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The Glossary: Terms and Definitions covering Web Design, Back-end, SEO and other online service jargon

For beginners and experts, here you'll find definitions and explanations.

200 OK

People ask:

What is 200 OK?

This response code is used to indicate that a response was successful. It is cacheable by default.

200 OK is used as a response code for several request methods, including: GET, HEAD, POST, and TRACE.

301 Moved Permanently

People ask:

What is 301 Moved Permanently?

Also known as: 301 Redirect, Redirection

This status code is used to inform the visitor (both humans and bots), that the page in question has been moved permanently. This forwards everything to the address provided along with the status code.

307 Temporary Redirect

People ask:

What is 307 Temporary Redirect?

This status code is used to inform the visitor (both humans and bots), that the page in question is temporarily located elsewhere. This forwards everything to the address provided along with the status code.

Most relevant in relation to Search Engine bots, as they will be instructed not to update the address found on search results.

404 Not Found

People ask:

What is 404 Not Found?

Also known as: Error Page

This response code is used to indicate that the server cannot find anything at the requested path.

404 simply indicates that nothing was found, and is often used to display a user facing page informing the visitor that nothing could be found.

Custom error pages are great tools to help capture otherwise potentially lost visitors.

For an example of a custom error page, see Northrook.com's error page.

Absolute URL

People ask:

What is an absolutel URL?

Also known as: Absolute Link, Absolute Path, URL, Uniform Resource Locator

Absolute URLs are internet addresses written as their full path to find a web page, image or anything else that has a path. This is opposed to a relative URL.

Relative URLs can only be used for internal linking, when creating a link to something on the same domain. Absolute links are always used when linking between different websites.

Example:

The absolute URL to this glossary entry is:
https://northrook.com/glossary#absolute-url

As long as we're on the same domain, we can use this relative URL:
/glossary#absolute-url

Accelerated Mobile Pages

People ask:

What is Accelerated Mobile Pages?

Also known as: AMP, AMPs, Google AMP

AMP is an open source HTML framework developed by AMP Open Source Project with the goal of increasing website loading speed and optimizing web pages for mobile devices.

Mobile pages that are developed using the AMP format have restrictions to their HTM/CSS and JavaScript and they are automatically cached by Google AMP cache. This often results in pages that load instantly when a user performs a search on a mobile device.

Algorithm

People ask:

What is Googles Search Algorithm?

Also known as: Google Search Algorithm, Search Algorithm

An algorithm is by definition "a finite sequence of well-defined instructions, typically used to solve a class of specific problems", in the case of SEO, that problem is website ranking.

When most SEO professionals refer to "the algorithm" or "Googles algorithm", we're typically talking about the math behind Google's (and others) ranking factors.

These algorithms take the data gathered by millions of web crawls, look at all the data points and calculate page ranking based on those and several other factors, like backlinks and domain authority.

Google has a whole page dedicated to talking about how their algorithm works, should you wish to learn more.

Algorithm Penalty

People ask:

What is an algorithm penalty?

Also known as: Algorithmic Penalty, Rank Pentalty

A penalty applied directly to the ranking of certain pages with certain keywords, typically after a breach of Google's guidelines.

It can be difficult to detect when you've been penalised, as most actions are taken quietly. Best way to notice is to keep an eye on your traffic, and look out for any unexpected, drastic drops.

Penalties typically only occur when clear breaches take place, such as duplicate content and plagiarism.

Algorithm Update

People ask:

What is an algorithm update?

Also known as: Google Algorithm Update, Google Updates, Search Engine Update

Google (and others) change their search algorithms and ranking systems every so often. This is to include new rules, update existing or out of date ones and to reduce the risk of people "gaming the system".

These updates are often quiet small, frequent and go very unnoticed by most people.

Some SEO tools like Rank Math keep an eye on it for you, and alert you in their interface.

Many search engines, like Google, post these updates to the public. You can find Google's on their Search Engine Central Blog.

Alias

People ask:

What is Alias?

Also known as: AKA, A.K.A., Also known as

A term for something also being known by another name, term or string.

Often used in programming and networking.

Alt Text

People ask:

What is Alt Text?

