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Four alternatives to NoFollow PageRank sculpting

Written by David Harry   
Tuesday, 23 June 2009 08:18

(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?

  1. I won’t vouch for my own content?
  2. I don’t understand simple coding?
  3. 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.).

For lazy bloggers

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 that’s 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 can’t 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.?


Use Javascript for admin links

I have to throw this in as the most obvious way to make sure links do not eat up a page’s link juice.  Make sure they are written in JavaScript or some other format that search engines don’t follow.


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.

good bye to the nofollow tag

See?  The NoFollow attribute wasn’t 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 wouldn’t have to identify those lazy bloggers.

In any event, you are not a lazy blogger, right?  You don’t 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.

David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, an SEO, social media marketing and ghostwriting firm.  He shares his occasional thoughts on website marketing on his blog.  And if you're the social type - follow him on Twitter for lots of great chatter. I'd like to thank him for droppping in and joining the ranks of the guest riders here on the Trail.




+1 # Mark 2009-06-23 08:46
..but Google annouced they'll be crawling JS?
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0 # David Leonhardt 2009-06-23 09:07
That's news to me. If so, it does limit options. Perhaps the coders reading this could weigh in with what non-followable options there are left (for those who really want to do PR sculpting this way).

It bears noting that in theory one should not do this at all. To me it feels a bit sneaky, like hidden text.
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0 # Grosen Friis 2009-06-23 09:19

First of all I don't understand why Google or any other major search engine would want to remove the don't-pass-PageRank effect from the rel="nofollow" attribute on links.

This is a very good way to both optimize internal PageRank on a website and having all the necessary links on a website to optimize Call2Action i.e. conversions.

If rel="nofollow" is changed from a:


to a:


I foresee #1 will make the use of the rel="nofollow" attribute fall dramatically

In addition I foresee #2 that a "war" will occur between the need for optimizing internal PageRank (PageRank sculpting) and the need to have sufficient onpage links to ensure that Call2Action generates sufficient conversions. I think we will see less internal links on pages that Google can follow combined with increased use of techniques that Google still cannot fully penetrate. E.g. implementing many small Flash elements that contains the Call2Action links that currently are visible but have a rel="nofollow" attribute. :whistle:

We might also see #3 an increased use of presell pages. The PageRank from these presell pages are then passed on to selected target pages on the "main" website, to compensate for "loss" of internal PageRank that might occur. Personally I think optimizing internal PageRank using rel="nofollow" is way better than a huge increase in lowquality presell pages. :-x

/Grosen Friis
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0 # gas safety london 2009-06-24 04:40
thanks for the heads up on this.. still new to all this SEO
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0 # Nick Stamoulis 2009-06-24 08:59
It is like anything else in the SEO industry. People figure out how to manipulate certain efforts to work to their advantage. The problem is that once this becomes wide scale algorithms change and we have to shift gears again.
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+1 # BrianR 2009-06-24 13:22
Yep, Google has been able to crawl easy to find links in javascript for a while now and more recently I've heard Matt Cutts say that they can even execute more complex javascript now.

Funneling is a good idea but I'm not sure about combining the admin pages into one link. I often look for a contact, about or shipping page and I wouldn't normally expect to see shipping details in an about or contact page.
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0 # mugile 2009-06-25 12:04
If you design a small flash file that looks exactly like your navigation links and use it to link to your "about" page, the SE will not follow this link...
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0 # Noclegi Ziemia Klodzka 2009-06-26 05:38
But what's the upside of making your own links nofollow? I could never understand it. Afterall google bots will just ignore links like that so you might as well not post them at all.
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0 # rusli zainal sang visioner 2009-06-28 03:51
i have ever here that if google also crawl page that have no follow tag. is it true? no follow tag is useless ?
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0 # SEOsean 2009-06-28 17:21
Google already passes link juice on to some of the nofollow links on a page. I saw a video by Matt Cutts where he explained this but I can't find it again. He basically said that link juice has been flowing to some of the nofollow links on a page and that this is not something new with Google. They have been doing this for a while and no one has just noticed. I wish I could find that video again to verify this though.
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0 # Grosen Friis 2009-06-29 02:02
Quoting Noclegi Ziemia Klodzka:
But what's the upside of making your own links nofollow? I could never understand it.

Hi Noclegi Ziemia Klodzka

The pages on a website that most easily convert users to real customers, are also those pages that we are most interested in getting high rankings for on relevant keywords in Google search result pages

One way to help achieving that goal is to sent most PageRank to pages with high priority and minimum PageRank to pages with low priority.

High priority pages are e.g. product category pages on a webshop. Pages with low priority are Terms and conditions pages.

However in order to make the visitors on your website feel safe about doing business with you online is to e.g. have a very visible link to your pages with Terms and conditions.

I order to make a compromise between:

- giving your users a visible link to your Terms and conditions on each page and on the other hand

- to tell Google that your Terms and conditions pages are NOT important when it comes to search results.

is to set the nofollow attribute on 99% of those links.

But now it seems that Google to some degree will tend to ingore internal links that have nofollow. This means that PageRank sculpting will become even harder in the future

/Grosen Friis
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0 # Grosen Friis 2009-06-29 02:09
Quoting rusli zainal sang visioner:
i have ever here that if google also crawl page that have no follow tag. is it true? no follow tag is useless ?

Hi Rusli Zainal Sang Visioner

Yes they do. 'nofollow' should never be used alone, but always in a combination with 'noindex'

Nofollow: If Google find an entire page or a link on a page with nofollow. Google does not follow that link and does not send PageRank through that link. Beware that it now seems as if Google now ignores nofollow on internal links

Noindex: Means that major search engines, including Google, will not index that page.

So if a page has e.g. "nofollow, index" the page will be index if it is found by a major search engine. Remember that a page can easily be found via an external link linking deep into you website.

/Grosen Friis
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0 # jimmy 2009-06-29 06:37
I agree, google gave this attribute to public to help the sites owners to avoid spammers
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0 # Michiel Van Kets 2009-06-29 13:21
I don't know about all this (ok, I didn't read all the comments)

ok, nofollow was created for indeed letting google know a link is not supported - voted for - but ...

I'm pretty sure that google ignores the nofollow whenever it's used on any or especially on all outgoing links; it just doesn't make sense

I really think wordpress made a huge mistake by making all comment-name-link nofollow by definition, instead of building something very easy like; only dofollow for registered users, only after 5 comments (sure, plenty of plugings to do just that), but my point is; I think there's a huge misperception of nofollow being ok to prevent or fight spam; it's not!

first of all it just doesn't work, second; you're punishing the wrong people!

I don't like it whenever a blog says; thank you for the extra content, but I'm not giving you anything in return for it ... well, thanks, goodbye and see you never again ... right?

nofollow is not the right tool to fight spam ... by using it for that purpose anyway, nofollow has lost a lot of its value.

ow, by the way; put a nofollow on the links to your contact page if it has a contact form on it!! it means you know what the nofollow is really for :woohoo:


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0 # Retractable Clothesline 2009-07-30 07:29
This nofollow business is really something I don't understand. Unless google following a link will hurt your site's page rank in the search engines, I don't see why I wouldn't understand why my links should be nofollow. All the links on my retractable clothesline blog are dofollow. If everyone makes their blog a nofollow, then the search engines might as well start to ignore all links.
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