Why Do People Nofollow Unimportant Pages?

Jul 11, 2008 • 9:47 am | comments (6) by twitter | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

Earlier this year, we discussed the possibility of page sculpting or siloing where you point your link juice to the more important pages and nofollow the less important pages. A month after the original post came out, we looked into the possible penalties for controlling that link juice.

The issue is being revisited again on WebmasterWorld. Why do people nofollow their unimportant pages? As stated in the previous paragraph and as reiterated by Tedster, it's so that the "target URL cannot play a part in circulating PageRank for the site."

But some forum members, likely accidentally, suggest that adding a meta tag for "noindex, nofollow" might be sufficient. As Tedster explains, those pages will still get PageRank, so it's not the same as applying rel="nofollow" to a link. Lord Magestic seconds this sentiment:

nofollow in META and tag have 2 very different purposes - the first one is to actually prevent bots from following those links (ie crawling), where as the second does not hold such prohibitions and used to reduce value of backlinks for PR-like calculations.

Of course, if someone else links externally to these internal pages, you might be out of luck, but the question, after all, was about controlling internal link juice.

You can also remove the Sitelinks through the Google Webmaster Tools, as another forum member suggests. But the downside to doing it that way is that you can't suggest a link replacement. Once you remove a link, it's deleted. So exercise this with caution.

The interesting forum discussion continues at WebmasterWorld.

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Michael Martinez

07/11/2008 03:37 pm

If the pages are so unimportant, they shouldn't be on the Web sites. If the wrong pages are showing up in query results, then people should practice some search engine optimization, rather than screwing around with rel='nofollow'.


07/11/2008 04:33 pm

I rarely agree with Michael - but here I do! It is ironic the same people who "sculpt their PR" to "solely" improve their rankings are the first ones to attack people who buy advertising links. At least links drive traffic. Where is the logic in this?

Jaan Kanellis

07/11/2008 07:28 pm

Take http://www.newsday.com/ home page for instance. Do you really think it is smart of them to nofollow all those links at the bottom of their page, under Site Index?

Kris Keimig

07/12/2008 05:10 pm

@Martinez What about the case of 'Privacy Policy', 'T&C' or 'Member Login' pages? These pages are functional but not necessarily from a ranking standpoint. Additionally, what about the case where you have multiple links on page A to page B (done for usability sake) - since it's theorized that only 1 link counts (passes juice and anchor text), I may want to place a nofollow on all links except the one with the best anchor text. To be clear, I recommend that my clients use this tactic (nofollow) but I have, personally, always felt a little fishy about using the tactic. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Michael Martinez

07/13/2008 03:29 am

You want people to be able to find your privacy policy and terms of service page through both site search and Web site, so using "rel='nofollow'" on links to those pages makes no sense. And all other pages that really don't need to be indexed can be excluded more efficiently either through robots.txt or the robots meta tag. As for multiple links on one page to the same destination, as we've seen from <a href="http://thelinkspiel.blogspot.com/2008/07/calling-matt-cutts-to-bat-phone.html" target="_blank">from this past week's controversy about dual linking</a>, the "only 1 link counts" idea has been debunked. And that really has nothing to do with optimizing your internal site. Even if the second link is being ignored, you don't need to nofollow either one. You're not helping your clients by advising them to use this tactic.

Kris Keimig

07/13/2008 08:03 pm

@Martinez Point taken on the linkspiel post... hadn't read that yet. Noted. I still don't see your point as it relates to PP/T&C's pages. I want these pages to be found by the user and they can find them - they serve a purpose and I don't hide those links. And placing a nofollow won't affect site search - the pages are still indexed. But having the pages available to the user and passing page influence are two different things. If I have pages B & C (which are KW targeted pages) to link to from page A - then passing influence to PP/T&C seems wasted. I am potentially lowering my rank on pages B/C for seemingly no gain - unless there is revenue tied to traffic that searches for '<companyname> Privacy Policy.' Plus, given how "tail" the phrase would be - you would end up ranking for the phrase anyway. Isn't this tactic (nofollow) used by SEOmoz (for which you moderate)?

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