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PageRank Sculpting Is Useless

October 7th, 2008 · 35 Comments

Over the last few years there has been a suggestion within the SEO community that PageRank sculpting (i.e. using “nofollow” on internal web pages) is a good way to increase the flow of PageRank throughout your site.

The argument is that by applying the “nofollow” attribute to generic pages (i.e. About, Contact, Privacy Policy, etc.) that you’ll prevent link juice from being applied to pages you’re not concerned about ranking in the SERPs and, therefore, pass more juice to the more important pages on your site. For a more detailed explanation, have a read of the SEOmoz article on PageRank sculpting.

I’ve never really seen any evidence that PageRank sculpting led to a significant long term increase in search engine referrals. Even Rands post on their own PageRank sculpting experiment mentions that some of their clients saw little or no improvement and whilst I agree with Michael Gray that no company needs their terms of service in the SERPs, I’ve always questioned whether it was a worthwhile exercise.

Today Google published an article entitled Importance of Link Architecture where Maile Ohye says the following:

It’s not something we, as webmasters who also work at Google, would really spend time or energy on. In other words, if your site already has strong link architecture, it’s far more productive to work on keeping users happy with fresh and compelling content rather than to worry about PageRank sculpting.

So basically what Big G are saying is that there are better things you can do with your time than fannying around with “nofollow” attributes on your internal links.

What about you? Have you tried PageRank sculpting using “nofollow”? Has it worked for you or was it a waste of time?

Tags: Search Marketing

35 responses so far ↓

  • Jonathan Street // Oct 8, 2008 at 10:10 am

    A slightly more sceptical individual than myself might argue that a google employee might have an ulterior motive in making such a statement.

    Personally I’ve not attempted PR sculpting along these lines in any of my projects. Having said this if I was starting off a new project I might consider it. Not because I think it would make a big difference but because it would be so easy to implement at the beginning of a project.

  • Antoine // Oct 8, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    @Street – What would be their ulterior motive? To trick people into accidentally getting their ‘about’ page ranked?

    I haven’t worried about hording link juice, I like seeing my ‘contact us’ page showing up here and there just for shits and giggles.

  • Mike // Oct 9, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I can see where you’re coming from, Jonathan. Let’s face it, Google have got previous for spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt with their mixed messages but in this case I see it as a genuine case of saying don’t waste your time focusing on the small things like PageRank sculpting.

  • MyStore Directory website // Oct 10, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    totally agree..

    PR is so bogus

    my store site makes money and lots of traffic but PR0..who cares

  • Mike // Oct 10, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    …in which case you won’t mind me removing the PR passing link to your website, then :)

  • brooks // Oct 11, 2008 at 10:15 am

    This certainly seems to be a prety useful article on raising PR indirectly for sure.

  • Sunglasses // Oct 21, 2008 at 3:30 am

    PageRank Sculpting is sort of a paranoia. We’ve become so obsessed with PR that we devise whatever strategies our minds could conjure up. Google’s Webmaster Guide does not mention of sculpting. What it points out is that a site must have inbound links from quality sites. If we learn from Wikipedia structure, we see that Wikipedia’s internal links are dofollow but its external links for info sources are nofollow. There’s a lesson to that site architecture.

  • Mike // Oct 22, 2008 at 9:56 am

    So, to a certain extent, you’re advocating the use of PageRank sculpting then?

  • rob // Oct 24, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Hi Mike

    Here’s a thought for the mix

    Go do a site: for a domain that uses PR sculpting it, then do a site:for one that doesn’t.

    If you take the view that google outputs pages based on importance, eg homepage 1st, then another etc, then you’ll see evidence of this in action. :)

    My view is, why send link juice to pages you dont want to rank? If PR matters, then try to push it to your most important pages no?

    As for google and their if I were you I’d do x y or z type statements…:)

  • Niccolo Svengali // Oct 24, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Assume that G00gle is working for its own interests, and not yours, and work from there.

    Put up great pages and get links to them. That’s it.

    The sooner there’s a real threat go G00gl3s dominance, the better.

  • Mike // Oct 24, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    @ Rob – Good to see you back blogging, Rob :)

    I think Michael Grays post on PageRank sculpting sums it up quite nicely. It all comes down to the kind of site you’re operating.

    @ Niccolo – Absolutely. I don’t doubt that for one second but I would question whether the vast majority of webmasters/site owners need to bust a bollock on PageRank sculpting.

    Also totally agree with you on the point regarding a competitor to Google but, sadly, I don’t see that coming for a looooong time :(

  • ben leefield // Oct 29, 2008 at 11:09 am

    A huge thanks for this post! It was something we’ve been considering at our Global Address Book website for the last few weeks – having worked our way through a heap of other stuff (and with plenty still to go) – it was time to consider max’ing our hard won existing PR. Now we won’t waste the time, even bearing in mind some of the comments above.

    PR certainly gets you indexed and into the SERP’s but if you aren’t relevant you are soon going to disappear – so PR is only one battle – another is stopping the bounces that get you demoted!

  • thompsonoutdoors // Oct 29, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    PageRank Sculpting is just a small part of a very big picture. There’s something missing if you left this part out. Thanks for this blog. It pushed me to stop and think for a moment.

