No Follow Attribute And PageRank – A Few Home Truths
If someone asked you right now to explain to them in detail exactly what the no follow attribute means and how it impacts your PageRank, could you give an answer to that question? Most people think they understand this, however more often than not, people simply just don’t get it. The most common answer relates to a form of “PageRank Sculpting”, involving hoarding all of that lovely link value on your site using a no follow attribute and diverting link juice to your own pages that need love. Well, I hate to break it to you, but it is not that simple.
Let me start by the definition of the no follow attribute, from the stand point of Google. The no follow attribute is a way of simply saying, “I don’t want to have anything to do with that link, please disregard all value being passed to that link including anchor text”. Whilst this is heavily debated, the words I am speaking are directly from the horses mouth.
I think its time for me to run an example by you and see if you know the right answer. Lets say that your website is a PR6, and you are linking from your website to two websites. Out of those two outbound links, one is a no follow link, and the other has no restrictions. How much PageRank value is being given to both of those sites? In many webmaster circles, people are led to believe that by adding a no follow tag in this kind of scenario will simply mean that the one link that has no restrictions will receive a PageRank value of 6. This is a common example of “PageRank Sculpting”.
Are you ready for a big home truth?
In this example, the no follow attribute means that any page rank that is applied to that link is simply discarded and forgotten about, whilst the link that is not restricted is fed a PageRank value of 3. So, in a nutshell, this means that any link on your site, regardless of whether or not it is a no follow link or unrestricted, will use some quantity of page rank. Whether or not it passes on any rank at all is completely dependent on whether or not that link is no follow, or unrestricted.
On top of this, there is what is referred to as being the “Decay Factor” when passing PageRank to a linked page. What this means is, if you are passing a PageRank value of 3 to a website through one link, that amount will be slightly lowered to compensate for the chance that the person browsing may lose interest, and turn their attention elsewhere.
How Can I Preserve My Page Rank Then?
Well, it is as simple as this. We have known for some time now that Google gives preference to good quality content, and natural link building. To Google, this simply means that we hand out some links, and we receive some as well from a variety of different sources. What is commonly referred to as “PageRank Sculpting” is a method that is still heavily utilized that utilizes creative use of the no follow attribute in order to centralize PageRank value to specific pages on a website, so that we can either use it to preserve the value of that page, or dish it out accordingly. This is a method of gaming the search engines, which Google is very well aware of. In essence, the most common methods of PageRank sculpting are simply ineffective, as the no follow attribute simply wastes away all unused PageRank value.
The best way to preserve your PageRank is to simply not worry about it. Let your link value flow throughout your site evenly, however a few methods to consider with blogs would be to moderate your comments. Thankfully there are some great commenting systems available such as Akismet, Intense Debate and Disquss that have great moderation features and spam prevention, which will undoubtedly limit the amount of spam that your blog receives.
Do remember however, that in some cases where links to pages simply need the use of the no follow attribute, that this will sacrifice some of your PageRank value. Hopefully the need to use this attribute will be limited though, however this is a natural thing for a seasoned webmaster to do, and appears natural in most cases. As always, the key is in making your site, and your linking structure (both internally and externally) look natural to the search engines.