NoFollow Has Almost No Effect

    June 2, 2006

More than a year has passed since Google introduced NoFollow – a tag intended to reduce comment spam on blogs. Unfortunately, NoFollow has had very little effect on spam, and it seems to be dissuading some people from providing genuine comments.

NoFollow attributes are essentially a way for site authors to mark links as something to be ignored. Search engines would then disregard the links, and not boost the linked pages’ rankings. This would, in theory, deter spammers, who spread comments indiscriminately in the hopes of promoting their own sites. But automated spamming is very inexpensive, and there are still quite a few sites that don’t use NoFollow and that can thereby “reward” spammers. Because of this, the NoFollow deterrent hasn’t proven strong enough, and comment spam is still widespread.

NoFollow is also having an effect on legitimate posts. Since there is often nothing to gain from commenting (in terms of PageRank), some people have become much less willing to leave comments on the blogs of others. This isn’t a universal problem – as Robert Oschler noted on Jeremy Zawodny’s blog about the issue, “You put out a post and in less than one hour you have 15 comments, and you say commenting has slowed down since NOFOLLOW?”

As Dylan Tweney points out, commenting on a person’s blog amounts to “participating in a discussion, contributing to the content on [a] site, and generally enhancing the value of the conversational Web.” Whether or not it boosts PageRank in some small way shouldn’t be the primary concern.

NoFollow might not have worked out as Google planned, and perhaps, since it seems universal adoption is unlikely, we would be better off without the tag. There’s no point in changing your behavior as an individual because of it, though. Comment on a blog if you want to, keep quiet (or keep your fingers still) if you don’t.

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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.