Google's "Operation BENDOVER" Exposed – Nofollow & PageRank Sculpting

“When you have ruled out the possible, whatever remains, however horrifying, will be more entertaining.”

Matt Cutts made some comments about PageRank sculpting in general, and Google’s handling of the nofollow attribute on internal links, last week at SMX Advanced in Seattle. Here is my report on those events, and my conclusion about the shocking truth behind the “smoke and mirrors.”

Click play to learn the truth about Matt Cutts, PageRank sculpting and nofollow:

Here’s a link Leslie Rohde’s less entertaining but more informative review of the matter. I apologize to everyone. I think the “Scenario #3″ Leslie describes is actually quite plausible.

It’s also quite possible that there’s something to the “null hypothesis” description from Barry Welford.

P.S. If anyone doesn’t get the joke, it’s probably my fault.


Update from Matt – doesn’t add total clarity at first: But the comments he added seem to indicate that Leslie’s scenario (it doesn’t evaporate, it goes off to the rest of the index) nailed it.


Seriously… if you’re trying to “sculpt” PageRank don’t bother using nofollow.


In honor of the iPad and how much that rocks, now using Google’s cool HTML5 video code to support “all” video-capable browsers (I hope… tested in IE8, Chrome, Safari, Firefox) – Firefox people, you’re still getting Flash video because I am *not* going to do Ogg Theora versions of every video. Tell ‘em to license H.264 like everyone else, ok?

80 thoughts on “Google's "Operation BENDOVER" Exposed – Nofollow & PageRank Sculpting

  1. lmao

    Dan, I aspire to make video as equally informative and entertaining as you.

    But seriously you might be hanging around Andy Jenkins too much lately. You have to cut that out before you completely lose your mind and your hair goes all wacky.

  2. Nice to see you blogging here again, Dan, after your hiatus earlier in the year.

    BTW: is stealing your content so as to trackback spam ppl. Might wanna nip that in the bud, before folks mistake the real stompernet for that junk.

  3. Awesome content – Thanks, Dan. Much easier to explain when not limited to 140 characters, yes? :)

    Oh, and I like how Jerry chose not to mention HIS photo (in the spam can) . . .

  4. Nice video Dan. No doubt you would like some of the ‘BENDOVER’ spare PageRank to flow to it! Hope it is on YouTube too…

    With regard to Matt’s comments, etc. Why would Google be so silly? PageRank (or BackRub, etc.) and how it distributes trust, etc. is the main stay of the whole structure they have. ‘Losing’ PageRank because of ‘nofollow’ would be plain daft. Even if it was an error when they put together the algo for when ‘nofollow’ came about, it would have been simple to close the loop very quickly. Even if the weight doesn’t just flow to the ‘dofollow’ links equally, it would just stay with the parent page, wouldn’t it?

  5. Hey Dan. Funny stuff!

    Had posted previously about the silo / link sculpting we had undertaken several weeks ago. Rolled back those changes last Tuesday and on Friday saw us make jumps for several key phrases on our home page in googles SERPs. Though I’m sure it’s just a coincidence :)

  6. It is the sarcastic proof that Google is deliberately searching a final ultimate theory which will bind General PageRank Relativity theory with lately revealed Quantum PageRank theory. I suggest visualizing links as tiny one dimension oscillating strings. Someone had to make a scientific conclusion about Pagerank at last. That’s unfortunately me :)

  7. So I read Matt’s latest explanation and I just have more questions. Are you going to do an update after his latest comments.


  8. Yes – an update to SEO Fast Start is coming in a week or two, also here on the blog before that. My advice in the video is the same – unless something has happened to cause you to react, don’t overreact.

    Mailing my subscribers right now. :D

  9. You made my day Dan. I love your disclaimer at the end of each video. What was that about staying in school? Aren’t we all still in school in a way – you gotta be to get this stuff.

  10. @Huh – if you haven’t seen it, you don’t want to. Do NOT Google it.

    Thanks, Nick – looking forward to working with you.

    @Cliff – the disclaimers are something I always have fun with – even if the video is serious. This stuff is like going to school every day.

  11. Funny, the vast majority of my blogs are “nofollow” free and I’ve been running them that way from the start. Spam is done away with by Akismet and me. Spam comments, even if not caught by Akismet are not posted. Simple enough. Lol, blogs have so damn many links I’ve never tried to do much PR sculpting.

