Glossary: General web terms

Web design jargon can be confusing. Here are explanations of common terms.

root folder

In graphical user interfaces, such as Windows and Macintosh, a folder is an object that can contain multiple documents. Folders are used to organize information. A root folder is the first, or top, folder in these directories. Examples are: a county, department or program folder.


The markup characters that indicate the start or end of an element - but not the element’s content. For example <p> and </p> to denote a paragraph.

meta tag

A meta tag provides information about a Web page. Unlike normal HTML tags, meta tags do not affect how the page is displayed. Instead, they provide information such as who created the page, how often it is updated, what the page is about, and which keywords represent the page’s content. Many search engines use this information to build their indices.

alt tag

The alternative text that the browser displays when the visitor does not want to or cannot see the pictures on a Web page. Using alt tags containing keywords can improve the search engine ranking of the page.

title tag

The title tag is generally displayed at the top of the browser window. Using keywords in the title tag can significantly improve search engine ranking.

search engine

Internet search engines (Google, AltaVista, etc.) help users find Web pages on a given subject. Search engines maintain databases of Web sites and use programs (called “spiders” or “robots”) to collect information that is then indexed by the search engine. Similar services are provided by “directories,” which maintain ordered lists of Web sites, such as Yahoo!

keywords and keyword phrases

A keyword is the subject matter a Web page is targeting. A travel agent who sells airline flights may use “flights” as a keyword. However, this is not as targeted as “cheap flights”, or better still, “cheap flights to Orlando”.

keyword frequency

Denotes how often a keyword appears in a page or in an area of a page. In general, the more often a keyword appears in a page, the higher its search engine ranking. However, repeating a keyword too often can cause that page to be penalized for spamming.

keyword prominence

Denotes how close to the beginning of a page that a keyword appears. In general, having the keyword closer to the beginning of a page or section will improve search engine ranking.

keyword weight

Denotes the number of times a keyword appears in a page as a percentage of all the other words in the page. In general, the higher the weight of a particular keyword, the higher the search engine ranking for that page. However, repeating a keyword too often can cause that page to be penalized for spamming.

link popularity

The number of sites which link to a particular site. Many search engines use link popularity as a factor in determining the ranking of a Web site.

search engine submission

The act of submitting specific URLs to popular search engines like Google, MSN and Yahoo! to ensure the Web page gets spidered and indexed.


A component of a search engine that roams the Web, storing URLs and indexing the keywords and text of each page encountered. Also referred to as a robot or crawler.


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