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Google Changes Treatment of PR 'Saved' by rel=nofollow Sculpting

   
9:13 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



It's being widely reported that the Google crawling team (as best as I can assign responsibility) has changed how it's treating PageRank previously "saved" by the use of the rel="nofollow" attribute.

Matt Cutts mentioned the change at SMX Advanced last night. Excellent summary in Search Engine Roundtable [seroundtable.com] post.

I'm sure there's going to be a lot of howling over this change.

9:32 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



The rel="nofollow" attribute still blocks PR transfer through that particular link. But it no longer creates an increase in the PR that is transferred by other links on the page. The blocked PR now just falls into a black hole.

So PR sculpting still will help to keep certain pages out of the rankings, but it no longer helps to boost other pages - and that was one motive for webmasters who used the technique on internal links.

9:47 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



To elaborate on my post above, with some oversimplification...

The rel="nofollow" attribute... implemented jointly by the major engines... was initially intended to block PageRank credit from blog comments. Its use was expanded by Google to blog transmission of PR credit from paid links.

Questions arose about whether it might be used to "sculpt" PageRank flow within a site. With PageRank sculpting, you could block PR transmission to unimportant pages, and channel the rest to pages you deemed important.

Prior to rel="nofollow", if you had 10 outbound links from a page, each of those links transmitted 10% of your outgoing PageRank. There was considerable discussion here on WebmasterWorld, among other places, about whether "nofollowing" some of those links would increase the amount of PR sent to the remaining pages....

Learning About PR Sculpting: internal links with rel=nofollow
[webmasterworld.com...]

The consensus ultimately was yes... if you nofollowed half of those 10 links, eg, the remaining 5 would now each transmit 20% of the PR credit available from the page... and you'd be giving extra credit to those pages that weren't nofollowed. This consensus was confirmed publicly by Google.

The announced change now means that the pages that aren't nofollowed will no longer get the extra linking credit. That credit will now be divided evenly among all links, but nofollowed links will still be blocked from crawling.

9:52 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Thanks RC and tedster. Those explanations are pretty straightfoward.

Yes... there will be lots of howling and even more re-sculpting for many.

9:54 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Time to remove nofollow links.
9:57 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ewhisper is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Has anyone seen rankings on sites using sculpting change?

The few large sites I watch or work on haven't seen any changes in rankings or traffic. I wouldn't just assume this is correct and make changes without some good tests first.

Might be time to move to non-followed java links for some of this functionality (when it can't be accomplished in robots.txt files).

9:58 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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This change is odd. The nofollow method was a fairly above-the-board method of giving a site the best possible linking structure.

Are we now going to see webmasters reverting to many of the older, less "honest", techniques to keep unwanted pages from sucking unnecessary link juice from their money pages?

10:08 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Does this also mean that putting the nofollow tag on outgoing links to other sites won't increase the total PR that is kept within the site?
10:09 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Some alternative techniques are becoming problematic, too. Take javascripted links for instance. Some of the more basic approaches are now indexed by Google, and they also transfer link juice and PR. If you use javascript redirects to keep paid links from transferring PR, you may want to revisit your technology.

Similarly, Google also indexes some types of form navigation, they establish a "virtual link" on their web map and also send PR and link juice.

The most future-proof approach I see is processing through a server-side script and keeping the spiders from crawling that script. There's an extreme amount of cleverness being attempted by Google and other search engines these days.

10:10 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Has anyone seen rankings on sites using sculpting change?

The few large sites I watch or work on haven't seen any changes in rankings or traffic. I wouldn't just assume this is correct and make changes without some good tests first.

Excellent question. Matt Cutts had in fact several times hinted that PR sculpting isn't all it's cracked up to be.

If it turns out that there aren't many changes in large sculpted sites, then some classic concepts of "link love" distribution (as distinct from just PageRank distribution) may need re-examination.

10:12 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Danny Sullivan's take [searchengineland.com] is also an interesting read.

A biggie. I'll be hawking MC's blog for a post on this.

10:13 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I guess that's the end of links in blog comments?
10:16 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Does this also mean that putting the nofollow tag on outgoing links to other sites won't increase the total PR that is kept within the site?

I'd rephrase "kept within the site" as "reserved for use" within the site, because the "nofollow" would prevent the PR from being transmitted, but I think the answer should be yes.

Wikipedia would be an interesting site to watch in this regard, as many of its pages have a very large number of nofollowed links. Or, it may be so far above the competition anyway that this change is not going to affect it.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 10:18 pm (utc) on June 3, 2009]

10:27 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



There's one approach that I've found helpful in the past - and it may become something I use more often now that the effect of nofollow on the rest of the page's links has changed.

One common need in sculpting is to keep certain "utility pages" from soaking up link juice, since they aren't much good in the search results. You know the ones - "log-in", "my account", "shipping rates", "privacy" and all that.

Most sites want to show those options on every page, for their user's convenience. But that means those pages get a lot of internal link connectivity - they easily can end up with very high PR. So I often create a single page containing all those utility links and display that URL through an iframe. Now there's only one URL with links to those utility pages.

10:47 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I guess that's the end of links in blog comments?

That is a very, very important observation indeed. Who's going to give users the opportunity to link when all it accomplishes is send PR down the abyss. I'm talking to blogs that nofollow due to spam etc.
10:59 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



You're right, that's a crazy loophole. The more comments with links that a blog article gets, the less PR will be sent through any of the do-followed links on the page. Self-sabotage through good content!
11:06 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Last year I debated going with no-follow, or using my own custom javascript/css solution for user-links.

