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PostHeaderIcon Matt Cutts, Nofollow, and the Consistently Inconsistent

I have avoided (like the plague) weighing in on the tempest Matt Cutts unleashed at SMX Advanced in June regarding Google’s change to the use of the <nofollow> tag for PageRank sculpting.  I have avoided it for two reasons:

  1. In my mind, more has been made of it than its true impact on people’s rankings.
  2.  

  3. As far as I’m concerned, in general (and note those two words) the use of the <nofollow> tag is a last resort and a crutch for less than optimal internal cross-linking around thematic clusters.  When internal cross-linking is done right, I don’t believe the use of the <no follow> tag is that impactful.

Bruce Clay had a great show on Webmaster Radio on the subject of the <nofollow> controversy, and basically he was of the same opinion as me. There are also many more heavyweights who have weighed in than I care to name.  So adding my comments to the mix isn’t all that helpful to my readers or the SEO community generally.

But I was searching today for some help on undoing 301 redirects when I found this section on the SEOMoz blog (click here for the whole article) from 2007 that provides some historical context for these conversations – so I thought I’d share it here.  My compliments to Rand Fiskin of SEOMoz for reproduction of this content:

“2.Does Google recommend the use of nofollow internally as a positive method for controlling the flow of internal link love?

A) Yes – webmasters can feel free to use nofollow internally to help tell Googlebot which pages they want to receive link juice from other pages

(Matt’s precise words were: The nofollow attribute is just a mechanism that gives webmasters the ability to modify PageRank flow at link-level granularity. Plenty of other mechanisms would also work (e.g. a link through a page that is robot.txt’ed out), but nofollow on individual links is simpler for some folks to use. There’s no stigma to using nofollow, even on your own internal links; for Google, nofollow’ed links are dropped out of our link graph; we don’t even use such links for discovery. By the way, the nofollow meta tag does that same thing, but at a page level.)

B) Sometimes – we don’t generally encourage this behavior, but if you’re linking to user-generated content pages on your site who’s content you may not trust, nofollow is a way to tell us that.

C) No – nofollow is intended to say “I don’t editorially vouch for the source of this link.” If you’re placing un-trustworthy content on your site, that can hurt you whether you use nofollow to link to those pages or not.”

Just some interesting background as you consider the current debate.

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