Also known as: Alt tag, Alt attribute

A HTML attribute used to provide an alternative text for something, often images.

For SEO, it is critically important that as many images as possible (and relevant) have alt texts. Search engines cannot visually see your images, so they rely entirely on your alt text to figure out what the image is about.

For accessibility, it is equally important that all relevant images have descriptive texts. This helps screen readers inform visitors who might not be able to see your image, what an image is about.

Example:

<img src="image.png" alt="A car parked next to a bus stop.">

Tips:

  • You are free to write what you want, as long as it is relevant.
  • Do not add keywords just to boost your SEO, search engines will see right through it.
  • With punctuation, you can end with a period, or leave it open, either works.
  • Note that the alt text will be displayed if the image cannot be displayed for some reason, such as the image not being available, or if the visitor is using a text-only screen reader.

Analytics

People ask:

What is Analytics?

Also known as: Google Analytics, GA, Tracking

A system for gathering visitor data and statistics.

The most commonly used analytics tool is Google Analytics. Google's analytics tools come in a few flavours, the modern "Google Analytics 4" and venerable "Universal Analytics".

Google's approach gathers lots of information, and will in most cases violate GDPR, requiring you to gain visitor consent before you can start tracking. It is also vulnerable to ad-blockers, as they may entirely block the code from running.

There are several GDPR and privacy friendly alternative tracking tools, like Plausible Analytics or Matomo.

We recommend using Plausible, and offer it as part of our AfterCare packages.

Plausible offers largely the same metrics as Universal Analytics, but can be made resilient to ad-blockers and other tracking blockers, due to it not gathering a single identifiable marker.

Tips:

  • There's nothing preventing you from having more than one analytics tool.
    • You can run both Google Analytics for advanced remarketing for visitors that have accepted your GDPR policy, and a friendly tracking script like Plausible to get a more accurate representation of total visitors.
  • Tracking code can either be placed directly on your website via code or a SEO plugin, or injected via Google Tag Manager if you have that configured.
  • Be sure to monitor your sites performance when enabling analytics, as it may adversely affect your sites performance if not properly configured.
People ask:

What are backlinks?

Also known as: Inbound Link, Incoming Link, Citation, External Link

Links from other websites and services, that can direct visitors to your website.

A backlink is created when an external website is linking to your website. This can be both direct links to the home page, a dedicated landing page or be slightly more complex carrying UTM information.

Many search engines see backlinks like a "vote of confidence", if you get good, relevant links from websites with high authority and traffic, it will over time boost your search engine ranking.

Note: The strength of the vote is based on many things, such as click-through rate on the link, the anchor text and relation of the link, the bounce rate when the visitor lands on your site and more.

This effect is also seen in the opposite direction, where linking out, both to high and low authority sites will help both you and them.

It is all about balance, most search engines want to link to real sites with real content, and most real things have a balance of high and low.

Note: While technically all backlinks are good, some are worth significantly more than others. If you for example sell skincare products, getting a backlink from a fashion magazine will benefit you significantly more than one from a car dealership.

Black Hat SEO

People ask:

What is Black Hat SEO?

Keyword Stuffing

Content Spam

Bounce Rate

People ask:

What is Bounce Rate?

Branded Keywords

People ask:

What are branded keywords?

Also known as: Brand keywords

A set of keywords that directly include a business or brand name.

These are often less competitive, but rely on brand awareness to be effective.

People ask:

What is a Broken Link?

Also known as: Dead Link

A link that directs to a page or content that no longer appears to exist.

Errors like 404, various server errors and even changed URLs can lead to broken links.

Many SEO tools offer scans to look for broken links. Make sure to keep an eye on any broken links, and to fix or replace them as soon as possible, as they can negatively impact both your link profile and directly affect your search engine rank.

Call to Action

People ask:

What is a Call to Action on my website?

Also known as: CTA

A link on your website, typically styled to attract the visitors eye, designed to further a specific action.

These actions commonly include; purchase intent, reading more about a key product or feature, sign-ups to product feeds or newsletters.

Basically the main thing you would like your visitors to click on.

Call to Action elements should be tracked with your analytics tool of choice, so you can determine how successful it is.

Canonical URL

People ask:

What is a canonical URL?

