As I wrote about recently, one of the things we need to realize about the web is that content lives forever. An example of this is an old thread at Jill Whalen’s HighRankings Forum (a great forum by the way), which talks about the NoFollow attribute. Note that the posting is dated in January of 2007. In it, Matt Cutts is quoted as saying:
For example, imagine if you had a site with articles in both printer-friendly and web-friendly format. If you wanted to sculpt where Googlebot was going to prevent Googlebot from crawling the printer-friendly pages, you might use nofollow on internal links then.
Later in the thread, Michael Martinez clarifies this by referencing a post from SEOmoz, which he quoted as follows:
Adam Lasnik & Tim Converse both said on a panel today at SES Chicago that they don’t “obey” the no following part of nofollow. Both agreed that a more accurate name would actually be “nolinkjuice” – it doesn’t give anchor text benefit or link pop benefit. They still get crawled as a discovery method.
This is my understanding as well. But just to take my own cut at getting the official word, I asked Adam Lasnik to comment on the thread. Here is what he had to say about it:
– NoFollow links do not pass PageRank.
– If a page is referred to via a nofollow link, we won’t include that page in our index unless it’s linked (without nofollow) from elsewhere.
Therefore, as you might guess, if there’s a page you want to have kept secret or absolutely kept out of Google, you’d be better off:
– putting it behind an authenticated login (best)
– using robots.txt directives or noindex meta tags
…but in many other cases, nofollow remains a convenient and useful tool.