Update on PageRank Sculpting, the NoFollow Tag, and Their Effects on Search Engine Optimization

Matt Cutts Pagerank Sculpting Post  Vizion Interactive Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you have not been keeping up with the latest Search Engine Optimization developments when it comes to Google PageRank, PageRank Sculpting, and the NoFollow Tag, then this blog post is probably for you. And even if you have been attempting to keep up with it all, then let this blog post serve as an “overview” of what’s going on, and the changes that you may or may not need to make to your website to improve its search engine optimization.

First, you will probably want to go over to Matt Cutts’ Blog (Matt Cutts is a Google Search guru, he works for Google) and read his recent blog post about PageRank Sculpting and how it can effect the Search Engine Optimization of your website. Well, at least that’s what he has titled his blog post. I believe that it’s actually not a very good title for that blog post, especially because it covers a lot more than “PageRank Sculpting”.

PageRank Sculpting

After reading Matt Cutts’ blog post, I’ve pulled out the most important points that you need to pay attention to, especially when it comes to search engine optimization and optimizing your website for the search engines:

Google is doing a lot of very sophisticated link computation. And it is very different than what the original PageRank papers say.

There is a decay factor. You could estimate that about 10-15% of the PageRank disappears even before it can be passed to an outgoing link.

The Nofollow tag is a method to annotate a link to tell search engines “I can’t or don’t want to vouch for this link.” In Google, NoFollow links don’t pass PageRank and don’t pass anchor text. Matt Cutts says that Nofollow links definitely don’t pass PageRank and Nofollow links don’t help sites rank higher in Google’s search results.

Google changed how they count NoFollow links, probably due to the fact that certain website owners were trying to influence how PageRank flows in their site.

Matt Cutts does not recommend PageRank Sculpting.
It is more important to create great content that will attract links.

Use a website architecture that makes your site usable and crawlable for humans and for the search engines.
Put the most important web pages on your site “front and center” so people and the search engines can see them.

I personally have never been a fan of “PageRank Sculpting” and trying to manipulate which web pages on your site the search engines should pay more attention to. If the page is important, and you’re adding it as a link on your website for a human to follow, then you have to assume that the search engines might follow it, right? Well, that’s what we’re hearing from Google’s Matt Cutts now: they have changed the way they deal with the NoFollow tag, so it appears that PageRank Sculpting is not necessary anymore. They don’t say it officially, but they may be ignoring the NoFollow tag, at least part of it.

What’s more important than knowing about how Google treats PageRank Sculpting and the NoFollow tag, though, are these points:

Google changed other, larger aspects of how they look at links. They did it a while back and not too many people noticed.

A better, more effective form of PageRank Sculpting is choosing which things to link to from your home page.

Whenever you’re linking around within your site: don’t use the NoFollow tag.
There are some cases where you might consider adding the NoFollow tag, like to pages that change often or require a login. Still, you might consider adding those URLs to the robots.txt file rather than adding a NoFollow tag to the links.

Do not attempt to hoard your PageRank. In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.

Make note of this: parts of Google’s algorithm encourages links to good websites. You will rank better in the Google if you link out to trusted, authoritative websites that Google already likes. In fact, I have been personally recommending that whenever you make a blog post, make sure that you do your research first and link out to a few trusted websites on the subject. Why not search Google and link out to a few sites that already rank well?

Linking out is a good thing for search engine optimization. That’s why, for example, I am linking out to a few sites towards the beginning of this blog post: note the wikipedia link and the link to the “Anatomy of a Search Engine” (Google PageRank paper) link.

So, what’s the bottom line? You need to take a look at your website’s internal linking structure and your overall site structure and consider that Google is probably ignoring the NoFollow tags on your website. Do you really need to link to that URL (internal or external)? Is that link good or bad for humans? By the way, did I mention that Vizion Interactive provides a complete site structure analysis?

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