January 23, 2007

NoFollow does matter — a lot

Matthew Mullenweg, of WordPress fame, has posted the wistful thought that adding NoFollow tag support to WordPress didn’t really help with the problem of web spam. I emphatically disagree. Yes, it’s true that comment spam and the like is still a huge problem.* But while crude spam isn’t visibly affected, the NoFollow tag probably does a great deal to discourage something that would be even worse.

*Uh, Matt, can you do anything about increasing the 150 capacity limit of the Akismet spam quarantine? I run over it all the time, often in less than 24 hours.

Suppose it were still the case that spammers could get search engine ranking boosts from blog comment spam. Don’t you think they would be motivated to craft subject-specific comments that are very hard to distinguish from the real things? Search engine ranking algorithms are taking ever more accounting of the topics of pages that link to sites, the topics of the pages that link to THOSE pages, the topic of the text around the link, and so on. Few forms of search engine optimization are more valuable than “good” links. A comment that stayed up on a popular and topic-relevant blog would be of high SEO value — think $25-$250 in perceived value as a super-rough estimate — and great efforts would be devoted to getting them. The whole blogosphere might be corrupted in the process.

Blog software’s adoption of the NoFollow tag is a VERY good thing.


10 Responses to “NoFollow does matter — a lot”

  1. Andy Beard on January 23rd, 2007 10:26 pm

    You might need to research comment spam tools. They have been able to write reasonably intelligent subject specific spam for some time.

    Most of the spam you see however isn’t for products that most people write about, so it is hard to avoid the filter.

    Also not all search engines respect nofollow, thus there has always been some incentive other than readers clicking.

    Nofollow has its uses, for at least partially indicating to search engines the value you place on links. I value my readers and commenters and thus they get followable links.

  2. MatGB on January 24th, 2007 10:22 am

    I agree completely with Andy on this one; I plan to turn off rel=nofollow in my comments on all myt sites ASAP; if Google is to remain the best search engine out there, and PageRank is to remain the best tool for search prioritising, then all reliable links must be indexed, and the links most likely to be clicked are the most important ones.

    I’m more likely to click a link in a comment or on a username link than I am half the links in an actual article, hence they should count for more in my eyes, because that’s what PR is supposed to represent, the odds of getting there.

    nofollow doesn’t stop spam, bad behaviour and akismet do. So I’ll use them.

  3. Curt Monash on January 24th, 2007 2:46 pm

    Mat and Andy, good point about the deserved PR value of the links you’re talking about. I just don’t think it outweighs the other considerations.

    Andy — I don’t see where your patronizing first paragraph undermines what I said. Quite to the contrary; it supports it. Please try again.

    Thanks for your comments, guys. CAM

  4. Old Dog on January 27th, 2007 7:52 am

    I have no problem with using nofollow in blog comments as that’s just way too easy for spammers to attack. My beef is with Wikipedia using nofollow indiscriminately. That means that original research, used as a significant source for a wikipedia article, loses its “link love” as well.

    Wikipedia is too big and too powerful to use a kneejerk reaction like this. They are surely much cleverer than that.

  5. Curt Monash on January 29th, 2007 8:23 am

    Most of the non-search-engine, non-repeat new traffic to http://www.dbms2.com comes from a variety of Wikipedia links, and to a lesser extent that’s also true of this blog and http://www.texttechnologies.com . So I’ll miss the link love.

    That said — I just read up on blackhat SEO, and what I learned can be summarized in four words:  “It’s all about automation.”  I don’t agree with your premise that Wikipedia can be expected to have found a better way.

    I’m also an editor in the ODP (although I come close to quitting in a rage multiple times per day). There, things are indeed under reasonable control, and giving link love is appropriate. Indeed, given the small number of apparent human visitors — does ANYBODY have DMOZ showing up in their referrer logs? — giving link love is pretty much the ODP’s only current practical raison d’etre. But I don’t see how Wikipedia could avoid taking the step it did.

  6. SEO Discussed on September 7th, 2007 7:13 pm

    Thanks for the info, very interesting

  7. Curt Monash on September 8th, 2007 8:16 pm

    Ironic that you posted that quasi-spam comment in this very thread. 🙂

    Thank you for illustrating my point! As a reward, I’ll let your comment stay up.


  8. Phentermine Online on October 19th, 2007 11:26 pm

    Don’t get me wrong with this comment. Do you think that no follow has really no value in google search word?. Because I don’t think google will give out secrets as most people know that they got adsense and I think it won’t be easy for them to tell people something which they think could result to bigger adsense value of people. Anyway as far as I know I don’t mind if this no follow rules will be implemented but I know that it would surely result to inactivity in a lot of blogs considering that blogger would surely not that optimistic anymore to visit other people site.

  9. Ledokin » Matt Mullenweg is wrong about the NoFollow tag on November 5th, 2007 1:53 pm

    […] read more | digg story […]

  10. Yet more NoFollow whining | Text Technologies on March 7th, 2009 12:58 am

    […] Andy Beal has a blog post up to the effect that NoFollow is a bad thing.  Other SEO types are promoting this is if it were some kind of important cause.  I think that’s nuts, and NoFollow is a huge spam-reducer. […]

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