At Search Marketing Expo – SMX Advanced in Seattle last month, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s anti-spam team, said that nofollow-based “PageRank sculpting” was less effective than in the past. SEOs were left wondering how the change would affect their optimization efforts. As a panelist during the second day of the search engine marketing conference, Bruce Clay wanted to gauge the scope of the issue. “How many people in the audience are using nofollow?” he asked. The show of hands was practically unanimous.
Update: Shortly after the publication of this article, Matt Cutts published a post on his blog further explaining Google’s recommendations for using the nofollow attribute. We have updated this article to include Matt’s most recent indications of how nofollow affects PageRank. While the recordings in the article accurately document what Matt said at SMX Advanced, additional details are addressed in Matt’s blog post, PageRank sculpting. Bruce Clay will be offering further analysis and recommendations regarding nofollow on the June 24th episode of SEM Synergy.
In the years since the link element was first introduced, many Web site optimizers have come to use rel=”nofollow” to limit the transfer of PageRank through internal links on a site. PageRank (PR) is an important indicator of authority used by Google to rank pages in search engine results. PageRank sculpting involves including a nofollow element on links to internal pages not targeted for ranking in search engines. By directing PR only to theme landing pages, SEOs try to concentrate PageRank on pages best positioned to rank for targeted queries. This technique is a small part of the themed site architecture methodology known as siloing, discussed in more depth later.
Since nearly every advanced SEO uses the nofollow attribute on internal links, the Internet marketing community was eager for clarification following Matt’s initial comments.