Google’s Insidious “Nofollow”

At the beginning of the year, Google unveiled a proposal to help combat blog spam. The idea was to label all links that spammers could have inserted with rel="nofollow" which would instruct search engines to not use the link to boost the site’s rank. The problem is that links in comments which could have been inserted by spammers could also be valid links by valid commenters. These valid links would no longer get ranking. Not only has rel="nofollow" failed to prevent blog spam, Michael Hampton argues that it is an insidious move by Google to decrease blogs’ rankings in search results.

If your blog software inserts nofollow, then in order for you to give another blog Google juice, you have to go out of your way to link to them without nofollow, such as in your blogroll. It is no longer enough that your reader left an insightful comment or a trackback to his blog with more information. Now, as far as Google juice is concerned, it is as if all of your readers were never there and you had received no comments or trackbacks at all.

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As we’ve seen, rel=”nofollow” is Google’s way of having bloggers effectively delist themselves from search engines under the guise of protecting them from comment spam. If you want your site to have more Google juice, and who doesn’t, people have to link to you without rel=”nofollow”. It’s that simple. Nofollow hurts the entire blogosphere, and if carried to its extreme, will result in most blogs being relegated to obscurity as they drop out of the top 100 search engine results.

IO Error: Nofollow Revisited

Go read the whole thing. There are some really good quotes there, including some from an interview with a comment spammer. If you have a WordPress blog and want to disable nofollow, try out my Screw Nofollow! plugin. Unlike other nofollow plugins, this one doesn’t play around… it’s a two-line script that kills nofollow dead, right away. Eh, why reinvent the wheel? I hadn’t seen Dennis’ plugin before now, but his does the job perfectly. The other plugins I’d seen would let rel="nofollow" stay for a few days, but Dennis’ plugin kills them instantly.

27 thoughts on “Google’s Insidious “Nofollow”

  1. Rob (subscribed)

    Meh, I’m not convinced that Google had bad intentions here. It is not that hard to give another blog credit in your post, thus avoiding the “no follow” link method.

    As for it lowering Page Rank…my page rank has only gone up since this started being used.

    There sure seems to be a lot of Google-bashing going on lately. I wonder if Google has become to mainstream for many of the internet elite.

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  3. Mark Post author

    Denis, it looks to me like the third filter is unnecessary. You don’t need to strip it out of the comment going into the database if you’re stripping it out of the comment content as the comment is displayed. Or am I reading that code incorrectly? Anyway, I don’t see any nofollow links in my comments.

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  5. Gary LaPointe

    I think I left mine to leave the nofollows in the comment’s body. But I left them alone for where commentors put in their website address. Once seemed enough and it might help discourage the spammers.

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  7. agenzie investigative

    I’m in general against nofollow but I think it will also help bloggers who don’t know how to fight comment spam any other way. Another side benefit to bloggers is that they can use the tag selectively to keep certain links they use from getting pagerank.

  8. Gary LaPointe

    I’m not sure if it’s the nofollow or my MT 3.16 upgrade or a new version of MT-Blacklist. Or the fact that I moderate old entries (they can still post it just goes to moderation if that entry hasn’t been active for x number of days. But if someone posts to an old one and I approve it, it’s not considered active for y number of days this is a very powerful MT-Blacklist function.

  9. Mark Post author

    Spammers have said outright that they don’t care about nofollow. Think: why would they want to get their Google Pagerank up? So they have higher prominence and get more clicks. Well, nofollow or not, links on blogs are still links. That’s the entire “model” for e-mail spam. Get people to click on the links. So nofollow or not, they’re going to keep spamming.

    Gary, moderating old entries has been very effective for some people. Many bots will “scrape” your site and then come back weeks or many months later and deliver a payload.

    Agenzie, it’s only helpful if is has a demonstrable benefit. The first person to show that spam on blogs has decreased as a direct result of nofollow will get my full attention… but I’m not going to be on the edge of my seat on this one.

  10. Rob (subscribed)

    why would they want to get their Google Pagerank up? So they have higher prominence and get more clicks. Well, nofollow or not, links on blogs are still links. That’s the entire “model” for e-mail spam. Get people to click on the links. So nofollow or not, they’re going to keep spamming.

    True, but nobody is claiming that the no follow links by themselves will stop spam by itself. Its just supposed to remove some of the incentive for doing it.

  11. Mark Post author

    Their incentive is still clicks. Clicks via Google or clicks via e-mail and millions of blogs are still clicks. Google may be a great way to drive clicks, but if Google is no longer a viable option for them, they’re not just going to give up. I’ve certainly not seen spam attempts decrease since the beginning of the year. And don’t forget that nofollow is harmful to blog ranking in search engines. Part of the reason that blogs are ranked so high is because they all link to each other. Every comment with an author site link is a Pagerank transaction. Eliminating these will cause blogs to drop.

    Even if nofollow could reduce spam by 25%, it wouldn’t be worth it for the hit that blogs would get on search engines.

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  19. John

    I don’t believe in rel=”nofollow” either. It doesn’t reduce the spam. The only thing that reduces spam is a good spam filter.

  20. sports bettor

    I just found out about the “nofollow” today. Anyway, it looks like I’m a little late to the game, but it doesn’t seem to make sense to me. It looks like Google is looking for a short cut in order to regulate thier search engine rankings. This would create less work for them while it hurts the blogging community. I think this sucks.

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