? Give some thought to an appropriate URL and go shopping for one.

3. Select the right e-commerce software with a shopping cart. In order to sell products on your Web site, you have a few options. You can hire someone to develop custom online storefront functionality. However, most small businesses who are looking for more cost effective solutions purchase e-commerce Web site hosting software. This allows your customers to select products from your Web site, put them into the shopping cart on your site, and then checkout using their choice of various payment methods.

4. Apply for a business account (merchant account) for processing credit cards. It is critical to give your customers multiple payment options on your Web site. Most customers are accustomed to paying for goods and services online using their credit card. In order to accept credit cards as payment for your products, you must apply for what is called a merchant account. If you do not accept credit cards on your Web site, you are doing a great disservice to your site’s potential for success, so make sure you apply.

5. Secure your site to let customers know it is safe to do business with you. As an online merchant, security is a key consideration for you. If you are going to accept consumer financial information such as credit card payments, you are responsible for ensuring that data is protected and secure and that you meet credit card company security requirements.

6. Design your site to be user-friendly. Once you have all of the products uploaded to the Web site and you can accept credit cards it’s time to work on improving the site’s appearance before you go live with your new online storefront.

7. Test the site. You only have one chance to make a first impression with each visitor, so be sure that you test and tweak your site before going live with it. Plan at least a few days or weeks to do this. Make sure everything is working properly or all of your efforts can be for naught.

You might try inviting a few friends to help you test the site. Ask them to visit your Web site while you watch their browsing behavior. Try not to say anything as they click around. Give them fifteen minutes, and then ask them about their experience.

8. Promote your site online. Promoting your site on the Web can be expensive and complex, but taking advantage of search engine behavior to drive targeted traffic to your site can result in a favorable long-term return on your up-front investment, whether that investment is your time or money.

Using these tips, you can quickly and easily start selling products online. It may seem a bit daunting at first, but is actually quite simple. There are many vendors who can help fulfill the needs laid out in each action step. View examples of how others have used these simple steps for marketing effectiveness. Follow these steps and in no time at all you’ll be up and running.