Glossary of Web and SEO Terms

In an effort to eliminate jargon, and speak clearly as possible, here is a glossary of terms we may use on this site, or expressions you may have heard an internet marketer or web developer use. If there’s a term we’re missing, send us an email: john[at]

Quick Links (Alphabetical)

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Think of an algorithm as a complex mathematical formula. Search engines use algorithms to input a bunch of factors and output a list of results. Social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn use algorithms to determine what you see in your feed or to suggest people for you to connect with.

What you need to know about algorithms is they are complex, proprietary math equations that companies like Google use to figure out rankings.

ALT attribute (aka ALT Text)

The img element in HTML, which renders images, has an attribute, alt. This attribute is meant to contain a description of the image that is read by screen reader browsers. Visually-impaired people use screen readers to read the page aloud, so they can browse websites. Including ALT attribute text on all images is considered a best practice for SEO, and is also a requirement for passing WCAG accessibility standards.

Barnacle SEO (aka Parasite SEO)

Refers to the practice of ranking your brand on secondary sites, like a specialized directory, or an industry-specific site (Houzz for contractors, Avvo for lawyers, Zillow for real estate, etc). Yelp, Facebook,, LinkedIn and other profiles are all examples of barnacle SEO. The idea is to increase your chances of being seen in search results, leveraging other sites in addition to your own website. May also be referred to as Parasite SEO or Piggyback SEO.

CTR (Click-Through Rate)

Click-Through Rate is how often people click on a given search result or ad versus how many impressions that search result or ad receive. If a search results has a 100% CTR, that means every time someone saw that search result, they clicked on it. If half the people who see the search result clicked on it, that is a 50% CTR.

The Cloud

Like the hard drive on your computer, but millions of times bigger. We like to talk about “the cloud” like it’s a singular thing, but really, there are several clouds. Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Dropbox, and dozens of other players each have their own cloud.

“The Cloud” is essentially someone else’s really big hard drive.

Content (aka Web Content)

Text, images, video, audio, or any other information that can be consumed and interpreted. The content of books are words and illustrations. The content of YouTube is videos and comments. The content of a podcast is the audio and show notes. Most websites contain a content mix of text and images, some also have video and audio.

CSS (aka Cascading Style Sheets)

CSS provides the styling (visual presentation rules) for web pages and apps. Along with HTML, one of the foundational components of web development.


Think of a database like a gigantic spreadsheet (like Excel). Except that in a database, specific values can be related to other values in more complex ways.

PHP based sites, including WordPress sites, rely on a database to store and retrieve information from.

Domain Name

A domain name is a human-readable web address, mapped to a specific site on the internet.

DNS (aka Domain Name System)

The Domain Name System deals with pointing domain names towards IP addresses, or specific server installations.

Much like a street address is easier to remember than the latitude and longitude of your house, domain names allow websites to use a human-readable system to get to websites.

DNS Zone

A space where domain records are managed by an administrator account. Every site has a DNS zone that handles information such as what servers a domain name should point to, the email records associated with that domain, and other info.

Featured Snippets

Featured Snippets are highlighted text, video, or text and image content at the top of the page in selected search results in Google. About 19% of search queries produce a Featured Snippet.

FTP (aka File Transfer Protocol)

FTP is a technology that allows someone to connect to a specific server or folder on a server, and upload, download, or edit files there. Most FTP accounts require at least three components to connect: the host (IP address or URL), user (username or email address), and address.

Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business, Google Places)

Google Business Profiles are listings on Google Maps, either with a physical location, or a service area without a physical location. These GBP listings can be claimed by the business owner, usually via a postcard with a unique code. You can add or edit information about your business on your Google Business Profile, including services offered, hours of operation, phone number, website link, business name, logo, and photos. Users can also leave reviews for your business on GBP/Google Maps and upload photos. The Google Business Profile also pulls in information from third-party sites like Yelp or the Better Business Bureau, and sometimes can automatically detect your brand social media accounts (you cannot set social accounts in GBP). This profile is also part of Google’s Knowledge Graph about your company, and the GBP is the “entity” that other third-party profiles are compared against. A Google Business Profile is a foundational part of a local SEO strategy.

