Much like pop quizzes in school, it’s important to stay on your toes when it comes to search engine optimization vocabulary. A lot of terms and jargon are used incorrectly, and might lead you down the wrong path when you’re getting on top of your SEO game. The good news? You won’t be graded on any of this, which means your odds of getting into Harvard on a full-ride scholarship won’t be lowered. However, the bad news is that you won’t get any stickers or prizes for acing this quiz either—but you will learn a few things and get a warm feeling inside when you get one right.
Question 1: What’s Robotx.txt?
A lot of people wrongly assume that robots.txt is a tool used to block content from appearing in search engines. What it actually does is stop part of a site, such as a page, from being crawled over and indexed. In other words, the actual URL isn’t blocked, but some parts aren’t getting indexed. This can get you in trouble if your web designer simply adds pages to robotx.txt file assuming the whole page won’t get indexed.
Remember: this will never stop a URL from being indexed. Once Google finds out about the page, whether from a link or something else, the page URL will be indexed—and your customers will get that annoying “page cannot be displayed” error. What needs to be done in order to block a page is a noindex tag added to the header.
Question 2: Can Panda and Penguin Penalize You?
You might think there’s a “Panda penalty” or “Penguin penalty.” There’s not. However, both Penguin and Panda can be the cause of a penalty on your site. In fact, Google doesn’t even like the word “penalty” and instead calls new rules “algorithm updates.” Any Google engineer will tell you there are only a handful of actual penalties, and those can be found in the Manual Action Viewer.
Penguin and Panda aren’t actually algorithms themselves, but algorithm updates. It’s a more fun way of saying “version 2.3” and people naturally like cuddly animals. However, when an algorithm update leads to an “algorithm shift,” it can certainly feel like a penalty if your ranking goes down. Call it a penalty if you like—just don’t let a Google engineer hear you.
Question 3: What’s PageRank?
It’s easy to see why people think Google assigns a spectrum of numbers 0 through 10 to see how “good” your site is within the algorithm. That would make things too simple. PageRank (PR) is actually a value available to the public. Yes, zero is bad and 10 is unbelievably good, and where you land on the scale shows you where you’re headed (the majority of companies hover in the PR of 1 to 3). However, the PR Google uses and the one you see are two different beasts.
You see the Toolbar PageRank, which is actually being taken away slowly by Google. You may notice fewer updates as Google shifts what PageRank means (to you). Google wants you to focus on metrics instead. For Google, what’s more important are links (and link quality) and quality content. Think of it as a strength indicator, not a measurement of quality. For example, links from reputable and established sites add strength whereas poor quality links actually reduce strength.