Search Engine Terms A-D

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A property of the relationship between words in a search engine (or directory) query. Search engines often allow users to specify that words should be next to one another or somewhere near one another in the web pages searched.
Agent Name Delivery
The process of sending search engine spiders to a tailored page, yet directing your visitors to what you want them to see. This is done using server side includes (or other dynamic content techniques). SSI, for example, can be used to deliver different content to the client depending on the value of HTTP_USER_AGENT. Most normal browser software packages have a user agent string which starts with "Mozilla" (coined from Mosaic and Godzilla). Most search engine spiders have specific agent names, such as "Gulliver", "Infoseek sidewinder", "Lycos spider" and "Scooter".
By switching on the value of HTTP_USER_AGENT (a process known as agent detection), different pages can be presented at the same URL, so that normal visitors will never see the page submitted to search engines (and vice versa).
In practise this is somewhat simplistic. Some search engines pretend to be "plain mozilla" browsers to prevent use of agent name delivery. Effective use of agent name delivery can be very difficult, and may not even work.
How do you spot agent name delivery at work? This is quite difficult, as the owners of web pages using agent name delivery can control what you see! You may be able to guess that a page is using this technique if it appears to be indexed incorrectly or the title or description don't match the page you see, but this could also have been achieved by switching pages after the relevant search engine has indexed it. If you really want to see the search engines' tailored version of a page, write a program (e.g. a Perl script) to retrieve the URL with HTTP_USER_AGENT set to each of the strings used by the search engine spiders. If agent name delivery is in use, one or more of the retrieved pages will be different to the others!
See also hidden text and IP delivery.
A popular search engine with the largest database on the web, indexing more than 140 million pages. Its main URL is Until 1998, this search engine provided the search facility for Yahoo. Altavista indexes all the words in a web page, and new pages are normally added to the database fairly quickly, within a couple of working days. You are asked to submit just the main page of your site. The Altavista spider will then explore your site and index a representative sample of the pages. Some problems with spamming have been noticed. The use of keyword meta tags is penalised. Altavista places various alternative options before its search results, including suggested questions (using the Ask Jeeves service), RealNames. Paid entries are beginning to appear at the start of the search results.
AOL Netfind
The default search engine for users of the AOL internet service provider, and hence a busy site. Its URL is It is essentially the same engine as Excite.
A small program, often written in Java, which usually runs in a web browser, as part of a web page. It is possible that the use of such a program may cause spiders and robots to stop indexing a page.
The name of the Excite search engine's spider.
Ask Jeeves
A meta search engine which can be asked questions in English. This service is also in use at Altavista.

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The provision of one page for a search engine or directory and a different page for other user agents at the same URL. Various methods can be used, e.g. Agent Name Delivery or IP Delivery.
Bridge Page
See Gateway Page.

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Common Gateway Interface - a standard interface between web server software and other programs running on the same machine.
CGI Program
Strictly, any program which handles its input and output data according to the CGI standard. In practice, CGI programs are used to handle forms and database queries on web pages, and to produce non-static web page content.
Channels, Channel listings
Lists of links to selected (and usually popular) web sites. The links are maintained by search engines and directories and are sorted into categories or channels. Sites are picked by a channel editor, often because of a site's already high ranking with the search engines. Some search engines and directories allow visitors to nominate sites for inclusion in their channels.
A computer, program or process which makes requests for information from another computer, program or process. Web browsers are client programs. Search engine spiders are (or can be said to behave as) clients.
Click through
The process of clicking on a link in a search engine output page to visit an indexed site.
This is an important link in the process of receiving visitors to a site via search engines. Good ranking may be useless if visitors do not click on the link which leads to the indexed site. The secret here is to provide a good descriptive title and an accurate and interesting description.
The hiding of page content. Normally carried out to stop page thieves stealing optimized pages. See also Bait-and-Switch.

The listing of only one page from each web site in a search engine or directory's list of search results. This avoids occupation of all the top results by a small number of web sites and makes the list of results clearer and more useful to the user.

The HTML <!-- and --> tags are used to hide text from browsers. Some search engines ignore text between these symbols but others index such text as if the comment tags were not there. Comments are often used to hide javascript code from non-compliant browsers, and sometimes (notably on Excite) to provide invisible keywords to some search engines.
See Spider.

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Dead Link
An internet link which doesn't lead to a page or site, probably because the server is down or the page has moved or no longer exists. Most search engines have techniques for removing such pages from their listings automatically, but as the internet continues to increase in size, it becomes more and more difficult for a search engine to check all the pages in the index regularly. Reporting of dead links helps to keep the indexes clean and accurate, and this can usually be done by submitting the dead link to the search engine.

The removal of pages from a search engine's index.

Removal can occur for various reasons, including unreliability of the machine that hosts a site or because of perceived attempts at spamdexing.

Descriptive text associated with a web page and displayed, usually with the page title and URL, when the page appears in a list of pages generated by a search engine or directory as a result of a query. Some search engines take this description from the DESCRIPTION Meta tag - others generate their own from the text in the page. Directories often use text provided at registration.

Direct Hit
A system which monitors the search engine users' selections from search engine results, counting which results are clicked on most, and how long visitors spend at that site, so as to improve relevancy. Used by HotBot and as a plug-in to Apple's new innovative Sherlock search system. See

A server or a collection of servers dedicated to indexing internet web pages and returning lists of pages which match particular queries. Directories (also known as Indexes) are normally compiled manually, by user submission (such as at, and often involve an editorial selection and/or categorization process (such as at LookSmart and Yahoo).
A meta search engine. Found at
A sub-set of internet addresses. Domains are hierarchical, and lower-level domains often refer to particular web sites within a top-level domain. The most significant part of the address comes at the end - typical top-level domains are .com, .edu, .gov, .org (which sub-divide addresses into areas of use). There are also various geographic top-level domains (e.g. .ar, .ca, .fr, .ro etc.) referring to particular countries.
The relevance to search engine terminology is that web sites which have their own domain name (e.g. will often achieve better positioning than web sites which exist as a sub-directory of another organisation's domain (e.g.
Doorway Page
See Gateway Page.
Dynamic content
Information on web pages which changes or is changed automatically, e.g. based on database content or user information. Sometimes it's possible to spot that this technique is being used, e.g. if the URL ends with .asp, .cfm, .cgi or .shtml. It is possible to serve dynamic content using standard (normally static) .htm or .html type pages, though. Search engines will currently index dynamic content in a similar fashion to static content, although they will not usually index URLs which contain the ? character.

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