SEO Gets Simpler In 2009

During the last 12 months at least, some SEO clients have apparently been paying sizeable fees for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) work that was completely ineffective.  That really is the bottom line on a development that Danny Sullivan describes in a post entitled, PageRank Sculpting Is Dead! Long Live PageRank Sculpting!

Earlier this month, Google’s Matt Cutts sent a shockwave through the advanced SEO community by saying that site owners could no longer perform “PageRank sculpting” using the nofollow tag in the way they’d previously thought.

Google helped advanced the notion of using nofollow to flow PageRank. No one was forced to do it; no one is being punished that it might no longer work. But Google did help put it out there, and that’s why it should have spoken up sooner when it took nofollow out as a sculpting tool. Instead, it said nothing about the change that happened sometime from May 2008 or earlier.

.. and why did Google not spill the beans earlier:

At first, we figured that site owners or people running tests would notice, but they didn’t. In retrospect, we’ve changed other, larger aspects of how we look at links and people didn’t notice that either, so perhaps that shouldn’t have been such a surprise. So we started to provide other guidance that PageRank sculpting isn’t the best use of time.

Danny Sullivan then provides the following view on how it all now works:

Google itself solely decides how much PageRank will flow to each and every link on a particular page. In general, the more links on a page, the less PageRank each link gets. Google might decide some links don’t deserve credit and give them no PageRank. The use of nofollow doesn’t ‘conserve’ PageRank for other links; it simply prevents those links from getting any PageRank that Google otherwise might have given them.

I was moved to write this post today by an e-mail message I received from Dan Thies of SEO Fast Start.  He revealed that he was in two minds as to whether he should roll back the Site Structure chapter in SEO Fast Start, and basically go back to what he was teaching in 2006. He has some concerns about what some folks have done with "PageRank sculpting" since he has seen more mistakes than good implementations with that technique.

Dan Thies is the author of a free 97-page ebook, SEO Fast Start 2008, that you can download. Interestingly the preface includes the following:

The 2008 edition is not much different from last year’s – because if you’re not trying to game the search engines, very little changes. Heck, if you had a copy of the November 2001 edition, your site wouldn’t exactly burn down if you followed what I wrote then.

It appears that once more that French phrase applies that translates as, The more it changes, the more it stays the same.  I still believe that the word PageRank is being used in at least two senses in these discussions.  Underlying this is the basic PageRank measure that applies to all URLs as suggested in the PageRank Calculation – Null Hypothesis.  Thereafter that basic value is used within the keyword search algorithms in a modified way as Danny Sullivan pointed out above. 

Even if PageRank sculpting is no longer the hot topic it was, there are still key issues to address with the most important being to Avoid Duplicate Content Problems.

Other resources you may find helpful are:

Never forget that of course SEO is only part of the answer to getting better business results online.  You really have to start off with the right strategy and follow through to good usability of the website and making the sales. The series of articles on Marketing Right Now is a useful primer on the total process.

23 thoughts on “SEO Gets Simpler In 2009”

  1. The more I travel down the SEO superhighway the more confusing it becomes to me. There is this quantum physics saying, “What the Seeker Seeks, the Finder Finds.” Meaning that whatever your looking for you will find it. But there is always those that will support the opposite finding as well. One expert talks with authority on SEO and we believe him. Next day Mat Cutts says the opposite -we believe him. If SEO is getting simpler in 2009 I sure hope that enthusiasm rubs off on us. After we finish web development and get out of the sandbox [that is if it exists], the true test will be seen!

  2. Very true. As I mentioned in another topic, humans are very good at spotting patterns in random events and then are difficult to dissuade. We are dealing with very complex and noisy universes and it is almost impossible to prove what is really happening. Some people in Google may understand it all, but they’re not telling us outsiders what is really going on.

  3. I can certainly relate to http://www.getatrip.com in the more confusing it becomes the further you travel along the SEO highway.

    Perhaps it all get back to sticking to your knitting? While paying attention to SEO and page rank are a factor, if you focus on delivering something of quality that people want and are willing to pay for and then go about getting it in front of them by as many different means as possible, some people are going to take notice and take the actions you want them to.