GUI (aka Graphical User Interface)

A GUI is a user-friendly way to interact with software without having to use the black terminal screen. A good example of this is Windows, which is a GUI for MS-DOS, which runs PC style computers. Most every type of software has a GUI of some sort. People pronounce this acronym as “gooey” — like chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven. Mmmm…cookies.

HTML (aka HyperText Markup Language)

A markup language that is the foundation of web development. If your website were a building, then HTML would be the steel girders and frame holding it all together.


An impression is the point where a page visitor sees a search result or ad, or if an ad is loaded and displayed on a web page. In Google Search Console, an impression is counted when any URL from your site appears in search results that are viewed by a user. (This impression count does not count AdWords ads or other paid ads).

Index (aka Google Index)
The Google index is the collection of all web pages and web documents which can appear in search results. Indexed pages are first crawled (discovered) by Googlebot, which captures the page for processing. Pages are algorithmically evaluated to see if they follow Google’s webmaster guidelines. These pages can then appear in search results in response to search queries (keyword searches). Google may also index pages without access to their content (for example, if a page is blocked by a robots.txt directive), meaning a page may be indexed even if Google cannot read the information.

IP address (aka Internet Protocol address)

If your domain name is a human-readable web address, then your IP address is the hard-to-remember version of that web address.

An IP address is a series of numbers, connected by periods (IPv4) or colons (IPv6), that point towards a specific device, computer, or server in a network. Every device on Earth has an IP address, though with the number of devices connected to the web, many of these are now dynamic (temporarily assigned). Hosting servers generally use static (unchanging) IP addresses.


A nearly universal scripting language that provides behavior rules for web pages. If HTML is the structure of a website, and CSS is the visual component, JavaScript provides many of the behavior rules.

In recent years, scores of JavaScript “libraries” have begun to emerge, making web development increasingly difficult to keep up with.

Knowledge Graph

When you see company profiles on the right hand side of the search results, that is the Knowledge Graph. Google is trying to organize information about different companies, people, organizations, creative works, or entities, and the Knowledge Graph is how the search engine understands them to fit together. When you search your own company on Google, you may see certain things in your Knowledge Graph, like hours of operation, social media profiles, photos of your business from Google Maps, a location map, your logo, Google reviews, or other information that Google has found from other websites about your business.

Lorem Ipsum

Placeholder text used for graphic and web design. The classic lorum ipsum comes from a 1st Century speech by the Roman orator, Cicero, entitled De Finibus Bonorum Et Malorum. Lorem ipsum takes its name from the first words from this excerpt. In recent years, several online lorum ipsum generators have sprung up, each having a particular theme.


Essentially, data about data. Formats like, RFDa, Web Ontology Language (OWL) and Microformats are used by search engines. Dublin Core is another type of metadata used on the web. Metadata helps search engines figure out what certain things are easier.

MySQL (aka Structured Query Language)

A database language. Specifically, a relational database management system. WordPress and many other database systems use MySQL to store and retrieve values to create web pages.


The specific servers where a site and its files are stored. A domain name points at specific nameservers.

PAA (aka People Also Ask)

The People Also Ask feature is something that appears on a Google search results page for certain search queries. This does not trigger on all search queries, but tends to appear when the query is an informational question. When People Also Ask appears, it initially shows as three to four “accordion” style questions. When you click a question, a short excerpt is revealed with a link to the source page. Another thing that happen when you click to reveal an answer is more questions are loaded dynamically.

People Also Ask

PHP (aka Hypertext PreProcessor)

Yes, that abbreviation still doesn’t make sense.

PHP is a popular scripting language. But while a language like JavaScript does it’s work in the web browser (front-end scripting), PHP is a server-side (back-end) scripting language, meaning it performs it’s logic on the web server, and then gives that information to the web browser.

PHP is used by frameworks like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, as well as by large sites like Facebook.

Plugin (in general web development)

A plugin can be a file, or set of files, that are added to a website to provide specific functionality. This may refer to a JavaScript plugin, or plugins built for specific frameworks (like WordPress, ExpressionEngine, or Drupal).

