20 Jun 2009, Posted by admin in Google, 6 Comments
In case you’ve missed it all, Matt Cutts told people at SMX Advanced, and later on his blog, that Google has changed the way they deal with nofollow, in such a way that it effectively prevents link sculpting using the attribute, and the change has been live for well over a year. If you’re an SEO, then it’s quite a big deal. Danny Sullivan has a great article up explaining it, as does Rand. Aaron Wall picked up on another point, which is – why didn’t anyone actually notice?
Matt Cutts said that Google hadn’t announced the change because…
“…we figured that site owners or people running tests would notice, but they didn’t. In retrospect, we’ve changed other, larger aspects of how we look at links and people didn’t notice that either, so perhaps that shouldn’t have been such a surprise…”
And that’s interesting.
It’s also interesting to see so many people in the comments of other blogs backpeddle as hard as they can, saying “We’ve never recommended PR sculpting! I’ve never believed it works!”. Sure. But other very well respected SEOs did. I did too.
Back to Matt Cutt’s quote, they introduced this change to how nofollow works over a year ago and apparantly no-one noticed. Despite all the SEOs that use nofollow to link sculpt, nobody saw a change. That, to be honest, seems unlikely. Changing nofollow in the way that they have (with value evaporating when it sees a nofollow link, instead of being distributed to the remaining dofollow links) would have had such a significant change on how sites rank that it would be almost completely unbelievable that nobody noticed a difference.
Sites that would have been most heavily affected would be sites that use nofollow all the time, particularly for external links. These sites, with their huge use of nofollow, would see a significant portion of their link value within their domain drop, and the internal links throughout their site would pass less value. Assuming that Page Rank has a significant effect on ranking then this would cause them to have a massive change in their rankings, and therefore traffic, and we’re looking for this change somewhere towards the start of 2008. Lets ask Google trends for websites.
So what’s going on? While this seems to throw some more weight behind the idea that Google is up to some sneaky smoke and mirror based lying to prevent people from link sculpting (and as much as I love the drama), it just wouldn’t make sense for them to do so. I don’t think Google is intentionally misleading SEOs and I don’t think they’re lying.
It’s possible that the notion of Page Rank (and I mean the actual Google calculated version of Page Rank, not toolbar PR) only plays a very, very small role in ranking, with other factors like trust and authority having a greater role. To be honest, it’s too difficult to say right now exactly what’s going on, but if you can take anything away from this post it’s that the use of nofollow links all over the site hasn’t appeared to have affected Yahoo Answers, Wikihow or Wikipedia.
(Flickr image from yaili)