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Nofollow is no Solution

posted by DL Byron on January 28, 2005

This weeks Blogospheria included nofollow, an attempt to thwart spam by reducing page rank. Nofollow adds a rel attribute to the anchor tag that search engines read as don't follow and therefore don't increase page rank. Right. Nofollow is DOA, as is the hype and blog headlines announcing it. I heard the thud as I read exactly what nofollow was and was very surprised there wasn't more criticism. Possibly everyone else was hand-wringing over blog ethics, pronouncing themselves citizen journalists, or geeking out over Technorati Tags, which are almost completely useless for business.

The problem with these blogging memes, or the "it" plugin of the week, is the work involved. Do I write more posts and sell more product or spend a day on nofollow, Technorati Tags, and whatever else the blogosphere pronounces as "cool." Like, for example, don't Skype me. I've got iChat for that. I don't know if Skype harvests my email, but I wouldn't be surprised, and now I get emails from people wanting me to sign up for a telephony service I don't want or need.

The assumption that spammers are not going to spam because of nofollow is ridiculous. They'll spam as they do and may just create their own "follow" networks to boost their own page rank. They've already worked around every spam blocking attempt I've done.

The comments that I've approved are good and I want Google to follow them -- good Google Juice for everyone. A plugin that changes every link in my comments to nofollow spills the Google Juice. That's not a solution, it's just Blogospheria.


Credit to Zeldman for the term Blogospheria. And more criticism of nofollow:

Another Update

As predicted, a porn site, Only Celebs, has set up their own blog to link to themselves and boost their own page rank — found via TypePad’s recently updated blogroll. Check the links. They’re all to a porn site. They’ve set up their own “follow” network on TypePad’s network. Ironically, in this case, I used nofollow in the link.

other posts tagged:


Jan 28  |  Julien Couvreur said:

Nice logic there:
The assumption that spammers stop spamming just because you have some filters is ridiculous (experience shows that they still do). Then you should not filter.

The Google folks made it clear that they don’t want you to put “nofollow” on *all* your comments. Only the ones that you didn’t explicitly approve/moderate/…

Jan 28  |  -b- said:

You are correct and that’s where the problem is. The plugin sets all links in comments as no follow with no “approve this one” and “not that one.” And, if it did do that, it still means I have to touch each comment. On this site, I moderate comments. That’s barely manageable. It’s unreasonable for Google to expect that bloggers are going to touch each link in a comment or set one to be followed or one nofollowed.

Jan 29  |  Ray said:

As far as I see it spam and viruses are no different than the colds and viruses humans get? In the end it really doesn’t matter what you do, you will never get rid of colds, viruses or spam. There is no silver bullet and there never will be. It’s just a fact of life. The best we can hope for is more education and to use caution when necessary.

In today’s day and age I would never eat peanuts from a bowl at a social function (local bar, conference etc) or any other food left open to the public at large. God only knows who’s dirty little hands were in there before mine. Over time I’ve learned that it’s just not worth it. Likewise with a site, if one chooses to do things that put themselves at risk that’s their business. But if someone wants to avoid all those nasty little viruses/spam then they’d better learn that there’s a risk associated when dealing with the public. Comments on a public site are like bowls of peanuts at your local bar. They have the potential to be a breeding ground for nasty little germs.

Jan 30  |  Michael Greene said:

Your criticism of nofollow doesn’t fall on deaf ears, but why the criticism of Skype? iChat is a platform-specific application which, while nice, is available to very few. In the context of telephony/videoconferencing, it claims to be able to interface with AIM for Windows, but what about Linux?

Jan 30  |  -b- said:


While your analogy was a bit creepy, I agree. In fact, I was watching Along Came Polly, when your comment came in. There’s a whole scene on bar peanuts.


My criticism wasn’t of Skype per se, but of the emails I get. Just like evite. I haven’t read Skype’s privacy policy, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they harvested the email addresses that Skype users send in their invites. iChat works very well across platforms and here’s a link to a Linux version.

Jan 31  |  DaveSW said:

I agree with your comments on ‘google juice for all’. It’s rather generous for legitimate ‘avid readers’ of a persons blog to get some sort of reward for doing so - after all, if you avidly read something, chances are you’ll link to it yourself from somewhere, so there is a form of exchange going on! Perhaps we need more of the ‘If you like my blog, LINK TO IT’ approach.

Jan 31  |  -b- said:


Absolutely. It’s the implementation that’s the problem. A friend of mine uses TypePad and nofollow has been implemented across the system, regardless if you want it or not. What’s going to happen to TypePad blogs page rank? I’d expect it to go down.

Feb 01  |  Philip Likens said:

A friend of mine, Matt over at usefulfiction.com, suggested changing the name of the form tags (and possibly the location of the script the form references). Right now all mt systems (and i assume blogger and others) use the same names for their comment boxes. I don’t know how the spammers have the system set up but I think I’d just make a script that looks for forms of a specific name (or scirpt file of the same name)…if this is not what they do then the solution will obviously not work…but if that’s how it works, there may be a possible solution there. We haven’t tested it yet.

Feb 01  |  -b- said:

I hadn’t thought of changing the form. That’s a good suggestion. I do know it took the spammers a month to figure out where my new comment script was after I renamed it. I’m sure that’s a real person in my site now, v. a robot. That’s even sneakier. I get comments related to the topic thread, meaning, they’re putting their spam in context so it’s not just porn.

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