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Site Search Glossary: Essential Terms For Marketers

The world of site search has its own unique vocabulary, and as a marketing professional you need to be in the know!


This helpful search glossary compiles the essential terminology, definitions, and abbreviations you’ll need to have an informed discussion with your IT department when talking about your search platform.

Accessibility: Web accessibility refers to how accessible web pages and content are to people with disabilities. Accessibility is also the practice of inclusion – people who are dependent on using websites need to have access to content regardless of their condition, meaning websites need to be accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.

API: An application programming interface (API) is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software. In general terms, it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components.

Algorithm: An algorithm is a complex mathematical equation that search engines use to match relevant pages within the billions of pages saved, or cached, by the search engine with the search terms employed by Internet users.

Asynchronous Content: Asynchronous content is data that is inessential for the browser to initially render a web page. It can be loaded into the web page whenever it is available. For example, consider a web page that displays a user profile. If the user information (i.e. name, profile image, etc.) exists on an external database and is not immediately available to the browser, the browser can send a request for this information to the database and, in the meantime, render the web page that will contain the user information without needing to wait for the database’s response. Once the response is available, the information can be loaded into the already rendered page. This increases the speed at which the page and content is perceived by the end user to be delivered.

Bigram Matching: Bigrams are word combinations in sentences where each two adjacent words create a bigram. Bigram matching is a language analysis tool which advanced search engines use to find results for multiple word queries that are similar to but not exactly the same as the text in the searchable index.

CMS: A content management system is a computer application that supports the creation and modification of digital content. It typically supports multiple users in a collaborative environment.

CMS Agnostic: Software is CMS agnostic if it is developed to integrate with many types of Content Management Systems rather than just one particular CMS.

CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language.

Crawler: A crawler (otherwise known as an indexer or spider) is a program that visits websites and reads their pages and other information in order to create entries for a search engine index.

Drupal: Drupal is a free and open source content management framework written in PHP and distributed under the GNU General Public License.

Engine: A web search engine is a software system that is designed to search for information.

Enterprise Search: Enterprise search is the practice of making content from multiple enterprise-type sources, such as databases and intranets, searchable to a defined audience.

Error 404: An error message displayed by a browser indicating that a resource at an Internet address cannot be found.

Federated Search: Federated search is an information retrieval technology that allows the simultaneous search of multiple searchable resources.

Google Search Appliance: The Google Search Appliance (GSA) was a rack-mounted device that provided document indexing functionality. GSA runs as a server inside or outside your network. It indexes critical content by “crawling” your company resources (or public web servers) for data so users can locate it using the same search methods offered on the Google Search site. This may include websites, file shares and databases. Google Search Appliance has been discontinued by Google, and ceased to operate in 2019.

Google Custom Search: Google Custom Search (GCS) is an ads-supported product that provides similar capabilities to Google Site Search, including the ability to build custom search engines for sites or pages, or image search for your website. With a few exceptions, the Google Custom Search contains advertising within the search results, as well as Google branding. GCS is the replacement for Google Site Search that was sunset on April 1, 2018.

H1 Tag: The header tag, or the tag in HTML, will usually be the title of a post, or other emphasized text on the page. It will usually be the largest text that stands out. In most cases, there should only be one h1 tag per web page.

HTML: Hypertext Markup Language is the standard markup language for creating web pages and web applications. With Cascading Style Sheets and Javascript, it forms a triad of cornerstone technologies for the World Wide Web.

HTML Injection Attack: HTML injection is a type of injection issue that occurs when a user is able to control an input point and is able to inject arbitrary HTML code into a vulnerable web page.

HTTP Header: HTTP header fields are components of the header section of request and response messages in the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). They define the operating parameters of an HTTP transaction.

IFrame: An IFrame (Inline Frame) is an HTML document embedded inside another HTML document on a website. The IFrame HTML element is often used to insert content from another source, such as an advertisement into a Web page.

Index: Search engine indexing collects, parses, and stores content, videos, text, images etc. to facilitate fast and accurate information retrieval.

Inline Search Results: Search results that are opened onto a new web page, separate from the page where the search was conducted.

Intranet: A private network for communication, collaboration and sharing information within an organization.

JSON: Javascript Objection Notation  (JSON) is an open-standard file format that is used to transmit data objects consisting of attribute-value pairs and array data types. It uses notation meant to be both human-readable and machine-readable.

Key Match: Keyword match types help control which searches on Google can trigger your ad. So, you could use broad match to show your ad to a wide audience or you could use exact match to hone in on specific groups of customers.

LSI: Latent Semantic Indexing is when a search engine indexes commonly associated groups of words in a document. SEOs refer to these same groups of words as “Long Tail.”

