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PageRank Sculpting; its all old school baby

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 01 June 2009 07:49

Matt Cutts talks about internal linking

I was getting things together for our SEO newsletter today and came across a video from everyone’s favourite ‘breath of fresh AIR’, Matt Cutts. The topic at hand was about PR sculpting (or soiling - more on that soon). There were a few things in this brief snippet that I felt worth talking about…

The question at hand was;

“ What are your views on PageRank sculpting? Useful and recommended if implemented right, or unethical?”

(video here)


Right away he talks about it being your right to do as you please with your website, including controlling “how the PageRank flows around within your site”.  For those that are still unconvinced that PR truly does flow around a site, it should clear that up for ya.

He then mentions that it “is not the first thing that I would work on”. That he would work on “getting more links” and developing “higher quality content”. That is interesting on a few levels;

  1. While internal/external linking is important for your on-page SEO, one has to consider the ROI for any given SEO activity; no budget is infinite. All things NOT being equal, working on more links might be a better use of staff time.
  1. Part of any modern link building/SEO program is content (creation, syndication, placement) and one should be putting these aspects fairly high in the activity pecking order.

We read about all the finer details of the SEO process all the time in this industry – but rarely do we hear about resource management. One has to think about SEO in terms of cost efficacy of an activity as there are budgetary considerations to be had.


Can it be done though?

Sure… and this has been no secret for quite some time. You see, even in the world before the ‘nofollow’ tag, we used to use internal linking in ratios to pass the love around a given website. One of the early catch-phrases was ‘siloing’ (and even PageRank funneling, or PageRank optimization).. we’ve been here before.

Matt goes on to say that he, “would go as far as to use the nofollow tag” unless for non-consequential pages such as a login page etc..

What he does advise, is more of the old school approach of looking at the internal and external links of a give page to assess how the PR is being passed. Using an interesting (but ROI functional) example of wanting to promote a page with products that are money makers, not dogs. Much like inbound links, we want to focus on the core targets and then secondary ones (and deep-link long tail stuff) not just arbitrarily pointing links to a site hap hazard. Part of the decision making process with internal linking will be based upon given targets.

In the example given, the home page would link to the most important areas and the sub-sections/categories would be used as secondary linking. This works all the way down from the most valued real estate PR wise (such as the home page or other authoritative/viral page) right to the pages with the least PageRank flowing to them.

Passing page rank is not limited to the nofollow tag, that is merely one tool. Understanding the internal linking ratios (and related anchor texts) is a very important tasks for on-site SEO and must be understood.


The Skinny; PRD = S+NF

What was old is new again my friends; I dub it PRD (PageRank Distribution). Because that’s what we used to do, then siloing came along and the newest tool, the nofollow, gave us sculpting. Thus PRD = S+NF ya know?

All kidding aside I believe there are two distinct realities here;

  1. Old school PR management still rings true and the ‘nofollow’ is but another tool in that process.
  2. One really does need to be paying attention to the task-ROI. Understanding the value of an activity in the greater scheme of things is paramount.

After the craze of late ’06/early ’07 with the nf tag, there were many of us that thought such internal linking usage (as opposed to external links) wasn’t always warranted if one already had PRD in place. Hearing Matt tell it as such is heart warming as this really is something SEOs should have already known. If not then it’s back to SEO School for you.

Getting anal about the PRD is likely, as Matt noted, as important as building quality links and strong content programs. If you have a set of targets in place (pages on the site) then as you go about the content development you can ensure that the right internal links are in place. The rest can really be dealt with at the template/module level. Understand SEO Task ROI and be sure to not spend TOO much time worrying about the ‘sculpting’ – ok?


Want to read up on PaegRank Distribution? - In my travels, these posts came to mind….

Building a Web Site Theme with Silos – Bruce Clay
Hey Rand, Do You Mean Siloing? - Bruce Clay

Five PageRank Sculpting Tips – Search Engine Journal
Bot Herding: The Ultimate Tool for PageRank Sculpting - SEJ

Sculpting Your PageRank For Maximum SEO Impact – Search Engine Land
Effective Tagging For Both Usability & SEO – Search Engine Land

Yes, Virginia, your contact page DOES need 500 links – SEO Theory

PageRank sculpting - Siloing and more – Yoast

The Art of Sculpting, or There's Nothing Wrong with Knowing SEO - Search Engine Watch

8 Arguments Against Sculpting PageRank™ with Nofollow – Audette Media

NoIndex, NoFollow SEO Overkill – Local SEO Guide


Until next time.... Stay tuned!