Also known as: Canonical Tag, Canonicals

A way to consolidate and canonicalise your website addresses.

If you have a page that can be reached by multiple addresses, adding a canonical tag will allow you to not only inform browsers which one is the "real" one, but also allows you to avoid duplicate content penalties.

There are many ways to enforce canonicalisation, but the simplest is with a <link> tag.

Example:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://northrook.com/" />

In this example, if visiting the site via www.northrook.com, it would inform the browser that we intend only to use the non-www version, northrook.com.

Note: There are many ways to help enforce this, from server-side actions to DNS configuration.

If you'd like to learn more in detail, we recommend reading Google Search Central's in depth article on Consolidating duplicate URLs.

Click-through rate

People ask:

What is Click-through rate?

Also known as: CTR

The ratio of users who successfully click on a specific link, compared to the total number of users who have received or seen the link, often used to measure the relative success of a Call to Action link on a website, other online marketing and the like.

You can technically calculate a CTR on every link on your website, but choosing which ones to monitor is important. You don't want to miss valuable data, but you also don't want to receive so much data it becomes meaningless.

Content

People ask:

What is Content?

Also known as: Fresh Content

The content of your site, text, images, blog and so forth.

It is very much worth it to keep a steady release of new content in form of a blog, news section or product releases. Bonus points if you have a newsletter sign-up or other way to alert visitors of new content (but don't get greedy, nobody likes spam and pop-ups).

Conversion

People ask:

What is Conversion?

Crawl

People ask:

What is Crawling?

A third party looking through your website for content, such as pages, images, and other files.

These are typically performed by search engines like Google and Bing for indexing purposes, and other applications like SEO and performance tools, for testing and validating page content.

CSS

People ask:

What is CSS?

Also known as: Cascading Style Sheets

Cascading Style Sheets is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language such as HTML. CSS is a cornerstone technology of the World Wide Web, alongside HTML and JavaScript.

A style sheet language used for formatting and positioning the presentation of your pages markup language, most often HTML.

CSS is one of the three major cornerstone technologies of the internet, alongside HTML and JavaScript

Need more details? Read the Mozilla Developers resource on CSS here.

Dark Patterns

People ask:

What are Dark Patterns?

Also known as: Deceptive Design, Hostile Design

Also known as Deceptive Design, Dark Patterns are all about making your user interfaces and user interaction designs as convoluted and bothersome as possible, in an effort to gain something.

Tried to cancel your subscription with a service, but had to hunt all around their website looking for the right page to cancel, only to find that you have to call customer support? That's a Dark Pattern.

Sometimes dark patterns are created by mistake, so it is important to listen to visitor feedback. If you receive word that it was difficult to find or do something on your website, you should try to make it easier or more straight forward. A happy visitor is a converting visitor.

Note: It is unlikely that you will face an algorithm penalty or suffer any negative SEO effects for creating dark patterns, quite the opposite; making it difficult for your visitors to use and navigate your site may just leave to longer session times, technically improving your engagement. Unfortunately, this visitor engagement comes at the cost of frustrating your visitors, which makes it a bad idea.

Duplicate Content

People ask:

What is Duplicate Content?

Dynamic Meta Tags

People ask:

What is Dynamic Meta Tags?

Using a SEO tool like SEOPress and Rank Math to dynamically populate title and meta fields.

Cuts down on the manual labour by grabbing things like first paragraph, product description and so forth.

eCommerce

People ask:

What is eCommerce?

Worth noting that SEO for eCommerce is a bit different than regular SEO, as you're not only targeting a product type, with some product and content pages, but often many if not hundreds of SKUs.

GDPR

People ask:

What is GDPR?

Also known as: General Data Protection Regulation

Google Search Console

People ask:

What is Google Search Console?

Header Tags

People ask:

How many header tags should I have?

Also known as: H tags, H1, H2, H3 etc

HTML

People ask:

What is HTML?

HTTP status codes

People ask:

What are

Also known as: HTTP Error Codes, HTTP Response Status Codes

Status codes returned by a server, to indicate how a HTTP request has been handled.

