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Matt Cutts tells SEOs ‘no more’ sculpting via nofollow

pointingfingerMatt Cutts tells SEOs ‘no more’ sculpting via nofollow by Guest Author codesucker,  who takes an educational approach to modern web development and marketing strategies via social media and optimization.

Some slightly sad news for the slightly unethical came on a live SMX Broadcast June 2nd 2009 – when Matt Cutts suggested that using the nofollow HTML attribute value when defining a link does not make the Google algorithm skip it when considering when considering the sum of the pages outbound links.

Who is Matt Cutts?

The only legitimate liaison between Google and the SEO community. He’s the head of the Google Webspam Department, or Search Quality team – whatever they call it. We DO know that he gets to wear plainclothes to work, but like all other Google employees, if he says ‘Bing!’ too loud he gets instantly vaporized.

We found him under the alias GoogleGuy, which first suggested that Google was listening to us as a community – and willing to offer us insight on how optimize our pages for Google’s ranking algorithms.

SEO’s have built careers off of what Matt says or does. He shocked us recently by changing his blogs domain name from to – The idea behind this was to prove that webmasters shouldn’t be afraid to have a 0 PR and how to switch domains properly with a 301 redirect for those who once thought it ‘gray hat’ or unethical.

Now, Cutts is Google’s most powerful tool in communicating to us, as webmasters, exactly what they want us to do – and how they want us to do it.

Everything he says about Google penalties is extremely vague and also circular and nonsensical – it seems clear there are some things that the big G doesn’t want us to know about.

What WAS PageRank Sculpting?

PageRank Sculpting was the practice of making some links on a page nofollow so the rest of them pass more linkjuice. I wrote a post explaining exactly how to scuplt rank using nofollow back in April: Carving Inner PageRank via nofollow and link orders which I now have to render useless – woe is me. I normally suggest linking to older posts in your blog, especially when they come up in your blogging,- so do as I say, not as I just did. However, it’s no longer relevant and I want the other links on this page to pass more juice.

SEOMOZ post explaining pagerank scuplting and praising it’s results.

What am I supposed to do?


I don’t recommend anything at this point, don’t start un-nofollowing links, especially paid ones!

You’re likely to notice some negative changes in your PR or SERPs if you:
Made your social bookmark buttons nofollow (like the SEO community has been telling you to do for years).

  • Have paid links and use nofollow for them.
  • Use nofollow to link to your competitors.
  • Use nofollow on your tags or labels (That’s every blogspot user, btw).
  • Have a large nofollow blogroll!

Yeah and by the way, we don’t know what Bing! is going to do.

For those keeping score, Matt Cutts (along with Jason Shellen) is the one who started all this no-follow nonsense in the first place. The link is to the official Google blog where he announced the HTML attribute value.

He has also recommended it for sculpting purposes to the community – he commented on an SEOmoz post recommending nofollow for pagerank sculpting that ‘those who have the time, may benefit’ that’s paraphrased, see what he said in the post. Although the statment is vague, it’s actually one of the most revealing statements Cutts has shared with us on the subject.

In summary – like I said, I don’t recommend changing your nofollow links to dofollow, this will not save you from the algorithm changes. It’s not like your site is really losing PR, the PR it ends up at is where it should have been all along. Again: there is nothing you can do about this, we just have to collectively eat it.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about and you are scared, you really shouldn’t be: I bet you aren’t using nofollow links at all – thanks for reading my post but get back to writing fresh unique content, buddy!

Related post:  Say NO to Black Hat SEO

25 thoughts on “Matt Cutts tells SEOs ‘no more’ sculpting via nofollow

  1. Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking you feeds also, Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the reply. From what I gather the best thing is to stop caring about the nofollow and not use it anymore. However I shall look out for some news from Google to clarify this further.

  3. Nice post, just thought I’d add my thoughts.

    Firstly the statement that was made by Matt was vague and has not been clarified since, not for want of trying by the SEOmoz crew.

    Secondly it is still recommended that you use the attribute for paid links.

    Remember a pages PR is not determined by it’s outbound links but by it’s inbound links. For example it you have 10 inbound links from 10 external domains your PageRank would be calculated from the the inbound links.

    As well as a PageRank your page also has a certain amount of “link juice” to pass and it is the link juice passed which is effected by the new “nofollow” scare.

    – Let’s say our page was a PR3 and had 20 link juice points to pass to other pages.

    – If you had 1 dofollow link on the page it would pass 20 link juice points

    – If you had 10 dofollow links on the page it was pass 2 link juice points through the 10 links.

    – Before the Matt Cutts shock up the SEO world, if you nofollowed 6 of the above 10 links then the 20 link juice points would be shared out between the 4 remaining follow links, passing 5 link juice points each.

    – The position now would be that even if you nofollowed 6 links the remaining 4 would only pass on their original allocation of 2 link juice points, it’s as if the nofollow’s are not even in place.

    This could effect the PR of your homepage if you pass a lot of PR to internal pages which in turn link back to your homepage, those internal pages would no longer get the PR or link juice.

    How does Google distinguish between a paid nofollow and a normal nofollow?? The answer is not easy and don’t think there will be one until Google clarify their position.

    I have used nofollow for a long time to prevent passing PR to pages I don’t even want and never will want indexed.

    I hope this made sense, I really don’t think there is need to panic, as no drops in PR have been reported and probably will not until Google clarifies this comment further.

