The rel="nofollow" was first introduced back in 2005 by Google’s Matts Cutts and Bloggers Jason Shellen, the aim of the link value was to reduce the number of comment spam on blog sites, so that individuals and businesses would not be able to manipulate search results and this would ultimately reduce the amount of spam within the blogging community.
How does no follow work?
So what does the nofollow link attribute do exactly then? In short it stops the forwarding of any juice from one site to another, you should be aware of Google’s Page Ranking well this stops any PR from low to high pages being passed as well as contributing to your rankings, however…. While this is true, it’s also false at the same time, as all major search engines take many factors into account on how natural your linking structure is.
Who uses this link attribute?
Well, as you know it was first introduced by Google but many major search engines like Yahoo and Bing have also adopted these values and reward no juice from such links, however again not completely true which your find out more later. It’s worth noting that links with nofollow are followed (Crawled) by the search engines so it’ll help new pages get indexed faster, however I strongly disagree with people pinging links, and making links in the 10’s or hundreds in order to get something indexed quicker, that itself leaves footprints which can easily flag your site, Google will index your page in time, and the more regularly you update your site or sites, the more crawls per a day or week you will receive.
Automated Blogging Spam (Spam Bots)
Now you may of heard, seen, or even used (SLAP NAUGHTY) automated software that is known by many as BOTS, these make comment spam in the 10’s of thousands at a time using open and closed proxy methods to scan Google 1,000s of times using selected footprints and keywords, While Google has made big effects to stop footprints and stop such scans using captcha after x amount of search results, it is still possible with a little know how.
Generally comment spammers go after easy to find engines such as Wordpress, BlogEngine and Movable Type as these by default come with a comment system built in which is generally enabled by default by many webmasters, the likes of Joomla does not come with a comment system built in, though many addons are available for Joomla and these leave their own footprints which many "advanced spammers" will look forward.
Other software and service vendors have also tried to battle spam links by using software which detects spam on a mass scale and then refuses the spammer entries by blocking their ip, or agent user ID. Wordpress over recent years have really attempted to tackle this problem and now comes with Akismet which is a blocking system which detects comment spam on a bigger scale, they claim they are not a blacklisting company and they use hundreds of factors to detect spam but I’ve proven their claims are false and they do blacklist by IP, and sadly even worse they block peoples websites check out what I wrote about Akismet a while back.
Nofollow has evolved
While the nofollow was first introduced to prevent the blogging community being spammed to kingdom come, it has been adopted by many other platforms such as online wiki’s, forums and some web2.0 sites such as the telegraph.co.uk and even Google’s own discussion and advice site for webmasters uses this link value to prevent people purposely making links for attracting visitors to their site.
It’s worth mentioning that the nofollow also protects sites against bad neighbor’s, then say for example you are the webmaster for a game review site and you link to a site without the nofollow value to a phishing site that Google is aware about, this will ultimately hurt your rankings while using the tag will prevent you being slapped by Google. This makes the tag even more useful than just stopping useless comments and purposely built links on your site, but it also creates some issues as well which I’ll cover in a later section of this article.
Controlling Internal Juice
When this link value was very young it was rather useful for controlling the internal link juice of your site, for example that’s say you had a page about perfumes and you wanted that to rank very high and didn’t care about the terms and conditions, or contact us page on your site, what you would do is a use a nofollow on the useless pages which had little value to search results and forward the juice to the pages that did matter.
This would ultimately improve your rankings on the pages that you wanted to rank on, though this idea was very flawed and before Google could foresee webmasters blasting their sites with nofollow everywhere to direct their search results on certain pages only Google was hot on their tail and correctly made a hot fixed which prevented this from working. It still however stops the flow of page rank but it doesn’t count towards their rankings (of what we know, and have tested).
The Rant, Does this system work?
While this system does work it also doesn’t at the same time, it fixes one problem and causes loads more, safe guarding against other bad neighbor’s using the nofollow feature is superb but let’s say a site deserves to be rewarded but isn’t because the owner is more concerned about their own rankings, the reason many “good” webmasters will use nofollow on ALL external links is because let’s say site B has a high reputation with Google but what’s to say in a years’ time they sell their site and then they become a bad neighbor? This makes webmasters take extra precaution and use the nofollow tag on everything, and the follow sites dry up and all we have left is badly administrated sites with low value.
It should be the job of the site administrator to determine if a comment is spam and regularly check their comments and links for issues, people taking the time to leave a decent comment should be rewarded to some extent, or remove the URL option from the comment field all together. By simply using nofollow tag on their cms (content management system), site owners have become lazy and automated spam gets though, because what spammers are now doing is doing spun text messages with the URL set to example1210.com they then check back later to see if the message was auto approved without no moderator intervention as well as checking for the nofollow tag.
The good, the bad and the ugly
- Using the nofollow on all external links can help you prevent getting a Google slap by not linking to a bad neighbor.
- You may stop your competitors outranking you if they happen to get a dofollow link on your site.
- It may get you better comments on your blog from people who actually don’t care about just making links.
- Constructive comments made by manual link buildings with relevant sites can help your site authority; you may lose this opportunity if your content management system is nofollow on its entire links.
- Like a house or car alarm, its useful to deter people away from their goals, it doesn’t mean it stops it completely.
- You will still get spammers targeting your site regardless, looking for auto approve, and follow links.
- You get what you give, the more people who adopt nofollow the chances are that you add to the problem meaning that you can’t find quality dofollow links where you deserve them.