Search Engine Terms O-R

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Open Directory Project
A directory project run by thousands of volunteer editors. In principal, this is a very exciting and powerful way to organise the web. In practice, there have been some problems with the behaviour of some of the editors, which has caused some initial difficulty for the organisers. Initially known as NewHoo, the project is now part of Netscape (and therefore of AOL). See
Open Text
A large business-only directory. The URL is
Changes made to a web page to improve the positioning of that page with one or more search engines. A means of helping potential customers or visitors to find a web site. Optimization may involve design/layout changes, new text for the title-tags, meta-tags, alt- attributes, headings, and changes to the first 200-250 words of the main text. A large image map at the top of a page should be moved further down the page. Frames should be avoided (unless navigational links are also provided within the frames).

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Page Popularity
A measure of the number and quality of links to a particular page (inbound links). Many search engines (and most noticeably Infoseek) are increasingly using this number as part of the positioning process. The number and quality of inbound links is becoming as important as the optimisation of page content. A free service to measure page popularity can be found at

Page View
Used in site statistics as a measure of pages viewed rather than server hits. Many server hits may be made to access a single page, causing many separate log file entries. Analysis software can determine that these server hits were generated when a visitor viewed a single page, and group them together to provide this more useful method of counting visitors. See also Hit and Unique Visitor.

See Positioning.

Politeness Window
In order not to overburden any particular server, most search engine spiders limit their access to each server. If your page is hosted on the same server as thousands of other pages, the spider may never get the time to reach (and index) your page. This can be a powerful argument for having your own server.

See Gateway page. Can also mean Portal Site.

Portal Page
See Gateway page.

Portal Site
A generic term for any site which provides an entry point to the internet for a significant number of users.

Examples are search engines, directories, built-in default browser or service provider homepages, sites hardwired to browser buttons, sites offering free homepages, e-mail or personalised news and any popular (or heavily advertised) sites that significant numbers of people may bookmark or set as default pages.

The process of ordering web sites or web pages by a search engine or a directory so that the most relevant sites appear first in the search results for a particular query. Software such as PositionAgent, Rank This and Webposition can be used to determine how a URL is positioned for a particular search engine when using a particular search phrase. The GoHip Search site allows you to see positioning information from many of the big search engines, displayed all on one page.
Positioning Technique
A method of modifying a web page so that search engines (or a particular search engine) treat the page as more relevant to a particular query (or a set of queries).

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A word, a phrase or a group of words, possibly combined with other syntax used to pass instructions to a search engine or a directory in order to locate web pages.
For details of which queries are being used, visit the Search Inventory page. To "spy" on queries as they're entered, look at the Metaspy page. A summary of what people actually search for can be found at A free program called Word Market will collect search terms from the search engines, and is available at The Canadian Email Business Network provides a Meta Tags/Keywords Search Engine at which allows searches through thousands of recent search engine queries.

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See Positioning.
An alternate website address system in operation at Altavista. Brand names used in searches are mapped directly to the appropriate website, usually because the company owning the brand-name has paid a fee to RealNames.
The URL of the web page from which a visitor came. The server's referrer log file will indicate this. If a visitor came directly from a search engine listing, the query used to find the page will usually be encoded in the referer URL, making it easy to see which keywords are bringing visitors. The referer information can also be accessed as document.referrer within JavaScript or via the HTTP_REFERER environment variable (accessible from scripting languages).
Refresh Tag
See the paragraph about HTTP_EQUIV under Meta Tag.
The process of informing a search engine or directory that a new web page or web site should be indexed.
Relevancy Algorithm
The method a search engine or directory uses to match the keywords in a query with the content of each web page, so that the web pages found can be ordered suitably in the query results. Each search engine or directory is likely to use a different algorithm, and to change or improve its algorithm from time to time.
Repeating the search engine registration process one or more times for the same page or site. Under certain circumstances, this is regarded with suspicion by the search engines, as it could indicate that someone is experimenting with spamming techniques.

The Infoseek and Altavista search engines are particularly vulnerable to spamming because they list sites very quickly, and are thus easy to experiment with. Both engines de-list sites for repeated re-submission and Infoseek, for example, does not allow more than one submission of the same page in a 24 hour period. Occasional re-submission of changed pages is not normally a problem.
Any browser program which follows hypertext links and accesses web pages but is not directly under human control. Examples are the search engine spiders, the "harvesting" programs which extract e-mail addresses and other data from web pages and various intelligent web searching programs. A database of web robots is maintained by Webcrawler.
A text file stored in the top level directory of a web site to deny access by robots to certain pages or sub-directories of the site. Only robots which comply with the Robots Exclusion Standard will read and obey the commands in this file. Robots will read this file on each visit, so that pages or areas of sites can be made public or private at any time by changing the content of robots.txt before re-submitting to the search engines. The simple example below attempts to prevent all robots from visiting the /secret directory:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /secret
For more information, please refer to the Altavista robots.txt page.

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