By Shayne Tilley

The 10 Commandments of PageRank Sculpting

By Shayne Tilley

10-seo-commandmentsWhen I attended SMX Sydney recently, I sat in on a great session by Jane Copeland from Ayima Search Marketing about PageRank sculpting. PageRank sculpting is a method of ensuring that PageRank passed from page to page within your site is given to only pages where search engine performance matters most. I thought I’d put some of her key recommendations it into an oh-so-predictable list …

1. Remember that Google ranks pages, not web sites

Whilst sculpting might begin at your front page, shouldn’t stop there. With a large site (where sculpting is even more critical), you’ll have 2nd and 3rd levels to consider.

2. Less than 100 links per page

Unless there are very special circumstances, keep your total number of links on a page under 100. You’ve only got so much PageRank to pass through, so dividing it up over 100 links is going to stretch the value given to each link. If your page contains more links, use rel="nofollow" for links that you explicitly don’t want to pass PageRank juice to.

3. Editorial links rock!

Different types of links will pass through varying levels of PageRank. Links within your main body of text are given the largest share of the PageRank pie.

4. Think carefully about tag clouds

The user benefits of tag clouds are borderline and in most cases serve to confuse both search engine spiders and users. If you choose to use a tag cloud, nofollow all but your most popular tags.

5. Don’t waste time with footers

Footers will pass through little or no PageRank to subsequent pages, and chances are if a link is in the footer, it’s not to a page that you’re concerned about the search engine ranking anyway –- these links make an easy nofollow target.

6. Don’t go nofollow crazy

When PageRank sculpting, it’s easy to go over the top with the use of nofollow links. Without proper planning this can lock out deeper sections of your site where search engine rank is important. Take a cautious approach initially, then spend time fine tuning your use of the rel="nofollow" attribute.

7. Use secondary navigation and tertiary navigation for deeper PageRank penetration

You may have pages on your site that are two or more clicks away from your homepage. The use of secondary navigation and effective use of tertiary navigation, such as crumb trails, will ensure these pages get their fair share of the passed-through PageRank.

8. Avoid Wikipedia-style linking

Whilst editorial links provide the best pass-though value, avoid the trap of linking every second word in your copy. Not only is this a sure-fire way to look spammy it will easily tip you over commandment number 2.

That’s the summary that I took away from Jane’s presentation, but just to round out our list of tips to a nice, even number, here are two more based on our own experiences here at optimizing sitepoint.com (an ongoing process!).

9. Use the SEO4Firefox plugin

If you’re already looking at any SEO basics, then no doubt you’ve got Aaron Wall’s excellent SEO4Firefox plugin installed. If you don’t, then go grab it immediately. It is an insanely useful tool.

10. Remind Google that you are a respected online entity

Similar to commandment number 6, we’ve received advice that it can be dangerous setting pages like Contact Us and your Privacy pages to nofollow. Even though these obviously aren’t pages that deserve a huge lift in search engines, by passing PageRank juice onto them you’re indicating to Google that you are a reliable, respected online entity. These are pages that might be well suited to including as a footer link.

Hopefully these tips will help ensure that you pass on as much PageRank juice as possible from your home page to your critical secondary pages, where search engine ranking really matters.

  • You know, I just don’t get why people are so obsessed with PageRank sculpting. While I can see the perceived “value” of certain pages being “nofollowed” from an SEO perspective, one would think that those pages would be few and far between anyway.

    Every time I see someone trying to promote PR Sculpting, I tend to first look at them, then the Web site they’r trying to optimize, and then suggest an alternate way to optimize their site structure (something that normally gets called information architecture by non-SEOs) for both the search engines and the people using the Web site. Far more often than not, the suggestions I make far outweigh the perceived “benefits” that PR sculpting claims to provide.

    Has anyone else done anything like this?

  • Arun Agrawal – Ebizindia

    An interesting way to do Pagerank Sculpting is to link to the money-page from the content of other well-linked pages on your site. You can also link to these pages regularly from your blog posts.

    I am personally not in favor of putting nofollow links to pages on your own site as we might be sending a wrong signal to Google. Itis better to link more frequently to more important pages.

  • I think number 3, 5, 6 and 8 are nonsense, this looks like one of the millions of threads that gets started by someone who’s new to the game and starts giving advice to others, like this thread; http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=611591

    Also, instead of worrying just about the PageRank value of links, you should think about the _total_ value of the link. PageRank is just a part of the formula…

  • By the way, the title of this article, namely the “sculpting” makes me think of how you’re shaping the PageRank your website receives. This article is mostly about link building but if you’re talking about sculpting your PageRank I’m thinking of controlling the flow in your onsite linking, as described in this article: http://www.ianrogers.net/google-page-rank/

  • Nate

    Shayne please update the 4X4 link in your profile it currently goes nowhere.

    On the topic though, I have to agree witch peach on all points. Also this article seems to be google centric, there are other search engines out there so you would also need to consider what effect your sculpting practices have on other algorithms.

  • Brad

    Can you please explain why tag clouds are so bad. Why are they borderline from a usability standpoint? I personally find tag clouds to be quite a useful form of navigation. Can you please link to some articles by Google or a usability expert on this subject.

  • I do agree that sculpting is usually about how the links flow through the website to emphasize the more important sections. However, not all the ideas in this post are worthless. I think the better way to analyze this post is that if you’re spending your time making these types of changes to your website, you aren’t spending your time effectively doing SEO. When it comes to your website, less is more. When it comes to SEO, if you aren’t building links in some manner, you will likely never achieve adequate results.

  • Some good advice but the implementation of this on Sitepoint is really wacko in my opinion. Why would you nofollow links to your forums, sitemap and about us but follow links to technorati tags and rss feeds?

  • anon

    @brad –

    tag clouds suck from a usability perspective.

    -usability expert.

  • Buck 50

    Very good info these are things that I was not aware of

  • Hey Jim

    Thanks for pointing that out, we’ll get that stuff fixed. We made a few tweaks recently and obviously a few things slipped through.

  • Hey thanks for the great info. I just want to add some words to No. 4: tag clouds are great as they provide sensible navigation for readers. However, they ‘confuse’ search engines as most posts or articles include more than one tag and each tag would generate a corresponding url pointing to the same post or info, which is a form of duplicating contents.

  • Chuck

    >> You know, I just don’t get why people are so obsessed with PageRank sculpting.

    I think it has to do with the fact that people are selling links…or selling sites based on PR. I can’t think of any reason that anyone who doesn’t participate in that kind of junk gives a rip. From what I understand, PR bears only the loosest relationship to a site’s rank in the SERPs.

  • I made some big mistakes and my pagerank dropped from 6 to 0. I did some paid linking with PayPerPost and that dropped it from 6 to 2. Then, I combined several blogs into one — it evidently looked to Google like I was posting information available elsewhere because it then dropped from 2 to 0.

    What should I do to redeem my PageRank?

    Kevin Stilley

  • George Susini

    Shayne you are correct on #9 Aaron Wall’s Firefox tool is incredible What an absolute must have for any SEO efforts. Thanks ! This is a great article

  • netultimate

    give ur important keyword in the footer


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