Site Structure – SEOs Going Fishing Without Any Bait

If you don’t know what you are doing with nofollow, noindex and robots.txt you can royally mess* things up (face to face I would use a stronger term). Even if you do know what you are doing, you can still mess things up.

I can understand why Matt Cutts might want to change what noindex does, it is not just Koreans making occasional mistakes, for instance I just noticed the whole WebProNews video blog is currently noindex nofollow. I am sure that is a mistake, it is easy to make in WordPress… just one click and save.

All in one plugins are dangerous if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve

Rel-nofollow, meta instructions and robots.txt are just tools.

Just because a tool is available to use in your toolbox, doesn’t mean you should use it. You don’t always need to use a big hammer to repair a TV set though sometimes a big hammer just isn’t big enough ;)

Inclusive PageRank Sculpting

Whilst I agree with Michael that nofollow has a purpose and I use it as a tool to achieve desired results, Shari raises some good points.

The Search Engine Land blog doesn’t use nofollow on links, but the “information architecture” is sculpted with a very flat profile. SEL is an information resource, and all pages are given almost equal emphasis.
That may not be true of a niche website, e-commerce site, etc – this is something that has to be determined on a case by case basis.

If you are looking at WordPress SEO in a competitive niche, for specific keywords, having a specialist toolset available is an advantage.
That page is blocked by robots.txt, but still ranks highly for reasonably competitive terms based upon anchor text within plenty of editorial links, and internal linking structure, domain authority etc.

Pages blocked by Robots.txt still accumulate Google Juice.

But you shouldn’t give a baby razor blades to play with, let alone a chain saw.

Less Important Pages Can Be Your Quarterbacks

My sitelinks are currently a total mess, and haven’t been updated since November. I have so many links on my front page that Google has a hard time to determine which pages are most important, and some internal pages have attracted a fair number of external links.

Andy Beard Sitelinks

On many sites, a contact form, privacy policy, advertising page etc might be important to appear on your sitelinks, but less important in standard search results.

Simple Site Structure

Here we have a simple site structure, with 14 landing pages linked to from the front page. Of these pages, we have determined that 6 are unimportant, and 8 we would ideally like to appear in sitelinks.

Simple Group of 14 landing pages linked from the home page

The following are just a few examples of how we could arrange the linking structure.

I should point out the following:-

  • It is much more complex than these simple diagrams because I haven’t included any 3rd tier (or deeper) pages
  • I haven’t included any home links or links from a 3rd 4th etc tier to higher tiers
  • Iterative calculations need to be thought about
  • There are no leaks

Keep Them Out Of The Index

Nofollow the links and use robots meta noindex follow

In this example the pages are so unimportant we want to keep them out of the index, and prevent them soaking up any Google Juice.

We nofollow links to them, and use meta noindex follow on the pages – this keeps them out of the index even if someone else links to them, but allows juice from those links to flow to other pages.
In this situation we should also ensure that there are no external links on the page using plugins such as my nofollow those dupes.

Not So Important Pages

Nofollow links and use sitemap

Here we are thinking about usability – we still want those unimportant pages appearing in a site search or a more specific long tail search, but they are not key search terms.
Maybe some of these pages have an effect on site quality.

We nofollow links from the homepage, and maybe from the sidebar or footer throughout the site, but have a live link from the HTML sitemap.

When You Have Multiple Levels Of Importance

Multiple Tiers of Importance

In this example we have 3 tiers of importance

  • Pages we don’t want in the index or receiving any juice
  • Pages that are important for navigation, but should receive less juice
  • Primary pillar content aimed at competitive keywords

Our least important pages are still linked heavily, but have no juice being passed to them due to nofollow, and have noindex follow to keep them out of the index, but passing juice if they happen to receive a link.

Our low priority pages are gaining links from the HTML sitemap

Our most important pages receive juice from the home page, and possibly site-wide links.

Nofollow Is Not Required

Without Using Nofollow

Nofollow is not a requirement to enhance the flow of Google juice around a site, but it certainly helps.

