Matt Cutts Acknowledges SEO 2.0 Tactic of Linking Out as Ranking Factor (Nofollow is Dead)

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Finally Matt Cutts of Google has acknowledged one of the most used SEO 2.0 tactics, linking out, as an important ranking factor.

Matt Cutts of Google is seldom relevant to the practice of SEO 2.0. In contrast SEO 1.0 practitioners follow his every move like some CIA spies. I ignore him most of the time unless some person I trust links out to him and makes me read his blog. This time Andy Beard did.

So I read the “nofollow is dead” posting which is of course called “PageRank sculpting” to hide the fact that Google admits its failure with the nofollow attribute.

Mr. Cutts attempts to ridicule the SEO industry by blaming it not to have noticed that nofollow has been abandoned a year ago and it hurts your site since then to “PageRank sculpt” your internal links with the “nofollow attribute”.

Like in dictatorships (I lived in one for 10 years) you have to read between the lines when Google or Matt Cutts say something on their blogs.

They always try not give away any more info than possible and to stay ambiguous enough not to get sued. That’s also the reason why Matt Cutts makes the most important announcements on his private cat blog.

Now Mr. Cutts announced that using nofollow on your internal links actually hurts your site after more than a week of wild speculation in the SEO sphere. The PageRank normal links carry just disappears when a link gets nofollowed. Until now webmasters assumed that it stays with the site, even that the remaining pages get more of it. The authority doesn’t get divided between the remaining pages though, it’s gone altogether.

Also now it’s semi-official that nofollow is dead. While Cutts focuses on webmasters who got taken by surprise it’s indeed an admission that Google’s own initiative when they introduced nofollow a few years ago to combat spam failed. Spam still persists but nofollow actually made lots of sites partly or wholly inaccessible for Google’s spiders. This way the nofollow initiative really hurt the backbone of the Web, the link, rendering large parts of the Google algorithm useless. So Google had to adapt a year ago after the quality of results deteriorated too much.

Now where’s the SEO 2.0 linking out part of it? Let’s dissect the passage where Cutts actually mentions it:

Q: Okay, but doesn’t this encourage me to link out less? Should I turn off comments on my blog?
A: I wouldn’t recommend closing comments in an attempt to “hoard” your PageRank. In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.

Anticipating the obvious SEO reaction of people trying to keep their PageRank from “leaking” through the the even “nofollowed” comments by removing the comment section altogether he tries to outline how much Google relies on outgoing links. The crucial part is “parts of our system encourage links to good sites” of course. You can’t trust Cutts to give away everything he knows here so let’s read between the lines:

Only “Parts of our system” “encourage” linking out. This is basically redundant. You don’t need to emphasize that only parts do. We know that the Google algo is not wholly based on linking out so it must be just parts. So why does he say it then? You could argue that he’s just busy to formulate it perfectly but I don’t believe that. As I understand it, Matt Cutts is the public face of Google and his “private” blog is not private at all, it’s part of his assignment to deal with the public.

Also I don’t believe that no lawyers proof read such important posts. It took Cutts several days to reply to the rumors about PageRank sculpting being unsupported so he had enough time for the team of Google lawyers to analyze every syllable.

Call me a “conspiracy theorist” like Cutts already did referring also to other privacy advocates. Then I call you naive: How do you think a billions of dollars corporation like Google will deal with public where million dollars lawsuits can arise from every simple quote?

Also stating “parts of our system” means that it’s an official Google announcement, otherwise he could say parts of “Google’s system”. He by “ours” surely doesn’t mean himself and his cats.

Cutts attempts to downplay the role of linking out while in reality acknowledging that it’s a major ranking factor.

Why is it a major ranking factor? He compares it to linking out to bad neighborhoods. We know for a while already that linking out to spammy or even adult sites can hurt your ranking in Google considerably. The best demonstration of this is when Google notices that your blog has been hacked (and you link to spammy sites because of this) you can lose your position in the Google results almost completely.

Now you might argue that by talking about bad neighborhoods previously Google already told us about the importance of the correct linking out. Now the difference is that he told us to link out to good resources and that it will improve our ranking.

Again, why is linking out to good resources a major ranking factor? Well, go figure:

The Web and Google’s algo is still based on links, the more links the better.

In recent years people more and more attempted to keep PageRank on their sites thus not linking out anywhere unless they get something out it. So Google can’t determine the quality of sites based on the incoming links anymore.

So the more you link out to good resources the more you help Google to identify them. So Google identifies you as a new tenant of the good neighborhood. After a while the old neighbors start linking out to you and by then you got accepted as an authority site. You don’t link out, you’re an outcast. Google treats you accordingly.

So linking out actually betters your ranking instead of hurting you by “PageRank leaking” many SEO 1.0 conservatives fear. Using nofollow on your comments is now worse than ever, it now hurts both your site and the websites of your commenters. Spread link love now! Comment on my blog, add links to your opinion on that topic!