I recently read an article by Matt Cutts about PageRank sculpting, and the main point that stuck out:
I would recommend the first-order things to pay attention to are 1) making great content that will attract links in the first place, and 2) choosing a site architecture that makes your site usable/crawlable for humans and search engines alike.
For example, it makes a much bigger difference to make sure that people (and bots) can reach the pages on your site by clicking links than it ever did to sculpt PageRank.
Creating great content will attract links, and that combined with an effective site architecture should be more significant in boosting search engine rankings than PR sculpting. But I think this theory is (somewhat) flawed. There are a number of reasons that good content and effective site architecture would never be enough. The competition may have more content and/or more resources to develop content, they could be older and already well linked to, and they probably have an effective site architecture in place. Bottom line, in the most competitive markets, which would include keywords like dedicated servers and managed hosting, first order approaches are definitely not enough to get an edge over the competition.
I recently wrote an article about the changes to the nofollow attribute, and in summary, stated that while I’m always looking for an edge, the nofollow tag doesn’t appear to be that edge. In my specific case, this is probably fairly accurate; I can add content, I can improve site architecture, and I can definitely address some of the performance issues for the site. These are all more significant and will have more return (compared to the amount of time invested) on improved site rankings.
Why am I trying to clarify my post? The individuals likely to read the article are probably in a similar position to my own, and should be focusing their efforts where it’s more likely to have a significant impact. However, with such a hot topic, I’d also like to avoid any negative backlash and state clearly that while PR sculpting is not something that most site owners need to know or worry about, and although the rules surrounding PR sculpting have now changed, it can still be used to effectively direct users, search engines, and link juice to appropriate content.