The Art of Google PageRank Sculpting & Five Sculpting Tips

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Michael Gray delivered an excellent presentation as part of the Bot Herding panel at SMX Advanced 2008. His discussion focused on the topic of PageRank sculpting, and more specifically – how important it should be on your list of priorities as an SEO.

Agreeing with much of Michael Gray‘s thoughts on the topic may make my stance a bit watered down. I’m confident though that the underlying message of his panel bears repeating for those unable to attend.

A Question of Available Resources
To get us started on the topic of Google PageRank Sculpting, let’s ask ourselves one question… Is PageRank Sculpting something I should invest my time in?

If you have nothing better to do and a lot of free time to invest, I would say that PageRank sculpting is a wonderful idea. The problem for many optimizers though is that there are plenty of other things to deal with that tend to become more important or relevant to success.

Michael Gray got a rise from the audience when he asked the question:

Why don’t people air condition their mailboxes?

When the laughs died down a bit, the message began to resonate. I hope it got other folks in the audience thinking the same way it did for me.

Gray’s response to his own question was powerful.

“You don’t (air condition your mailbox) because unless you have money to throw away, it’s not a good use of your available resources”.

I do understand that PageRank sculpting (and similarly, Siloing) should be part of a complete optimization program. For years though we have seen less powerful pages (in terms of PR value) ranking more prominently than their neighbors.

Believing that this is still true I cannot endorse PageRank sculpting as a critical element to any SEO program. For me that simply forces sculpting further down my list of things to do. It is however something that should be done, provided you have the time to invest to do it right.

Five Google PageRank Sculpting Tips
Let’s take a quick look at some of the many tips Michael presented to the audience. Assuming that you do in fact decide to sculpt PageRank, keep these tips in mind.

  1. Spend Time Wisely — Effective PageRank sculpting takes time and efficient planning. Be sure to devise a game plan before jumping in and leaving efforts incomplete. Nothing is worse than leaking PageRank to irrelevant pages.
  2. Sculpt as Early as Possible – Sculpting while a site is being built is easier, and has a more immediate impact as link development takes place. That won’t always be possible, but the earlier you sculpt, the better.
  3. Be Attentive – Sculpting isn’t a process that you can go about casually. You need to invest complete and undivided attention to sculpt to your best abilities. Stay focused!
  4. Sculpt with Multiple Tools – Do not allow yourself to rely on any one medium. Use your robots.txt file, META noindex tags and other measures like javascript when needed to shape your efforts from multiple angles. This will ensure that Google (and other engines operating on similar principals) understand your efforts both completely and immediately.
  5. Sculpt Your Environment – Make sure that you account inbound links and any quirky problems that Google may have with your site. PageRank comes in from multiple sources, so do not assume that sculpting the flow from your homepage is enough to get the job done right.

Google PageRank Sculpting Remains an Art
If there was one takeaway I had from this presentation it was that truly sculpting Google PageRank remains an art.

There is an abundance of preparation that should take place. And, as you become more familiar with your tools and the mediums to work with – you will of course become more proficient and skilled in the art itself.

As is normally the case with any art, the audience’s perception of your work is undetermined. One site may have a benefit for sculpting their About Us pages (think reputation management), whereas most others would not. It’s the task of Google in this instance to sit back and look at the entire composition of work to understand the full story.

If you work at it enough, you develop a reputation as a master artist in the trade of sculpting Google PageRank. If that’s what you aspire to become, have at it. I hope this article gets you started.

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  • Michael Martinez

    PageRank sculpting is a fool’s errand. You cannot measure PageRank and you cannot determine where it will flow with a useful level of precision.

    The sooner the SEO community lets go of this mythical nonsense, the better.

  • Alphane Moon

    I agree with Michael Martinez. PageRank Sculpting belongs in the same category as “Google is using an LSI algorithm”. File under: Myth.

  • Some Guy

    Pagerank sculpting?

    Although page rank is of some importance, as you said in your post, there are pages witrh low PR that do well in the SERPs compared to the higher ranking webpages

    I think a large number of internet marketers are one man shows.

    The ensuing restrictions in time makes page rank sculpting, in my view, something that does not even begin to feature on my list of priorities

    Thanks for the interesting post

  • r

    I wouldn’t bother with PR sculpting. For starters you could be working from a tool bar figure that’s either massively out of date or just plain wrong, and that’s even if there was any benefit from it which there isn’t really since the SERP works mainly on relevance.

    This is what Matt Cutts had to say on the subject at SMX 2008:

    Matt Cutts: “Whether people should bother with PageRank sculpting. I reiterated Shari Thurow’s point that if you design your information and site architecture well, it’s not something that you need to worry about at all. This was considered an advanced conference, so I didn’t shut the door on the idea completely, but I did try to get across that there’s an opportunity cost to sculpting and that the vast majority of people would get more benefit from spending their time working on making their site more compelling(so they got more links/PageRank) rather than obsessing about how to move around the PageRank that they have. ”

    And that’s straight from the horses mouth, so to speak. I agree with the posters above, it’s not even on my list of priorities, I’d rather use the time more productively and trust that my semantic site architecture is mostly doing the job for me anyways.

  • Halfdeck

    I often totally disagree with Graywolf but man he’s got a way with words.

    “Use your robots.txt file, META noindex tags and other measures like javascript when needed to shape your efforts from multiple angles.”

    Not quite Eric. If you disallow META noindexed pages, for example, that META tag never gets read, therefore the META noindex will not work and the page may still show in the SERPs.

    If you robots.txt disallow a URL, it will still accumulate PageRank, so you’re still flowing juice to useless pages.

    META noindex,follow is an option and the other failsafe approach, of course, is rel nofollow.

    Before deciding to sculpt PageRank, run a* – if that returns less than 1,000, do not bother, because the site probably doesn’t have enough “play-doh” to play with. Instead, I would work on creating new content that will attract another batch of fresh backlinks. Sometimes its better to make $10,000 than to spend time figuring out how to go from 5% to 6% interest on a $100,000 nest egg.

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  • Pushpendra

    for me,getting traffic on my websites is more important than page rank. If my pages are in serp with 0 page rank,I m happy.