PageRank sculpting: my view

March 12th, 2008 – 11 Comments

Dave did a good post about nofollow sculpting, and he got a very good quote from Matt Cutts:

Nofollowing your internals can affect your ranking in Google, but it’s a 2nd order effect.

My analogy is: suppose you’ve got $100. Would you rather work on getting $300, or would you spend your time planning how to spend your $100 more wisely.

Spending the $100 more wisely is a matter of good site architecture (and nofollowing/sculpting PageRank if you want). But most people would benefit more from looking at how to get to the $300 level.

Ok, so it’s of a “2nd order effect”. Let’s say, you could increase your traffic by 2% if you did it (and for the record, to my experience it’s a bit more, more like 10%). If you have 2 million visitors a month, 2% more visitors are 40,000 visitors a month, 480,000 visitors a year. Let’s say your conversion rate is as low as 1%, with a revenue per order of $25. That’s not too much, is it? Well… It’s $120,000. I can spend a few hours doing some sculpting for that, and still make a profit…

There’s of course a lot of “mis use” of PageRank sculpting. A lot of people are trying to compensate for bad site architecture and information architecture by nofollowing a lot of links, I’m even guilty of that on this site. Or people are calling the whole process of creating a good site architecture PageRank sculpting. It’s not. Good site architecture is one of the few main pillars of on-site SEO.

So, in all, PageRank sculpting is a nice technique. It’s useful for sites which have a lot of traffic to play around with. I agree with Matt, that if you have $100, you shouldn’t start with it. If you have $100,000,000 though, I’d definitly put it on my list.

11 Responses to PageRank sculpting: my view

  1. TheMadHat
    By TheMadHat on 12 March, 2008

    Perfect example in my opinion. Sculpting PR on a site with 25 pages and 500 visitors a day isn’t something high on the list.

    100k plus pages with millions of visitors can make a significant impact.

  2. Ricardo Figueiredo
    By Ricardo Figueiredo on 12 March, 2008

    What do you think of the post I wrote avout PR sculpting here:

    The post was meant to get a regular, non-technical person, or client, to understand what I meant when I said PR sculpting, or link siloing. It wasn’t necessarily meant as a post that everyone should follow.

    I created quite a bit of controversy, as you’ll see in the comments there… I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it if you have a chance.

  3. Geert
    By Geert on 12 March, 2008

    Hmm… Interesting tactic to keep and give important pages a high PR.

    But I have a question about the sculpting itself.
    What if you have a PR5 page, with 10 links (5 internal and 5 external links).
    Does Google treats internal and external links the same way for passing linkjuice?

    For example:
    1. I nofollow the 5 external and 3 internal links, so it only passes maximal linkjuice to the 2 other pages.

    2. I noffolow the 3 same internal links but follow the 5 external links, so it passes linkjuice to them.

    In the second example, do I loose more linkjuice on the 5 followed external links for my 2 internal links?
    So in the first example the PR of those 2 important internal pages will get approx. a PR 2 or 3 from the PR5 page. In the second example my 2 internal pages will have a much lower PR, because Google passes linkjuice to the 5 external links(that’s what I think).

    I guess the first example is the best to keep the PR as high as possible on my own site, so noffolow all (or most of them) external links and noffolow the not important one on my own site.
    Somebody could light me up?

  4. Rhea Drysdale
    By Rhea Drysdale on 14 March, 2008

    Alright, here’s my opinion on this whole topic for what’s worth:

    When working on a site there a number of basic little things that need to get done right from the start. For myself page rank sculpting always fell into that category of site audit check-list or simple redesign to-do. If it can’t be done with minimal brain power in a few seconds then to your point, Joost, there’s a bigger problem with the site’s architecture that needs to be addressed. There are times when I’ve had to use it as a bandaid until we found a solution for a bigger problem, but the goal was never to leave things as they were longterm.

    I really hope people aren’t spending weeks trying to perfect PR sculpture. I don’t understand it if they are, but for the sake of competition, I’d love to let people keep focusing on it.

    With all of that said, it shouldn’t be ignored just because it’s “small stuff” because everything adds up. Given my personal experiences, I’ve seen dramatic impact on search results and PR by small nofollow additions and removals. Everyone should test what works, but to Dave’s point, it’s difficult to know for certain that a nofollow was the special factor. Small sites allow a little more certainty though because they’re probably getting less backlinks and edits.

    That’s my PR sculpting mental diarrhea.

    @Geert – Why are you nofollowing the internal and external links? The content of those areas would be the deciding factor in what you nofollow, not the number or location. At least that’s how I operate.

  5. Joost de Valk
    By Joost de Valk on 15 March, 2008

    @rhea agreed :-)

  6. Alain Sadon
    By Alain Sadon on 15 March, 2008

    Hello Joost,

    Interesting, this PageRank/no-follow business.

    This morning, I wrote an article on my blog, where I also tried to make people not forget about the fundamentals of PageRank. The use of Rel=nofollow seems like the ‘goto’-statement in programming-language Basic from the 80’s. The nofollow-instruction is a ‘gonotto’. In those days I learned to understand that setting up a good program-architecture is essential, especially to be able to maintain and further develop the software. The use of a goto-statement was in that sense very bad practice.

    I think with the nofollow it’s fundamentally the same thing. Ofcourse it’s good practice to use it wisely, but not if it camouflages or stimulates bad sitearchitecture.

  7. Mikael
    By Mikael on 20 March, 2008

    I would definitely do a lot of sculping for 120K :)

  8. Maleisie
    By Maleisie on 21 April, 2008

    The nofollow tag, I use it on and off, I’m still trying to see if there are any benefits in using it.

    I use subdomains, some se’s do and some don’t… but Google does treat a subdomain as a seperate site. Subdomains (in my case) are of lesser importance, what I would like to know is, should I use nofollow tags to or from them?

  9. bert
    By bert on 19 June, 2008

    Joost, why can’t I see a google pagerank for I use google toolbar.

    Keep up the good work!

  10. Joost de Valk
    By Joost de Valk on 19 June, 2008

    @bert: because the domain is only a few weeks old :-) just moved from to this domain.

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