Common Search Engine Optimisation Terms


Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of visitors to a website from search engines. Pages which are optimised effectively come higher up in search results listings and are likely to receive more visitors from the search engine. Making sure your pages are optimised successfully involves understanding how leading search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft work and what people are searching for. This article looks at some of the most common SEO terms and what they mean for your website.


Search engines discover new and updated pages by ‘crawling’ the web. Pages are ‘crawled’ automatically by various spiders or bots known as ‘crawlers’. Crawlers collect, examine and store the data they find about your website.


Search engine ‘crawlers’ examine each page they crawl. Search engines can process many types of content, but not all content types. Content types such as HTML pages and PDF’s can be indexed relatively easily by search engines. Other content types such as images and video are more difficult to index, whereas dynamic content such as Flash, JavaScript, frames or dynamically generated URLs can not always be processed and indexed. For pages which can be processed, crawlers look at a number of different factors on a page to determine how the page should be indexed. Crawlers extract information such as words from titles and headings as well as their location on the page, along with links to other pages. Information included in key tags and attributes such as ‘meta’ tags and image ‘alt’ attributes are also collected. In a process known as ‘indexing’ all the data about the web page is then stored in a database for use later in a search query.


When a user enters a search term into a search engine such as Google, the search engine examines the data in its index database and returns or ‘serves’ a list of the most relevant web pages in the browser. Each search engine uses different methods to determine which are the most relevant results for a user and in what order they are displayed in the search results listing. For example, Google uses over 200 factors to determine the relevancy of web pages. One of these factors is PageRank.


PageRank is a factor used by Google to measure of the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other pages. PageRank assigns a number from zero to ten to each page of a website in order to measure its relevance. The most popular websites such as the BBC have a PageRank of between nine and ten, whereas the least popular sites have a PageRage of zero. Each link to a page on your site from another site adds to your site’s PageRank. PageRank depends on the number of pages which link to a page on your site and the quality of the site linking to that page. If a page on your site is linked to by many pages with a high PageRank then that page is likely to receive a high PageRank itself. Other factors also influence PageRank, including the relevance of search terms on the page and actual visits to the page.

White and Black Hat Search Engine Optimisation:

White Hat SEO is a term used in the SEO industry to define SEO methods and practices which are approved by search engines.  Poor practices such as cloaking, keyword stuffing and spam indexing are known as Black Hat SEO. White Hat SEO techniques involve creating quality content that is accessible to both users and search engines alike. People using White Hat SEO techniques generally produce more consistent results which last over longer periods of time, compare to those using Black Hat SEO tricks. Black Hat SEO practices often involve displaying different content to search engines compared to users of the website. Black Hat SEO techniques will result in your site being banned from the search results listings. This can be on a temporary or permanent basis depending on the review methods used by search engines.

Organic and Paid Search Results

Organic search results are search results listings which appear based on their relevance to the search term the users have entered, rather than paid search results or adverts, see Figure 1. Many search engines display both organic search results and paid search results on their pages. Many users often found it difficult to distinguish visually between actual search results and adverts, so the term ‘organic search results’ was created to define search results relevant to the users search term.