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At the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle this week, Google's Matt Cutts revealed that Google has implemented two changes that may have an impact on your SEO efforts.
In case you're not familiar with it, PageRank sculpting is quite simply the 'blocking' of links (eg. using nofollow) to 'sculpt' how much PageRank gets passed on. Using the concept of PageRank as money for an oversimplified example, let's say you have a page with 10 PageRank dollars that it can pass on to other sites and this page includes 10 links. The idea with PageRank sculpting is that you could nofollow 5 of those links to pass on 2 PageRank dollars to each of the 5 unblocked links instead of passing on 1 PageRank dollar to all 10 of the links.
Some webmasters have reported good results using this technique.
But according to Matt Cutts, it doesn't work this way. Sullivan explains:
Again — and being really simplistic here — if you have $10 in authority to spend on those ten links, and you block 5 of them, the other 5 aren’t going to get $2 each. They’re still getting $1. It’s just that the other $5 you thought you were saving is now going to waste.
Of course Sullivan notes that some of the theory around PageRank sculpting has been oversimplified from the beginning. As he puts it, "Google itself largely acts as the page’s investment banker" and has likely always looked at a variety of factors in determining how PageRank is passed on.
The long and short of it is that PageRank sculpting was a technique employed by a relatively small number of people and this change shouldn't have any real dramatic impact on those who weren't using it. It does, however, serve as a good example of just how quickly a Google change can destroy lots of effort. Those who were engaged in PageRank sculpting will need to await further details to figure out what, if any, action should be taken next.
Or you could just give in and go the nofollow route.
Photo credit: Mykl Roventine via Flickr.