When it comes to onsite optimization, something Google won’t penalize you for, it can get confusing if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing to make your best pages appear in the search engine results pages as opposed to the pages that don’t really matter. It’s even more confusing for people who use WordPress. Let me see if I can help.
As far as I can tell, Google is the only search engine that actually pays attention to the noindex meta tag. I’ve seen pages with it in place showing up on other search engines, but not on Google.
This meta tag tells the search to do exactly what it implies – no indexing of that page (or post). Why would you want to do that? Isn’t getting as many pages indexed as possible the ultimate goal? In a word, no.
The only pages you really want indexed are content pages. Supporting pages like those for authors, categories, tags and date archives are not content pages – they merely link content pages together in a structure to make content pages easy to find, for both search engines and human visitors.
Other pages that shouldn’t be indexed are other kinds of internal link pages, like my Article Archives page. External link pages are a different story and I’ll leave it at that. Not having internal link pages indexed won’t hurt your website and they may not help either, but you have to consider why you might not want them indexed.
Think about monetizing content pages. Do you really want non-content pages competing with your content pages in the search engine results pages? Trust me, I’ve seen it happen so many times it’s ridiculous. One non-content page can make the difference between a content page appearing on page 1 or page 2 of the search results and you make more money on page 1 than you do on page 2.
The noindex meta tag has nothing to do with the nofollow tag. Just because you don’t want particular pages indexed doesn’t mean you don’t want them followed. On the contrary, you want all internal links followed regardless of where they are.
The nofollow relationship tag, I believe, was created by Google to combat comment spam on blogs way back when. Of course, it doesn’t stop the comment spam – it just makes the comment spam links virtually worthless.
Later on, Google decided that any paid links should have the nofollow relationship tag included to prevent artificial boosting of target links.
The nofollow meta tag is a little different than the relationship tag. It tells the search engine not to follow any links on that page whatsoever. Right now, the only reason I can think of doing that is when you don’t want your website to be discovered by search engines.
Link sculpting is an ancient SEO practice that doesn’t mean a lot these days. Google used to pass the link juice from nofollow links to the remaining “follow” links on a page, but it doesn’t do that anymore. If you use the nofollow meta tag, you practically destroy a small percentage of your page’s link juice. It goes into la-la land.
Another, better way of controlling the juice is by creating silo pages. Take a look at any of my featured subjects in the sidebar and you’ll see what I mean. The best way, in my opinion, of using them is to link all the articles to the silo page, and then list all the articles on the silo page. But it’s not really about the juice.
Silo pages are a better user experience because you control the relevance, not some automatic archive page generation mechanism.
Does any of this matter?
This is only my opinion and it’s based on a few years of watching how my own pages and posts appear in the search engine results pages. I think my method of using the noindex meta tag is the only thing that really matters in the long run and that’s only because I want my content pages ranking above or instead of non-content pages.
Silo pages provide a better user experience than just a bunch of links in the sidebar pointing to individual pages. Not only that, but it reduces the amount of internal links necessary to accomplish the same task.