Glasgow Web Design's glossary of web design and SEO terms


Here is our glossary of web design and search engine optimisation terms:


Website accessibility refers to a website's ease-of-use for people with disabilities, including people with physical, hearing or visual difficulties. Since 2002 under UK law website owners are required to take reasonable steps to make their websites accessible to disabled people. Many of the requirements of web accessibility overlap with general principles of good web design anyway.


AdSense is Google's PPC advertising model that allows website owners to buy advertising space on other relevant webpages (that are signed up with AdSense).


AdWords is Google's flagship PPC advertising model, and allows website owners to buy advertising space next to relevant organic search engine results.

AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML)

AJAX is a group of programming techniques that allow for the design of faster, smoother web applications. For example, because AJAX allows asynchronous communication it is possible to update parts of web pages without having to reload the entire page. Because of these benefits many webmail providers such as Yahoo Mail now also provide an AJAX version of their webmail service.


Ranking algorithms are used by search engines to determine the order in which websites should be returned for a given query. Search engines regularly update their algorithms in order to prevent undeserving websites from gaining high rankings. Search engine algorithms change frequently.

alt tag

An alt tag is a small piece of descriptive text attached to a non-textual web page element, such as an image file. Alt tags are an accessibility feature and are displayed or read aloud in place of the non-textual element in text-only browsers or screen reader software used by people with visual disabilities.

backlinks (or inbound links)

Backlinks are incoming links that point to your website. The quantity and quality of backlinks are a measure of the popularity of your website, and backlinks are a key part of the algorithms used by Google and other search engines to rank websites.

black hat SEO

Black hat SEO is a set of unethical SEO tricks aimed at artificially search engine rankings for a website. An example of a black hat SEO trick is using hidden text to stuff hundreds of additional keywords into a page. The best argument against using black hat SEO techniques is that search engines regularly review their ranking algorithms to block these tricks from working, and they are also known to blacklist websites that are deemed to violate their terms and conditions.


Search engines can penalise websites that use black hat SEO tricks to artificially manipulate rankings. These sites are blacklisted for a period of time, meaning that their site is either heavily penalised or drops out of the rankings entirely. Upon removing the black hat SEO tricks a site can file for reinclusion into the main index, though this process is not immediate or guaranteed.

blog (from web log)

A blog is an online journal, where one or more people post regular entries for the public to read. Blogs frequently contain personal thoughts or events, and are often written in a less formal tone than traditional websites. However blogs can also be used very effectively by businesses to improve communication with their customers.

bounce rate

The bounce rate of a website is the proportion of visitors who quickly leave without clicking on any other page or spending more than 5 seconds browsing the site.


A web browser is the software used to display web pages. The most common browsers are Internet Explorer and Firefox on PC, and Safari on Mac.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

CSS defines the layout and appearance of multiple web pages. CSS allows web designers to separate presentation from content, greatly increasing design flexibility while reducing the time needed to maintain a large website.

Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS is a piece of software which lets a person edit a website through a web browser, without knowledge of HTML or CSS. Two popular types of CMS are Drupal and Wordpress.

conversion rate

The conversion rate of a website is the proportion of visitors who are converted into leads or sales, when they buy the product, sign up for your newsletter, pick up the phone or send an email. Conversion rate optimisation is the process of increasing the number of visitors who become customers. A website that has a poor conversion rate is not going to get the full benefit from good search engine rankings.

domain name

A domain name is a unique name that identifies a website, eg Domain names are used to locate the web server where that website is stored.

dynamic website

A dynamic website is one which is driven by a database, meaning that pages can be readily created, deleted and edited through a web browser using a Content Management System.


Flash is the name of Adobe's animation software package, which produces Flash movie files. Flash animations can be used for introductory splash pages on websites, though this can annoy visitors and harm search engine rankings.


Forums are publicly accessible online communities that are normally set up for the discussion of a particular topic of theme, such as sports or politics. Discussion forums can also be used by customers to praise or criticise a company's products, and when handled correctly can be a valuable way of interacting with your customer base.


Googlebot is a program used by Google to find and collect web pages for inclusion in the Google index. Important websites that are regularly updated will be checked frequently for updates by Googlebot.

Google Supplemental Index

Google's supplemental index is a list of pages deemed by Google to be of less importance or less trustworthy than pages on the main index.


