Excess PageRank Evaporated By Big G

PageRank sculpting is a pretty advanced SEO tactic, and it has been widely used by SEO pros since Google’s Matt Cutts described its use on YouTube, giving the strategy the official green light. At SMX Advanced in Seattle, the same harbinger of Google insider information offered a stunning revelation: Google changed the way it handled link structures intended for sculpting.

An Explanation of PageRank Sculpting (If you know already, skip to next heading.)

PageRank sculpting works for sites that already have a high PageRank and, as a result, have a lot of “juice” to pass around. Webmasters looking to have more control over which pages appear in Google’s search results would thus harness the trust (juice) Google gave their site to boost certain pages they consider important while blocking other unimportant or less useful pages.

For example, a webmaster may find that a sign-in page or contact page appears in the search results but a page more useful to the end user digging around the Net doesn’t, perhaps because the Googlebot has been able to locate it.

The webmaster could help “sculpt” different pages’ rankings by adding a nofollow tag on links pointing to unimportant pages while linking to preferred pages.

In this sense, PageRank was seen as a finite amount of energy to divvy up among a certain number of pages. If you have 10 liters of PageRank juice to distribute, you could deprive one page of receiving any juice and evenly divide the rest among pages needing a boost.

With six links, one is nofollowed, the rest normal, giving the Googlebot directions on where to crawl while passing on two liters of juice per page.

Google officially cleared this practice in 2007 by using it with YouTube. The video site links to random videos from the homepage, and as such, when the Googlebot came by, it would pass on the tremendous amount of juice YouTube carried to those random videos.

Google used PageRank sculpting to keep it fair and prevent favoritism of certain videos in the search results.

That Was Then, This Is Now

Using the 10 liters of juice model, if a webmaster had ten links, blocks five, then five got two liters and five got none. If the webmaster unblocked five, then the juice was evenly redistributed. It also worked in reverse. If a webmaster had distributed the juice among the ten but decided to dam up five, then the juice would evenly redistribute two liters to the preferred five pages.

But, according to Matt Cutts, in a Q&A moderated by Danny Sullivan at SMX Advanced, that’s all changed. Now, if the webmaster dams up five, that half still receives nothing, but the remaining half remains at one liter each instead of being boosted up to two liters

Now, instead of having a certain amount juice to distribute as a webmaster likes, Google allows only that select pages be deprived of juice. And where does that all that excess PageRank juice go? “You can almost think of it as just evaporating,” said Cutts, and one imagines the number of stomachs turning over at that moment.
It’s important to note that Cutts said Google would not penalize a site for PageRank sculpting, but Cutts did suggest the practice wasn’t a great use of a webmaster’s time unless using nofollow for sign-in pages, RSS subscribe links, et cetera.

Highlights From the Cutts Q&A Regarding PageRank Sculpting

It’s not gonna get you a penalty. You’re not gonna get in trouble or anything. We’re not gonna say “oh all of these internal links are nofollowed” or anything like that. However, it’s not as effective, so it’s definitely a better use of your time to go and make new content.

Cutts on sculpting

If you’re using nofollow to change how PageRank flows around within your site, it’s almost like a band-aid. It’s better to make your site the way you want PageRank to flow from the beginning, and then it’s good for users, and it’s good for search engines.

So how you choose to link within your site is your own business, and I would tell people you can try to sculpt PageRank, but it’s not gonna be as useful. So I would urge people to make new content or think about how to link within your site. Put your best products right up on your root page, and things like that. And that’s gonna be a much better way to “sculpt” PageRank than using nofollow.

Cutts on site architecture

What we’ve been saying from the beginning is don’t spend as much of your time on the PR sculpting aspect of it. Spend your time making good site architecture so that PageRank just flows wherever you want. That’s why we’ve been saying use it sparingly. Don’t use it for links you can’t vouch for.

Don’t use it for user-generated content that you don’t necessarily trust. And this is all up on the HTML documentation page made for rel=”nofollow”.

Cutts on nofollow use:

If you are a power user and there’s a specific page you don’t want like a sign up page or a login page, that’s a fine way to use nofollow.

For example if you look at mattcutts.com, the only thing I have nofollow on (I believe) is my subscribe link and that’s because it goes to an RSS feed, which is really not all that useful for the main web index. So for me personally, I tend not to use nofollow on my own internal links.

Source: Chris Crum