Recently a large part of the SEO industry, or rather the advanced SEOs got fooled by a cat blogger who happens to work for Google. What happened? Let me explain in depth:
So called PageRank sculpting has been a bizarre practice of the SEO industry. It was about selectively hurting your website in order to push other parts of it.
PageRank sculpting was based on the assumption that if you have a hypothetical website of 10 pages each of it having one point of authority (Google PageRank) you end up having more of it on the remaining pages if you cripple some of them by stopping the flow of PageRank to to some pages.
Thus, ideally, you would end up with having 10 points on 8 pages in case you’d cripple your own website by using the so called nofollow attribute on two of your pages. To be more exact: You’d use the nofollow attribute on internal links to these pages. This was based on the declaration by above mentioned cat blogger.
As far as I know Google has never officially recommend the practice of PageRank sculpting.
Correct me if I err and add the source in the comments. There are some instances on official Google sites that address PageRank sculpting. This Google Webmaster Central blog post does and this Google Webmaster Help thread by Matt Cutts does as well. Both rather discourage the use of PageRank sculpting. In contrast Matt Cutts himself more than once encouraged webmasters to employ PageRank sculpting to the point where SEO practitioners took some pride in using this “advanced SEO” method.
I don’t recommend using nofollow on your own pages for several reasons.
Using nofollow on internal links is an excuse for not optimizing your site structure and internal pages.
Let’s take a look at what pages usually end up nofollowed internally, for instance:
- contact pages
- register/log in pages
- duplicate content pages (like categories or date archives)
- TOS (Terms of Service), copyright and other legal notices
- less important pages
Around 2006/2007 I also tried this tactic to prevent contact pages etc. from showing up in Google results as the most important part of my sites. On second thought I got suspicious though: What happens with the links from those pages? If they don’t get any authority or PageRank, they won’t inherit it to the pages they link to either. That’s bad I thought.
This wasted potential was just one reason to abandon nofollow for PageRank sculpting as an on page optimization tactic. This and other annoyances made me believe that PageRank sculpting is more of an issue than a SEO tactic.
Instead of using nofollow on links leading to the above mentioned pages you should optimize them.
- Contact pages are really the most important part of many businesses. So you should add a contact form, phone number or link to a contact page on each page of your site to get more conversions.
- Register/log in pages are in many cases also meant to lead to a conversion. They convert a user from simple guest to a registered or logged in user. Here too a log in or register form should be accessible from everywhere, as a drop down layer for instance.
- Duplicate content pages: Either don’t create duplicate content in the first place or simply make sure that the original is linked and presented more prominently. Google boast to determine duplicates by now. As a last resort you can block them via robots.txt or noindex meta tag but be careful, don’t hide half of your site by accident.
- The TOS etc. in most cases is a much too log piece of gibberish nobody can read and understand anyways. Often its presented in a way you barely can read it due to basic readability concerns. Make the TOS available in PDF format for everybody to print out. I’m sure this is best for users and your PDFs won’t outrank you. Otherwise just use robot.txt and the noindex meta tag here too.
- Less important pages should be less important structurally. Give’em a boring title and headline, link’em at the bottom of the page etc.
The nofollow attribute itself turned out to be a big failure.
The failure of the nofollow attribute became clearer as time went by and Google forced webmasters to add the nofollow attribute to all kinds of links while initially it was meant to combat comment spam in blogs etc.
When Google decided to make the nofollow attribute obligatory for paid links nofollow became more of a tool to suppress webmasters than to assist them.
By now most websites that determine the importance and popularity on the Web today use the nofollow attribute on all outgoing links. Sites like Twitter, Delicious or StumbleUpon which reflect the preferences of thousands or even millions of Web users can’t be taken into account by Google to determine rankings according to the nofollow policy. This way Google really shoots itself in the foot sabotaging its owns means of assessing the value of web pages for search results.
So we got three by now obsolete or failed concepts here:
- PageRank sculpting – hurting your sites selectively to push other parts of it, now seemingly abandoned according to rumors, it’s hurting your site overall now
- nofollow attribute – meant to combat spam and later to devalue paid links, but it hasn’t worked in both cases, spam and paid link still abound
- PageRank itself – determining importance of pages by the number and authority of links doesn’t work when most authority links (Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon etc.) doesn’t carry PageRank at all
This opinion might be deemed somewhat radical both by Google representatives and SEO experts as well. The more common sense approach voiced here nevertheless amounts to ignoring PageRank sculpting as well.
Don’t listen to a cat blogger for SEO advice.
Use some common sense instead. Even in case that PageRank sculpting still works as described above and the rumors are not true it’s a waste of time, resources and potentially dangerous to your site’s performance on Google results. Advanced SEO is not about blindly following a cat blogger. You may be advancing in the wrong direction.
Btw. Did you know that SEOptimise does not employ nofollow on its site?