Another Look at rel="nofollow"

The dust has all but settled on the now somewhat recent news of Matt Cutt’s announcement that the rel=”nofollow” no longer works for Pagerank sculpting. (If you haven’t heard, check out Matt’s post here.) At first, there was an awful lot of confusion and I can only feel sorry for Matt for having to answer the same questions repeatedly. Nevertheless, it’s now pretty clear the implications of the announcement.

nofollow

First, to understand the basic concept of Pagerank sculpting as it effects the rel=”nofollow” attribute, many SEOs and webmasters wanted to force Pagerank to “flow” to certain pages and not others. For example, a page about widgets would be much more important to a website owner than the privacy policy page. The rel=”nofollow” attribute was a simple tag that one could place on a link that stopped it from passing Pagerank. The site owner would instead pass it to more important pages.

PageRank sculpting was thought of as a useful tactic until Google changed its algorithm. Now a page that is tagged with a rel=”nofollow” tag no longer gives its Pagerank to other pages. Instead that Pagerank simply doesn’t get passed at all. You can no longer force Pagerank into your more important pages.

Of course that has some real implications on how we should handle our SEO. In a recent video interview, Matt Cutts made a couple of recommendations:

  • First, use the rel=”nofollow” tag on links going away from your site that cannot be vouched for. For example blog comments, or forum posts where users might post links. Other user-generated content may be considered for outgoing links.
  • Secondly, he strongly recommended not using the tag on any pages of your site, but to let the Pagerank flow through even your less important pages. He was asked the question if these tags should be removed. While not stated specifically, it was implied that the tags should be removed from sites.

The mentality behind this change, in my belief, is another step in making the rankings of websites more natural, preventing use of artificial means. Some might see this as a negative change, but Matt mentioned that this was implemented over a year before it was announced. The fact that no one noticed indicates to me that there really won’t be much of an effect on actual rankings.

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