OK, I was a bit wrong. Not 100% wrong, but a bit wrong. Let me explain…
Firstly, here is Matt Cutts’ latest post on PageRank sculpting.
Now rather than write a whole new article on this, here is my comment on Matt’s blog.
Before I start this, I am using the term ‘PageRank’ as a general term fully knowing that this is not a simple issue and ‘PageRank’ and the way it is calculated (and the other numerous methods Google use) are multidimensional and complex. However, if you use PageRank to imply ‘weight’ it make it a lot simpler. Also, ‘PageRank sculpting’ (in my view) is meant to mean ‘passing weight you can control’. Now… on with the comment!
As I have always said, Google makes the rules and needs to make those rules fit with what it wants to do and also change them when needed to fit with the changes that happen on the web.
In my view there is nothing wrong with saying ‘hey Google, these pages are not important from a search engine perspective, let me not give them so much weight’. Regardless of how Google now views these types of pages from a weight perspective, doing the above as a webmaster should be logical and encouraged. You have said this yourself at least a few times in the past.
Likewise, ‘nofollowing’ your archive pages on your blog. Is this really a bad thing? You can get to the pages from the ‘tag’ index or the ‘category’ index, why put weight to a page that is truly navigational. At least the tag and category pages are themed. Giving weight to a page that is only themed by the date is crazy and does not really help search engines deliver ‘good’ results (totally leaving aside the duplicate content issues for now).
To finish, I guess I want to make two points (which do have some embedded questions too), namely:
1. Now that we know that weight/PageRank/whatever will disappear (outside of the intrinsic wastage method that Google applies) when we use a ‘nofollow’ link, what do you think this will do to linking patterns? This is really a can of worms from an outbound linking and internal linking perspective. Will people still link to their ‘legals’ page from every page on their site? Turning comments ‘off’ will also be pretty tempting. I know this will devalue the sites in general, but we are not always dealing with logic here are we? If we were you (as head of the web spam team) wouldn’t have had to change many things in the past. Changing the PageRank sculpting thing just being one of them.
2. Was there really a need to make this change? I know all sites should be equally capable of being listed in search engines without esoteric methods playing a part. But does this really happen anyway (in search engines or life in general)? If you hire the best accountant you will probably pay less tax than the other guy. Is that really fair? Also, if nobody noticed the change for a year (I did have an inkling, but was totally and completely in denial) then does that mean the change didn’t have to be made in the first place? As said, we now have a situation where people will probably make bigger and more damaging changes to their site and structure, rather than add a little ‘nofollow’ to a few links.
All in all, PageRank sculpting (or whatever we should call it) didn’t really rule my world. But, I did think that it was a totally legitimate method to use. Now that we know the ‘weight’ leaks, this will put a totally new (and more damaging) spin on things. Could we not have just left the ‘weight’ with the parent page? This is what I thought would happen most of the time anyway.
Still, I guess all of this keeps us all in a job, so we should not complain too much! However, I think you guys have got this one wrong and we will see in the next weeks and months how people jump on this.
P.S. having turned on the ‘nofollow’ indicator plug in on Firefox a long time ago, I have seen some of the abuse on this. However, I still don’t think that this way is the best method to combat this. You could have just ‘downgraded’ the trust score on sites that had abused the ‘nofollow’ thing to silly levels.
In essence, I think this is just the start on some changes on this and let’s see how this develops in the next few weeks. Four things are sure in my mind, namely:
- The ‘dofollow’ tag will come to the fore (if I am going to lose the ‘weight’ you might as well have it!).
- The linking to ‘legals’, ‘privacy’, etc. pages will now be more sporadic.
- Google have made a change that will affect website structure. This is either what they intended or a by-product.
- Sites will link less.
Fun times… things have been a bit boring or late and this spice things up quite nicely!