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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!


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