Backlinks are such a vital part of SEO that it can be easy to forget the links you have complete control over – your internal links within your own website. Internal links aren’t as powerful as backlinks, but they can still be valuable. If structured well, your internal links can point Google’s spiders to the right areas of your site, getting your pages to rank faster and better.
This brings us to link sculpting. Link sculpting was once a popular technique with SEO professionals, and is still in favour with a few. Some SEOs, however, say that link sculpting is not only unhelpful but can damage your site.
What is link sculpting?
Link sculpting is all about directing the power of your pages within your site. When you obtain a link from another site, you do so in the hope that some of that page’s ranking will rub off on you. When you link between your pages, you’re essentially doing the same thing. Some links within your site, however, don’t have this intention; they’re utilitarian links, the ones you need to allow site users to get around. Other types of links that you send out to other sites are also thought to draw on your PageRank, otherwise referred to as PR.
Some search engine optimisation gurus recommend that you apply a nofollow tag to these latter utilitarian types of links. This prevents Google from taking note of the link, meaning that Google’s attention is more available for the important links.
Why wouldn’t this be a great idea?
It does sound like a good idea to sculpt your links, but it isn’t necessarily so. Some SEO experts suspect that nofollows erode the PageRank of the site sending the links. This taps into the ‘spending PageRank’ theory, which says that your PageRank is diminished whenever you link.
There are many search engine optimisation professionals who have discounted this theory now, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t reasons against link sculpting. Another reason is that the use of the nofollow tag is connected to underhanded dealing in some areas.
There is yet another fairly strong argument against link sculpting in that Google doesn’t recommend it. Although Google’s recommendations aren’t always the best advice for site owners to follow (!), Google being out for itself to a certain extent, it always pays to at least take heed of what Google’s gurus say. Read more about whether to use nofollow links at SearchEngineLand.
So, never nofollow, then?
This isn’t the case, either. The nofollow tag can be a useful tool at times, although it should be used with care.
There are a few options available to make your internal linking work a little harder for you:
- Use links selectively. It’s possible to overdo it with internal links. Instead of linking to every possible page from a popular page, choose to link pages that are related in topic.
- Design site navigation wisely. A lot of site navigation has a fair amount of cross-linking. A wiser approach would be to set out distinct paths from major categories. A good SEO agency should be able to help you with this.
- Be watchful. As sites grow, links can become broken. One sure way to confuse search engine spiders is to leave them unfixed – so be sure to check this regularly.
Link sculpting is one of those things that is really up to you and your own opinion. If you’re unsure, then take advice. It’s a good idea to research widely if you’re interested in sculpting with links, and always come back to what will serve your site’s users.