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SEO – Nofollow – PageRank Sculpting, Finally Some Clarification

Well it was the post the whole SEO world had been waiting for, clarification on the PageRank Sculpting – Nofollow Debate. I really recommend you reading this post and the follow up questions and comments, in fact you will get more info from the comments.

If you’d like to read my take on the whole matter and some of the important points I picked out please continue reading :).

Just to give a little background to those of you who may be hearing about this debate for the first time, it all links back to a comment by Matt Cutts made at SMX Advanced 2009.

Matt basically stated that nofollowing outbound links would not mean other “dofollow” outbound links on your page would pass more PageRank. SEO’s performed this as a way of sculpting their PageRank and passing lot’s of link juice to important pages in their site.

If you want to read more on this nofollow – Page Sculpting debate check out my article Nofollow Confusion.

Right, down to the Matt Cutts post, here are the main points I pulled from it, with my own thoughts and opinion.

Should You Use Nofollow?

Over the past week or so people have been running scared, removing nofollow’s left right and centre in fear that their sites are going to be penalised. I didn’t because there was no good reason to do it and thankfully there was no reason to fear. All Matt said about whether or not to use the no follow is;

I wouldn’t recommend it, because it isn’t the most effective way to utilize your PageRank.

Matt then goes on to talk about linking to important pages from your homepage as been a better way to utilise your PageRank and funnel it to pages you want.

The important thing is that there is no mention that using the nofollow will invoke penalties, in fact Matt still admints to using it on his RSS links –

The only place I deliberately add a nofollow is on the link to my feed, because it’s not super-helpful to have RSS/Atom feeds in web search results. Even that’s not strictly necessary, because Google and other search engines do a good job of distinguishing feeds from regular web pages.

So don’t worry about using nofollow, your not going to get a penalty it simply effects the way PageRank flows around your site.

How Does PagRank Flow Around My site?

Ok probably best to show this in a small diagram.

Nofollow Links

So the new “nofollow” rules are that the amount of nofollow links on your page will limit the pages ability to pass PageRank. Our page can no longer pass 10 PR points instead it only passes 7.5 to the other pages.

What’s the Problem?

There are a couple of issues that you should be aware of:

1 – If those internal pages (that now receive less PR from your sites home page) link back to your homepage, then they are obviously going to be flowing less PagRank back to your homepage. Hope that makes sense.

2 – If you have a blog page with 50 comments on the page which are all no follow this is going to seriously reduce the PageRank that page can pass.

For eg…. Blog post has 100 PR points to pass – The blog post has 100 links pointing from the page including the comments, by no following the comments this would have normally meant the full 100 PR points went to the remaining 50 links, however this is no longer the case and the follow links will receive the same PageRank allocation as if the nofollow links were follow.

I know this may sound a little long winded but I’ve tried my best to explain it.

The Fundamental Probelm

With the above in mind most bloggers may think….. OK I’m stopping all my comments and outbound links so I can pass all that PageRank juice to my own pages, also known as “PageRank hoarding”.

However Matt Says;

I wouldn’t recommend closing comments in an 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.

So this confirms what we’ve known for a long time, Google rewards sites for linking to quality helpful sources. (They do not award extra PageRank for this but have a different reward mechanism)

Hang on there is a problem right???

a good rule of thumb is: if a link on your website is internal (that is, it points back to your website), let it flow PageRank–no need to use nofollow. If a link on your website points to a different website, much of the time it still makes sense for that link to flow PageRank. The time when I would use nofollow are when you can’t or don’t want to vouch for a site, e.g. if a link is added by an outside user that you don’t particularly trust. For example, if an unknown user leaves a link on your guestbook page, that would be a great time to use the nofollow attribute on that link.

Does this mean we are to check out every site we link to through our comments to make sure we trust them and investigate them to make sure they are not practicing spammy techniques?? What a ludicrous idea!!!!

So What Do We Do??

My advice?? Nothing, if your site has been up and running a while and here’s why;

….this is a change that’s been live for well over a year; if you’ve got a site that works for you and you’re happy with, I wouldn’t worry about going back to change a lot of work. If you were starting on a fresh new site then this info is something to bear in mind.

I have one exception to the above piece of advice…

If you have been nofollowing like a mad man to areas of your site that really should be indexed, ie archive, categories, testimonials etc then maybe you should consider taking them off slowly, everything in moderation :).

If you have nofollow comments I would personally leave them in place as you don’t want to risk linking out to untrustworthy sites because that could result in a penalty.

Hope you managed to follow this and understand the news a little better.

Please ask any questions you want.

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Author: Tim (296 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

bbriniotis September 14, 2009 at 1:41 am

PageRank Sculpting is still possible by using rel=nofollow and without having PageRank Losses. Web SEO Analytics released a special script that does that and you can find the blog post here: http://www.webseoanalytics.com/blog/pagerank-sculpting-you-can-still-use-nofollow/

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Tim September 14, 2009 at 2:00 am

@bbriniotis,

Thanks for sharing, I’ll be sure to drop in for a read.

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