    Non cms managed sites are a different story. In general privacy, contact, etc are no followed and everything else is followed. Simple enough to remove those links from everywhere but the front page of the site. Problem solved.

    While goggle may send the most traffic, most people forget that google traffic is not always the most productive traffic.

    Lol, now I have to wait for the new SEO2009.

    BTW, the video is not working.

  12. Nah, got the latest flash. When I put the video url in the address bar I have no problem watching it but when trying to watch from this page it doesn’t play. Your videos have always played before today. NBD, just thought you’d want to know.

    Oh, the video was pretty funny, too.

  13. MSIE 6 and XP Pro SP 3 and all of my software is updated to latest levels. Just a blank black box the size of the video.

    Almost has to be something on the page as I can see the video if I paste the url in the address bar.

  14. I have to read it, Gab – doing so allows me to claim that I am an SEO expert. :D Says so right at the top of every page. Most people go their whole life and never “grok” that side of branding.

    BTW – just a little advice from someone who has been there and done that… no matter how many times they offer you a job, keep saying no.

  15. Hmm methinks a little more thought could have gone into this presentation.

    Firstly page rank evaporation – there has always been page rank evaporation via robots.txt blocked areas, password protected pages and dead end pages with no outbound links.

    A little more page rank evaporation is not going to hurst the algorithm or make any major changes in rankings.

    Secondly ‘Iteration of the page rank calculation until it tends towards a steady figure’ – not sure how much processor power this would take but I don’t think the world has that many processors yet. – Think about it more as an ongoing iteration.

    Thirdly – Given that the original premise for nofollow was to stop the passing of page rank to untrusted pages (such as blog comment links or forum signature links), and there should be no way that an internal link is untrusted, why Google would ever have taken any notice of a nofollow on an internal link really beggars belief.

  16. 1) Good to see you here, Ian. Yes, that’s true, sort of – although with robots.txt for example those URLs can accumulate PageRank, even though there’s no content (other than anchor text) in the index.

    2) I was trying to inform, entertain, and not spend a whole lot of time re-explaining PageRank to the audience. Most of us can recognize the simplification for what it is.

    3) If you mean “Google should just pretend you didn’t use nofollow” on internal links, I agree that this would make more sense than the most recent change.

  17. a little extra note though – internal nofollow could make sense on sites that have user-generated content etc – where you literally might not want to “vouch” for that page with the two girls and the cup and all that…

  18. 1. In answer to your first point – the way Matt Cutts said that the page rank would be divided following the new model – (i.e still dividing the page rank through all the links and then only passing to the followed links) is equivalent in terms of a page rank dead end.

    2. I agree and it was entertaining. (There are always isues with some people reading and understanding and some reading and not understanding, but still passing on the information as definitive)

    3. Agree on the user generated content areas but this was always the case before nofollow too – and the reason for implementing nofollow was not about those user generated content sites.

  19. Not often I get to laugh out loud while getting educated!
    Nice job, Dan, as usual, and I’m sorry I didn’t seek you out to say “hi” in Seattle. Ya know, I really think there’s something to this BENDOVER… I’ve gotta run and get a FlipCam now ;)

  20. Hey Scott, I guess we missed each other up there. Wow.

    I spent a bunch of my “free time” in the hotel room doing webinars for other people’s classes, but at least I got to hit a lot of sessions. SMX Advanced was the best search conference I’ve ever attended – still processing an entire notebook of takeaways.

    • I just finished reading the final final final… now it goes to PDF production where they add all the hyperlinks back in. Should be released some time tomorrow (Monday June 29).

  21. Dan, If Matt has confirmed Leslie’s theory that PageRank of no follow links doesn’t disappear but simply goes back to the index, then why would you want to link any internal pages with it? I saw an article on Stompernet specifically saying that you should do exactly that, use it on all non-money pages. I did this back in June 09 and haven’t seen any changes, even though some have claimed to. I have a feeling it isn’t help and possibly could be hurting as I’m only losing PR as it is going to back to Google’s index?


  22. Where’s the beef? I was entertained but got much more on your posts than this vid. Brings me back to the days of going natural from stompernet.

  23. I’ve been following the whole no follow debate.

    I have a serious quandry… I have a site with a lot of affiliate links localised on a group of pages which it is important for bots to spider.

    I read that javascript links are also letting link juice flow…so how do I prevent all these affiliate links leaching page rank from my site?


