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Matt Cutts and the Webspam Team at Google have been hard at work in recent weeks. Invariably most of their ‘major’ announcements have coincided with news proliferating from other sources that is either detrimental towards Google, or positive about their rivals, notably Bing.
Late on yesterday evening, Matt Cutts posted a new blog article concerning the ongoing PageRank Sculpting controversy. In this, he essentially suggests that the nofollow rule is largely redundant apart from those sites that you really wouldn’t vouch for. Cutts suggests that building quality links and providing a website that is of a high enough standard to encourage users to link back, is the way forward.
Few of course would argue with this. SEO shouldn’t be about bringing huge quantities of visitors to poor sites. Quality of content is paramount to continued success; helping to attract sustainable visitors, perform well on search engines and of course encourage links back.
But the sticking point of all this is that the announcement represents something of a huge turnaround from Google, rendering two years of nofollowing links in order to benefit PageRank redundant. Worse still, this has actually been in effect for a full year now. So anybody still religiously pursuing nofollow will need to rethink their strategy smartly.
Just to give you a highly abridged and simplified account of what PageRank sculpting actually is; it’s fundamentally a system for preventing others from benefiting from your site’s success. By adding a nofollow tag within outbound links, website’s were supposedly ensuring their own credibility and protecting their PageRanking with the search engines. So essentially if you weren’t nofollowing, you could be passing all of your pages value to someone else.
Now the official line is more about ensuring quality of links and reducing nofollow to free up search once again and ensure the best sites prosper. Of course this will save Webmasters time moving forward, but you have to question why this wasn’t announced days, weeks or even months earlier.
Murmurings about the inefficiency of PageRank sculpting have been circulating for some time. Now of course we can see why, with it having been ineffective for a full year now, with Google at least. The fact that Bing has been receiving a lot of press attention, and that some have begun questioning Google’s supremacy – unjustifiably in most cases –, makes this announcement look like just another one of the many counter-offences that have emanated from Google HQ recently.
They are called the Webspam Team for a reason. To suggest it is a coincidence that their presence has become markedly more overt in recent weeks, would be to undermine their role entirely. One glaring example can be found on the day Microsoft Bing was announced, when Google counter-punched with Wave – as detailed in Search Engine Wars: Google Wave Vs. Microsoft Bing; it’s little wonder then that Microsoft sneaked out Bing a couple of days early.
This latest announcement on PageRank sculpting will finally inform the SEO world what it is Google expects of us. The progressive build-up to the announcement now seems slightly misplaced, particularly considering the ‘we thought you already knew’ anti-climax of an outcome.