Google’s No-Follow Changes Explained

Matt Cutts Clears the Air

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Last Tuesday, we discussed the idea of Google potentially making some changes to PageRank and it’s relationship to no-follow – particularly in the context of PageRank sculpting.

As a quick refresher, PageRank sculpting is the practice whereby you add no-follow attributes to less important links in order to emphasize links you deem more important.  We used an analogy of a bucket withe holes in it. The holes represented your outbound links.  Your website’s PageRank (link juice) flowed thru the holes.  The fewer holes you had, higher the percentage of your link juice went thru the remaining holes (links). That’s PageRank Sculpting in a nutshell.  Dividing your link authority by a smaller number of links in order to maximize the authority you pass on.

Matt CuttsAt the end of our article, we mentioned that no official word on how Google was going to change the dynamic between no-follow and PageRank, but as of last night, we now know a little more.  Matt Cutts made a post on his blog about the way Google has decided to deal with the issue.  The biggest surprise in the post was actually Matt’s claim that this change went into effect “over a year ago” but nobody noticed.

Beyond that, Matt’s explanation of PR Sculpting fit pretty nicely into our analogy.  Matt said “nofollowed links didn’t count toward the denominator when dividing PageRank by the outdegree of the page”.  Which basically means, if you plugged some of the holes in your bucket, the remaining holes received a higher percentage of your link authority.  This statement is also significant because it pretty much (by definition) says unequivocally that Pagerank sculpting ‘worked’ conceptually at least.  But that’s ‘worked’ with an emphasis on the past tense.

The change Google implemented ‘over a year ago’ according to Cutts.  Made Google count the outbound links regardless of the no-follow attribute.  To paraphrase Matt in his post, if you have 10 PageRank points on a page with 10 outbound links and you put no-follow on 5 of the links, each of your 5 remaining links would pass just 1 point of PageRank now.  Prior to the change, each of your 5 links without no-follow would pass 2 points apiece.  Now, your PR passing ability is spread out or divided by all of your links – regardless of their no-follow status.

Matt does a pretty good job of anticipating several questions that will doubtlessly arise from his post.  I’ll Highlight a couple of the more important points below, but would also urge you to go check out the real thing (like you haven’t already…)

  • Whenever you are linking within your site, don’t use no-follow?
  • Q: Since PR is divided amongst outbound links, no-follow or not, should I turn off comments on my blog? ?“A: I wouldn’t recommend closing comments in an attempt to “hoard” your PageRank. In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.”?

So, there you go.  The debate that arose during SMX Advanced as to whether or not Google was changing how they handled no-follow in terms of PR sculpting has now been answered.  The big surprise in all of this is that they apparently changed it all a while back, but at the end of the day it was pretty much the change we were anticipating anyway.  Namely, no-follow links do not pass PR, no-follow links do not pass anchor text value, but no-follow links DO count toward your total of outbound links. 

The obvious question this creates I suppose then is: why, then, should we no-follow anything?

Google’s No-Follow Changes Explained
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  • http://www.diamondonnet.com Diamonds

    Now I am really confused. Correct me if I’m wrong, no-follow will not work for inbound links.

    • Mike McDonald

      What do you mean ‘inbound’? Do you mean internal? I assume you do, and yes, no-follow will still work on internal links, but you don’t have any reason or incentive to do it.

      If you mean inbound, as in a link pointing to your site with a no-follow attribute on it, that no-follow tag is still not giving you any PageRank value.

      Michael McDonald
      Follow me on twitter.com/mmcdonald”>Twitter!
      Managing Editor
      iEntry, Inc.

      • http://www.onlineshoppingspot.com Guest

        Can Yo plz Explain

    • http://www.hypnowellness.co.uk/ Hypnotherapy herts

      No follow mean it will not transfer google boots to the other website where it is referring so no page rank juice is transfer.

  • http://www.iblbuilder.com IBL Builder

    For “over a year ago” read “we dont want it to sound like we are reacting again….”

  • http://blog.hichamaged.net/ Hicham

    Mike, the reason for the title of my comment is this part of the article:
    The change Google implemented

  • http://www.saltwater-dreaming.com Somjai

    I use no-follow links to avoid being suspected of having paid links. I mean when someone pays to advertise on my site, they are paying for the click throughs. They have a no-follow attribute on their advertisement so Google won’t think I am hosting paid links.