In this particular case, we have some less important pages that are receiving a lot of jucie, maybe with site-wide links, not just from the home page.

However those pages are not as important as other pages on the site, and would not be our preference to appear as sitelinks.

We allow our unimportant pages to receive the blessing of a front page appearance, but the only links from those unimportant pages are to our most important pages. Juice flows straight through like a 100% efficient conduit.

If we only link to those unimportant pages from the front page, the total amount of juice they receive will be greatly reduced.

No Robots.txt

In these examples I didn’t use robots.txt once.

Robots.txt can be used strategically and in many cases is easier to implement than selective nofollow on links, or noindex follow on pages, but that doesn’t make using it “best practice”.

So Which Method is Best?

None of them, all of them (I just know I will get that question)

SEO is art, you can teach someone to hold a paint brush and all about perspective, but a true masterpiece requires creative talent and a lot of practice.

With my SEO articles I try to go a little further than just showing you how to hold a fishing rod or paint brush

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  1. says

    Well researched and well portrayed. This is quite a read Andy! I really appreciate all of the work you put into outlining this method of getting your landing pages in order. This can be one of the most important thing that you do for your blogsite, and optimizing Google search results is always a good thing ;)

  2. says

    Hey Andy, I do agree and we’ve been careful with PR Sculpting/Sioling (whatever) for years. It is interesting how the nofollow have started this as a hot topic again lately. For me it is merely one more tool for attempting to show Google which pages we consider to be more important than others. It has always been on a site by site basis and nothing has changed that much IMO – this is merely another tool to be used when appropriate….

  3. says

    A lot of times when I consider trying to sculpt the juice I look at the way other sites do it. SEOmoz seems to do a lot, but then again they have a lot of pages. Using the SEO for Firefox plugin definitely makes it easy to tell at a quick glance the way a company is doing it.

    I can see trying to sculpt your pagerank if you have hundreds or thousands of pages but what about smaller sites? For example at this moment my site only has about 110 pages. Maybe 20 main pages and the rest are all blog posts. I would say out of the 90 blog posts, only about 30 of them are really special. Should I go through all the effort to try and send more PR to those 30 special posts and nofollow the other random blog posts?

    To me it doesn’t seem like I would be able to save that much link juice to send to those 30 special blog posts, but maybe I’m wrong.

  4. says


    Yeah when we redesigned the site a couple of weeks ago I suppose it might have been a good idea to reallow search engines once we took the new version live, huh?

    Learn something every day…

  5. says

    What’s funny is the first video we put up on the new design pulled a top 5 google ranking for the term “SMX West 2008″ — with nofollow/noindex turned on.

    Links work.

    • says

      Kurt you are making mistakes in your post, or it will lead readers to make mistakes.
      You try to jumble so many ideas together but it doesn’t lead the user to any complete understanding.

      By using noindex, and the using robots.txt on a duplicate content page, the robot isn’t going to see the noindex, so you end up with a dangling page that is using up Google juice, but can’t pass it on to other internal pages.
      Such pages will also still rank in the search results.

      Then you need to ask yourself why those pages are duplicate in the first place.

      A well designed category page can actually make a better landing page for a search query than a single permalink page.

      Tag pages with very little juice can rank even if they are almost 100% duplicate content other than comments, because they give you another bite at the title tag.
      That is ranking you might not previously have attained.

  6. says

    I just started my site less than a week ago. I am trying to read everything I can on how not to screw it up so I can get a good google search ranking. I feel like I have a small grasp on all of this material but it is a little over my head.

    I wish I could just have you sitting here beside me for like an hour so I could pick ur brain and figure out how to make a great site like yours.

  7. says

    I have internal pages that have good page rank, but aren’t really crucial to my business. They are samples of my works for clients. I’ve used the PR from these to bolster other pages. Would it make sense to just leave these pages as is and use the nofollow on new pages. I’m still trying to get a handle on all this.

    • says

      Adam I target a specific audience with my SEO articles. From the look of the website you link to, Car Spares Factors, you really need to deal with basic things such as titles, descriptions, headings, structured keyword use etc.


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