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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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