I must admit it can all be confusing sometimes – domains, URLs, Web servers, the cloud, IP, FTP, search engines, SEO, meta tags, etc. There’s a lot of website development terminology that may or may not mean anything to us.
So let me explain some of it. Tear this article out and keep it available as a handy resource, or bookmark the link to this article online. Here goes:
- Internet – A global network of millions of independent computers, linking more than 100 countries and nearly 2.5 billion people. Contrary to what Al Gore may have claimed, he did not “invent” the Internet. It’s more of a concept rather than an actual entity, a physical infrastructure of networks connected to other networks.
- World Wide Web – Often mistakenly used synonymously with the Internet, the Web is actually a place for sharing information that’s built on top of the Internet. This is where we access information and have our websites.
- ISP – Internet Service Provider, a company such as AT&T and Verizon that sells you a connection to the Internet. Access is given through the old dial-up method, DSL, cable or other means.
- IP address – IP stands for Internet Protocol. All machines on the Internet have a unique, numerical IP address. These numbers identify each particular machine, which is why you should never have a computer in your lobby where people can leave you reviews. These reviews would all come from the same IP address, and review sites will eventually disregard them, believing you were “stuffing the ballot box” with reviews yourself.
- Domain – Remembering numeric IP addresses alone would be impossible, so domains are words rather than numbers. Like google.com, bodyshopbusiness.com, optimaautomotive.com and your own business domain: insertyournamehere.com. Domain names are not “owned,” but you can own the rights to use these domains. You can reserve domains through services like GoDaddy, HostGator, etc. When used online, your domain is known as a URL (uniform resource locator) or your Web address. You, as the business owner, should own the rights to your own domain name.
- Domain Name Server (DNS) – A computer that hosts a domain name and directs an inquiry about that domain name to the correct IP address where the content associated with that domain resides, usually a Web server.
- Web server – Web pages have to be hosted somewhere, and Web servers are where it happens. They serve up websites under assigned domain URLs. This is also known as “hosting,” since you must have a Web server that “hosts” your website for you so it can be seen by your customers and prospects. Usernames and passwords (known as FTP access codes) are needed to get into your Web server.
- Email servers – These are similar to Web servers in that they serve up emails like an electronic postal service, both incoming and outgoing. These are separate from Web servers, which is often confusing for business owners. Email servers are Mail Transfer Agents (MTAs) that transfer electronic mail messages back and forth. Usually these services – Web hosting and email – are bundled in a package.
- Search engines – These are computer programs that read, or index, all the text on a website and search for particular keywords within them. They include Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Search engines use sophisticated, proprietary algorithms to match search queries entered by individuals with Web pages containing those keywords.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) – The art and science of building and maintaining a website so it ranks as highly as possible when searched by that site’s target audience. No SEO company can ethically promise position one or page one placement of a website. The more you know about this, the better.
- HTML – Stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, the programming language used to create websites. HTML defines exactly how a website should look when it appears on a computer screen. Plus, it contains the actual content that the website will have on it, both text and images.
- Meta tags – These are part of the HTML coding of the site but do not change how a website looks. Rather, they provide information about images, page descriptions and the SEO-important title tags on the page. As stated in past columns, meta tags called meta keywords are no longer relevant, yet most developers still use them.
- Cloud – Offsite, online storage of data with a service provider. This is used for documents, images, databases, etc. These can be used as backup or to alleviate the need to have storage devices in-house.
BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, apprenticeships, marketing and Web presence management with SkillsUSA, the I-CAR Education Foundation, Mentors at Work, VeriFacts Automotive and the NABC. He is the CEO of Optima Automotive (www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, SEO services and social media management services.