Posted June 3, 2009 12:25 pm by with 11 comments

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PageRank sculpting is an advanced SEO technique that gained popularity in 2007, when Matt Cutts pointed out Google was using rel=”nofollow” to control which videos YouTube passed PageRank value (commonly referred to as “link juice”) to. SEOs liked the technique as something ssite owners could do to direct more link juice to more important pages, and not waste a page’s link authority on navigational links—but not anymore. Or, as Danny Sullivan puts it:

Imagine authority is money, and a particular page has $10 in “authority” to spend. It links out to 10 pages, so each of those pages gets $1 ($10 divided by 10). If it links to 20 pages, each gets 50 cents ($10 divided by 20). If it links to 5 pages, each page gets $2 (you get the math by now).

So rather than being able to apportion a page’s link juice, now you can only choose whether or not to pass that link juice on—the link juice you don’t use evaporates. Danny extends his monetary analogy to explain:

Again — and being really simplistic here — if you have $10 in authority to spend on those ten links, and you block 5 of them, the other 5 aren’t going to get $2 each. They’re still getting $1. It’s just that the other $5 you thought you were saving is now going to waste.

As Danny also points out, this doesn’t mean you have to run out and take off all the PageRank sculpting you’ve done—it just means that the link juice isn’t as strong to the un-nofollowed links as it used to be. If your site is performing well, the nofollows aren’t going to hurt it.

However, another change on links may have a much greater impact. Google has also started indexing links in JavaScript—which used to be a “Google-approved” way to keep from passing link juice to paid links.

While there’s no immediate penalty for not fixing those paid links immediately, it’s important to know that if you were using JavaScript as a Google-okay method of displaying paid links, unless you’re redirecting through a page that’s blocked by robots.txt, you’ll have to find another way to display your paid links (if you care about following Google’s guidelines, anyway).

What do you think—are you going to run out and make changes to your sites? Did you see a marked improvement from PageRank sculpting (or not), and have you seen a change in that recently?

  • There was never anything “advanced” about PageRank Sculpting. It was always a waste of time because no one outside of Google has ever had the ability to track and measure PageRank.

    There may very well be something behind Google’s change on “rel=’nofollow'” that they haven’t disclosed (disclosure always seems to work only one way for Google), but this just goes to show that people who buy in to cheap SEO tricks like PageRank Sculpting instead of focusing on fundamental search engine optimization principles set themselves up for a lot of heartache.

    I’ve said on occasion that PageRank Sculpting was really just PageRank hoarding in disguise — and now the emperor’s new clothes have been shown for what they really are: nothing.

  • Personally, I was never a big fan of PageRank sculpting, but I also don’t think most people who know enough about SEO to even type rel=”nofollow” were relying on PR sculpting instead of focusing on fundamental SEO principles.

    I’m also not sure that having a technique one used (that some people claim was working) become devalued is setting one’s self up for a lot of heartache. I mean, my heart isn’t breaking over directory links or meta keywords, but I suppose I’ve had plenty of time to recover 😉 . It’s just the nature of the beast—try new things and if something works for a while, great. If it doesn’t work or stops working, move on. At least Google is finally putting an end to the blog posts about it (we can only hope).

  • Glad to see this put rest finally. I have said that this was a waste of time for years. it makes sense to structure your navigation in manner that is conducive for crawling and passing juice, but to say you could “sculpt” and manipulate PR was retarded at best.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..MSN New Search Engine Released

  • just thinking out loud here… All the talk about brands being in favour some weeks back i recon was just a side effect of google following javascript (affiliate) links.

  • I don’t think this will really have a huge affect on many websites because most of the time a website is just no-following things such as contact pages, privacy policy, etc where you do not want pagerank going to those either way.

  • When google is going to stop changing rules?

    aansa’s last blog post..Futuric Kitchens

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  • GoogleBomb ’09 shrinks the internet.

    For the well-optimized its no more blogrolls, news feeds, aggregations of any kind. If that kind of stuff can’t be tagged nofollow to redistribute juice, Googleminded pages might as well not even have them. SEOs will now look at every single link as a Penalty – tags, comments, stop me if I’m wrong – I’m not. This is a sad day for the internet

    This sudden flip-flop of the ‘rules’ changes everything.

    codesucker’s last blog post..Bing SEO Part 2: Some answers. What is DEO?

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