Posted June 16, 2009 9:55 am by with 15 comments

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Matt CuttsUnless you’re an SEO, you’re probably blissfully unaware of the bombshell Google’s Matt Cutts dropped at SMX Advanced recently. Jordan did a great job of summarizing the issue here.

Well, Matt kind of owed us a deeper explanation and he’s obliged over at his personal blog.

It’s a lengthy post, but here’s what you need to know:

  • This devaluing of PageRank sculpting actually happened “more than a year ago” and you didn’t even notice! That means that this change is not the big bombshell we all thought, It’s kind of like getting annoyed that your cable company took away the National Geographic channel a year ago, but you’ve only just found it.
  • We get official confirmation that when you link to another page, PageRank flow sees a “decay factor” of “10-15%.” Again, something we’ve known, but Matt confirms.
  • Also confirmed, linking to a good site helps your rankings and conversely, linking to a bad site can hurt them. Matt says, “In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.”
  • It’s unlikely that Google will reverse this change: “…we do not expect this to change again.”

The comments make for interesting reading too! Danny Sullivan expresses concern over how the change will affect blogs that get a lot of comments:

Say I have an article on a blog with 5 links in the editorial copy — some of those links leading back to other content within the blog that I hope to do well. Then I get 35 comments on the article, with each comment having a link back to the commenters’ sites. That’s 40 links in all. Let’s say this particular page has $20 in PageRank to spend. Each link gets 50 cents.

A valid point. After all, if you write a post that becomes wildly popular–and gets a lot of backlinks–you’d prefer to flow the PageRank back to your own pages, right? Well, if it’s so popular that you get 200 comments, Google’s going to evaporate a lot of that PageRank flow.

Still, using Nofollow is valid for those links that you simply don’t trust, or don’t want to help achieve rankings thanks to your links. As Matt clarifies, “Nofollow links definitely don’t pass PageRank.”

And lastly, deep in the comments, Matt provides one sentence that basically sums up this brouhaha:

Yes, I would agree that Google itself solely decides how much PageRank will flow to each and every link on a particular page.

And that’s all you need to know.

PS. For those looking for ideas on using alternatives to Nofollow–so you don’t lose PageRank flow–take a look at SEOmoz’s excellent advice.

  • All that Matt Cutts says still confirms my Null Hypothesis on PageRank Calculation:

    This also means that you should think carefully about your blog’s Comment Policy. As a result, I now automatically close comments after 21 days.

    Barry Welford’s last blog post..Making Complex Purchases

  • @Barry – I close mine after 30, any reason to make it shorter than that?

  • This is so stupid really. You got one person (Cutts) saying that “Nofollow links definitely don’t pass PageRank.” and then you got other people (including Cutts sometimes) describing links out leak juice from a page. Ok so if I no follow all those comments links in the comments I am OK right.? Nope not according to Matt today as he said:

    “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.”

    With that statement about it makes it sound like links with nofollow do flow (or leak, but not pass?) PageRank, LOL

    Can we make this any more confusing than it has to be?

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..PR Sculpting?Told Ya So

  • “This devaluing of PageRank sculpting actually happened “more than a year ago” and you didn’t even notice! That means that this change is not the big bombshell we all thought, ”

    It really means that all the people who THOUGHT they were successfully sculpting PageRank were NOT.

    Rand’s article is offering absolutely terrible advice. No one should be trying to save the concept of PageRank sculpting these days. The SEO community needs to stop passing bad advice like PageRank sculpting around.

    You cannot measure it; therefore you cannot sculpt it.

  • Too much messing around causes me undue stress. The bottom line is that Google is going to do what Google wants, so it’s just my job to keep with the basics and build as many good links as I can.

  • @andy 30 days may well be better. I realize that I had left it at the default value of 60 days, which seemed excessive. I’ll probably go back and change it up to 30 days. In any case the number of comments that fall between the two is pretty small.

    Barry Welford’s last blog post..Making Complex Purchases

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  • Yeah…That’s right…It means PR depends on inbound links as we ll as outbound links.

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  • it’s just my job to keep with the basics and build as many good links as I can.

  • If its going on from 1 year……i think in this case no problems….So blog comments are concern here…..May be bloggers need to think on comments part

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