Questioning NoFollow

February 14, 2007

Here’s a pretty good argument over at the Search Engine Journal about why the “nofollow” tag might not be all that.

The original idea for this tag was to reduce comment spam. Here’s the take from Google, and the objective viewpoint at Wikipedia.

On a related note, we have Marketing Pilgrim that’s a bit miffed about Wikipedia’s recent move towards using “nofollow” on all its external links to reduce spam. He’s thinking that people should use “nofollow” on all links to Wikipedia in protest. But the ultimate hope is that Wikipedia returns to not using “nofollow”.

In the case of this blog, I know for sure they’re being used in the page urls left by commenters. Meanwhile, 99.99% of the spammy comments are being caught by Akismet. All the comments that do get through, they’ve been legitimate and from nice people with actual sites and blogs that deserve a friendly link.

I’m a bit wary of disabling “nofollow” on trackback links however, as those are kind of random and I can’t really control who links to this blog.

But I’m thinking I’m going to do a test today, and remove “nofollow” site-wide. Here’s a WordPress plug in that I just activated, that essentially makes this experiment a one-step process. And if I see a noticeable increase in lame spam, I’ll end the experiment.

Note: Peter Davis has a good post summarizing my thinking in a different way: by removing “nofollow” it’s a statement that I vouch for the quality of the links on this blog. I feel comfortable with that because I definitely look at all the comments and remove the spammy ones that get through Akismet. I don’t have that so many comments that it’s impractical for me to be an editor in that regard – one thankful aspect of having low traffic! 

Additional Reading: WebProNews, Scobleizer, 901am

Comments

  1. Podophile says:

    While I agree that nofollow doesn’t make much sense for a blog with actively filtered/moderated comments, I don’t think there’s anything necessarily evil about it. It seems like the SEO community are the ones making the biggest fuss about nofollow, as it makes comment spam a much less effective tool to game the search engines with. I’m not quite sure why anyone else should have an issue with it.

  2. webomatica says:

    It’s one of those things that the SEO folks talk about, and it starts filtering down to us bloggers. I’m interested as wordpress has nofollow on commenter URLs by default – and I’m looking for ways to encourage more folks to comment.

  3. engtech says:

    nofollow tag is only good for the search engines… doesn’t do anything to prevent spam, it’s just an attempt to prevent spam from contributing to search.

    The WordPress guys were some of the early proponents of it 2 years ago, but Matt says now that it doesn’t do anything: http://photomatt.net/2007/01/22/wikipedia-nofollows/

  4. Peter Davis says:

    One trap that this might lead to, though, is if an SEO posts a useful comment, but includes a spammy link with it. Quality content doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality links. Most spammers aren’t that clever, but some are. And, then you have the issue of whether a good site you’ve linked will always stay good.

    Thanks for referencing me. :)

  5. webomatica says:

    Good point… I guess it just means looking at each comment and the link in it, and probably even visiting said site. But yeah, as you say, who knows if the site in question is legit and how can I really tell after just a cursory scan?

  6. Mike says:

    I read most of what’s posted here, but only comment if I’ve got something to say. I’m not sure how you can really encourage more people to post, unless you (continue to) post about topics where people possess an opinion.

    Nofollow doesn’t matter much to me, I’ve removed my blog from most of the search engines. I find people searching Google or MSN for strange crap (I seriously see “fuck animals” as one of the top searches) and landing at my site, and it kind of just depresses me.

    I’d rather have someone see my comment here, maybe find they are interested in my thoughts and opinions, and click on to my site. Does that sound crazy?

  7. webomatica says:

    Mike:

    Well, one sure way to I could get more comments is to be more controversial, unfortunately that’s not really in my nature.

    I hear you about the strange search strings. I sometimes look at my logs but treat it more humorously. I get an annoying amount of Paris Hilton searches (whoops, there I go again).

    Not crazy thinking. That’s how I look at things when I comment on someone else’s blog.

    So thanks for commenting – I always find it inspiring that I have yet another semi-regular reader. It keeps me motivated!

  8. Mike says:

    :D

    Thanks for writing! I’m very glad to have found this place.

  9. Juri says:

    To Peter Davis: “..Quality content doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality links. Most spammers aren’t that clever, but some are…”

    Very exact remark! The some spammetrs are very inventive, it is not a lot of them, therefore it is not terrible.

    To webomatica: “…I guess it just means looking at each comment and the link in it, and probably even visiting said site…”

    Manual checking of “said site” ?an do nothing. Usually such checks are done within a 7-10 days after the posting. Therefore clever spammers can apply technical methods of counteraction, for example to make temporary REDIRECT from his site to other GOOD site and You’ll see it instead of spammer’s own site.
    I saw at least 3 such tricks on my forums :(

    “NoFollow” don’t work for a spam preventing. But “NoFollow” is a very good idea for using as described in dougal gunters blog.

  10. webomatica says:

    Hi Juri interesting point about a spammer redirecting a link later on after a manual check. That really is sneaky and I never thought of it. I’ll have to check out the link you offer and see if there are any good strategies I can use.

    I hate spam!

  11. SEO says:

    yeah… !
    Wonder what happen if we all use nofollow on our websites? And how about DMOZ & Yahoo directory.

  12. rockymeet says:

    hmmm yes seo watch if all use nofollow then cool yahoo is good nofollow example :)

  13. seo jaipur says:

    Hello yahoo and msn support nofollow but what problem with google and other Nofollow is suck my mind