For the longest time, crafty SEOs have been hiding internal links in HTML button elements to manipulate rankings, blocking PageRank from crawling non-essential pages like those containing information about terms of service and privacy. This practice dubbed the Post/Redirect/Get (PRG) pattern, is viewed by many web owners as a viable tactic for hiding links – it’s even been referred to as “the new nofollow.”
But does it work as effectively as some SEOs suspect? The answer is yes: It turns out Google can’t see links hidden in button elements.
In a recent Google SEO office-hours hangout, Google’s John Mueller all but confirmed that the PRG pattern does exactly what SEOs think it does (without explicitly mentioning the term “PRG pattern.”)
In response to a question about whether it negatively affects SEO for internal linking if an anchor tag only contains a button tag, Mueller replied:
“So, at least as far as I understand it, by default, a button element on a page is essentially tied to a form element.
“But, essentially, Googlebot won’t click on these buttons to see what happens.
“So, we would not see that there’s a link associated to another URL within your website.”
Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti reported on the somewhat surprising admission, emphasizing that he, personally, does not endorse the tactic. While Google makes no secret of its disapproval for hidden text and links, Montti points out that some SEOs have legitimate reasons for wanting to use this not-so-legitimate tactic for hiding links. These include:
- eCommerce store owners trying to prevent Google from having to deal with the multiple URLs often generated for the same product page
- Web developers who want to prevent the resubmission of a form caused by reloading a page
- Web owners who want to stop the PageRank algorithm from flowing to pages that don’t contribute to rankings. This practice of limiting which pages receive PageRank is known as “PageRank sculpting.”
So, we have confirmation that PageRank sculpting does what SEOs have hoped it does – but is it even worth it? The fact is, trying to distribute PageRank among internal pages through PageRank sculpting will never be as powerful for SEO as a link from another high-authority website – or an excellent internal linking structure – would be. In this case, just because it can be done doesn’t necessarily mean it should be done.
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