  • Cornelicatty // Oct 30, 2008 at 4:15 am

    Google’s Webmaster Guide does not mention of sculpting. What it points out is that a site must have inbound links from quality sites. If we learn from Wikipedia structure, we see that Wikipedia’s internal links are dofollow but its external links for info sources are nofollow.

  • Dave Dugdale // Nov 2, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I started doing it about a year ago. I have no concrete examples to show that it works, but it is so easy and fast to do on my sites so I do it anyway.


  • Mike // Nov 4, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    @ Cornelicatty – The current guidelines don’t mention PR sculpting directly but the post referenced in the main article is from the Google Webmaster team so, you’d imagine, carries some weight.

    Interesting to see that the BBC have just followed the Wikipedia model regarding links. Shame as one of my sites hit PR6 pretty much off one link from the Beeb…

    @ Dave – Yeah I think in a lot of cases it’s fairly easy to implement. Simply slap “nofollow” onto your links in your footer, sidebar and such like. I guess the problem is when you have a bigger site.

    I dunno. Maybe I’m just being lazy 😉

  • Ken // Nov 14, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    I always considered it like a “best practice”. It seems like all the top sites do it so I starting doing it too. I am always looking the successful site to set an example. It may not make much difference but every little bit helps. I hope it helps.

  • Lindsay // Nov 20, 2008 at 6:45 am

    I used to worry more about it, but I try my best to ignore PageRank these days. I have a blog that gets thousands of visitors a day with a PR of 2 and one that gets 200 with a PR of 5. The only thing it seems to help with any more is landing independent advertiser deals, but even then, advertisers seem to be getting (finally) that a targeted audience matters more than PR.

  • Jasbloger // Nov 27, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    It’s better to have a link from quality content similar to Your page with pr 2 that from pr 5 with no connection to Your content. Content is the thing that matters.

  • ebeneara1 // Nov 28, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Unique information.As of my knowledge I haven’t tried on the pagerank sculpting using nofollow.But now I will try it out once.

  • kesseff // Dec 5, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Thank you, I’m so glad I catched this post today. I never tried sculpting and believe G knows enough of our tricks by now…so I don’t go beyond the SEO basics and use my time and efforts to make content for real people, not SE. If real people like it, the SE will follow, and if real people can’t care less about your content, then it doesn’t really matter if SE follow or not, does it?

  • Mike // Dec 5, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Valid point, kesseff. I guess the point of PageRank sculpting, though, is to assist the search engines in finding your most relevant pages to present to potential readers. Once those readers find it, they may well link to it and at that point you could argue that sculpting is no longer required…

  • Heather // Dec 7, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Good info on another indirect method of raising pr. I havent heard of pr sculpting before. Its worth trying.

  • Yvonne // Dec 18, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Its true that page rank plays a major role in SERP…I like reading this blog as if i am searching for the same information.

  • maichel // Dec 29, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    it’s very nice …bez the page rank is more important for take traffic to your site

  • Alvina // Dec 31, 2008 at 4:44 am

    In order to attain this high pagerank, we can purchase links from other pagerank sites…Thanks for the info.

  • John // Dec 31, 2008 at 10:47 am

    I haven’t seen a bit of difference before/after applying any sculpting to my sites. The tests weren’t scientific in any way, by the way. Anyhow, the green toolbar PR meter is only significant for people wanting to sell links to people who think it really matters. (And that’s actually a pretty decent spare income creator.)

  • Mike // Jan 2, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I do agree with you to a certain extent, John, regarding the usefulness of the toolbar PageRank. Whilst I don’t believe that it’s an accurate representation of your ‘real’ rank with Big G, it is the only thing we’ve got as an indicator.

    Oh and buying/selling links is bad, m’kay? 😀

  • aniroy1986 // Jan 25, 2009 at 12:06 am

    i hav never been worried about making internal links nofollow. theres no certain proof that it would affect pagerank!

  • Joslyn // Feb 16, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Pagerank is nothing but the way Google measures how popular a given page is based on the number and quality of sites that link to it.

  • Mike // Feb 16, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    That’s certainly true to a certain extent, Joslyn. However many SEOs also suggest that the flow of internal PR is one of the ways you can control what you *want* Google to focus on and that’s where this post comes in.

    I guess their argument is that you can’t control what other people link to on your site but *you* can.

  • Jonas // Apr 3, 2009 at 4:04 pm


    Dont know about PageRank sculpting however I stopped paying attention to Pagerank since it dropped from 5 to 3 for one of my sites and the traffic went up. I lost interest in pagerank and it simply does not matter to me anymore.

  • david c // Apr 5, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    I find using “nofollow & noindex” somewhat useful.

    PagaRank is one of the factors that G looks at, even though it doesn’t seem to be that important anymore.

  • Mike // Apr 6, 2009 at 1:18 am

    The PageRank you see in your toolbar is very different from the PageRank Google actually uses. The “real” PR has a significant bearing on how you figure in the Google SERPs.

  • Mikael Rieck // Apr 9, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I’ve tried it but left it again. Instead I am using the robot.txt to keep the SEs out of pages that I don’t want in the index. As many others have said I find that writing for real people is the way ahead and it has and always will work no matter what happens.