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Pagerank Sculpting

11:43 on Thu, 10 Jun 2010 | SEO | 0 Comments

Well dear readers, yet another year has passed and it is June once again. If you remember it was around this time last year when Google announced its decision to change the way it treated nofollow, causing a bit of a shake-up in the SEO world and a fair amount of hubbub.

A bit about nofollow

Nofollow was introduced back in 2005 as a tag in a link which allowed webmasters to say: “I can’t guarantee the quality of this link”. The link therefore would not pass any PageRank. This meant that webmasters could self-police the flow of link equity around their sites and worked to some extent to combat link spam, especially offering less incentive for spammers to spam blog comments.

As Google’s algorithm became more advanced, SEOs were also using nofollow to do things like nofollowing links to other sites in an attempt to hoard PageRank. They were also using nofollow internally to direct the flow of PageRank to their more important pages with the highest conversion rates (known as PageRank sculpting).

This didn’t sit well with Google, because as webmasters were PageRank sculpting, they would also use the nofollow tag to exclude the flow of PageRank to parts of the site with value to users, such as forums.

To combat this, instead of removing the nofollow tag altogether, Google decided to make all the links on a webpage have an equal distribution of link equity. This means that using the nofollow tag on links on your site will simply mean that the link will not pass link equity, effectively acting as a link equity sink.

Link Black hole
Nofollowed internal links: now like black holes

PageRank sculpting now

Does this mean PageRank sculpting is dead? Well, it certainly is harder but it’s by no means dead.

There are still a few things you can do:

Prioritize pages

Prioritize the pages around your site and ensure that the pages you link to from your main pages (e.g. homepage) are the high priority ones.

If we use the hypothetical example of a site which sells felt tip pens you would probably want to prioritize linking first to the pages which will lead to a sale such as the brands and colour category pages. When searching for pens, chances are that colour and brand will be the most highly searched for terms.

The pages with less priority will be the “privacy policy” and “terms and conditions” pages. Although these pages don’t directly convert, for usability reasons you will still have to link to them from the homepage. One solution here will be to combine these pages into a smaller number of pages so a greater percentage of link equity will be passed to your more important pages.

Re-categorize links

The lower priority pages and pages which have very similar content can be grouped together and linked to from a single category page. These category pages would then be linked to from the homepage.

Restrict Site wide linking

Another thing you can do is try to restrict the number of site wide links on the site to just the pages with high priority. The one potential problem with this is that if it is not done correctly then it could lead to usability issues.

Multiple links to same URL

There may be times where you will get multiple links to the same URL, especially in the case of e-commerce sites. In some sites we have come across, we have seen the image, keyword-rich anchor text and the description being highlighted as a link. Minimize the number of links by removing the description as a link since it is not keyword relevant.

Test, test, test!

Finally, the last thing you have to do is test usability and conversion since PageRank sculpting this way can impede usability. Ultimately, more targeted visitors to your website is the end goal, so unless the number of conversions decrease because of architectural changes to your site then you know you’re on the right track.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that in terms of ROI, time is probably better spent on link building and generating good content – PageRank sculpting is not as effective as it was before although it still does have its uses, especially for large sites which have trouble being indexed. (Via Rob)

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