Ranking Vs Indexing: The Google SEO Confusion

Feb 1, 2018 • 7:57 am | comments (26) by | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Rankings

Most SEOs know the difference between ranking and indexing, some even know the difference between indexing, ranking and serving search results. If you do not, see the how search works portal designed by Google years ago to help explain that concept.

The issue is, sometimes more advanced SEOs can get so much into these concepts that indexing, ranking and crawling sometimes can be confused because they somehow see them as correlated.

Yesterday at Search Engine Land we felt the need to write Google's Page Speed Update does not impact indexing. This is even the case after I did explain that in our FAQs around that Google Speed Update.

But I don't necessarily blame some SEOs for digging into the question a bit deeper. Let me first share the confusion:

These are all concepts we clarified when Google announced this algorithm update plus concepts we discussed in the past.

So why the confusion? Well, what about pages that are so slow, Google gives up even trying to index them? Right, the page speed update hurts really slow pages, so at what step, the index or ranking? So to people who know the algorithm, it is obvious, this has nothing to do with indexing, it is a ranking algorithm.

Google can only rank pages they indexed, they can't rank pages they did not index.

But you can see how things can get muddled up here. If Google won't crawl a page because it is so slow and won't load, then it won't be indexed and if it is not indexed, it doesn't have a shot to be ranked.

That is what Pete Meyers was alluding to:

In any event - I think this all helps clarify the difference between indexing and ranking. Although you need pages in the index so you can rank them, the Page Speed update does not determine if those pages are indexed or not, they just impact the ranking of the pages that are already in the index.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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