I went with the latter and am happy I did now...

11:10 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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If I'm following along correctly (not necessarily the case) something seems really wrong here. If there's a website where 50% of the links are outgoing, and every one of those outgoing links is nofollowed, then the site loses 50% of its potential PR. Not that the external sites gain anything, it's just that this 50% of the potential PR "disappears".

Edit: I just saw tedster's comment above, made while I was typing. I guess the answer to my question is "yes".

[edited by: gsmith at 11:17 pm (utc) on June 3, 2009]

11:12 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



From tedster:
Most sites want to show those options on every page, for their user's convenience. But that means those pages get a lot of internal link connectivity - they easily can end up with very high PR. So I often create a single page containing all those utility links and display that URL through an iframe. Now there's only one URL with links to those utility pages.

Exactly. With my sites, I use ASP or PHP scripting (include files) for footers, headers, etc. for showing those utility links.

Question: So should we expect a huge drop in PR for internal pages after Google's next PR update?

11:39 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



The more comments with links that a blog article gets, the less PR will be sent through any of the do-followed links on the page.

Unless a distinction is made between internal and external links. After all, this appears to be regarding internal PR sculpting.

On a sidenote: Google announcing something relatively important, even controversial, in such an obscure and confusing way seems a bit awkward to me, and not yet entirely believable either. Not very Googley, to say the least. Then again, if this turns out to be true, perhaps they've bowled us a googly?

googly \googly\ n. (Cricket) a cricket ball bowled as if to break one way that actually breaks in the opposite way. (definition [define.com])

How very relevant ;-)

11:49 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member g1smd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



The 'links in UGC' comment is the most worrying here.

All I can think of, is that maybe there are two PR calculations going on... one for links within the site and one for outgoing links to other domains (actually, maybe three, if links to sub-domains of the same domain are also involved).

Is this already live, or is it something that is 'coming soon'? Or are there several steps, and one or more has been done, with more to follow?

11:51 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member steveb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



"This consensus was confirmed publicly by Google."

Where? Show one place. Never once did they confirm this idea. Worst webmaster FUD in history.

11:58 pm on Jun 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



An interesting thread to read in light of these developments is Matt Cutts: Further Clarification on the nofollow Attribute [webmasterworld.com], wherein europeforvisitors said:

If the misuse of "nofollow" were to become a problem, then Google could simply adapt and refine its policy to deal with it.

Perhaps they've reached that point?
12:17 am on Jun 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Never once did they confirm this idea.

Maybe not explicitly - but certainly by implication, with statements such as "you might not want to waste PageRank on such pages."

Whatever the case, I'd say Matt has now publicly confirmed that things "used to work" that way, by announcing that they "no longer" work that way.

12:25 am on Jun 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member steveb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Where, specifically are those quotes?

And no, he never implied what you are saying he did imply. To the contrary see the above link with his quote where he says the direct opposite. That nofollow was the granular eqyuivalent of a "link through a page that is robot.txt'ed out". That tactic discards pagerank. What he says now is the exact same as he said then.

12:29 am on Jun 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



If Page Rank can't be usefully conserved, then one way to increase the PR that flows within one's own site will be to increase the number of internal links throughout the site.

The challenge will be to add more navigation links etc. without crossing the threshold that makes Google dismiss pages for being "too similar".

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to beef up my internal cross-linking.

12:35 am on Jun 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Speaking of what else "no longer works that way", in the Matt Cutts: Further Clarification... [webmasterworld.com] thread mentioned above, Matt also said...

my emphasis added...

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.

Is this still the case, or are they now used for discovery?

In my first post in this thread, I'd said... "...but nofollowed links will still be blocked from crawling," which may have been an overstatement in any case.

12:48 am on Jun 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I'm going to wait for an official announcement from Google on this. I want to see it in writing. Not some interpretation or misinterpretation of what Matt said at SMX. I mean, there are people writing articles saying that it is fact. I really don't think it is. I'll wait and see what comes in the next week on Google's Blog. ;)

Also, what have Yahoo! and Bing said regarding this? Remember, there were three of them that supported this attribute, not only Google. So, what is happening with the other two?

1:16 am on Jun 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

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lol this is beyond FUD
(aside from the fact that it makes NO LOGICAL sense)

It's corporate PR at it's best.

HI BING!

Seems BING actually has G scared.
Anyone who's been following MC lately should see that BING has Google somewhat worried.

Nofollow?
Sound and fury...much ado about nothing.
bada BING, bada boom.

------------
In case this IS real.
lol who cares about PR sculpting? (people will find a way to do this anyways),
it will DESTROY blogs.

Talk about Google-bowling a page.

So I'm back to my earlier conclusion... (lol, nice verifying synchronicity, as the newest BING commercial comes on while writing this).

This is MC trying to take focus away from BING!..

don't be mislead by such Google FUD nonsense.
oops, too late.

[edited by: whitenight at 1:26 am (utc) on June 4, 2009]

1:23 am on Jun 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I just looked at the source code for a couple of Wikipedia pages. The internal links to other pages within the site are apparently always dofollow (I didn't see any exceptions). Also, there is typically a huge number of these internal links on each page, and a far smaller number of outgoing links. Thus, it appears that this change by Google won't have much effect on the PR's of Wikipedia's pages, i.e., only a slight reduction.
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