Page Rank Sculpting: Matt Cutts Response Unearths Frustration in Policy Changes at Google

By Catherine Potts | Jun 4, 2009
More Articles by Catherine

“ ‘If you’re reading this – you are the resistance.’ –John Connor (kind of)”

I thought this comment was actually very funny and kind of true. We have no control on how the vehicle moves; we just have to move with it. We must try and predict how things will advance, comply and see if we’ve understood the messages. There are so many opinions on how to apply comments made by those on the inside. Google can be The Terminator and we, the resistance. We try and remain a step ahead while also following the rules set forth. But what happens when those rules change? The “why?” the “how?” and the “what do we now” questions come flyin’ in. Everybody who is anybody has an opinion, a prediction and predication.

What is PageRank sculpting?

In a nutshell, nofollow was discovered to (rather than its original use of cutting off questionable-untrustworthy- sites in blog comments) help pass link juice to other pages in a site. If you nofollow one page, the juice that page isn’t using gets passed on to pages that are dofollow.

So now, apparently Google has decided that juice will not be passed on. In Matt Cutt’s own words, that juice will “evaporate.”

“Said another way, if you have a page with 5 links, and none of them are nofollowed, each link passes 1/5 of the page’s link juice. If 2 of those five links are nofollowed, then what used to happen was that the remaining 3 links would each pass 1/3 of the page’s available link juice. Now, if 2 of the 5 links are nofollowed, the remaining 3 each pass just 1/5 of the total link juice, since the nofollowed links still gather the juice, even if they don’t use it.”


Courtesy: SEOmoz

So here we go again, Google is keeping the masses busy (and upset). It is how we all make a living, after all. Might as well keep it interesting, eh? Many people did “sculpt” their sites in order to apply what Matt had said Google wanted but now that’s apparently not the case- this is what has people up in arms. So when do you listen? If you go to the work to put into place the things they say will work best, only to have them reverse it later, do you even waste your time on the front end?

Danny Sullivan:

“For years, we’d been told that site owners shouldn’t have to do extraordinary things to help search engines. Good page titles, good ability to be crawled, sure. But having to think about things on a link-by-link basis? That’s something I assumed Google was already up to snuff about. My assumption had been that Google long decided to discount how much credit it assigned to things like navigational links, when it could see the same links appearing on multiple pages within the same web site.”

This is why DazzlinDonna (Donna Fontenot) has decided to concentrate on what her USERS need rather than trying to chase around a mouse with no tail. There is obvious frustration in the fact that Google has, in essence, changed its mind on how link juice is passed on.

An interesting take by Vanessa Fox was that Page Rank gets tossed around when perhaps that’s not the real issue here. Her thinking is that this change is more so to help with crawl efficiency. Why waste time on pages that don’t really need to be crawled?

if what he really was getting at was more a crawl efficiency than a PageRank issue. (”PageRank” tends to get used by the industry as a catch-all sometimes inadvertently.) Because I would say that it’s still good practice to nofollow links to registration and sign-in pages (and other pages you don’t really need indexed) just because the fewer of those pages Googlebot crawls, the more time there will be to crawl the pages you really do care about having indexed.”

However, isn’t the whole problem that b/c those pages are nofollow, that leftover link juice isn’t being passed on. It’s “evaporating.” This is the issue. People (some did, some did not) spent time “sculpting” their sites to optimize the link juice and this is why they’re frustrated. Their efforts could mean nothing and they’ll have to redo what they’ve done. Some have claimed that they’ve yet to see the ill effects of this news and that it either could take time or just not really be a problem at all. Regardless, we’re all in this to make the clients happy and increase the user (and crawl) experience.

It is frustrating when the decisions are made by a single entity. There isn’t a thing we can do. Many claim that Google is unfair (and greedy) but also many claim that Google has a hard job in trying to make things fair for everyone. So what do you think? Is this news going to negatively affect how you have your site set up?

Is it worth it to just continue to sculpt sites for crawl efficiency (ignoring the PR sculpting chatter)?

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