Machine Learning: Machine Learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that often applies statistical techniques to data, to give computers the ability to “learn” to progressively improve performance on a specific task without being explicitly programmed.

Meta Tags: Meta tags are snippets of text that describe a page’s content. They don’t appear in the page itself, but rather in the page’s code.

NoIndex: The noindex directive is an often used value in a meta tag that can be added to the HTML source code of a webpage to suggest to search engines to not include that particular page in its list of search results.

NoFollow: The nofollow directive is an often used value in a met tag that can be added to the HTML source code of a webpage to suggest to search engines not to pass link equity through any links on a given webpage.

One Box: In order to provide answers to specific questions that are as accurate as possible, Google has repeatedly experimented with the display of search results. With One Box, Google has found a way to integrate the results from its vertical search engines in the organic SERPS. The increasingly integrated One Box has drastically reduced the space for organic search results for certain queries.

Open Source: Software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified.

Overlay Search Results: Search results that are displayed on top of the page where the search was conducted.

Penetration Test: A penetration test, colloquially known as a pen test, is an authorized simulated attack on a computer system, performed to evaluate the security of the system.

Personalization: Personalized search refers to search results that are tailored specifically to an individual’s​ interests by incorporating information about the individual (previous search behavior, geolocation, demographic, language, etc.) beyond the specific query provided.

Responsive Design: An approach to webpage creation that makes use of flexible layouts, flexible images and cascading style sheet media queries. The goal of responsive design is to build webpages that detect the visitor’s screen size and orientation and change the layout accordingly.

Relevance: In the search world, relevance refers to how relevant the search results are to a given search. When determining search result relevance, search engines consider hundreds of factors, including semantic signals, linguistic signals, prominence factors, length and publish date.

Robots.TXT: The robots exclusion standard, also known as the robots exclusion protocol or simply robots.txt, is a standard used by websites to communicate with web crawlers and other web robots. The standard specifies how to inform the web robot about which areas of the website should not be processed or scanned. Robots are often used by search engines to categorize websites.

SAML: Security Assertion Markup Language is an open standard for exchanging authentication and authorization data between parties, in particular, between an identity provider and a service provider.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The process of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to a website or a web page from external search engines like Google or Bing.

SERP: A search engine results page is the page displayed by a web search engine in response to a query by a searcher. The main component of the SERP is the listing of results that are returned by the search engine in response to a keyword query.

Social Search Optimization: Social search optimization is just like any search engine optimization strategy in that the desired result is to increase your visibility. Search engines are now placing more importance on the content of these social sites in ranking webpages in their SERP’s.

Single Sign On: Single Sign-On is a property of an access control system that allows access to multiple independent software systems with only one form of authorization.

Section 508: Requires federal agencies to ensure that persons with disabilities (both employees and members of the public) have comparable access to and use of electronic information technology.

Section 504: Requires agencies to provide appropriate auxiliary aids in the form of braille & large print forms of materials.

Site Map: A page or structured group of pages which link to user accessible pages on a website. It is intended to improve site usability by clarifying the data structure of the site for the user. Site maps can also be used by web crawlers to efficiently and thoroughly explore a website’s content for indexing.

Static HTML: Static webpages contain the same prebuilt content each time the page is loaded, while the content of dynamic webpages can be generated on-the-fly.

Synonyms:  Synonyms are words or phrases having the same or nearly the same meaning as another in the language, such as the words “happy”, “joyful”, and “elated”. Advanced search engines understand synonyms and use this understanding to provide relevant search results without the need for exact key matching.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): Standard guidelines on how to create web content that is accessible for people with disabilities.

White Hat SEO: The usage of optimization strategies, techniques and tactics that focus on a human audience opposed to search engines and completely follows search engine rules and policies. For example, a website that is optimized for search engines, yet focuses on relevancy and organic ranking is considered to be optimized using White Hat SEO practices.

Widgets: A control element in a graphical user interface is an element of interaction, such as a button or a scroll bar.

WordPress: WordPress is a free and open-source content management system based on PHP and MySQL. To function, WordPress has to be installed on a web server, which would either be part of an Internet hosting service or a network host in its own right.

XML: Extensible Markup Language is a simple, very flexible text format derived from SGML, used to make it easy to syndicate or format information using technologies such as RSS.

XML Site Map: A page or structured group of pages which link to user accessible pages on a website. It is intended to improve site usability by clarifying the data structure of the site for the user.

XPath: XPath is a query language for selecting nodes from an XML document. In addition, Xpath may be used to compute values from the content of an XML document.