free html hit counter No Follow | John Battelle's Search Blog

No Follow

By - January 18, 2005

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this yet, because what ends up happening is folks who leave URLs in comment fields get no search juice at all. This creates an early lock down in the blog space that I am not sure won’t have unexpected consequences. On the other hand, I love the idea of f*ing with comment spammers…

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23 thoughts on “No Follow

  1. JH says:

    The consequences won’t be remotely unexpected for anyone with half a clue, since blog tool suppliers seem to have already baked this in whether we want it or not.

    Trackback, in its default on-its-own-page configuration, just became pointless.

    Legitimate linking in comments just got shat on.

    If you want a list of the top 100 blogs in Technorati/Popdex/whatever from mid-2007, don’t worry… you can just download the page from today because it’s never going to change again.

  2. authgeek says:

    I absolutely disagree that the top-100 blogs on blog tracking engines will never change. Yes, there’s going to be a downward shift in the pagerank you get for your blog from commenting on other sites but it will just make legitimate links (in posts and through blogrolls) more valuble. In theory, this entices more interesting content so that people link to your site for a reason. It reduces comment links to what I think they should be – an invitation for someone else to check out a new blog that they may or may not add to their blogroll/feedreader/whatever.

  3. Why would the top 100 never change? Can you name any one of them that gets most (any?) of its link juice from links in comments?

    It seems to me that most links are in blogrolls or in posts.

  4. Chuck Lawson says:

    I don’t think it will make that much difference, frankly.

    New bloggers that have something to say and actual interesting content on their site will probably still get “discovered” by commenting on other sites, leading to links in posts, blogrolls, etc.

    If anything, it may start to reverse current trends to not allow links, comments on pop-up pages, etc. that the comment spammers have made popular.

  5. Almost all of my best commenters are also among my favorite bloggers. Translation: it won’t matter to good bloggers.

  6. Most blogs build up a relatively stable community of commenters, how about if there was some way for you to whitelist them as “continue to follow”?

  7. Update to my previous comment: turns out Six Apart was there ahead of me. From their Professional Network:

    There

  8. Why not make it easy for the blog owner to whitelist (i.e. remove the nofollow attribute) if she likes it / finds it legimate?

  9. aaron wall says:

    >Almost all of my best commenters are also among my favorite bloggers. Translation: it won’t matter to good bloggers.

    Do most people define themselves as “bad” bloggers? IMHO that sounds a bit arrogent.

    >Most blogs build up a relatively stable community of commenters

    that is not what I have seen. most blogs have way more posts than comments.

    due to how we naturally “follow the leader” and machine reinforced feedback we see a disproportinately large amount of a few blogs…and changes like these help reinforce that

  10. John W says:

    After almost exclusively incoherent, innappropriate or out of context comments to our four MT based niche technology journal/blog/newsletters, I was happy when spam made comments untenable.

  11. aaron wall says:

    >I was happy when spam made comments untenable.

    understanding the value of a fast feedback loop…

  12. Anonymous says:

    I like the nofollow solution. If you’re sceptical you should note it’s just a link type declaration, and link analysis software is free to ignore it. Technorati, Popdex and others may use their own techniques to filter out spam links.

    I believe that there are better token names than “nofollow”. However, it’s already been implemented and we probably have to live with it.

    The most promising part of the nofollow solution is that we can get rid of the redirect links. I really hate them. A number of users have implemented them in a way that hides the destination URL. The result is probably that the spam links receives more clicks from unsuspecting users. The second issue is that the redirect links break the back button. It’s very annoying to hit the back button and be bounced back to the site you wanted to back out of.

    I guess some day people will find a way to abuse the nofollow attribute, and many will not understand how to use it correctly. It’s somewhat scary when people from Microsoft write about a ref element, and Anil Dash claims that the ref attribute is obscure. (Apparently he forgets that it’s very common in link elements.)

  13. John, if someone comments, you can (as many bloggers do), reference that comment and link to the person in a future post. So the impact is minimal. With many blog systems doing redirects anyway, this type of impact is already happening. This just gives web authors (bloggers along with a broader audience of publishers) more direct control over how search engines index one of their page elements. Hopefully, we’ll have more.

  14. Brett Tabke says:

    Any time the three most powerful internet businesses hatch something in private, we should all be concerned. The last thing the internet needs is Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft agreeing on anything.

    Haven’t the se’s messed with the structure of the web enough already? Organic linking has been dead for a couple of years.

  15. I really don’t see the no-follow as a big deal.

    The essential functionality of comment links would stay intact – interested readers will still be able to follow the links and check out other blogs/sites. And, like Danny said, knowledgeable, responsible bloggers can pick up the most valid comment links, and give them prime-time real estate, in-post, which has always been much more valid from a traffic driving standpoint.

    So this move isn’t going to kill comment linking, just make it less appealing to spammers who were only doing it to increase their PageRank.

    Even so, I agree with Brett… The big three in silent collusion behind the scenes gives me the jibblies.

  16. Chuck Lawson says:

    Re: the idea of whitelisting the links of frequent commentors and not setting nofollow on them.

    Some of the various recent anti-spam systems actually seem to work rather well, albeit with various degrees of pain on the part of the commentor (registration systems, captchas, etc.)

