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Technical Words and Clear Thinking about Google

 1:30 am on Jan 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail
all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is
happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our
thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to
have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English,
especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which
can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these
habits one can think more clearly.

-George Orwell

This poignant observation is even more true for technical topics. It is essential for clear analysis of search results first, to know something precise about technical vocabulary, and second, to be absolutely rigorous when using these words in our thinking and communicating.

With this in mind I thought a thread about commonly misunderstood words and fuzzily understood technical concepts could be helpful.

1. Page Rank is not Ranking
Don't know why we can't put this craziness to bed, but it's still around. If anyone is not clear about this, read Google PR - PageRank FAQs [webmasterworld.com]

2. Site has no technical definition
Trust me on this one. There is a definition for "domain" but "site" is a casual word with no techical reality.

3. Page has no technical definition
Google indexes a url, not a page. For example, if the viewport of your computer displays an html document that contains an iframe, then there is content from two different urls being displayed.

4. alt is an attribute, and not a tag
You can look this one up. There is no such thing as an "alt tag"

5. title is either an attribute or an element
The attribute type of title does nothing to speak of for your rankings, right now at least -- although it can help your site's usability quite a bit. But the title element is probably the most important on-page factor there is for well-targeted ranking.

6. spidering and indexing are two different processes
Just because googlebot asks your server for a url does not mean that url is indexed. While we're at it, let's mention "caching" -- it's really a third process.

7. linked to and linked from are very different things
This seems obvious, and yet in technical discussions the fog of chaos often starts to build

8. rel="nofollow" is an attribute, quite different in effect from a robots meta tag nofollow
This one gets mangled a lot lately. rel="nofollow" just means "I don't vouch for this link - don't send PR, and please don't nail my domain if this happens to point to a bad neighborhood."

9. javascript and java are two different techologies.
While google may try to spider what looks like a url in javascript, I have seen no evidence of them pulling apart a java applet.

There are in fact four very significant stumbling blocks in the way of grasping
the truth, which hinder every man however learned, and scarcely allow anyone
to win a clear title to wisdom, namely,
(1) the example of weak and unworthy authority
(2) longstanding custom,
(3) the feeling of the ignorant crowd, and
(4) the hiding of our own ignorance while making a display of our apparent knowledge.

- Roger Bacon

Does anyone have another example of misunderstood technical language that confuses people in their understanding of SEO?

[edited by: tedster at 2:28 am (utc) on Jan. 5, 2007]



 12:18 am on Jan 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

You're right that the word "authority" has become quite fuzzy for many people. In the area of search technology, the term goes back to one of the first link-based algorithms, developed by Jon Kleinberg of Cornell U. and called "HITS" - short for "Hypertext Induced Topic Selection".

In his algorithm, Kleinberg calculates two scores, a hub value and an authority value. The hub value is based on the outbound links, and the authority value is based on inbound links. One big difference between his algo and others is that his was to be calculated at the time of the query.

At this point, HITS is pretty much prior art, and many people have evolved something more sophisticated on its basis. But Kleinberg did give us a technical meaning for the word "authority", which roughly means "a site that many other sites link to on a given topic."


 6:35 pm on Jan 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

While were at it, let's get the branding correct too...

Its WebmasterWorld - Not Webmasterworld or WebMasterWorld

Its AdWords - Not Adwords

Its AdSense - Not Adsense

The list goes on and on. When it doubt, go to the official source and verify. There is nothing more frustrating than brand names not formatted properly. ;)

Its WebmasterWorld not Webmasterworld


 7:31 pm on Jan 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

Its WebmasterWorld - Not Webmasterworld or WebMasterWorld

Or, if we go by the logo, it's "Webmaster World.com."


 6:13 am on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

But it's mASSachusetts. (I really don't like the way they drive there).


 6:53 am on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

peeve #1: misuse of the word SPAM, to apply to anything undesireable on the www - when other terms like "black hat" or "MFA" or "landing page with questionable merit" would be a better description.

peeve #2: improper mixup of The Internet vs. the World Wide Web

peeve #3, and my favourite peeve, is on radio spots where they tell me to "Log on to ourwebsite.com", meaning, load it in a browser. I'm not logging on. there is no authentication or password needed. Instead, they could say "go" to their website, or "check out" their website, or "see" it or any other verb that just means load it and view it. "Log on" means something different.


 6:24 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

Great post. You could start a whole nother one (were one so inclined) on explaining concepts and terminology to potential clients completely outside of the field.


 8:09 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

"Its WebmasterWorld - Not Webmasterworld or WebMasterWorld"

Duly noted... :) Funny I never noticed that before and no one ever called me on it...I have probably linked here 100 times using WebMasterWorld. no more...


 3:08 am on Apr 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

I find the need to bump this thread because I've recently seen one of these terms misused several times - and that can complicate both discussion and critical thinking.

Here's another one that blurs many discussions -- url does not mean domain. Moving a "page" to a new url is one thing, moving it to a new domain is a very different deal.

And likewise, having a keyword in the domain name is not the same as having a keyword in the url.


 3:16 am on Apr 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

Excellent post

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