  24. Dan, I know this is a little off topic, but what are your thoughts? Linking to your homepage using various keywords in all of your articles. So each article on your site, links back to the homepage using one or two different keywords some place in the body text?

  25. Does anyone have any idea why this site is still well ranked and has all of their pages indexed? has on all of their pages! I thought that meta tag tells the search engines NOT to index that page & follow the links, which is on all pages of the site. I’m confused…

  26. Curtis, check the Google cache on pages – thats not the tag they got last time they visited the pages :)

    So either they they are not serving this tag to Google (which I doubt is the case) or they just implemented the tag recently (which is much more likely)

  27. They have had it there that I know of since early June (may have been there for months). Google’s cache of the homepage is July 1 and it says this meta name=”ROBOTS” content=”NOODP,INDEX”. That doesn’t make sense, they have something different, but google then interprets it as “NOODP,INDEX”???

  28. That prevents the affiliate from getting any juice, Mikkel, but unless I missed a memo, won’t save it for the rest of the site – it goes to that blocked URL.

  29. Lol, I’ve followed this thread with lots of interest but I think I can explain it all. This may particularly interest Muratos. As everyone knows Quantum Theory says there is an alternate universe for every possibility that exists. Therefore we all have all the number one listings and make millions in an alternate universe. Rather than worrying about google we should be trying to find a way to the alternate univerese where we have number ones for everything. ;)

    I find this next bit interesting but confusing. I open three windows to the net everyday and google is the homepage. Today two of the three came up with the usual PR 10 in the toolbar but one came up with a PR 4. So I refreshed, multiple times and it stayed a PR 4. Refreshed the other 2 and they stayed PR 10.

  30. Why does Google not surprise me? It seems every time Matt Cutts speaks or breathes we (seo geeks, service providers, followers, students etc.) have “deer caught in the headlight” moment. I have been following this “hoop-la” for sometime and am still amazed at how much people still don’t get.

    Bottom line is, we are all looking to work within standards of the system. Some use white hat some use black hat and some just do. (Natural organic is still our bread & butter but that’s another topic) Whether you are an SEO professional or just someone who wants to learn it’s refreshing to see experts like you sharing the love.

    I have to add Dan I am still trying to masticate the last “hoop-la” At the You & A conference with Matt Cutts, Cutts admitted that Google profiles SEO’s! Of course, this was a few weeks ago, so you can read about it all over the net. Or maybe you were there. Regardless, what this boils down to is don’t sweat the small stuff, as far as I am concerned Google is not the only Search Engine I depend on…

    In conclusion until I hear more definitive “standards” on what “intent” or how the hell PR works and who cares etc. I can add this video to my growing list of Google + Bully = Boogle. Thanks for your great insight.

  31. This is a great video – I love the humor angle you took with this.

    I did have a great take-away from this and the Matt Cutts response: Structure your site and your content for your audience. It’s okay to put some best practices in place but over-engineering your site will ultimately be a waste of your time.

  32. Are you guys talking about the noindex, nofollow tag on My Wedding Favors, or all of the nofollow attributes on every link? (When the page is viewed by a regular user – aka, not Googlebot).

    I understand why he shows a noindex, nofollow to everyone but Googlebot (protect against hijacking), but why the nofollow attributes? Is it so that if anyone scrapes the site, their scraped version will be all nofollows?

    Been wondering about this for months now, and this is the closest I’ve gotten to any kind of reason why.

  33. Chris, if you read the source code, they don’t have nofollow on every link. If you look at the page with SearchStatus or something, it will highlight all the links as “nofollow” because of the nofollow in the robots meta tag.

  34. Aha, I never took the time to actually look. Just saw half the page turn red and thought they must’ve nofollowed everything. Didn’t know that SearchStatus/SEO for Firefox would do that when the nofollow meta tag is used.

    Thanks for pointing that out. Been sitting in the back of my mind for a few months, now . . .

  35. So, if I understand the video and Matt’s post then the fact that I have used my URL in this comment is actually pointless as Google only looks down about a couple of hundred links on any page.

    ‘Course if I don’t understand anything, a very real possibility, there might be some value even with a nofollow link.

    At the very least some video on YouTube gains some PR love, hope it’s one of mine but that would be too much to hope for.

    Hang on, maybe that’s the answer, make the URL to the YouTube video just so Google knows which one should get all that extra link juice. Yes, that’s it. Now how do I spam that…

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