Making sense of web terminology and ‘geek-speak’ – a Web Designer’s Dictionary

Written by Matthew Simmons
web terminology - a web designers dictionary

[icegram campaigns="2247"]

Ever wondered what your web designer or SEO specialist is talking about sometimes? Do you struggle to know the difference between a long-tail keyword and a ring tailed lemur (who also has a long tail)? Here’s a list of some of the commonly used and important geek-speak words and an explanation of why you should care about these items of web terminology!

ALT Text Attribute

Often mis-named ‘alt tag’ this code snippet is essentially a description of an image in your site’s HTML. Search engines can only read the ALT text attribute of images and the file name, not the images themselves. Add ALT text to images whenever possible.

Anchor Text

This is the word or phrase on a web page that a web-link links from to another web page. This text is often a contrasting colour and underlined; the colour changes if you’ve visited the link in the past. Anchor text helps visitors to your website easily find related content and assists search engines understand what the destination page is about.

Canonical URL

The canonical URL is the best address on which a user can find a piece of information. Sometimes you might have a situation where the same page content can be accessed at more than one address. Specifying the canonical URL helps search engines understand which address for a piece of content is the best one. Here’s what Google has to say about it:

“Sorry that it’s a strange word; that’s what we call it around Google. Canonicalization is the process of picking the best url when there are several choices, and it usually refers to home pages. For example, most people would consider these the same urls:





But technically all of these urls are different. A web server could return completely different content for all the urls above. When Google “canonicalizes” a url, we try to pick the url that seems like the best representative from that set.”


The domain is the main web address of your site (example: Search engine rankings tend to show favour to websites with a long history on the web and to longer forward registrations because it shows commitment to longevity.

The Fold

The “fold” is the lowest part of your web-page where the page gets cut off by the bottom of a visitor’s monitor screen or browser window. Anything “below the fold” can be scrolled to, but is not immediately visible. Search engines place priority on content above the fold, since it will be seen right away by new visitors.

Headings, H1, H2

Headings that label and break up the content on a web-page into logical sections are placed inside of a heading tag, such as an H1 or H2. This text is often presented in a larger and stronger font than other text on the page. Search engines read these and look for clues as to how to index the page from these tags.

Inbound Link

An inbound link is a link from one site into your website. A link from another web-site will improve your site’s PageRank, especially if that site has a high PageRank itself.

Internal Link

An internal link however, is a link from one page to another on the same website, such as from one article in your news to another page with more detail. It helps visitors explore your site and gain greater insight into the scope of your offering.

Indexed Pages

The pages of your website that are stored by search engines in their database..


Java is a scripting language that allows websites to create various effects or changes to the content of their website as users browse it. Animations, image sliders for example often use java; search engines can have difficulty reading content that is inside a Javascript package.


A keyword is a word that a potential visitor to your site enters in the search engine. Each web page should be optimised with the goal of drawing in visitors who have searched specific keywords or key-phrases.

Link Building

Link building is the process of acquiring more inks to your website from other web-sites. Links from relevant external websites signal to the search engines that your site is building authority on the web, and helps them prioritise your site in their rankings.

Long Tail Keyword

A long tail keyword is a string of search words including a main keyword, typically two or more words, in a phrase that defines a niche. Long tail keywords are more specific and will generate more qualified visitors to your site.


Metadata is a broad term that describes all the data on a webpage, and helps inform search engines what your website is about.

Meta Description

The meta description tag is a brief description of the contents of a page and why someone would want to visit it. If present, the meta-description will be displayed on search engine results pages below the page title. The text rendered by the search engines is limited 160 characters; if there is no meta description tag then the search engines will make a logical guess from the page content it can read. This is not ideal and will discourage visitors from clicking through to your site.

Meta Keywords

Meta keywords were previously used by search engines in the 90s and early 00s to help determine what a web page was about. However, this tag is no longer used by any major search engines.


Nofollow is a link attribute used when you want an outbound link from your site to an external site and where you do not wish to pass SEO credit to the other site. Nofollow tends not to be used when linking to internal pages in your own website, but when linking to external pages that you don’t want to endorse.

Page Title

Page Title is another crucial piece of meta data; it is the (unique) name you give each web page on your site and which is enclosed in a <title> HTML tag, inside of the <head> section of the page. The page title appears in search engine results and at the top of a user’s web browser when they are on that page. Page titles should contain keywords related to the business and/or that web-page. Words at the beginning of your page title are more highly weighted by the search engines than words at the end.


A number from 0-10, assigned by Google via their algorithm, indicating how high much authority Google ascribes to that page. Named after one of the founders of Google – Larry Page. Google is currently rather ambivalent about the long term future of PageRank (PR) and haven’t updated PR for over 12months.


‘Panda’ is a critical series of updates released by Google to its algorithm in 2011, intended to stop sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click)

Advertising method in which an advertiser puts an ad in an online advertising asset and pays that asset each time a visitor clicks on his/her ad. Google AdWords is the brand leader in this space.

Ranking Factors

Elements that Google determines where to rank a certain page, such as the number and quality of inbound links to a page, trust metrics, relevance, keyword usage in the contents of the page, page load speed, mobile friendliness, engagement metrics.

RSS Feed

RSS stands for ‘really simple syndication’ and is a subscription-based way to get updates on new content from a web source. An RSS feed on your website helps your followers stay updated when you release new content.

SERP (Search Engine Ranking Page)

The SERP is the physical web page that you are offered after you run a query in a search engine. Typically each page of ranking results in the search engines has 10 results on it, but this may vary depending on the query and search engine in question.


A special document created by a webmaster or a piece of software that provides a map of all the pages on a website to make it easier for a search engine to index that website.

Social Media

Online media created by and shared among individuals. Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter are popular social media websites. Links from many social media sites now appear in searches. It’s important to have links to your site spread throughout social media because the search engines prioritise content that has good ‘social signals’.


A spider, or crawler, is a computer program that browses every website on the internet and collects information about every page on these websites. This data is used to populate the search engine’s databases and index web pages.


URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and is effectively the web address of a page on your site (example:

301 Redirect

A 301 redirect is a way to make one web page redirect the visitor to another page. Whenever you change the web address of a page, apply a 301 redirect to make the old address point to the new one – permanently. Using the proper redirects ensures that visitors to your site who have linked to, or bookmarked the old address, will automatically get to the new one. Search engines also will use 301 redirect signals to update their webpage index.

302 Redirect

Like a 301 redirect, except that a 302 redirect is used as a temporary measure. The search engines see a 302 redirect and know that the original page will be required again. Visitors are redirected to the new temporary page for the duration.




Snap Marketing for graphic design, website design and marketing based in basingstoke hampshire

Interested in how we approach web design, marketing and print?

Talk to Us Join our Mailing List

because...... it's all about getting your foot through the door

Which Web Design Company: Snap Marketing