PageRank (PR) sculpting has popped onto the radar of most online marketers over the last few months and it has become a controversial topic. Like with so many new techniques in the online marketing world, some talented internet marketers are touting the value and success that they are having by using the nofollow tag to sculpt their PageRank, by directing as much link value to their most important pages as possible.
Adam Audette has written a well conceived article outlining why online marketers need to step back and think carefully about whether or not trying this new technique is the right thing to do. I think the majority of the points Adam makes are extremely valid, especially the point that if a marketer feels the need to use this technique excessively then there are probably much larger underlying problems, especially with the sites architecture.
A brief summary of Adam’s 8 points:
1. Marketers don’t know how much PR a page and or link has to begin with, a marketer never really knows if the changes that are being made are of real value or not.
2. The opportunity cost of spending time sculpting PR is a distraction from performing potentially more valuable tasks and may be masking other larger issues.
3. PR sculpting for large sites could become a management issue when many different developers are working with the same documents, potential over writes etc.
4. PR sculpting may be a band aid for larger site architecture issues.
5. It can create a negative user experience, especially if large authority sites use it to push pages with mediocre to poor user experience into positions of prominence.
6. PR Sculpting presents potential abuse problems and opens potential future risks to sites that use the nofollow tag excessively.
7. Internet marketers often focus too much on search engines and not enough on their users. This is nearly the same point as number five but approached from the point of why are we doing it instead of what the effect might be.
8. There is no standard of how the nofollow tag works from engine to engine and it is known Yahoo and Google handle these tags differently. Though they are working to try and standardize the way they work with these types of tags, they aren’t there yet.
Adam has clearly spent a lot of time and effort creating a genuinely thought provoking article full of excellent research, quotes, and examples. I am not sure any of the points made are enough to convince talented internet marketers to reconsider the use of this technique as it does appear to be working and often times extremely well. However it will convince even those using the technique to step back and evaluate further how best to implement it not only for search engine rankings but for users as well.
Hopefully the article will also educate marketers, unfamiliar with the technique, to the potential pit falls associated with using a new technique like this and that knowledge can then allow them to make the proper risk reward decision.