The PageRank sculpting techniques and the nofollow issue

On 15 June 2009, one of the most important changes occurred in the SEO field. Matt Cutts (head of Google`s Webspam team) announced that Google no longer treats nofollowed links (<a rel=”nofollow” href=`…`>) in the same way.

In this article we will explain what PageRank Sculpting is and what changed in Google`s Algorithm. Briefly we will suggest a PR Sculpting technique that is analyzed in the article “PageRank Sculpting: You can still use nofollow“, thus experienced SEO Engineers should read directly that article.

Mainly in this blog post we will try to answer the following questions:

Google more or less used to discourage the PageRank Sculpting techniques. From their point of view the SEOs were messing with their algorithm. In their documentation, in several events and in some blog posts they mentioned that they do not suggest using those techniques because a) they are not as effective as we think (they are time consuming), b) in some cases they can do more harm than good (nofollowing by mistake important information that users need to find).

On the other hand many SEOs found that PageRank Sculpting is a very good technique and that the rel=”nofollow” attribute was a very good tool that helped them to speed up the process.

Let’s see briefly what PageRank Scuplting is:

By using PageRank sculpting techniques we try to change the way that PageRank flows within a site. In many cases most of the incoming links of a site point to the homepage and thus this is the page with the highest PageRank. The PageRank of the homepage then flows to the other pages of the site because of the links. In some cases, many pages are not considered as important as others (for example: contact pages, disclaimers etc) and thus we do not want to pass any PageRank juice to them. In order to do this we have to block these links. One of the methods we used was adding the rel=”nofollow” attribute in the links (there are several others: Flash, Java, Javascript, iframes, etc).

What changed in Google‘s algorithm?

Important Notice: The PageRank value that you see on Google toolbar is not the real rank. The actual score is not revealed by Google. Generally we consider that the toolbar scale is more or less logarithmic.

Let`s see how Google used to treat nofollow attribute at the beginning.

Suppose that you have a site with 4 pages. The homepage has 6 points of actual PageRank and there are 3 links that point to the internal pages. By using the original PageRank each internal page will receive 6/3=2 PageRank.


In the past if we blocked a link with nofollow, the 2 followed pages would get the PageRank of the blocked page.


Unfortunately now Google handles nofollow attribute in a different way. By nofollowing the first page it still gets PageRank 0, BUT the other 2 pages gain no PageRank. This causes a PageRank loss. See the image below:


Is it still possible to do PageRank Sculpting? Can we use nofollow? (Yes we can)

Matt Cutts mentioned in his blog that “More than a year ago, Google changed how the PageRank flows…“. I partially agree with the above as I am positive that in the last year wherever we used the nofollow attribute we saw good results. Perhaps the results were not as good as they used to be on the past, but still the websites that used PageRank Sculpting techniques had better PR flow than the ones that did not. But that’s not the point.

The main question is if we can still do PageRank Sculpting without suffering PR loss. First of all let`s make it clear that the above technique is not something new. The nofollow attribute introduced in 2005, but the PR Sculpting is something that SEO Engineers did long before 2005. It used to be much more time consuming though because the other alternatives (javascript, iframes, flash, java etc) were not as straightforward as nofollow.

So we could say that rel=`nofollow` was a tool that was generally used for this purpose because of its simplicity. Thus the problem in these days is that the SEOs lost one of the most useful tools for PR Sculpting.

Or they did not?

The solution that WebSEOAnalytics suggests is a little bit tricky but very easy to implement and reliable. What if we continue using the nofollow attribute in our code and just before we send the HTML page to the user we convert the nofollowed links into something else?

The solution to your problems is the webSeoAnalyticsLinker. It is free script that replaces the nofollowed links with javascript functions by using Regular Expressions.

Because of the fact that Google is able to parse basic javascript code, in order to block it we use:

  • Recursive Function Calls
  • The HTTP POST method
  • Base64 Encoded URLs

For more information check the article “PageRank Sculpting: You can still use nofollow“. You can download the script here:

All you need is to add the code in your pages. This will automatically convert the rel=`nofollow` links in to <span> that use javascript. You can find the installation instrunctions in the above article.