    Sorry for the second post :)

  4. About eight weeks ago we went through a pretty significant update on our site to try to take better advantage of our link juice. Basically used a silo approach through our product categories. Expected to see certain things rise, and probably a few things fall in the SERPs. Saw some things fall a bit. But didn’t see anything move up that we could discern was from the sculpting. Certainly the specific pages we expected to benefit didn’t seem to benefit at all. We were already considering rolling back the change.

    So my opinion? I’m guessing that Google has already implement this.

    Yes, still No Follow places where you don’t want to pass juice (especially off-site). But understand you’re not increasing the amount of juice passed to the remaining links.

    • Hi Lee, you have a very strong understand of what’s taking place.

      Yes, still No Follow places where you don’t want to pass juice (especially off-site). But understand you’re not increasing the amount of juice passed to the remaining links.

      Good statement, it should be in the post.

  5. Hello, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, Your blog looks good. Have a nice day.

  6. My current PR is 2. I do not follow much of that is said here though it sounds useful. Will this affect my PR if implemented?

  7. I am a little confused with this. I have no follow links to most of the prominent news sites that I link up to. In fact my blog is full of nofollow links! So even if I do not de no-follow then, what do I do in the future? I do not have a single paid link and do not exchange links as a rule. Anyway my page rank is only 4. But will it slip because of the nofollow links?

    • Nita, from the way you describe it, sadly – you are a candidate for a substantially larger drop than the average blogger.

      Pagerank is calculated on a floating point scale, so you actually have a 4.3 or 4.something – I can’t gaurantee that you won’t see a drop.

      Just so I can re-iterate whats happening – you have about 200 links on your homepage.. the nofollowed ones were never considered – so Google thinks you only have 50. The less outbound links, the more juice each one passes, so when Google considers the nofollows, instead of 50 you will be charged for 200 links.. so each links ‘juice’ will be cut in a quarter. Most links on a page go back within a site somewhere, that’s why the links having less juice means ranking drops.

      But reality check – your blog is well designed (love the white background minimalistic style) frequently updated and you’ve got an archive FULL of content. You’re only going up in the blogging world not down – forget about PageRank. You’re homepage has 60,000 backlinks, you’re not going anywhere – please don’t fret about this.

      Thanks for not removing ‘nofollow’ from the links, this will only raise red flags since you have lots of nofollows – I’ll make sure to keep you informed, thanks for reading and the comment – sorry about the bad news.

    • Nita – I left you a long winded response but not sure if it went through, let’s try again

      Sadly, your blog is a candidate for a larger drop. However, you have an active blog with an archive full of content and over 60k backlinks to the homepage, I don’t see your pagerank dropping under 4. Thanks for not changing the nofollows to dofollow – that’s not the way to go about this, but many are doing it. I’ll keep you informed – thanks for reading and the comment

  8. Pingback: Great Blogging Tips from Around the Web |

  9. This is a very informative post and thank you TT for this.

    I did add a lot of nofollow to a lot of my links on my blogs… Now I realise that this practice is actually doing me damages!

    • Roetarre – no, it’s not doing you damage, my friend – It’s just that it provided a little boost which we now don’t get anymore. Don’t worry friend, your content is original and great – you shouldn’t worry too much about seo.. and that doesn’t mean stop reading my blog btw. Thanks for the comment Roetarre :)

      And please don’t worry about this change, there isn’t anything we can do about it, removing the nofollow links is not a good idea right now. The drop we see will be slight, but it’s unavoidable.

  10. This is good news. Now the playing field seems level and good content will get the same amount of love that it deserves without manipulation.

    • Well yes, this thwarts the hard work of SEOs and puts people with perfectly sculpted sites on the same level of those who don’t even know what that term means.

      We’ve got tons more tricks, I share them with my readers as I learn, we need to stick together. Sculpting is now useless – However, I promise the SEO community will cook up more ways of optimizing that gives the informed a slight advantage over the un-informed. Keep reading and I’ll make sure you are part of the latter group. Thanks for the comment – I appreciate you reading :)

  11. Very informative post. I have been researching dofollow and nofollow in regards to blog categories and this post pretty much sums it all up.

    Appreciate you sharing your knowledge. Cheers!


  12. @Lovelorn – Theres actually very little to know, it’s mostly common sense and thinking a little like a robot when you are writing your post. Your job is to convince the google-bots that your content is relevant to the most common keywords that you use.

    The real glory of the interweb-googlemachine thing comes when you write excellent content and promote it through the proper channels – earning backlinks from the community. Content never went viral just because it was well optimized. Thanks for reading :)

  13. Do you hear that?
    It’s the sound of thousands of SEOs removing rel=’nofollow’ from their links.

    @Steen thanks for reading and the comment – Cutts does have to be more careful about what he says, this is big news it should be accompanied by a thorough explanation from the official Google blog – I’m not sure why he chose the SMX event to spill the beans about this algorithm change.

    When Cutts talks people type. The problem is that alot of folks are wrongly taking nofollow out of their links, not a good idea. I’m sure people are going to mistake what’s been said and take nofollow off their paid links, which will cause problems.

  14. Informative. I’m still not comfortable with the SEO thing; it looks like a permanent mystery!

  15. I have always been negative towards the use of nofollow in PageRank sculpting.

    But I think it’s a problem to go after the use of nofollow in areas where Google until recently have recommended the use of nofollow. These people have only done what Google said was right, and in some cases what Google more or less demanded.

    I think Google, and Matt who is a really nice guy, should explain the new rules, especially to Bloggers, where they have recommended the use of nofollow on comments.

    I don’t have a problem with the change, but if you change your recommandations, you really have to be clear about this – unless you want people to go around doing a lot of stupid things to adjust.

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