Matt Cutts has shocked the SEO world with his recent revelation about the use of nofollow tag in Page Rank sculpting– at least some part of the SEO world, those who believed in page rank sculpting with nofollow tags. For the others, its more of a confusion.
Here’s the story.
Google introduces the nofollow tag – Advices to use it in areas where spam links can crop up, like comments, trackbacks etc. No mention about using it for internal linking purposes.
In reply to Rand Fishkin’s question on internal page rank sculpting with Nofollow tags, Matt replied.
The nofollow attribute is just a mechanism that gives webmasters the ability to modify PageRank flow at link-level granularity. Plenty of other mechanisms would also work (e.g. a link through a page that is robot.txt’ed out), but nofollow on individual links is simpler for some folks to use. There’s no stigma to using nofollow, even on your own internal links; for Google, nofollow’ed links are dropped out of our link graph; we don’t even use such links for discovery. By the way, the nofollow meta tag does that same thing, but at a page level
Rand’s interpretations of the answer is thus.
Yes – webmasters can feel free to use nofollow internally to help tell Googlebot which pages they want to receive link juice from other pages
And also thus.
Nofollow is now, officially, a “tool” that power users and webmasters should be employing on their sites as a way to control the flow of link juice and point it in the very best directions. Good architectural SEO has always had some internal link structuring work involved, but nofollow and Matt’s position on it makes it clear that for those of us who are professionals, we can be use it intelligently without a downside risk.
To this interpretation, Matt Cutts replied in the comments (for the same article)
I think saying people “should be” using nofollow is a bit strong. More like people can use it for internal links if they’re power-user-y enough to want to sculpt PageRank flow within their site at the link level. But I’d say that most regular webmasters don’t need to worry about link-level PageRank flow within their site. I think saying “power users and webmasters should be employing on their sites” overstates it a little. It’s available if you want to get into that much fine-grained control.
Also added this to a Q,
What both Adam and I were saying is that if your site architecture is at all reasonable (e.g. a WordPress blog, or a typical hierarchical/tree layout), then internal PageRank flow is more of a second-order effect. So I’d worry about other things at a higher priority.
And on June 15th, 2009, Matt makes a much clearer explanation of the page rank sculpting thing in his blog, post a seminar where the issue was discussed (came to as a shock to many.) He says,
Nofollow is a method (introduced in 2005 and supported by multiple search engines) 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 anchortext [*].
So what happens when you have a page with “ten PageRank points” and ten outgoing links, and five of those links are nofollowed? Let’s leave aside the decay factor to focus on the core part of the question. Originally, the five links without nofollow would have flowed two points of PageRank each (in essence, the nofollowed links didn’t count toward the denominator when dividing PageRank by the outdegree of the page). More than a year ago, Google changed how the PageRank flows so that the five links without nofollow would flow one point of PageRank each.
So, there comes the shocker. Google had changed its stand towards the use of nofollow tags, over and year ago and nobody found it.
So, two questions comes up here ?
- Does it mean that you should link out less to sites rather than linking first and then nofollowing them ?
- Does nofollowing all external links on a site bring in any kind of penalty ? (We’re trying to be safe, lets say I don’t trust anyone, So ?)
Matt makes it clear that using nofollow tags within your site to keep out indexing certain pages, (sculpting your PR) and leaving the chosen pages to enjoy the PageRank won’t work at all, at least for now.
I don’t see a lot of confusion here as in the above SEO Moz article, though it was interpreted wrongly (partly), Matt makes a good clarification why webmasters shouldn’t really bother about using nofollow tags internally.
I believe that we can still use other tools available like the meta noindex tags to keep out certain pages from being indexed, but the use of nofollow tags were never a solution.
There are a lot of questions being asked now over here at Matt’s blog and he’s replying to many of them. So let’s keep a close watch on it.