  4. I noticed several months back that my google analytics started identifying backlinks that were tagged as “external nofollow”. It puzzled me because I did not see these links prior to that. I checked around on the web to see why google started to credence to these links. But this article seems to answer that question. Thanks for the post.

  5. Many of my sites are behaving in a strange way and I believe that Google is still changing all the algorithms to fight with spam and artificial sites. I believe in genuineness and I think all spam sites should be ranked out with dropping all their PR.

  6. I think what google is trying to point out is that, links must be placed on pages that are very much related to it. Otherwise, it has no effect but a dead link.

    Imagine surfing the internet without the knowledge of those “SEO” things. What you would probably do is, google a term, click a link, scan the page displayed, and when it’s not the one you are looking for, you then tend to exit the page either by closing it or clicking on some links on the page which you may thought of related to what you are looking. So, relevancy in this matter has the advantage no matter if it’s followed or not followed. And I think this is what google is trying to direct its bots, to scan the page, take note of of the related links, provide it PR percentage (follow or not) and neglect those that are not related.

  7. The post is really logical explanation of the Pagerank Sculpting. I suppose Pagerank will be always used (internally) by Google to measure the usefulness of a webpage.

  8. See… there are some folks that take the Optimizing in SEO seriously and want to squeeze every last bit of Juice out of Google that they can. I admire folks like Rand Fishkin and the rest of the SEOmoz group for this approach. On the other hand, if you just follow the pareto principle and focus on the 20% of the efforts that are responsible for 80% of your cash, Pagerank sculpting begins to go by the wayside. Create killer content and win!

  9. PR sculpting may or may not be dead but 100s nofollow links on each page will definitely not look good to blog owners anymore. Since google has already announced that they will start following javascript’s dynamic links, I wonder if people will start using external javascript links or iframes for blog comments. Personally, I don’t see a good logic behind these actions but I am sure Google has a very good reason to make these changes and has multiple ways in algorithms to take care of the ‘leaked PR’.

  10. Google is constantly changing and adopting their PR rules. It’s all because of abusive internet marketers who uses black hat marketing.
    “start off with the right strategy and follow through to good usability” – this I believe is true. With a relevant and good quality content your website will be off to a good start.
    Nice post!

  11. It’s interesting that he said they made some other big changes about how links are treated and no one noticed the changes. I wonder what these big changes were?

  12. when i had sites with no PR, i was obsessed with PR. then i got high ranking PR sites (a 6, a 5), yet they had almost no traffic or rankings. Since then, Iv’e essentially said “F it” to PR, and now just work on instinct – getting useful, relevent backlinks.

  13. Every insight straight from google is valuable. Whether you find out something interesting or not, it might always help you understand the search engine a bit more.

  14. SEO does not require technical computer skills. Then again, this does not mean it is easy. It requires a lot of knowledge, which will only come from years of reading and reading. There are plenty of websites and forums to help you out. Do a Google search and join some…Ask any questions you have from the pros there!

  15. You’ll have to forgive me, I’m fairly new at all of the SEO. I’m just starting out a site, and I’m afraid that I’ll do the exact same thing that you’re warning us against. What exactly is “page rank sculpting?” If that is not an effective method, then what exactly would you suggest?

  16. SEO has always been pretty easy for Yahoo, but Google is an entirely different beast. I’ve had a lot of luck with Yahoo, but sometimes it takes quite a bit of time and effort to get out of Google’s sandbox.

  17. You have explained well the Pagerank sculpting issue. Your post enlightens me on how to get better business results online.

  18. I am very supprised that people did not notice. There have been whispers that this might be the case for some time now. I will be downloading Dan’s ebook. Thanks, very interesting read.

  19. Search Engine optimization is the most important part of website to prosper in online business. SEO is simply the use of search engines to generate traffic to a web site. It is the process one adopts for a web page to be indexed by search engines. Our real purpose is to rank your site high in search engines.

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