Social Media Marketing

Alphonse Ha: Social Media Marketing Strategies

SEO, Rel=nofollow and PageRank Sculpting (Oh My!)

June 18th, 2009. Published under SEO. 1 Comment.

Google hinted their position on using the hyperlink rel=nofollow tags for internal linking and basically stated that through a clean linking architechture, PageRank sculpting is recommended. However, Search Engine Land recently reported that at SMX Advanced, Google anounced how PageRank flows through nofollow links. The long story short is that nofollow links are a PageRank black hole rather than redistributing the PR to the dofollow links and This raised a big concern in the Search Engine Optimization community.

I believe that Aaron Wall of SEOBook and Randfish of SEOMoz make good suggestions.

SEOMoz state that they will perform tests and come back to us. I am under the impression that SEOMoz’ position is to leak as less PageRank as possible from the page by finding alternatives to mask outbound links without using nofollow with the following options:

  • Option A: An embedded iFrame on the page containing the links you don’t want the engines to follow (remember not to link to the iFrame URL, and potentially block it using robots.txt)
  • Option B: Links that call a Javascript redirect script with access blocked for search engine bots (as Google is also now crawling basic javascript and counting links through it)
  • Option C: An embed in Flash, Java or some other non-parseable plug-in that contains the desired links
  • Option D: Settings that turn off links for non-cookied or non-logged-in visitors

SEOBook‘s position is the opposite. PageRank leaking is not a big deal because there are so many greater factors influencing SEO:

  1. Comments offer free relevant textual content that helps your pages rank for a wider array of related keywords.
  2. Allowing some relevant outbound linking makes the page more useful, and makes some people slightly more likely to want to comment.
  3. When you are competing for core keywords in big, competitive markets the SEO game comes down to industrial strength link building, public relations, social networking, branding, advertising, and other aspects of classical marketing.

I would be very interested to hear about what SEO Theory‘s Michael Martinez has to say about this nofollow drama.

I think I side more with SEOBook on this issue and I wonder if the title : “Expert SEO Testing: Usually Worthless” is a jab at SEOMoz. Nevertheless, I agree that having comments in an iframe is a waste because they can raise the credibility of the page as well as creating context for Google to judge incoming and outgoing links. The same can be said about any practices that not only hides links but any User Generated Content as well. As much as I am as dissapointed in Google as Randfish stated. I have to say that I beleive Google is smart. Basically, Matt Cutts just anounced that due to abuse of nofollow, Google had to make a change. Nofollow was introduce to fight spam and later paid links. It was not created to block internal PageRank flow. I beleive there is more to this than Google is telling us. Thus, the reason why I like Aaron Wall’s position on not paying too much attention to the nofollow hype.

Here is where my Social Media Marketing kicks in. I think we can have our cake and eat it too. Taking Will Reynolds’ advice on not wasting too much time analysing nofollow links using his Youtube Channel as an example, it has a lot of comments, a lot of views, a lot of videos. Google would be crazy to not use that wealth of information. The amount of times the videos was shared, liked, added to favorite has to add towards determining the authority of that page and hence of that link. I will take Will Reynold’s position and believe that some authority or link juice or pagerank or relevancy or whatever-you-want-to-call-it must be transfered to the outbound linked page.

My suggestion is that comments and/or any UGC should have a rating system and in turn, the rating system will help Google determine relevant links/content. If comments are making pages more social, why shouldn’t they be affected by social actions? A system where users can vote on other UGC  just as they vote on the original content. The best content will be floated to the top similarly to LinkedIn Answers, Yahoo Answers or Get Satisfaction.

I like what Aaron Wall suggest because it follows Google’s (Matt Cutts’) recommandations. Spending time and energy focusing on quality content is more important. If you are a small web site fighting for small to midsize search engine results’ market share, you can compete by using a small link building strategy combined with proper meta, titles, h1, bold, keyword in URLs, etc. practices. If you are a large website ie: publishing and traditional media companies battling in a competitive market, you will need to use your traditional offline marketing to get a competitive advantage. Finding juice retention strategies is not an efficient use of your time.

UPDATE: June 18, 2009

I found Michael Martinez’ position on this on Matt Cutts’ blog but I am still interested to hear him discuss this on an SEO Theory level… oh well…

You cannot prevent people in the SEO industry from buying into nonsense and bad advice. PageRank sculpting has always been a waste of time and resources.

However, despite numerous attempts by Googlers over the past two years to persuade people to stop engaging in BAD SEO PRACTICES, the SEO community has continued to try to sculpt PageRank.

It’s Google’s index. Let them manage it anyway they please. A truly good SEO would never develop a site just for Google anyway. There are plenty of other search engines out there and collectively they still draw more monthly searchers than Google.

But then, the SEO community (which now holds itself to the standard of measuring success by number of conversions) is still focused on the obsolete metric of counting pageviews for measuring search market share rather than actual search conversions.

No one should be surprised at all the weeping and gnashing of teeth going on right now in the flames of PageRank hell.

It is pretty clear that SEO Theory and SEOBook stand on the same side of the fence on this one. I think SEOMoz are spending too much energy finding ways to conserve PageRank leaking. I find it is a more micro view of SEO where as Aaron Wall and Michael Martinez are offering a macro approach to this nofollow issue.

What I am taking out of this nofollow/PageRank drama is that Google is officially saying that PR is becoming less and less important. I think Google is shifting away from PageRank and their algo is most likely dependant on something else that they do not want to divulge yet because by keeping the SEO/black hats guessing, they will control spam better in the search results.

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