0 # yvonh 2009-06-01 08:37
love the pagerank distribution concept, that's what I pay attention to when submitting to directories.BTW I notice you are an amateur of Huan Pi Hong paintings.
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-1 # Dave 2009-06-01 09:23
Actually, I spent most of my life in the martial arts and simply have an appreciation for the art... all art really, all things...

As far as directories are concerned, they've been worked way down the link scale to the point of being little more than foundational... I'd only be looking at some of the paid ones and top free... not much beyond that.

But yes, understanding PageRank as a fluid creature helps in all areas... something to always consider...

PRD, he he. We could even use 'PageRank Management'... lol. Either way, consideration of it should be second nature.
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+1 # Dudibob 2009-06-01 10:19
hey hey Dave and as usual you post another thought (reminding!?) provoking post.

PR sculpting should be considered as it's another biggy for 'on page optimisation' if you could call it that. Not looking at this is kinda the same as having all title tags the same, it's a waste!
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+1 # Dave 2009-06-01 10:48
Well, managing PR flow around a given site is most certainly an important part of the on-site toolbox, fer sure. But at the same time I am quick to caution against any anal activity and there's only so far one would take it IMO...

In perfect world, with limitless budgets, we could spend a great deal of time worrying about it... reality is though, task management is important as well.

So for me, PR distribution/management is important, but it has to live with other areas such as content programs and link building (and other on-site tasks).

It's a benefit/resource game... of that extra mile in PR management brings minimal returns, was that time not better spent crafting (link baitable) content?

All SEOs should understand PR management... as well as when and where to use it...

ya know?
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+1 # Andrew Shotland 2009-06-01 11:34
First off muchas gracias for the link to my SEO Overkill post. I have been using nofollow and noindex tactics for several years now and while I have found it to be an inprecise science, I have definitely seen it to be of considerable value. I find it particularly helpful in site redesigns when the internal link architecture changes significantly. It's a great way to try to retain the old internal linking that was providing a SEO benefit while changing the UI of the page.
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+1 # Michael Martinez 2009-06-01 15:50
He basically says what I've been saying all along: focus on showing search engines your most important content.

And he once again sidestepped the issue of how one goes about measuring PageRank for any given site in the first place.

You cannot sculpt PageRank with the precision that people in the SEO industry are trying to.

This buzz expression and all its accompanying rationalization s need to die because all the "advice" given out on how to "sculpt" PageRank is wrong, misleading, and wasteful.
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+1 # Dave 2009-06-01 16:41
@Andrew - well, as folks such as Michael (below) are fond of pointing out, we don't really know WHICH links Google is valuing and HOW they're being valued (think Personalized PageRank). This means we really never know exactly how much PR a page truly has. The toolbar is but a floating point number (prone to hand jobs).... it is as U say, not a precise approach.

I think that's why I enjoyed the video, while there is potential, it can also be a massively poor use of resources. Direct the energy where it can best serve the overall goals.

NP on the linkee... just dolling out the PR weeeee.... great post U had - enjoyed it! (gets my vote)

@Michael - how goes things? Nice 2 CU about - miss the blogging!

I certainly agree that there is as much potential to mess things up than do any benefit - and we don't know much of actual page/global PR valuations at this point (what came after PPR?)

Well before the whole 'nofollow' movement started and folks took their siloing to sculpting, understanding the relationships of the internal (and external) links was important IMO... but like a shiny new toy people may have gone overboard with new magical mythology (as they do with implicit user feedback signals).

At the end of the day, for me, it's the value of the time invested into the activity that is important. When constructing/renovating websites one should have an understanding of PageRank management such as it is with what we do know... beyond that, only in the more obvious situations is it often warranted.

IMHO as always...

(thanks for dropping in with the 2c gents... always appreciated)
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+1 # chris ronk 2009-06-03 13:34
This doesn't effect my work personally. I use the rel=
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0 # Odzyskiwanie Danych 2009-06-18 03:47
To make sure your money is well spent you definitely should note everything you do along with the costs and results it brought. Later you'll be able to see which methods are the most effective.
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