The world of SEO is ever changing. Google rarely keeps it’s algorithm constant and is always changing the goal posts for people in the SEO field. In a recent SMX conference Matt Cutts informed people that Google had changed the way they handled PR through nofollow links. What’s even more surprising is this change had been present for almost a year. Matt’s explanation on why Google said nothing, was no one had noticed.
It’s interesting what happens in the world of SEO when something like this comes to light. Over on SEOMoz there is a great discussion on this. SEOMoz were one of the main cheer leaders of the nofollow tag and gave some great insights into how they were using it. Their results looked good and a lot of my theory on how the nofollow tag could benefit a site came from them. The use of the nofollow tag and how you could sculpt PR did seem logical. The amount of PR you have to spread around is a finite number, so if you want to focus PR on those pages that are important in terms of organic search, then where is the harm in that. It also helps when you need to link out to sites but don’t want to be associated with them, paid links and general links, that Google should not really follow.
The argument you would often hear against the nofollow tag being used on internal links is that it made no sense. If you marked a link to a page on your site as nofollow then it’s basically telling Google you don’t trust your own content. One of the most common uses was to mark pages such as “About”, “T&C’s”, “Private Policy” etc as nofollow. The reason being these didn’t provide content for organic rank, they were only of use when a customer was actually on your site. Over on SEOBook Aaron Wall has a great post on this and how the nofollow tag was never a good use of an SEO’s time.
Lot’s of different opinions as would be expected on a subject like this. What’s interesting though is Matt Cutts use of the word “evaporate”. If a link was marked as nofollow, the PR was then sent out the other links on that page. Now that PR simply goes no where. As explained by Matt Cutts it simply vanishes. This would seem quite odd and troublesome for large blog sites. Now those popular articles that attract lots of comments will lead to a huge amount of PR leakage with each comment being counted as a dofollow link. This could provide a headache for a lot of sites. The nofollow tag was extremely useful in some circumstances. Especially in terms of adhering to the first link priority (as discussed by the Stompernet boys). It allowed a webmaster to mark certain links as nofollow and ensure the first link crawled had a keyword in it.
It’s going to be interesting to see where this story goes …