    Does this make sense, and am I on the right track?

    • http://chabadworld.net/ Chabad


      Yes you are right you, your page rank is stable and your page rank juice is remain same, so your decision is right.

  • http://vb.lm3a.net/ ???????


    I think this will help spamers

    to put their links every where !!!

    so it will harm the webmasters ..

  • http://www.digitalpointing.com digitalpointing

    Well, I’m a bit confused after reading about this topic again and again in different blogs. Well, I read the post Matt did in his blog – actually I think I was the first one to read that first – at least I could be in the first 100 viewers who saw the post the first day – but after reading his post, I didn’t knew that this was this serious – as written in numerous blogs out there. I didn’t ever thought that this could become this famous. Well, after I came to know about this latest news – I went and read his post again some 3-4 times – still I didn’t noticed anything important in it – Well, let’s make it clear :-

    Earlier :-

    —> If we put a no-follow link, it wouldn’t pass anchor link and pr juice right? So, the other do-follow links used to get the full effect of PR juice.


    —> The no-follow link will just evaporate PR juice right? Am I correct. Now, the other do-follow links won’t get full effect of PR juice since some amount of PR juice went away (without coming to use for anyone) – yup some PR juice evaporated !!

    Am I right till now??

    Well, so what shall we do now? I don’t personally use No-follow links anywhere specifically.

    So, people who don’t use No-follow thing, should worry about anything or not?
    And, does it gonna affect comment section in blogs? anyways ? if so how? I’m a bit confused regarding this – saw comments in blogs that people will stop comments section.

    Cheers …

  • http://texxsmith.com texxs

    ” . . . why, then, should we no-follow anything? . . .”

    To be mean. Or so that the site receiving the link doesn’t get any juice.

    Some people feel that using no follow in links in comments reduces spam. personally, I think good policies, practices and programming eliminate comment spam easily so you should not use no follow, unless you just want to mean to everyone who takes the time to comment on your site, like your some kind of republican or something.

  • http://girls.all-arb.com ????? ?????

    Bad spamers
    i Het spamers

  • http://www.mrame.net/vb/ ???????

    Yes you are right you, your page rank is stable and your page rank juice is remain same, so your decision is right.

  • http://www.mrame.net/ ???

    yes were option of google
    is nice

  • Johno

    With the ever changing ways to build a site and help to promote the site, how can we all stay ahead of the game? It all makes sense, and is understandable we all want good information about whatever it is that search at the time, so google finding and ranking the best sites will surly end up with a better user interaction, i’m a practicing webmaster and am fairly new to all of this and the last project i have worked on is for Hypnotherapy Milton Keynes and it all seems to be going well. Loving the site and thanks for the info.

  • http://www.7media.de hgw

    One thing that still isn’t clear to me – how does this change in Google’s strategy influence internal links.

    Let’s say we have 10 internal and 5 externl links on a homepage start document (index), and a PR of 4 for that page.

    Before the change 5 external links were nofollow. So the PR juice is 4/10 to each of the internal links. Right?

    After the change – no matter of the external links are nofollow – the internal links get 4/15 of the PR, that means less.

    The only way to increase the link juice to internal pages is to remove links from this page (no matter external or internal).

    Am I right, or do I miss something? Thanks!

  • http://www.send-gifts-to-pakistan.net Send gifts to Pakistan

    According to my experience do follow links transfer page rank juice but no follow don’t, so do follow links are more better as compare to no follow links.

  • http://www.chabadworld.net Chabad

    Nice post on this topic

  • http://jokonugroho.com/ Joko Nugroho

    I have many comments in my blogs, should I remove those nofollow atribut? Which is better?

  • http://blackhatdigest.com/twitter/ black hat twitter

    Will google makeit hard there algorithm?

  • http://rapidok.com rapidok

    Thanks a lot for clear explanations, though I still do not understand one moment: how will google deal with social media platforms like twitter etc, most of which implement ONLY nofollow links? ignore them completely? I doubt it )

  • http://www.novelwebdesigns.com teo

    I have readed a lot of articles saying that no-follow links count for search bots.
    They made some experiments and they believe that no-follow pass some link juice.

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