To say the tactics and techniques of SEOs changes regularly would be an understatement, but there is one specific debate that never fails to get us hot under the collar and a little tongue-tied at Orchid Box. Fresh from the excitement of the Michael Jackson web furore we've opted for an equally incendiary post, if a little more esoteric for some people's demands. However, whatever your background in the web there is no escaping the importance of Page Rank distribution for an web site looking to score well with Google searches today.
What is PageRank sculpting?
It's the age-old question of man, other than the meaning of life and why English people cannot win things in sport. What exactly is PageRank sculpting?
PageRank, as you may recall from an earlier article on linkbuilding, is a number from 0 to 10 that Google assigns to your site's pages to rank it in terms of its searches. If you have 9 or 10, you'll invariably rank very high in relevant searches (such as BBC or Wikipedia), much lower and you'll only reach the middle of the myriads of pages littered amongst the "more pages" of searchers' results.
Importantly, PageRank is an attribute that can be passed from page to page - hence why any links that a site might gain from the very top ranked sites could be hugely valuable for adding to its own rating. It is also why it is essential to carefully craft your own pages to pass your own juice on to targeted areas of your site.
Imagine you are a pie-seller. Your homepage, which will inevitably be the highest ranked of all your pages, is a big fat expensive pie. If you have ten links from your homepage, you have ten slices of pie. Forty two, forty two slices, and so on. If your other pages are your hungry customers, you want to be feeding those that will pay the most money (or, in real terms, the pages of most value to you) and so you have to block the routes that the worthless customers will be taking so as to root out the optimum customers. See the diagrams below:
So five links from the above homepage passes on 1 PR point to each (it doesn't work exactly like this of course, but it's a valuable way of looking at it). We decide that the last link is pretty worthless and we would be better off passing more juice to the others, so we get rid of it, giving more juice to the better valued pages of our site:
Previously it was thought the blocking of a link (which stops the Google bot that indexes and rates the site from continuing to that page) could be done by the simple use of the "nofollow" attribute in the HTML code - signs attached to links that tell the bot to stop and look elsewhere rather than follow the route that hyperlink leads to.
Unfortunately, now it is understood that a nofollow link merely loses the juice completely, evaporated into the endless clouds of the web, and therefore any links on your homepage not of value were haemorraging pagerank like an gas leak.
How can we pass our link juice on without "nofollow"?
Link consolidation, as the name suggests, is about cutting down on your homepage links and keeping the value of your link juice strong. Although Matt Cutts, SEO head of Google, has admitted that Google chooses where the page rank goes themselves and so pagerank sculpting is obselete, he also stressed strongly that the number of links from a page do matter.
So rather than pile the links on your front page to "about", "privacy", "find out more", "tour", "meet the team" and whatever other banal and trivial pages that very few people actually click on, it's all about consolidating. Why not stick these all into one solid "about" or "find out more" page?
In pie terms you could perhaps liken it to taking the remaining slices of pie that your customers with less money want and liquidating it into a pie-smoothie so the remaining pie-lovers can share it as a delightful drink. Or perhaps not.
Anyway, link consolidation helps with your pagerank, and it also generally helps neaten up your homepage and leave it looking simplistic but effective. If you want a bit more debate on the matter there's a great post on SEOmoz here which has some interesting comments below it. But as we regularly tell our clients, SEO is an ever-changing world and this might not last for long, so keep your eyes on Orchid Box for any more PageRank tips and news in the future!