Earlier this month, I wrote about reports that Google’s Matt Cutts had essentially told an audience at the SMX Advanced conference that PageRank sculpting was a worthless exercise.

In a new post on his blog, Cutts provides some much-needed clarification.

When it comes to the simple question of whether or not PageRank sculpting is a good idea, Cutts had this to say:

I wouldn’t recommend it, because it isn’t the most effective way to utilize your PageRank. In general, I would let PageRank flow freely within your site. The notion of “PageRank sculpting” has always been a second- or third-order recommendation for us. I would recommend the first-order things to pay attention to are 1) making great content that will attract links in the first place, and 2) choosing a site architecture that makes your site usable/crawlable for humans and search engines alike.

Using an e-commerce website as an example, he suggests:

If you run an e-commerce site, another example of good site architecture would
be putting products front-and-center on your web site vs. burying them deep
within your site so that visitors and search engines have to click on many links
to get to your products.

There may be a miniscule number of pages (such as links to a shopping cart or
to a login page) that I might add nofollow on, just because those pages are
different for every user and they aren’t that helpful to show up in search
engines. But in general, I wouldn’t recommend PageRank sculpting.

In his post, Cutts provides some detail on PageRank that will be of interest to SEOs but in general, the message is quite clear. Google has implemented an approach that is in line what its documentation states:

…a solid information architecture — intuitive navigation, user- and
search-engine-friendly URLs, and so on — is likely to be a far more productive
use of resources than focusing on crawl prioritization via nofollowed links.

Of course, this is really just the beginning of the story. Danny Sullivan, who wrote the excellent post summarizing what Cutts said at SMX Advanced, chimed in with an interesting comment stating “what a nightmare will now be unleashed“. Cutts has responded to it and his response is worth reading if you’re an SEO.

Elsewhere, SEOmoz already has a great write-up that’s well worth a read too. While I can understand the frustrations that are being voiced and think some great points are already being made, I have a slightly different take.

For me, SEO is just one part of an online marketing strategy. It’s an important part, no doubt, but at the end of the day, I’m less focused on pumping every last drop of oil from the well of SEO than I am keeping the oil flowing across all marketing channels. When it comes to SEO, I’ve always found that the basics (good content, solid information architecture, concerted linkbuilding efforts, etc.) seem to work very well and have never really had an interest in techniques like PageRank sculpting.

We’ll see what this change means over the long haul but I think as a general rule, the saying ‘don’t miss the forest for the trees‘ is very applicable when it comes to deciding how to invest in SEO.

Photo credit: naotakem via Flickr.