Using NoFollow to Manage PageRank flow.

Recently, in a conversation that Matt Cutts had with Rand Fishkin, Matt confirmed that Google does not see the use of NoFollow on your web sites as a spam tactic. Here are Matt’s exact words:

The nofollow attribute is just a mechanism that gives webmasters the ability to modify PageRank flow at link-level granularity. Plenty of other mechanisms would also work (e.g. a link through a page that is robot.txt’ed out), but nofollow on individual links is simpler for some folks to use. There’s no stigma to using nofollow, even on your own internal links

NoFollow in the Footer Nav

This raises some interesting possibilities for using this as a tool to concentrate PageRank in the places where you want to concentrate it. To see what we can do with this, let’s look at the SEOmoz blog’s footer navigation for an example:

SEOmoz Footer Nav

This is a fairly common looking footer. Note how the “About”, “Our Services”, “Our Clients”, and “Contact” links are in the footer nav, a design element that shows up on every page of the site. When you link to a pages from every page of your site, the search engine is likely to think that you are saying it’s one of your most important pages.

Clearly, from a business perspective, the “Contact” page is one of the most important pages on the site. However, there is no reason to expect that it will rank highly for important search terms, no matter how much link juice you give it. You may, or may not, want the page to be in the index, but you don’t need to spend tons of PageRank on pages that will never rank.

A good solution for this is to use the NoFollow attribute on these four links. Note that you do not want to use the NoFollow metatag, because this will prevent the entire page from passing any link juice to any other page. This is not your goal.

In theory, this should signal Google that these pages should not be getting any link juice from the other pages of the site. If you want the pages to still be in the index, take one page, such as the home page, and do not apply the NoFollow attribute in the links to these pages from the home page. As a result, the search engines will still see the pages.

NoFollow in the Main Nav

Another application of NoFollow pages comes in when you are dealing with sites that cross link between product categories. Let’s look at an example of this scenario:

Digital Camera HQ Nav

In this example using the Digital Camera HQ main navigation menu, you could imagine that the Price Range pages change a lot, and are not likely to rank highly in the engines no matter what you do. In addition, the cameras listed under Most Popular are key pages that you want to pass the most PageRank to.

Assuming that this is true, NoFollowing the links to the Price Range pages would be a smart idea. As a result, you would stop spending PageRank on those pages, and have more to allocate to the other pages in the main nav, such as the Most Popular, and the Camera Brand pages.

As before, if you still want the Price Range pages in the index, just not with so much link juice, then go ahead and find one page and link to it without the NoFollow attribute from the page. The home page is once again a great place to do this from.

Summary

Based on Matt’s statements to Rand, it seems like these strategies should work for your site. As with all things of this type in the SEO world, there is no real guarantee that this will help you, but, intuitively, it makes sense. In addition, given the care that Matt and other Googlers must take in their public statements, it seems likely that there is little risk in trying it out.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m glad you pointed this out. There’s been a lot of talk about internal linking lately and this proves it’s a totally legitimate tactic.

  2. says

    Eric, if you want to block off PageRank to pages completely, using nofollow isn’t necessary. It’s easier, in fact, just to use robots.txt. Nofollow is useful when you want to reduce link juice flowing into a URL instead of cutting off the flow completely.

  3. Dizzle says

    Would the “no index” on the said page be just as effective as using the “no follow”? So if a spider did hit a link from the homepage and lead to a “No Index”, would this still preserve link juice from the originating page? And i also have links on the footer of every page in java script, do spiders read links within java script or would i need to append a “no follow” to them as well.

    thanks in advance and great read!

    Dizzle

  4. says

    Eric,
    My reciprocal linking is been built around relevant page content versus the directory listing schema. This has worked out well because I am able to present my visitors useful information while providing some exposure for my linking partners.

    For example – I write many original articles about Branding, SEO, Online Marketing, Usability and so on… then I place websites requesting links within an article that matches their website content.

    Example: visionefx.net/articles/redesign-your-logo.htm

    However for my own ‘reference purposes’ and ‘sharing’ with other webmasters and not to forget the (do-it-yourself) clients I also maintain ‘submit lists’ of hundreds of search engines, article submission sites and ‘submit to’ directories. Here is one such page:(visionefx.net/articles/article-ezine-sites.htm).

    If I am understanding you correctly — it would be a good idea to attach the ‘no-follow’ attribute to links where I have no return link or dis-allow all in the meta?

    I ask this because I have heard that having large amounts if OBL’s without matching or reciprocating IBL’s can lower or leak page rank?

    ALSO — I would hope to see an article from you about the insanity of webmasters seeking and creating 2 way and 3 way link exchanging. I want to scream everytime I see these requests.

    Thanks again,
    Rick

    Thanks – Rick

  5. says

    Hi Dizzle,

    There are a three different approaches one can take to constraining pages. These are:

    robots.txt: Keeps a page from being crawled altogether, and keeps the page from accumulating any page rank as well.

    noindex: Keeps a page out of the index. Probably keeps it from accumulating page rank as well.

    nofollow: A tool you can use when you want to LOWER the amount of page rank you want to pass to a given page, but you still want it to get some, and you still want it in the index.

  6. says

    Hi Rick,

    If I understand you correctly, you are in fact doing link exchanges, but you are making it more contextually relevant by developing an article around a series of requested links you have received.

    I would be cautious about this approach, as it must be consuming a lot of time and energy that might be better spent on developing non-reciprocal links (even contextually relevant ones).

    Let me know if I misunderstood.

  7. says

    That’s a very interesting post.. I think that nofollow is a very powerful tool when used in the right way. You also have a good point regarding the contact us page. thx.

  8. says

    Great post on using no follow to manage pagerank flow! Try using nofollow tags on your privacy policy and terms of service. Wait 30 days or less (depending your sites crawl rate) to see desired boost in rankings if any.

  9. says

    I have been following the advice of a lot of bloggers about the nofollow attribute to increase the pagerank of other pages. It is a long and time consuming process.

    I have yet to see any positive results to transfer “juice” to other pages.
    I am sure that the search engines have a formula to analyze this attribute.

    For example I just page ranked this site as a PR5. Does this really mean my link above to a different page is going to take some of that PR?

    I don’t think so. I believe the textually relevancy to the page link has more strength than the PR value.

    I’d like to pass some info to this blog which I hope is not seen as spamming. There is some help hints here: http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors#cat6.

    This document above represents comments of 37 leaders in the world of organic search engine optimization.

    Thanks,

    Jimi P.

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