Plugin (in WordPress development)

WordPress plugins generally consist of a set of files containing PHP, JavaScript, and CSS. These provide added functionality to a website. They save information to a WordPress database, and operate independently from WordPress themes (which is good) — unless they are bundled in a theme (which is bad). Many commercial themes, especially those found on theme marketplaces, bundle plugins into their themes to make them sell. Most custom built themes add plugins independently of the theme, which is a best practice for both security and adaptability.


See “Search Query“.


Request For Quote. Often used by manufacturers or industrial equipment suppliers to mean a cotact form where the customer asks for a specialized quote on a service or set of equipment.


Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). A metric that measures the effectiveness of a paid marketing campaign. ROAS is usually measured with a multiplier of revenue per dollar spent. For example: a Google AdWords campaign that earns $20,000 where the ad spend was $2,000 would have a ROAS or 10x. A formula for ROAS is (Revenue Dollars from Paid Ad Campaign / Ad Spend) = ROAS.


Return on Investment. A way of measuring how much return (or revenue) you get back from investment in a service, piece of equipment, employee, or business strategy.

SEO (aka Search Engine Optimization)

SEO is the art and science of getting a specific website or URL to rank higher in search engines when users type in a specific search. (For example, ranking high in Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, Yelp, etc.)

Search Query

When you type words into a search engine to perform a search, that phrase is the search query. This may also be known as the keyword phrase, search phrase, or keyword search.

SERP (aka Search Engine Results Page)

The Search Engine Results Pages are what appear when you type a search query into Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or another search engine. Being at the top of the first SERP (Page One of Google) is generally considered desirable. There are usually different elements on the Search Engine Results Page, especially the first page. This first results page may include several paid ads, a map of local businesses fitting the query, suggestions of what “People Also Ask”, videos, breaking news results, and company or organization profiles on the right hand side of the page (aka the Knowledge Graph).

Server (or Web Server)

In very simplified terms, a huge hard drive where your site files are stored. When someone visits your site, the server gives it the files it needs to construct a webpage. Servers usually run specific programs (like Apache, PHP, and others) in order to run your website files. Without a server on a hosting platform, people cannot visit your website.


A list of pages or files on a website. HTML sitemaps usually public-facing — built for human users to find information, and for search engines to crawl. XML sitemaps are generally not public-facing, and built primarily for the benefit of search engines.

Template (in WordPress development)

The word “template” means different things, depending on what language or framework you’re talking about. In WordPress, a template file generally means a PHP file that makes up part of a WordPress theme.

Template files in WordPress can be assigned to a specific page or set of pages. There are also rules for which template file controls the layout and information on a page, if no specific template file is specified.

Think of template files of individual pieces of logic that the page grabs in a certain order and
assembles to make each specific page.

Theme (in WordPress development)

A theme is a collection of files in a WordPress site that provides specific functionality and visual appearance. Themes can range from very basic to enterprise level complexity. Some themes are sold commercially, and have been installed millions of times. Other themes are custom, built for a specific business or use case.

TLD (aka Top Level Domain)

A Top Level Domain just means .com, .net, or country specific domains like .us,, .fr and so on. There are new Top Level Domain extensions added every so often by ICANN, the non-profit organization which is responsible for the Domain Name System.

UGC (aka User Generated Content)

Content that is created by the guests or users of the sites, not the site owners. Examples of User Generated Content are blog comments, reviews, Pinterest Pins, Tweets, Facebook Posts, Quora questions and answers, Reddit threads, Stack Overflow questions and answers, and forum threads.

URL (aka Uniform Resource Locator)

A web address for a specific web page or file. What you type into the browser to go to a specific page on the web.

Web page

A collection of files and data that make up a specific viewable “page” on the web.


All the web pages, files, and data organized under a specific domain name.


A web framework which began in the early 1990s as blogging software, but has since expanded in complexity and popularity to power over 28% of all websites on the internet.

XML (aka Extensible Markup Language)

A markup language that is both human-readble and machine-readable. Sitemaps, various web applications and websites use XML.