(the following is a guest post from David Leonhardt)
I really should preface this post with the caveat that I was never a fan of using the NoFollow attribute on links on my sites. OK, when NoFollow first came out, I actually loaded one of my sites with NoFollow attributes. Then logic got the better of me.
NoFollow is meant to go on user-generated links, in particular blog comment links, to inform the search engines that the link is not a vote of confidence, not a link the website owner is willing to vouch for. If I place NoFollow links to some of my own pages, what does that tell the search engines?
- I wont vouch for my own content?
- I dont understand simple coding?
- I am trying to manipulate the search engines?
At best, the site comes off as low-trust; at worst, as worthy of a penalty for trying to manipulate search engine results in a sneaky way.
Despite this caveat, many websites engaged in what became known as PageRank sculpting -- carefully placing NoFollow attributes on some internal links (such as to pages like contact, about, terms, etc.) in order to squeeze more link juice to pages (such as product, pages, sales letters, landing pages, etc.).
4 Alternatives that work
Now Google has made it clear that PageRank sculpting no longer works, and I personally suspect it never did. But if you are still concerned with PageRank from your home page (PR from your entire site) being funneled into pages that will never rank for anything useful in the search engines, here are four alternatives to the defunct NoFollow PageRank sculpting.
Turn useless pages into funnel pages
This is useful if pages like contact us and about are getting search engine traffic. What you want to do with these pages is funnel visitors into taking your most desired action. For instance, if you are trying to build an email list, you might place the sign-up form dead center at the top of these pages.
Link to key pages from the template
Far too many websites have navigation menus that read products , services , shipping. Nobody is searching for products. Make sure you have a link right in your template to the pages for your best sellers or to the products with the highest profit margins, such as your High-combustion, fully-automatic household laser flame-thrower (if thats what you happen to sell).
Combine admin pages
Ask yourself this: do you really need separate pages for contact, about, terms, shipping, returns, etc.? Or could they all be placed on the same page, so there is only one link in your template. If they cant be placed all on the same page, do they all need to be linked directly from the template, or could there be a single link -- about and contact -- and that page could link to pages for terms, shipping, returns, etc.?
Place contact info into the template
If you place your contact information right in the template, not only are helping yourself rank better for local searches, but you illuminate one of the most PageRank hungry pages on your website. No need for a contact page to eat up link juice if contact information is available on every page of the site.
See? The NoFollow attribute wasnt needed all along. It was bestowed upon us so that lazy bloggers could go on being lazy without having to answer for spam links that were posted in comments. Or it was bestowed upon us so that lazy search engine algorithms wouldnt have to identify those lazy bloggers.
In any event, you are not a lazy blogger, right? You dont need NoFollow. You have other tools at your disposal. If I missed any here, please add them in the comments below. Maybe we can expand this to a top-10 list.