Keeping Up With the Google

I returned this weekend from a week’s holiday and for the first time in 2 years, I didn’t take my laptop with me on vacation. (The magic of WordPress’ scheduled posts kept Get Elastic alive while I was gone). With 250+ blog posts chilling in my RSS reader, I couldn’t wait to catch up on what I missed in the world of retail, marketing and tech geekery.

One of the events that happened while I was away was SMX Advanced in Seattle (Search Marketing Expo). Fortunately there’s always a ton of liveblogging coverage, as often breaking news from search engines get announced at these events, like support for the canonical URL tag. Because search engines are constantly working on improving their own tools and minimizing search engine spam, the “rules” and best practices for SEO (search engine optimization) also change. It’s important for SEO professionals, marketers and webmasters must stay on top of these changes as not to give outdated advice, and for bloggers to update old posts that may contain outdated advice.

While catching up I learned 2 important things about how Google follows links on a website:

1. How Google Handles the Nofollow Attribute

In 2007, the SEO world was a-buzz with a new trick – PageRank sculpting. The idea was you could control the flow of PageRank between pages of your site by plugging up “leaks” to pages like Contact and Privacy, so more PageRank would be applied to your product and category pages. (If you’re not familiar with the PageRank concept, please refer to this video explanation).

I recommended Stephan Spencer’s concept of PageRank sculpting for retailers in late 2007 as a “Killer SEO Trick Only 1% of Online Retailers Use” and referenced the practice in 9 Privacy Policy Usability Tips, Tips for SEO Friendly Affiliate Programs and Dodging Duplicate Content Filters While Assisting Affiliates.

What we understand now is that Google no longer treats the nofollow attribute the same, and the “trick” doesn’t have the same benefit as it had before. The nofollow attribute will still prevent PageRank from passing to nofollowed links, but there is no boost to links without the attribute – the juice just “evaporates.” If you’ve used the technique before, there’s no harm, there’s just no benefit anymore. The disappointing thing is that if you have a large number of links on one page (including links in comments on blog posts), they still dilute the link value of more important links on the page.

This is a perfect example why any internal SEO expert or SEO consultant you may be working with reads blogs, attends conferences (or at least keeps up with the event coverage) and stays on top of the industry, otherwise you may get advice that is either a waste of time or at worst, get you banned from search engines. It’s also important for bloggers like me to update old posts to reflect new information.

2. How Google Handles Javascript and Flash

Equally if not more important, your web developers should understand how Google and other search engines handle Flash, Flex, AJAX and Javascript. Google annnounced advances in searchability of Javascript and Flash at its own Google I/O event, and Vanessa Fox’s explanation is a must read for all of your Web developers. Whether you’re working with internal or outsourced devs, send them this article today.

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4 Responses to “Keeping Up With the Google”

  1. David Minor says:

    “The disappointing thing is that if you have a large number of links on one page (including links in comments on blog posts), they still dilute the link value of more important links on the page.”

    It’s possible Google is just doing this for internal links, and that external nofollow links are ignored as before. Otherwise, popular blogs would have a great deal less influence on search results, and some bloggers might disallow links in comments.

    Neither of those results makes much sense from Google’s perspective.

  2. David Minor says:

    Matt Cutts tweeted earlier today: “Things quiet enough that I might start the pr sculpting blog post today. Will take better part of day to get a good first cut.”

    So I guess we’ll know more soon.

  3. Hoping Matt Cutts clarifies this whole “no follow” issue today. Tired of getting the run around and would like to clarify this to my clients to help them understand what is going on with this mess. Hope this is also clarified before the IRCE2009 conference in Boston next week.

  4. Rob Abdul says:

    After mulling it over in my head, the conclusion I’ve come to is that the Google are protecting pagerank from being exploited.

    Blogs posed a problem to Google because of the links you can gain easily.

    So the NoFollow PageRank Sculpting Issue is a means of Google protecting PageRank and remain in-charge of quality control.

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