I was a bit suprised with the recent change in the NoFollow policy at Google. For a couple of years it seemed so clear. Google was allowing you to provide them information on what pages on your site you considered most important. I wrote about this recently for Search Engine Watch in a post called Should you still use NoFollow?.
In retrospect I believe what it comes down to is this – Google wants you to use your information arthitecture to communicate to users what are the most important pages on your site, not an artificial mechanism like NoFollow. Here is an example to illustrate:
- Site owner builds a nice web site
- Site has About Us, Privacy, Contact Us, and other garden variety pages
- Site owner NoFollows links to those pages because they are not important for search rankings purposes
This is just one example of how NoFollow was commonly used. The problem is that there is a difference between the most important pages on your site for search ranking purposes and the most important pages for users. The reason why that About Us page has a link on every page of so many sites is because IT IS one of the most important pages (for users).
I believe it was this dichotomy that killed PageRank Sculpting using NoFollow. If you have pages that are not important to end users, they would say treat it that way in your site architecture. Google does not need the publisher’s help in figuring out what are the pages designed to compete on the most competitive pages. They know that better than the publisher. Google wants you to tell them what the most important pages are for your users, and that About Us page is one of them.