Search Engine Dictionary: A complete guide to search engine terminology

 

 

 

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S

Scooter

The name of AltaVista's spider. (The name refers to the annual motorcycle races held at the famous AltaVista Raceway)

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score

Search engines usually arrange search results from the most relevant to the least relevant (as determined by the search engine's algorithm). In order to rank documents, the search engine assigns a score to each page and those with the highest scores are listed first. Most search engines simply give the maximum score to the most relevant document and score all other relevant documents relative to that document. Others compare all documents to a theoretically perfect document. The score of a web page therefore refers to its relevance as perceived by a specific search engine.

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scored keyword phrase

Name given to phrases that searchers use that are tracked by a system the records the number of times the phrase was used in a search, also known as the score.

Added - May 30, 2003
by Christian Nielsen of
www.nielsentech.com

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script

A piece of programming designed to perform a certain function on a web page - for example to create a rollover effect on buttons or to create pop-ups.

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search

The process of locating information - on the Internet typically done by searching through documents in search engine and directory databases.

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search engine

A tool for finding information on the Internet. Most search engines consist of the following main components:
1. Spider
2. Indexer
3. Database
4. Search software
5. Web interface
Documents found by the spider are processed by the indexer and stored in a database. From the database the search software extracts documents based on parameters entered by the user. Examples of search engines include Google and AllTheWeb. Directories like Yahoo and ODP are often referred to as search engines although they are not. The details of how search engines work are discussed in more detail in the Search Engine Yearbook.

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search engine marketing

See SEO

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search engine optimization

See SEO

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search engine positioning

See SEO

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search hours

The actual amount of time (in hours) all visitors to a search engine spent there during a given month. Audience reach and search hours are the two major factors when calculating the popularity of a search engine.

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searchjacking

A variation of spamdexing where pages are optimized for popular search terms even though those terms are not related to the page content. In the long run this technique makes little sense, as it attracts mostly untargeted visitors.

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SearchKing

http://www.searchking.com
A comparatively small search engine. It's claim to fame is that it allows users to vote on the relevance of documents it returns for queries - and it then uses that data to continually increase the accuracy of its search results. In September 2002 SearchKing was (according to them) penalized by Google. The rumor has it that sites that link to SearchKing were also penalized and we decided to disable the link above. You can still visit the SearchKing site by typing http://www.searchking.com into the address bar of your browser.

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search results

The documents returned by a search engine in response to a query.
Also see SERP.

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search term(s)

Words entered into a search engine's search box to form a query.

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search tree

A seldom used synonym for a searchable directory.

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SEO

Search Engine Optimization. This term is widely used in the search engine industry as a collective name for those activities that are directly or indirectly aimed at improving a page's search engine ranking. Sometimes the term SEO is also used to refer to providers of SEO services - in other words it's used in the place of terms like "SEO provider" and "SEO specialist". For a detailed discussion of the SEO industry and SEO techniques, please refer to the Search Engine Yearbook.

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SERP(S)

Search Engine Results Page(s). The term refers to the page of search results a search engine displays in response to a query.

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shadow domain

Also known as a "ghost domain", referring to a domain used to funnel traffic (or link popularity) to a site. Typically it would involve setting up a throwaway domain and either automatically redirecting visitors to the "real site" or just linking to it. Both uses are considered spam by most of the major search engines.

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Sidewinder

The name of Infoseek's spider.

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similarity

The measure of the degree to which a document matches a query or the degree to which two or more documents are alike.

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siphoning

A collective name for the different techniques used to steal traffic from another site. For example the use of another's trade name in the title tag etc.
Also see obfuscation and spamdexing.

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site hit

See hit.

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sitemap

A map to your site. A sitemap contains links to every page of your site (check out Google's sitemap). The important benefit of having a sitemap (apart from helping your visitors find what they are looking for) is that spiders can find all pages on a site quickly and with fewer hops. For maximum benefit, insert a prominent link to your sitemap on every page of your site.

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site search

A search utility that allows the user to search through documents on a particular site. Different from a search engine in that it's database contains only documents found on that site as opposed to a wider collection of documents from all over the web.

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skewing

A technique used by search engines. It refers to the practice of artificially altering the search results so that certain documents will score well on certain queries.

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slamming

A seldom used synonym for spamdexing.

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Slurp

Inktomi's spider. Click here for more spider names.

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Sniffer

The name of a program that Infoseek used to "sniff out" attempts at spamdexing.

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snippet

Referring to the quoted pieces of page content search engines like Google use on the SERPs instead of a traditional, webmaster created site descriptions. The term originates from the "NOSNIPPET" robots meta tag used to disallow SNIPPETS.

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sorting results

Search engines sort results displayed on the SERP in a particular order - usually from most relevant to least relevant. Some search engines allow the user to sort results based on different criteria, for example alphabetically, arranged from newest to oldest etc.

