John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?  Competitive Web & SEO
June 29th, 2010 by john andrews

Page Rank Sculpting Still Doesn’t Work

Or maybe “Page Rank Sculpting Now Works Worse than Ever”

Matt Cutt’s latest video clarifies (again) his position on the use of the rel=nofollow attribute within your site. This time, it’s bad. It does harm. To quote Matt, “it does more harm than good“.

Like all SEO consultants out there (sans a very few), I have always advised webmasters to avoid the use of the nofollow attribute. Actually, that’s sarcasm. I kid. It seems these days everyone is claiming to have been an SEO since 1997 and to have never suggested the nofollow attribute was a good idea. Sad, but true.

I have never advised a webmaster to use the nofollow attribute on internal links. I have always stood firm in my belief that using nofollow on internal links was a bad idea, for several reasons.

And I have shared those reasons openly with my clients, whenever appropriate.

With the new “Caffeine” infrastructure, Google is able to annotate links in the web graph better than ever. Matt’s communications suggest that Google is reading the internal nofollow as an important signal, which it is assigning to the link in the link graph. So internally using the nofollow attribute impacts the external view of your links, as far as Google is concerned.

Rational thinkers suggested this years ago… if the nofollow attribute was intended to suggest a link could not be trusted, why tag your own links as un trusted? That’s what Matt is saying now… it will do more harm than good. Perhaps Matt had difficulty clearly communicating this in the past, because Google was not able to cleanly implement it in the past? Don’t know.

Not-so-rational thinkers assumed a level of granularity for the nofollow signal, which may or may not have been actual. They assumed it worked on an instance of a link… such as an internal link on a home page, without necessarily impacting the interpreted character of the destination URL itself (or the host site itself).

I never saw any real data suggesting “page rank sculpting” ever worked, but lots of casual references and, perhaps most importantly, sincere, authoritative recommendations IN FAVOR of its use from high profile SEOs like Rand, Stephan, and Bruce.

I’ve said it before. When you have a vested interest in having been right (because you have clients who paid a lot to be told to implement nofollow, and paid a lot to implement nofollow for page rank sculpting), you tend to develop a biased perspective.

In a  cab ride home from SMX Advanced in Seattle, I asked an SEO friend the following question about a high profile SEO consultant who sells an expensive SEO toolset:

“If Google changed something and that expensive toolset ceased to work temporarily, while the SEO tool vender re-writes it or otherwise updates the tool for the New Google, do you think the vendor informs it’s customers that the tool should no longer be used until it is fixed? Do you think the sales department stops selling the tool? Do you think they say

Sorry, we’re not selling our tools right now because they don’t work. But we’re writing new ones! They’ll be ready in a few months…

Of course they don’t. Caveat emptor.

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June 16th, 2010 by john andrews

Silverstripe CMS SEO

Silverstripe is an open-source CMS from a company in New Zealand, built with PHP on a LAMP stack. It is built upon something they call the “Sapphire MVC framework”, an object oriented PHP framework that does not exist outside of the Silverstripe CMS implementation.Silverstripe is released under the terms of the BSD open source software license.

SEO for Silverstripe CMS is not a mature area yet… most of what you find on the web for “silverstripe SEO” is marketing talk about how SEO friendly Silverstripe is out-of-the-box. That’s a good thing, for sure, but we need some real solid SEO information about Silverstripe, too.

I’ll be reviewing and modifying Silverstripe for SEO purposes, and examining the CMS and underlying framework for SEO aspects here.

  • URL structure/IA issues
  • duplicate content issues
  • URL hierarchy & “flatness”
  • technical SEO aspects
  • meta management and server integration
  • suitability for SEO projects (including user interface aspects)
  • other


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June 10th, 2010 by john andrews

Take-aways from SMX Advanced 2010

A few notes from SMX Advanced I consider important:

Google Still Insists on “No Site Search pages”

Good SEO work integrates user experience with search engine expectations. Sometimes (often?) that includes creating kick-ass site search pages for our users. We all agree that search is important, and site search is very useful (to users) for many (especially large) sites. Google even sells local site search products you can use. So when a good SEO hand-picks certain essential site search results sets and optimizes them to get indexed…. does it still violate Google’s webmaster guidelines?

Yes, according to Maile Ohye of Google (front row left). Google does not want to index search results, and the webmaster guidelines unequivocally state that site search results pages need to be marked no-index or otherwise blocked so they are not in the Google search results.

White Hatters can now go back to work… the rest of this post is just nuance.

For the rest of you: continue to properly managing your seo-friendly URLs. Maile acknowledged Google is actively testing some new approaches to handling the local site search issue, but emphasized there is no doubt that the current policy is “no search results in the index“. Read on for insights into what sort of solutions the current Google team is likely to produce and test.

Faceted Navigation is now Additive Filters (because Google says so)

The term “Faceted Navigation” refers to user nav crafted around functional qualities.. like a submenu under category shoes that offers navigation links for mens, womens, and kids. SEOs are working hard to create a great user experience, based on careful (and expensive) user tracking and behavior modeling. What Adam Audette called faceted navigation is, to put it plainly, awesome for users.

Google on the other hand… well let’s just note that while Google says some things, they often act differently. Google calls this “additive filters” and is currently investigating how they may (someday) accommodate it. Google loves name-value pairs in URLs and is very likely to produce a “solution” that relies on name-value pairs in the URL, something Maile Ohye referred to as “standard encodings“.

Drum Roll Please…..The biggest take-away from SMX Advanced for me was….

Google is increasingly a data-based company when dealing with webmasters (despite the “serve the users” rhetoric). Increasingly, Google will give webmasters marching orders that give priority to uniformity of structure, even if that trumps user experience. Watch for it going forward.

In order to maintain control, Google needs transparency in the crawl/index process. Transparency from YOU, the publisher.

Sitemaps tell Google your priorities, your freshness, and your canonicalization even before a site crawl. Microformats tell Google your content components and their purpose, separate from their context or how well your designers represented that context to users. Webmaster console identifies a person with authority for accessing your hosting server, and requires her phone number if she comes through a proxy or international network. The list continues to grow with name-value pairs and any future “solutions” this current Google technology team is considering via the name-value pairs approach : force webmasters to disclose their information architecture in the URL, so content can be parsed effectively outside of the view (URL).

That’s one reason “faceted navigation” is now “additive filters”… Google’s team  views the URL discovery process as a parsing of content (e.g. filters) and NOT a collection and presentation prep process for “views” suitable for search users. Views would be considered unique (and thus worthy of indexing and producing YOUR URLS in SERPs). Structured sets (identified by structured “encodings”) simply represent data.  As always, Google’s eyes are on organizing your information (not your web pages).

No matter how beautiful, engaging, and awesome you might make some of your local site search results sets, if Google requires you to identify them as product=shoes&color=brown instead of /brown-shoes-for-men, Google can control the data presentation layer outside of your web page.

End note: I apologize to the astute reader. You are correct… nothing new under the sun, same stuff we’ve been seeing all along, and your advanced SEO strategies probably do not have to change much based on this report from SMX Advanced 2010. But doesn’t it feel good to see things following a recognizable pathway?

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John Andrews is a mobile web professional and competitive search engine optimzer (SEO). He's been quietly earning top rank for websites since 1997. About John




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