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A Glossary of Web Content: Terms All Writers Should Know

Aug 17, 2007
Before launching into any enterprise, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the terms used in the field. For any producer of content, there are also legal and social issues to be aware of. The following is a glossary of the main forms of content found on the web. While not complete, all writers should be aware of the differences, the legal implications, and the effects of the various forms on reader reactions and search engine rankings.

Content - is defined as any form of information, here referring mainly to text, or text and images together that form a coherent work, referred to as an article.

Free content - is work legally usable without paying a fee, although legal restrictions may exist on modification, redistribution, and attribution.

Open content - is generally free, and may be redistributed provided it remains unaltered. The open content license (OC) also allows the charging of a fee for distribution services but not for the OC material itself. The OC license also allows modification providing attribution information, OC license and zero cost remain intact.

Content syndication - refers to the distribution of content to multiple Web sites through technologies as RSS, or catalogs of articles. The most common examples are the use of selective RSS news feeds to populate web pages with relevant daily changing updates.

Original content - refers to work that is significantly unlike any other work as to be regarded as 'original'. For example, an original work would be expected to pass the plagiarism test at http://copyscape.com. Sources of original content include vast compendiums of online articles.

Custom content, in contrast to the above forms is paid for, and developed to the clients specifications. It should be original content, without the legal limitations of the above forms as it becomes owned by the client, may be attributed to him/her, and used in any way. A familiar example of custom content is 'advertising copy' describing products for sale.

Creative content - like custom content, is paid for and owned, but unlike advertising copy might engage an audience to provoke comment, controversy, and be read for recreational or educational purposes. For example, a blog post would generally be regarded as creative content. The number of comments received by a post could be an indication of the degree of creativity.

Technical Content - while being custom and original, would not generally be regarded as creative, consisting of such things as specification or requirements documents, legal documents, and objective accounts such as financial or scientific reports.

User-Generated Content - on sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, and MySpace have taken the web by storm, and now rank among the top ten fastest growing web brands. User-generated content has the advantages of being free, although the legal usages of the content are not clear.

Destination Content - is an example of industries with unique forms of content. One major example is travel industry destination content, information and media for potential travelers about their destination.

Generated Content - usually refers to html code that is generated automatically in the course of displaying documents. As such, it is convenient and saves typing html. However, generated content can also refer to text generated to bait search engines without real creative content.

Spamdexing - or search engine Spam, are web pages created or modified automatically and expressly to improve rank and attract search hits to a website. Spamdexing is generally regarded as dishonest, though not technically illegal. Wikipedia has quite a good glossary of terms and techniques related to deceitful search engine optimization techniques.


Content must be original and creative to boost the search engine rankings over the long term. It must also be creative to engage users in a blog, and provide the feedback, contributions, and excitement that form the basis of respected, authority site. Ultimately, any shortcuts to search engine optimization that compromise creative quality will, sooner or later, be detected and the engine algorithms modified with drastic effect on your rankings.
About the Author
David Stockwell PhD is helping people to develop and market web-sites by applying statistics similar to those developed in ecology to discover new species.

Custom Content: From Content Creation to Web Dominance.
Niche Modeling: The Science and Statistics of Niche Modeling.
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