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14 Jul 2009

PageRank Sculpting or Link Consolidation: The Debate Continues

During SMX-Advanced in Seattle and WordCamp in San Francisco this year Matt Cutts revealed some interesting information about PageRank sculpting, causing a firestorm of debate between professionals in the industry. Let’s first discuss what PageRank sculpting is, and then get into the details about the big debate. 

Sculpting your PageRank involves manipulating the PageRank flow within existing pages of your site. There are a few ways to do this, which include adding rel=nofollow attribute designations to some pages to force the flow of ‘juice’ to pages you’d like more PageRank on. SEOMoz’s Rand Fishkin gives a good bit more information on sculpting PageRank in an old post.
Cutts’ doesn’t recommend utilizing rel=nofollow tags, except on login pages or other customizable pages where robots won’t actually be logging in. What he does recommend, however, is being choosy about what pages to link to from your homepage, thereby sculpting PageRank to a certain degree. At SMX-Advanced he alluded to the fact that rel=nofollow tags, utilized for PageRank sculpting, don’t work the way we may think. Many thought this meant a change to Google had been made, and we all know how well "changes" go over in the SEO community.
It seems, whenever Cutts alludes to information he leaves a lot to the imagination. I don’t know about you, but when I don’t get a straight answer I often start to think which can often lead to confusion, doubt, and sometimes even mass hysteria. The ambiguities in Cutts’ statements have led many to come up with their own hypotheses as to what will work as far as PageRank sculpting goes. The only clear answer given is that the former way of PageRank sculpting is something Google frowns upon.
Rand Fishkin’s recent post, Link Consolidation: The New PageRank Sculpting, details his interpretation and how one might consolidate their pages so as to restrict and control the flow of PR. Check out the comments on this post, quite a bit of debate and discussion thrown around. Worth noting is the dialogue between Rand and Michael Martinez.
Michael Martinez wrote about his views on PageRank sculpting in his post, SEO Myths and the Power of Repetition. "Frankly, since you cannot measure PageRank, you have no hope of controlling or sculpting it. This will never be a fundamental SEO principle — rather, it’s just fundamental nonsense". Do you tend to agree or disagree? Can you really control/sculpt/manipulate something without knowing how it is measured/developed?

Most tend to agree with Rand, and his link consolidation methodology. The concept is simple: create a site that is easy to navigate for both bots and human eyes. If this involves consolidating your pages, then by all means do so. If you end up consolidating your pages, you are in essence sculpting your PR, but that should be just a side benefit. The debate continues, but one thing is for sure: the process of PageRank sculpting is becoming a thing of the past, and more emphasis is being placed on usability.


  • Ryan Jul 14, 2009

    As an SEO one thing is clear to me: Never trust a word Matt Cutts says. One day he tells us to use nofollow to sculpt PR, then Google quickly reverses course and (supposedly) hoses us for doing so? Thanks for the heads up Matt. /snark

    Personally I will be using a lot more javascript to linkify divs/elements containing a (single) link. No more multiple links to the same page with non anchor text links conveniently nofollowed. As you noted this aids in usability (outside of those with js disabled) and degrades fairly gracefully.

  • Michael Martinez Jul 16, 2009

    Whether “most tend to agree with Rand” is debatable as I haven’t seen most people weigh in on the issue yet.

    Ryan, don’t be so quick to resort to using Javascript to try and resurrect a failed strategy. Google also revealed that they are now following Javascript links.

    Instead of trying to hoard or sculpt PageRank, people need to focus on the SEO fundamentals and leave the bad ideas in the bin of failed concepts.

  • Princess Cut Diamond Rings Aug 01, 2009

    With the latest PageRank changes, nofollow no longer benefits webmasters in terms of PageRank sculpting. At this point, nofollow really doesn’t benefit anyone except for Google. All blogs may as well just stop using nofollow comments, because now they just result in a lot of wasted link juice.

    Rand (as always) is on the right track I think. The best way to PageRank sculpt now is to properly website content and links.