Anyone with an interest in SEO and especially how adding ‘NoFollow’ to hyperlinks interacts with PageRank will probably already be aware of the change that Google has ‘sort of’ announced. Read more on SEOMoz if not. Perhaps you also are up in arms about the whole thing? Well not me as I think the whole DoFollow, PageRank, backlink thing is in an utter mess and not understood as I think Google sees it.
Basically every man and his dog is now adding ‘nofollow’ to all external links, whether they know they are or not (e.g. WordPress does it automatically to blog comments). According to the common theory, the destination web page will get no credit for these links at all, this is regardless of whether they are blog comments, contextual links, forum links or whatever. If this was the case, how would Google know whether to trust the site or not? If the increase in adding ‘nofollow’ to links continues then we’ll end up with a situation where only people unaware of nofollow would actually have any links giving credit – and the link credit of a small possibly unrelated personal home page will have very little weight. We could then end up with a situation where all links, except some carefully controlled probably paid for links, will be ‘nofollow’.
For this reason, I don’t think Google actually gives a hoot about nofollows, and gives credit anyway, maybe not PageRank, but link credit.
The whole PageRank issue is another thing though and their current statement seems to penalise anyone who puts an external link on their site. The message that I’m hearing is that by penalising them with PageRank loss despite the use of nofollow, either Google does not want people to put any more external links to their site – unlikely – or that PageRank does not mean anything anymore. Nothing. Zilch. Not even a crawl depth indicator.
PageRank is still a mystery and I just wish Google would provide a proper explanation of it and dispel all the myths. If people understand it, they will perhaps stop chasing it like the treasure at the end of the rainbow.
UPDATE 16 June 2009:
The head of the Google Anti Spam team, Matt Cutts has clarified Google position on this ‘NoFollow’ and ‘PageRank’ debate thats been raging for the last week or so, and that I posted about last week: “The PageRank and NoFollow bombshell“.
I made the following comment on the blog post:
This still encourages larger, more professionally run websites not to ’share the wealth’ of PageRank to other sites. How is a small niche website ever going to get decent results in SERPS if when a bigger site does link to it, it nofollows the link? Not passing any PageRank benefit, or anchor text through the link does nothing to encourage smaller more specialised sites – it encourages the bigger, broader sites to hoard the goodness.
If the web is about getting the most relevant content to the searcher, how is an information site about a niche subject less relevant than an Amazon product page?
You can read the full post by Matt Cutts here: PageRank sculpting.