    There’s probably no reason why they couldn’t continue to be used optionally — allow a user to choose to go through some sort of validation system if he wants to be an “approved” (ie: “followed”) commentor, and those who don’t care (or are spambots) set to “nofollow”

    I suspect we’re all going to be leaving such systems in place for a good long time anyway — as long as there are legions of old abandonded blogs out there (that won’t get updated to “nofollow”), the comment spammers will probably just continue to increase their volume to continue getting the same effect.

    Cleaning up a zillion spams that are “nofollowed” isn’t going to be any more fun than cleaning them up today is.

  17. GoogleGuy says:

    This is just a new building block that lets software makers have better granularity–at a link level instead of a page level. And they can declare things about the authorship of a link that they couldn’t before. Lots of people are using it to do smart things; for example, LiveJournal can recognize authenticated users and they won’t get the nofollow tag. So it’s not the case that every comment or trackback will be reduced in value. Last week, a software maker didn’t have that ability, but now they do.

    In other words, if you trust a user or like their comment, it won’t be hard for them to get search juice from commenting on your posts. I believe that adding this flexibility for software makers will be a very helpful thing in the long term.

  18. Anil says:

    “It’s somewhat scary when people from Microsoft write about a ref element, and Anil Dash claims that the ref attribute is obscure. (Apparently he forgets that it’s very common in link elements.)”

    I guess, first, I should mention that it’s a rel attribute, not ref. Also, using rel in an a tag just doesn’t happen that much in the wild. Are you disputing that? And I’m keenly aware of its use in link tags, especially considering all the work I’ve done with syndication feeds, autodiscovery, and API discovery. But thanks for the feedback.

  19. “The big three in silent collusion behind the scenes gives me the jibblies.”

    Actually, it was more like Google fires off a message to MSN and Yahoo saying we’re going to do this, do you want to do it too? Snap decision, sure. Not quite a smoky room trust situation that needs to be destroyed.

    There’s reason to be concerned when any set of companies work together — but also reasons to be happy.

    I’d far prefer the search engines come up with a way to hand unified page control elements back to site owners rather than come out with three different tags/commands/elements/attributes we need to deal with.

    Geez. I remember when it was domain: at one search engine, site: at another and some other obscure command at a third all to get the same thing. Those days sucked.

    In the end, this isn’t a big deal for ending blog spam. It won’t — other mechanisms are actually better for that. This was a nice PR move by the big three to get bloggers off their backs.

    It is a big deal that for the first time since 1995, site owners have managed to get the search engines to give them a little more control on how they interact with their web sites (the last unified move being robots.txt and meta robots blocking).

    It will be an even bigger deal if we can now move on to getting other changes that site owners need.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Anil, thanks for spotting my typo. :-)

    I still claim it’s being used in the wild, you mention the link element (tag) that I didn’t really believe you were ignorant of. My issue was the word obscure. I believe there is some middle ground between obscure and much. We should be able to settle our small dispute quite fast, I hope.

    Due to blogging software being good at implementing W3C standards I spot more rel attributes in the wild today than a just a few years ago. I’m really pleased that blogging software promotes a standard HTML feature.

    Regarding rel, it’s not a new attribute. However, nofollow is a new link type.

    Due to the anti-spam system my blog provider employs I have no urgent need for the feature, but I’m keen to support it. I hope it will replace the use of redirect scripts. That alone will justify the new link type.

  21. Xscott says:

    With respect to Danny Sullivan and GoogleGuy(Matt), I think that there are many “unknown” effects of this “new attribute/type”. I feel that they are being hopeful that this will “Fix” their(all search engines) problems with current ranking algos.

    Blog software currently has anti-spam modules available or setup automatically which controlls most of todays comment spam. What this is doing is forcing, yes forcing Blog software to emplement this in future releases. I say forcing because search engines would otherwise have to devalue everything in today’s popular web blog software.

    Most bloggers are non-technical and will leave everything in the default setup. Thus is this now a default setting to have the “nofollow” active or non-active? Is it something that a blogger has to “OK” a comment so that it does not have “nofollow”? This creates additional work/moderation on the blog site owner.

    The blog community has grown tremendously because of the knowleged that “if I post on your site, I will have a link to my site”. Now this lessens the appeal to comment on another site, unless you are a “trusted poster” which who knows if or when that would happen depending on the other blog.

    The whole blog commnunty as blogs get updated and links get removed because of the “nofollow” will have less value or Votes and will have a great reshuffle of SERPs and blogging will slow in its growth as commenting on blogs also slows.

    OR

    The comment spammers continue to spam an maybe even target sites that use the “nofollow” as it really is not a solution to try to rid your site of the words V_iagra, C_asino or P_orn. These will continue to get deleted just as they currently are by active blog owners or left in blogs that have been abandond which won’t get updated either.

    Of course it is dependant on how it is emplemented in the software and if it is actully used properly by the users.

    Just my opinion.

  22. plastik says:

    I’ve recently add back the ‘no follow’ tag on one of my blog due to the amount of spam a.k.a. Junk comment. This is a great way to get some link love by the top commentators plugin and show appreciation to real reader of this blog.