This is really only for the technical SEO folks, but Matt Cutts of Google has recently clarified how Google treats nofollowed links and it’s implications for Page Rank Sculpting, but this has much broader implications on how people will link out both externally and internally in general, IMO. Below is your recommended reading to learn more:
- SEOmoz: Google Says: Yes, You You Can Still Sculpt PageRank. No, You Can’t Do It with Nofollow
- Danny Sullivan: PageRank Sculpting Is Dead! Long Live PageRank Sculpting!
- Matt Cutts: PageRank sculpting
Here’s my quick take on things: the nofollow tag (which tells Google bots not to follow this link or flow any page rank through it) has been increasingly abused to manipulate rankings in Google. The nofollow tag started as a way, in part, to block blog comments with URLs in them from being followed or counted as links by Google’s bots, so that if there are 80 comments with links in a post the bot would almost pretend that those links weren’t there at all. This is no longer a valid simplification, as this recent clarification by Mr. Cutts indicates that the bot will still “count” those links as being on the page, it just won’t pass along any PageRank if you use the rel=nofollow attribute.
The implication that is getting the SEO world in a tizzy is this: every link on the page, even when nofollowed, may be counteracting your efforts to pass along PageRank to the webpages that you are acutally intending to link to and actively trying to give credit to. To take the argument one step further, the fewer links on a page you have, the more PageRank can flow between them. The more links you have, even when nofollowed, the less importance (via PageRank) is passed along. It would be in your interest, then, to only link to pages that you really want to pass credit along to, which are probably only internal navigation links within your domain, and a few (but probably not many) high quality external links (since Google does view linking to authority websites as an indicator that your site, too, carries some authority, maybe).
Does this mean we should turn off the ability to leave URLs in blog comments? Should we stop linking to spammy websites as examples of what not to do? Should we never link out to a page unless its of high authority with good PageRank and backlinks? Stop linking out to external domains altogether?????
It’s too soon to tell, but I sure hope not, and I highly doubt the implications are really this grave. Various authority blogs (which I can still comfortably link to, as seen above) will probably do more research to both confirm these changes and see to what extent gratituitious nofollow linking will really harm things. I’ve always been generous in linking out to other pages, as I know that’s the only way I’ll get links back and I don’t mind giving credit where credit’s due.
But, I’m worried that less benevolent, somewhat “greedy” bloggers who are too focused on SEO and not enough on their readers that will start taking up that annoying habit of only linking to your own webpage, even when talking about an external source.
Okay kiddies, back to work, my lunch break is over (just like PageRank sculpting via the rel=nofollow attribute, burn!)