Responses are grouped in five classes:

  • 100-199 are Informational responses
  • 200-299 are Successful responses
  • 300–399 are Redirection messages
  • 400-499 are Client error responses
  • 500-599 are Server error responses

Example:

HTTP/2 301 Moved Permanently
Location: https://northrook.com/new-address

Need more details? Read the Mozilla Developers resource here.

Intrusive Interstitials

People ask:

What is Intrusive Content?

Also known as: Intrusive Content, Intrusive Elements, Pop-ups

https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/guidelines/avoid-intrusive-interstitials

This is a bit of custom code for the Intrusive Content entry.

JavaScript

People ask:

What is JavaScript?

Keyword Research

People ask:

What is Keyword Research?

Keywords

People ask:

What is Keywords?

Landing Page

People ask:

What is Landing Page?

People ask:

What is a link?

Also known as: Hyperlink, Anchor

A link, or hyperlink, is a an element on your website, than when clicked or tapped, leads to another location. This location can be both on the same page, another page of your website, anywhere else on the internet or even a file or service.

Example:

<a href="https://northrook.com/glossary#link">link to the Glossary</a>

This code will create this link to the Glossary.

People ask:

What is Link Building?

Also known as: Linkbuilding

The practice of getting inbound links to your website from other websites.

Link building is getting links from business listings, reaching out to bloggers, reviewers, journalists and other relevant websites.

Backlinks help improve the authority of your site, and can have a significant impact on how well you rank in organic search.

Note: For back linking to work effectively, you need content worth linking to. Having a thousand back links from local business registrars will have very little effect, but getting a reviewer or blogger to write about your product or services, linking directly to them, will help immensely.

Link Content

People ask:

What is Link Content?

Also known as: Anchor Text, Link Image

Content within an <a> tag, most often text or an image.

For SEO, it is important to have descriptive anchor content. Non-descriptive text like "Read more.." should be avoided where possible, unless it in semantic context, such as within an <article> tag.

Anchor text is typically styled differently than body text, as an example, we use a different colour and bolder font, along with an underline.

Styling can be applied with CSS using pseudo-classes, the most common used are:

  • a:hover for mouse-over effects
  • a:visited for links that have already been visited
  • a:active when a click or tap is held
  • a:focus is not specific to a tags, but can be used to help keyboard navigation

Example:

<a href="https://northrook.com">This is anchor content</a>

Note: When using an image within an a tag, if the visitor is using a screen reader, or if for any reason the image cannot be loaded, the alt text will be used. Search crawlers like Googlebot will also use the alt text.

People ask:

What is a Link Profile?

Also known as: Backlink Profile

A SEO term for all the links pointing to your website. How good or bad a link profile is, will depend on both the relative value of the back links to your website, and the judgement of the SEO specialist that review it.

Generally speaking a balanced profile is a good profile, that means having a good deal of quality back links from high authority sites in your niche, such as reviews linking to a product type or an article citing you as a trusted source, along with several back links from mentions on local business registrars, blog posts and the like.

Poor link profiles typically only have links from low authority sites, and may have several broken inbound links.

People ask:

What is a Link Relationship?

Also known as: nofollow, noopener, noreferrer, opener, sponsored, ugc

<a> tags can have the rel attribute applied to outbound links, that helps browsers and search engines understand the relationship your website has with the link.

The three most relevant values are:

  • rel="nofollow" Tells search engines that they should not follow this link when crawling
  • rel="sponsored" Marks as advertisement, paid backlinks, or other monetary gain
  • rel="ugc" Marks the link as generated by a user (not the owner) of the website, commonly used for links in comment on blog posts, forums etc.

Generally speaking, you would mark links to external sites you don't fully endorse with nofollow, links where you stand to gain monetarily as sponsored, and have all links by users as ugc.

Links to sites that you fully trust, but don't gain money for linking to, are free to be without a rel attribute.

Note: You can apply multiple values to the rel attribute, such as rel="ugc nofollow".

Note: The attributes noopener and noreferrer can be used to prevent the website you link to from knowing where the link came from.

Meta Tags

People ask:

What is Meta Tags?

Also known as: Meta Description, Meta Keywords

<meta> tags are elements of your HTML code that provide structured meta data and information about the page.

