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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.

  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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