The Purported Death of PageRank Sculpting

During the recent SMX-Advanced conference in Seattle – which I was not able to attend (I do occasionally have to work for a living) – there was a confusion of reports of comments attributed to Matt Cutts that resulted in the provocative (outlandish even?) conclusion that nofollow no longer works to sculpt PageRank, but in fact now causes PageRank to "evaporate" instead.

Dan Thies was at the show, witnessed the entire sordid ordeal and has editorialized on the matter in the way that only Dan can in a post he calls Operation BENDOVER (Huh? You’ll just have to watch the video!).

Completely lacking as I am in Dan’s sense of humor, not to mention a suitable picture to trump the one he uses of me, I’ve instead resorted to my old standby — Math. So for the real PageRank computations that show why this reported obit just does not "add up" see The Math of PageRank Sculpting. And if you like that kind of thing, you’ll really dig the included PageRank algorithm written in 25 lines of Perl.

Finally, with humor and math taken care of, be sure to read Andy Beard’s take on the death of PageRank Sculpting, but just remember that the real point of most "news" in SEO is the humor.


  1. We still don’t know what is happening on the other end, the dampening.
    July last year there were some changes I saw on some tag pages which could be related or just confused data enough not to see anything.
    With big sites, there are a lot of pages in the index, so if G is redistributing, they catch more juice.

    Need to write something about domain level dampening as an alternative to domain authority theories.

    I am intrigued by Pebble

  2. Ed Wickes says:

    What is the latest on this, is this still correct? Page PR sculpting is still working? (Feb2010). At least it isn;t going to do any harm I imagine.

  3. PageRank Sculpting is unchanged, just the way we do it maybe has. Using nofollow, which is by far the simplest method, is now open to question (experiments frankly differ in their outcomes) so rolling back to the Javascript techniques I introduced in 2003 starts to make sense again — as tedious and error prone as they are. 🙁

  4. Thanks for clearing that up Leslie. I assume that your Named Anchor Technique will also work as well as your JS solutions?

    Quick off topic question please, I have 10 domains I am going to use for links to point towards my money site. What should I do, have seperate IP addresses for them all, or can I host them on the same server? I’m on a shoestring budget! Thank you very much

  5. First question, no, this should not work. The PageRank graph is computed over the space of document IDs, not URLs, and the examples you use all reference the same document.

    As to your other question, the answer varies tremendously based on why you are doing this in the first place. If you would be concerned if Google found out, then yes, different IPs and whois info, but look carefully at why you are doing that. In all but a very few (highly competitive) markets, this is not the best way to build sustainable traffic.

    The best reason to do this “in the old days” was to reuse content across multiple domains without the reuse appearing as the obvious search-engine-spam it very obviously was. Now, content is so cheap and the spam filters so much smarter (but by no means perfect) that it is almost always better to just build more content.

  6. OK thanks for the info about the pagerank graph, it would only work then for combining overhead pages, but not affect page rank scuplting? I’ll have to fish out some JS info seobraintrust on the proper way to do this (by the way how can I become a member-it doesn’t seem to be taking new members?!)

    As far as why I have the different domains is because they are domains with variations on the keywords that I have found in my keyword research “” “” etc. I want to make the ten sites blogs/article sites and put unique content on each of them with natural links in the content (either manually created articles or I am presently checking out some software at the moment to spunn articles). I just don’t fancy having to spend US$10 per month on hosting packages for each domain. What do you think of this as (a small part of-maybe 10%) a linkbuilding campaign? If I have 10 sites and they have one link to the money site a week then that will be 520 links which must be worth something?! Thanks

  7. As I write this we are tweaking our marketing funnel for The SEO BrainTrust, but there is a page you can go to order. There are two options, a lower touch membership at $97/month and the full membership at $297/month:
    In terms of your multiple domains, hosting should cost you more like $2/month, not $10, and the domain name itself is a very small part of ranking so the keyword rich domain names are really not getting you all that much to start with. Finally, it is not clear to me that 10 different feeder sites pointing at your money site is a very good thing to do even with unique content unless these sites also link to enough other domains that the linking arrangement is not viewed as simply a game.
    Plus, keep in mind that the ranking benefit of one of these sites made 10 times bigger is very much the same as the 10 smaller sites you describe especially when they are all hosted at the same IP and are clearly related to a single money site.
    What you are describing is a classic mini-net strategy and while variations on that approach still do have application, most of the simple cases are too easy for Google to detect to be worthwhile.

  8. Thanks for the reply and details Leslie I will seriously consider SEO brina turst membership. So the advice you gave about combining overhead pages into one page in stomping the search engines 2 in stompernet is now not relevant (let’s leave the whole PR sculpting issue aside)?.
    As far as the 10 similar sites, a mini network seems to be what Brad Fallon has done with myweddingfavors, cornerstorkbabygifts, toocutebabygifts but checking the ips these sites are all on different ips.

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