Some of this can be used by search engines, the "description" meta tag for instance will be used to fill the the text snippet in search results. You don't strictly speaking have to fill out a description tag, but it is highly recommended. Having an enticing description will improve your click-through rate, resulting in more conversions!

Note: Search engines limit how long of a text snippet they're willing to present. Google limits this at ~160 characters, or a pixel length of ~940px. Good SEO tools for WordPress (like SEOPress and Rank Math) will let you know if you exceed either.

Example:

<meta name="description" content="Northrook is delivering high-quality Web Design, Marketing, SEO and Hosting services to businesses, charities and beyond." />
People ask:

What is Modal?

Also known as: Popup

Newsletter

People ask:

What is Newsletter?

Organic Search Results

People ask:

What are Organic Search Results?

Also known as: Search Results

Results provided by a search engine, based on a search query.

Organic results are the results returned based solely on the websites ranking factors and their SEO efforts, as opposed to the Ads often found as the first set of links.

As an example, Google searches often include Ads powered by their own ads platform; Google Ads. These are paid for, and are not part of the organic results.

PageRank

People ask:

What is PageRank?

Also known as: Page Authority

Both a SEO term and an algorithm created by Google for ranking pages.

While your pages official PageRank score can no longer be obtained, as Google retired the official testing tool in 2016, most SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush and many more, create their own version of PageRank, usually in an effort to attribute a weighted value of authority to a website or domain.

PageRank, the algorithm, appears to still be in use to this day, likely still using inbound and outbound links, and the PageRank of those pages, to weigh and rank pages across the internet.

Note: If you would like to read the original 1997 paper on the algorithm, written by Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, you can find it on Stanford University's website: The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.

Robots.txt

People ask:

What is Robots.txt?

Search Engine

People ask:

What is Search Engine?

Search Query

People ask:

What is Search Query?

SEM

People ask:

What is SEM?

SEO

People ask:

What is SEO?

SERP

People ask:

What is SERP?

Site Map

People ask:

What is a sitemap?

Also known as: Sitemap

A site map is complete list of all pages within a whole website.

These site maps are often formatted as an XML file, structured in a way to help web crawlers easily find all pages to look through.

XML site maps can be styled with CSS, in order to be more both more visually pleasing, but also much more readable to humans.

Some websites also include a dedicated page for a human-friendly overview of the entire site.

Site maps are critical to SEO.

Title Tag

People ask:

What is a title tag?

Also known as: Meta title

The <title> tag is a HTML element that browsers and search engines use to determine the title of a given page.

You would typically be using a phrase built around one or more of your most valuable keywords, likely along with your brand or site name.

Example:

<title>Web Design, Ads, SEO Agency Southampton • Northrook</title>

Note: Most search engines, including Google and Bing, have a limit on how long of a title they're willing to display. This is typically around ~60 characters, or a pixel length of ~560px. Good SEO tools for WordPress (like SEOPress and Rank Math) will let you know if you exceed either.

Usability

People ask:

What is Usability?

Also known as: UX first

A SEO term based on "user experience first" design.

When creating websites, it is important to take the user experience into account, and keep it at the centre of your entire process. A great user experience will lead to more time spent on your website, lower bounce rates and higher conversions.

It is important to keep these three things in mind:

  • The access to content must be easy, that means clear and legible fonts, sensibly placed elements and a clear path to your content.
  • Ensure that your website loads fast, and has no layout shifting.
  • No dark patterns. That includes pop-ups, even on exit intent. A happy user is a converting user, and bothersome pop-ups directly lead to unhappy users.

UTM

People ask:

What is UTM?

Web Crawlers

People ask:

What are

Also known as: Googlebot, Search Crawler, Spiderbot

A web crawler is a type of automated script that "crawls" the web, looking at pages, images and other content, usually run by search engines like Google and Bing, to find and index your content. These automated scripts, often referred to as a "bot", can technically be run by anyone.

SEO and performance tools like Ahrefs, SEObility, Morningscore, and many more, use web crawlers for many purposes such as testing page performance, detecting index status, finding page relationships and more.

Most crawlers identify themselves when crawling a site.

You can use a robots.txt file on your server to manage which folders and file types bots are supposed to look for.

XML

People ask:

What is XML?

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