WordPress Pagerank flow considerations

Matt Cutts in a recent interview said that Google does allow PageRank to flow through noindex pages. If you have pages on your wordpress install that add little value to your readers and you’d like to prevent them from being indexed, then you might want to take that into account.

Eric Enge: Can a NoIndex page accumulate PageRank?

Matt Cutts: A NoIndex page can accumulate PageRank, because the links are still followed outwards from a NoIndex page.

Eric Enge: So, it can accumulate and pass PageRank.

Matt Cutts: Right, and it will still accumulate PageRank, but it won’t be showing in our Index. So, I wouldn’t make a NoIndex page that itself is a dead end. You can make a NoIndex page that has links to lots of other pages.

(emphasis mine)

He goes on to talk about sitemaps to illustrate the example, which is very useful as ultimately, if you want search engines to index your stuff, then you probably want them to index the stuff you actually write and talk about rather than some random page that just has lots of links to your stuff.

I’ve done a quick and dirty mod to my head theme using is_archive and is_category wordpress functions as I’m not realy interested in my archives and cats being indexed. It’s my content that I’d like people to read and have the most ranking juice applied to.

Anyhow, if you add this to your header.php file in your WP theme, then it will do the job. You can make it googlebot specific or replace the word googlebot with the word robots. Do bear in mind however, that other search engines may not apply such directives in similar ways, so you might just want to stick with the googlebot approach.

<?php if (is_category() or is_archive()) {?>
<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex, follow”>
<? }?>

This says to googlebot, do not index this page but follow the links within it. Just open up your theme and put it after the </title> tag line wich can be found inside the <head> section of the html.

Whats the point in doing all of this?

Why am I doing this? Does it even matter?

In a world where lots of people talk about similar things, it is sometimes the small things that make the difference between getting seen or not. This for me, is one of those small things that might make a difference. It’s an experimental thing too. Currently a site:yackyack.co.uk search at Google shows a lot of pages for this domain which really just shouldn’t be there, or lets just say add little value in the grand scheme of my yackyack.co.uk world. It’ll be interesting to see in however long a period whether this little tweak makes any difference to referrals or rankings for desired keyterms.

You’ll lose longtail referals

A downside is, that I’ll get less referrals for long tail searches.
If you look at a typical cat or archive page you’ll see that its full of snippets and titles which when read in their whole make little sense. To a bot that saw these as individual pages, it could well return them for obscure queries, simply because of a certain mix of words that is purely accidental. In most cases, I’d question the value to both me and the reader.

From a grab the traffic and do what you can with it perspective, it’s a different thing entirely and if such an approach is important to you then I really wouldn’t do this.

Rob Watts
Kickstart your business today - Get an SEO Consultation or just talk to Rob about your online aspirations. With over 20 years experience in building traffic he's pretty much encountered most markets and scenarios
Posted on: 9th October 2007, by : Rob Watts

15 thoughts on “WordPress Pagerank flow considerations

  1. Oops I missed these for some reason, sorry for the delay in responding.

    Yes isnt it just? Damn handy to know to..

    Just make sure you don’t do what I did recently and use “no index, follow” instead of “noindex, follow”!

    I curretly havequite a few pages indexed that just shouldn’t really be there

  2. I use something very similar in my blog header. I do things different for each kind of page though – home, page, single, archive, 404 etc.. Question though, why should it follow? My blog currently blocks everything except the home pages links, it’s title links and the next-previous links (so not to dupe content). Why should it follow?

  3. Hi estetik

    They are two separate animals.

    Within the context of the robots meta tag, noindex tells a compilant bot to not index the page it has found.

    nofollow tells the bot to not follow any links on that page.

    So if a page has a tag like meta name = robots content = noindex, nofollow, then that page shouldn’t pass any ‘link juice’ or authority. It is in effect, ‘dead’ to the bot.

    Which is why (in a scenario where you dont want that page in search engine indices) it is a good idea to use noindex, follow especially if you want the links on those pages to allow link juice or pagerank to flow through to other sections of the domain.Whereas iff you use noindex, nofollow then that page effectively becomes a pagerank deadend. If such a page has a lot of external links then from an SEO point of view at least, it becomes a major waste of effort.

  4. Thank you so much Robwatts. Very informative for me. May I ask another question. If I give a link to a site with higher google pagerank from my page (without nofollow – noindex tags) does it add points to my page?

  5. You are welcome, all imho of course 🙂

    In terms of this question. In essence, link out for your users and in context. The short answer is that it helps you both.

    The longer answer is a little bit more fuzzy.

    It is a theoretcial fact that a link out to another site will drain away a factor of pagerank to the linked to site.

    It doesnt hurt to associate your site or page with a relevant on topic page.

    If you have a page about cars and you link out to an authority on cars then you are not doing yourself or your readers a disservice. If you have the same page about cars and link out to something completely unrelated then you may not be helping your site or your readers.

    There is a lot of theory and debate around various algorithms that may be at play when this is calculated, Hilltop, HITS to name but two. Search engines publish a lot of stuff around algorithms, patents etc. It all helps muddy the waters. 🙂

    Of course, the only true way is to determine the answer is to test and compare across a multitude of pages; something which in isolation is not very easy to do.

  6. That’s news to me. Thanks. I’m sure I’ll see big improvements using your ideas. If I allow a link to a crappy site, though, will mine get worse, too?

  7. Daron – some search engines say that you shouldn’t link to bad neighbourhoods. I guess we should take that on board; besides, why would anyone want to link to crap anyways?

  8. Thanks, I’ve always wondered about this. Namely I wanted to noindex my archive pages but I do not want to stop the pagerank flow since they are the only way to reach my posts (homepage > archives > posts) – Blogger sucks in a way that they don’t have categories, and labels are forbidden in robots.txt.

    So I was wondering if NOINDEX,FOLLOW wouldn’t show pages in Google SERPs but still follow links and more importantly, pass PageRank from homepage to posts via noindex,follow archives.

  9. Andrew – that is the current accepted pearl of wisdom. That said, search engineers like to mix things up and obfuscate. Noindex, follow says don’t index these pages but follow the links. We could always test, but it mightn’t be worth the aggravation!

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