What is PageRank Sculpting, and Why Do It?


PageRank Sculpting Isn’t Easy

PageRank sculpting directs the flow of search engine spiders, indexing, PageRank, and other trust and authority assignations by using tools to open and close valves in the pipes of your website’s hierarchy. PageRank sculpting is vital to SEO management of large, dynamic websites, and it helps smaller websites doing redesigns. It is also crucial in dealing with Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. Visibility Magazine’s Fall 2012 edition publishing my complete guide to this highly technical topic. Here, I offer the big picture.

Google’s Matt Cutts noted the importance of PageRank sculpting, being sure to distinguish it from the bogus nofollow sculpting. (For more on this, see http://searchengineland.com/pagerank-sculpting-is-dead-long-live-pagerank-sculpting-21102.)

In PageRank sculpting, it’s important to understand the distinctions among spidering, indexing, and the passing of PageRank. Spidering includes a page in SERPs (search engine results pages), whereas indexing goes further to include the page’s words in the index, which is matched to searches. Pages can be spidered without PageRank assigned, and indexed pages may or may not get PageRank or pass it on to other pages in your website.

PageRank sculpting deploys standard tactics in combinations that should vary to fit each website’s CMS, navigation scheme, and budget. These tools are:

  • The robots.txt file
  • 301 redirects
  • Canonical meta-tags
  • Pagination with rel=“next” and rel=“prev”
  • The noindex meta-tag
  • X-Robots-Tag HTTP header directive
  • XML sitemaps
  • The nofollow meta-tag
  • Advanced and less essential tools (perhaps for a future post here) include cache controls, last-modified headers, the unavailable_after X-robots-tag, and a few others.

In addition to these tools, most of the standard rules of CMS-SEO pertain to PageRank sculpting.

(For an overview of CMS-SEO, see VisibilityMagazine.com/internet_marketing_magazine/previous_issues/html/december-2007 and VisibilityMagazine.com/disc-inc/rob-laporte/cms-and-database-seo-guide).

Choosing and coordinating the best PageRank sculpting tools for your website, and avoiding conflicts among the tools, is one of the most difficult jobs in SEO. There’s a need for an article or ebook which shows various scenarios and pitfalls. A good primer on avoiding conflicts is seomoz.org/blog/robot-access-indexation-restriction-techniques-avoiding-conflicts.

Once learned, it’s difficult to remember which of the tools block or redirect spidering, keyword indexing, and PageRank, and my Visibility Magazine article will serve as a reference. The important take-away in this blog post is simply to know what you don’t know.

The search engines will likely change relevant rules or become better at dealing with sites that have weak or faulty PageRank sculpting, but usually such changes are backward compatible (though recently Google has broken this implied contract with webmasters a few times). So, PageRank sculpting, like its parent categories of CMS-SEO and technical SEO, is an investment where you “write once, and profit in perpetuity.”

Is There an Optimally SEO’d CMS & Ecommerce Platform?

Automating SEO Writing and Attributes within CMS's and Ecommerce Systems

Thomas Jefferson’s copy machine: Is CMS-SEO much better these days?

No, there isn’t.

It amazes me that, given the huge benefit of having a CMS and ecommcerce system automate SEO, no pre-built solution does so optimally.

DISC has reviewed many of the top candidates, and while some are better than others, and most can be coded for much better SEO, none has completely seized this huge opportunity to help businesses implement SEO programmatically.

This post won’t review the candidates, for that would take too many words. I can tell you that CMSs purporting to be ideal are not. A CMS that allows you to edit meta-tags and URLs is not close to enough. An SEO’d CMS should automate these and other SEO attributes, while allowing manual override. A site with several hundred or thousands of pages needs to automate SEO as much as possible, so that you don’t have to manually enter all SEO attributes. (Of course body text must be written manually – though there are ways to automate some body text SEO by using database pulls into SEO’d footer taglines and small paragraphs of recurring, product-variable text on each page). To get an introduction to principles of CMS-SEO, please see my two Visibility Magazine articles at http://www.2disc.com/about-us/press-and-media/visibility-magazine/cms-and-database-seo-guide-part-1/ and  http://www.2disc.com/about-us/press-and-media/visibility-magazine/cms-and-database-seo-guide-part-2/. These articles are about four years old, but the principles remain sound, while only a few details are dated.

DISC is currently building an SEO’d CMS based on osCommerce. This platform has the advantage of years of proven infrastructure, a large community, and some SEO modules that, properly adjusted, enable close to ideal SEO for e-commerce and large websites. True, like all platforms, osCommerce has some drawbacks, but accusing osCommerce of deficiencies is like accusing HTML of deficiencies: it’s not the platform so much as how you wield it.

DISC has SEO’d other content management systems and ecommerce platforms —  the choice of platform depends in large part on your particular needs. All in all, we’re finding osCommerce best for SEO in most cases.

I’d be grateful for your comments and suggestions regarding CMS-SEO platforms. Have you found a CMS that is great for SEO? Are you developing one that you’d like DISC and other firms to consider? Let’s chat (right here on this blog or via Rob@2disc.com or 413-584-6500).

There’s still an enormous opportunity for a firm to market an optimally SEO’d CMS and ecommerce system. DISC is building one now, but if anyone has one or soon will, I’d love to consider it, and perhaps review it here.