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spam

A collective name for those marketing techniques that are intrusive, offensive and/or unethical in some way. A major characteristic is that it aims its message at a wide (often in the millions), untargeted audience - which it can afford because electronic distribution is very cheap. The most common form of spam is unsolicited commercial e-mail. In the search engine world, regular mass submission of web pages to search engines is also referred to as spam or spamdexing. The term spamdexing is also used to refer to all SEO techniques that are deceptive or unethical.

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spamdexing

All attempts to deceive search engines or gain an unfair advantage in the search results of a search engine. Spamdexing decreases the value of a search engine's index by reducing the precision with which the search engine can return relevant documents. Most search engines have measures in place to detect spamdexing and guilty pages are usually either penalized or de-listed. Many webmasters inadvertently make themselves guilty by braking search engine submission rules. For a detailed discussion of what to do and what not to do, please refer to the Search Engine Yearbook.

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spamming

See spam, spamdexing

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spider / spyder

A browser-like program that forms part of a search engine. Its task is to "surf" the web by following links from one page to the next and from one site to the next. It collects information from the sites it visits and that information is stored in the search engine's database. For detailed discussions on spiders, the other components of search engines, spider names etc., please refer to the Search Engine Yearbook.

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spidering

What spiders do - the process of surfing the web and indexing documents.

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splash page

A page that is displayed before users enter a site. Splash pages are often comparatively empty except for a logo, welcome message and "click here to enter" type of link. Splash pages are often used to house introductory Flash animations. Splash pages are generally considered annoying since they offer very little value. Even very impressive splash pages offer only entertainment - which normally distracts from the sales effort and hampers SEO.

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spoofing

See IP spoofing, spamdexing

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SSI (Server Side Include)

A type of HTML command that allows webmasters to insert code from an outside HTML document. It is especially used with things like menus, headers and footers that are the same for all pages. To change the menu, for example, the webmaster changes only the external menu file and the menu changes across the entire site. SSI can also be used to insert non-HTML elements like scripts.

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stats / statistics

In the context of search engines, the term is often used to refer to the information created by some type of reporting software. The web server log files for the site are used as the source of the information. Also known as Web stats, web reporting, statistics, and traffic reports.

Added - May 31, 2003
by Christian Nielsen of
www.nielsentech.com

Additional information:
Stats typically include information like number of visitors, referring URLs, search engine queries used, number of page views etc.

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stealth

A collective name for techniques (like cloaking) that aim to deliver optimized content to spiders while delivering the "real" page to human visitors. Almost all search engines consider stealth a form of spamdexing.

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stemming

The use of linguistic analysis to get to the root form of a word. Search engines that use stemming compare the root forms of the search terms to the documents in its database. For example, if the user enters "viewer" as the query, the search engine reduces the word to its root ("view") and returns all documents containing the root - like documents containing view, viewer, viewing, preview, review etc.

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stop character

Characters in URLs (like question marks, equal signs and ampersands) that signal the search engine spiders to stop crawling beyond a certain point.

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stop word

Words like conjunctions, prepositions etc. that are so commonly used that they have little or no influence on relevance. Most search engines ignore stop words entered in a query. Also see inverse document frequency.

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sub-category

Directories are typically divided into top-level categories that contain sub-categories or lower level categories. Directories often run several category levels deep.

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Subject-Specific Popularity

Snippet from the Teoma web site:
"Teoma adds a new dimension and level of authority to search results through its breakthrough approach, known as Subject-Specific Popularity(SM)." Source: http://sp.teoma.com/docs/teoma/about/searchwithauthority.html

Teoma's Subject-Specific Popularity takes link popularity a step further by ranking pages based on the number of same-subject pages that reference it. What makes this approach effective is that natural occuring topic communities on the Net are more qualified to "vote" for (by linking to) pages within their communities. By using Subject-Specific Popularity, Teoma is able to return (arguably) more relevant search results than any other search engine.

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submission

The process of manually adding a URL to a search engine's list of URLs to spider - in effect telling a spider about a page in order to get it spidered and ultimately added to the search engine's database.

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submission rules

Most search engines have a list of rules that must be obeyed when submitting sites to be spidered. Examples of submission rules include how often the page may be resubmitted (if at all), how many pages may be submitted per day etc. For links to the submission rules pages of the major search engines, please refer to the Search Engine Yearbook.

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submission service

Services exist where the user can have pages submitted to multiple search engines for a fee. The fee is normally very low, but usually not as low as the quality of the submission. We have a more detailed explanation of submission services and the dangers, as well as guidelines to choosing a reputable SEO service in our Search Engine Yearbook.

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submission software

Programs that assist webmasters in optimizing and submitting web pages to search engines. There are countless programs available, but probably only a handful that are worth getting. You can find full reviews of the top 2 programs in our Search Engine Yearbook.

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submit

See submission

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substring matching

See partial word matching

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