The webSeoAnalyticsLinker helps you to continue using the rel=`nofollow` attribute in your code and be able to perform PageRank Sculpting in the way you did before. It can be installed in every site with minimal effort and solve the rel=`nofollow` problem once and for all.

  • referenceur

    Hi, useful information. You explained fully the PR concept before and after google algorithm’s updating. Hope that all SEO writers behave that way and don’t consider that all the SEOs are experts. On the other hand I wanna ask a question, it maybe appear stupid but I’d like to ask it. What if google consider that this proposed solution technique is fraud?

  • bbriniotis

    Thank you for your comment. The answer is simple. First of all as a webmaster you can use as many javascript as you wish and secondly and most important this script has a legitimate usage: You can block all the extrenal nofollowed links with javascript in order to make sure that they do not lead to pagerank loss. :)

  • Derek

    This may be overengineering – I’d like to see some verifiable evidence that this has any substantial difference to traffic flow on my sites, otherwise it’s a whole bunc of effort that I could be putting to use elsewhere?

  • bbriniotis

    @Derek pagerank sculpting has been around for many years. If you are not a beginner in SEO you should known it’s effect. Some people love it, some people are sceptical about it. Personally i find it very useful tool.

    This script is used in this site, just check the html source..

  • my cash now

    Those people at google just want to make all the geeks the only people that can sculpt. Thanks for the useful info on how to outmaneuver those jerks. Peace

  • Nofollow and Dofollow

    Great resource here. You can spend literally hours reading about nofollow and its interpretation. Leaps and bounds better than most. We set it up on a clients site and had great results with higher rankings and more pagerank (Toolbar) as of the 31st.

  • Wynne

    Wow – LOL – I am laughing all the way to the bank. Finally a real alternative to that BS nofollow tag. How infuriating it is. It evaportates page rank and gives no one any benefit whatsoever. Good one google, way to stuff everything up.

    Thanks for sharing this tip – if this works like you describe then it’s killer.

  • Wynne

    Great post on page rank sculpting. Great now I can decide which of my pages are important again – finally. Thanks!

  • graywolf

    let’s just imagine that hypothetically speaking pagerank isn’t divided between the number of links on a page … but that each link can only pass a maximum amount of pagerank irrespective of the number of links on a page.

    ie: each link passes 0.5 pagerank, it doesn’t matter how many or how few links are on the page.

    Then what really matters is the number of internal and external links your page has.


  • bbriniotis

    @graywolf: Interesting thought Michael. Nevertheless I strongly believe that if this was the case there would be many references from PhDs in the literature (mainly in scientific journals). Google people tend to release parts of their research and if you read closely you can get few clues.

    Of course this does not mean that the PageRank is calculated just by dividing the number page PR with the number of links (as stated in the article we use this example for simplicity). Certainly the editorial value of each link comes into the game and there is lots of research in the academic community on this issue.

  • Paris Accommodation

    I thank you for sharing this information useful. interesting to me that the concept of SEO is one that experts think Google simply does not care, but I want to know more clearly whether there is any difference when making multiple methods, appropriate not?

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  • Contempo

    I have for the longest tried to figure this out, and as one commenter posted if this works, it’s definitely going to be a killer. Sculpting has been nothing but a tedious task for me, of course we want to maintain a great neighborhood with valuable sites without diminished value…Great post

  • Chris Countey

    Thanks for the article. Have you read or heard (from Matt maybe) if Google considers the ratio of nofollow to follow links? And if we use nofollow to sculpt interal pages (like using nofollow for a terms and conditions page), will that send a mixed message to Google about our site’s integrity?


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  • Kitchen Accessories

    This has been good and a has meant link builders have had to raise their game in the way they build links and set their links up.

  • T-shirt Printing

    Good link building is a must for any business website as a way to get it further in the serps. This is information well worth taking note of.

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