Glossary – An explanation of SEO & Web Design terms

At WebSanity we appreciate that the web world can seem a strange and confusing place, so we try our best to communicate in plain English, but there are various terms that you’ll hear which you will need, or want, explaining. We’ve gathered together some common ones here along with very basic, generalised explanations. If you can think of any other terminology that you’d like explaining then please give us a call or send us an email.

Internet Marketing is the very wide reaching process of promoting your website on the internet – trying to get it to feature better in the results that people get when searching for relevant terms, building a brand presence, actively advertising on the internet, encouraging potential customers to become actual customers and staying engaged with your existing customers. Long gone are the days that simple having a website was enough to attract potential customers to your business!

Pay Per Click advertising is the process of advertising your business services or products within the search engine results. It is becoming ever popular amongst businesses to balance with a Search Engine Optimisation programme. On any search engine when you search for something you will see sponsored results in the right-hand column and often in the first two ‘main’ entries on the screen. Given that over 80% of searches in Europe happen through Google, Pay Per Click advertising is becoming synonymous with their AdWords advertising programme. In a gross oversimplification of the process, you choose what search terms you would like to trigger your ad to be shown and then you pay when somebody sees your advert AND clicks on it. Unfortunately with the ever increasing levels of competition for advertising positions professional help is invariably required to ensure you get the best possible position at the best possible price. This is often termed ‘AdWords Optimisation’ or ‘PPC Optimisation’.

Search Engine Optimisation is the design and implementation of a website to ensure that it is ‘search engine friendly‘. This tries to ensure that your site appears high up in the results from a site such as Google: essential to bringing new customers to your website. This is done through a whole variety of techniques, many of them not obvious to the casual observer, such as keyword optimisation, distinct ‘meta-tags’ and content design. Search Engine Optimisation should be considered from the very start of designing a website, although some facets of it can be ‘retro-fitted’ to an existing website. Too many developers ignore the important of SEO, producing good looking sites that deliver very poor results.

Search Engine Marketing is the name given to the process of marketing your website effectively online. Search Engine Marketing is a ‘super-set’ of Search Engine Optimisation and includes factors outside of the website itself, such as placement in directories, link building and online advertising, to name but a few – to ensure that it delivers the best results possible.

Social Media Optimisation is the process of building a presence for your business in the network of social websites that many people use on a regular basis for news and information (e.g. FaceBook, YouTube, Blogs etc.) This reaches beyond your being an isolated site and builds links which can boost search engine ranking and also direct visits from genuine potential customers!

A Content Management System, or CMS, is a system that allows you to edit and update the basic content on your website. There are various ways of doing this; most popular, but also most expensive, is a set of password protected pages on your website that allow to edit your content via a web browser. The problem with such systems is that they can be expensive and inflexible. There are cheaper alternatives that we can recommend – dependent on your requirements.
Traditionally you only needed such a system if you had to make regular updates to your website or if you wanted the ultimate flexibility to update content immediately without having to ask your developer to do it for you. However, given the low cost solutions we can recommend, there is no reason now why every website should have this flexibility.

Hosting is the equivalent of your shop front. Just like you would pay rent for a shop or offices, you need to pay rent for your website hosting. Cost depends on how much space you need and how sophisticated your website is. Many different companies provide this service; it is best to get a recommendation from your website developer since only they are aware of the technical requirements your website will have. One thing we would normally recommend, however, is not to host on a web server in your developer’s company. Why? If the relationship breaks down, or if you want to ask somebody else to develop the website in the future, then your developer can suddenly turn awkward: we’ve seen it happen in the past. Also, web hosting companies have hundreds of machines looked after by dedicated staff working 24×7; your website developer doesn’t.

PHP is a programming language that we use to develop dynamic websites; it is a list of instructions telling the website what to do in different circumstances (e.g. check the login details supplied by a customer are correct and either show them their account or ask them to re-enter them). It is an ‘open source’ language that is developed cooperatively by the developer community. The closest commercial rival to it is a very similar language called ASP, developed and controlled by Microsoft. There is eternal debate as to which is the better language, but we feel that the sheer number of websites and the huge amount of support offered for PHP makes it a clear favourite for website development. There is a much greater choice of services to host PHP websites, and prices are generally lower.

Almost every dynamic website needs to be able to store information; whether it is names and addresses or product details. This information is stored in a database; think of it as an electronic filing cabinet. MySQL, like PHP, is a product of the developer community. It is fast, easy to use and almost the de facto website standard. Again it’s main commercial rival comes from Microsoft and is called SQLServer. The big difference is that Microsoft charges for using SQLServer and this tends to reflect in the availability and cost of website hosting. Typically you will find PHP/MySQL or ASP/SQLServer combined solutions.

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a standard way of interchanging frequently updated information on the internet. It can be used to provide news/information FROM your website for use on other websites or direct to your customers who use ‘news aggregators’ such as Google Reader. It can also be used to incorporate information from other websites into your website, such as news or weather.


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