In web statistics, hits refer to inbound connections made to a website. Websites receive one hit for every file downloaded, so counting hits alone is not a reliable measure of the number of visitors to a website.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

HTML is the computer language used to build web pages on the World Wide Web. HTML (and now XHTML) is used to define the content of a web page, while CSS is used to define the appearance of that content. You can view the source HTML of a web page from most web browsers.

inbound links

see backlinks


Keywords or keyphrases refer to the words used when someone queries a search engine. Search engines try and predict the most useful websites to return in response to the keywords used. An important

keyword research

Keyword research involves analysing the frequency with which people search for particular keywords or keyphrases. Keyword research is a vital first step when carrying out SEO on a website, as it lets you calculate the most effective keywords or keyphrases for your website to target.


Linkbait means the creation of content that is either informative or entertaining, with the aim of generating inbound links.

link building

Link building is the process of growing the number of links to a website in order to boost the link popularity of your site. Link building can include the creation of linkbait, as well as directory submission, article writing, reciprocal link exchanges, etc.

meta tags

Meta tags are small pieces of descriptive text that contain extra information about your web pages. Meta tags are embedded in source HTML files and are not displayed in web browsers. Historically, search engines used meta tags to better understand the content of your website, though because of abuse the role of meta tags has been greatly reduced.


Website navigation refers to the display of links to other parts of a website. Poor navigation systems can lead to people abandoning the site in frustration.

organic search

Organic search refers to the main natural listings returned by search engines. Organic search is distinct to paid search, or pay-per-click advertising, whereby advertisers can pay to have their website promoted next to relevant organic search results.


PageRank is Google's proprietary measure of webpage popularity, commonly visualised as a small green bar. Webpages can have a PageRank score between 0 and 10, and PageRank is recalculated every few months.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

PPC refers to the advertising model whereby an advert linking to your website is displayed on a search engine results page or on other website. You pay an agreed sum every time someone clicks on the link and is transferred to your website.

semantic markup

Semantic markup refers to HTML code that is valid and properly structured, complies with web standards, is easy to maintain, and is search engine friendly. Semantic markup also boosts accessibility.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO is the set of techniques aimed at increasing your website's rankings in organic search results.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM is the purchase of advertising space in the paid results section of search engine results, often on a pay-per-click basis.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Search Engine Results Pages are the combination of organic search results and sponsored listings generated by search engines in response to a particular query.


A sitemap is a comprehensive listing of all pages on a website. Sitemaps are used to ensure people and search engines can locate all information on a website.

static website

A static website is one where the web pages are stored as HTML files and uploaded to the server in complete form. Static websites cannot be edited using a web browser.


Submission refers to the process of adding your website to a search engine's index. Search engines provide web forms to allow people to submit new websites.


Web templates are HTML and CSS files that can be readily edited to create web pages. Editing web templates requires some skill to do properly, but can dramatically reduce the time and effort required to build a website.

title tag

The title tag is an HTML element that produces the text at the top of a web browser. The title tag is also the clickable first line of each result returned by a search engine.


Typography is use of particular fonts or typefaces to display textual content.


Web usability refers to the ease-of-use of a website. A usable website is one that allows people to easily complete given tasks, such as searching for information or purchasing items. Usable websites are more enjoyable to use, and have a lower bounce rate than average websites.

user agent

A user agent is a device used to access a website. The most common user agents are web browsers such as Internet Explorer or Firefox, though variant user agents include mobile phone browsers, text-only browsers such as Lynx, and screen reader software for blind users.


A visitor is another term for a user who accesses a website. When analysing website statistics it is important to differentiate between visitors and hits; a webpage that contains images will record an extra hit for each image downloaded.


The World Wide Web Consortium is responsible for developing the technological standards and protocols that govern communication over the internet. For example, the W3C is responsible for maintaining the CSS and HTML standards.

web server

A web server refers to both the hardware and software that allows people to access websites over the internet. Web server hardware typically refers to Windows or Unix computers provided by hosting companies. Web server software typically refers to Apache or Microsoft IIS software.

white hat SEO

White hat SEO refers to ethical SEO techniques aimed at improving the content of the website for visitors, thereby meriting higher rankings from search engines.


XHTML is a variation of HTML that has a more rigid structure, is less tolerant of errors in the HTML source code, and which yields a greater degree of cross-browser compatibility.

Contact Us Now