nofollow is No Good!


Published on January 19, 2005 at 10:42 AM EST
In the Discussions category.

This morning I saw a flurry of new information from many sources about this thing called rel="nofollow" which is supposed to help stop comment spamming. Read about it’s interaction with Movable Type at Six Log, Movable Type, and the Six Apart Professional Network, and a little more generic info is at Google.

Either I don’t fully understand what nofollow is supposed to do, or it really is a dumb idea. I’m confident it’s the latter.

Well, ok, those who implement nofollow will definitely help in not raising a spammer’s Google PageRank. But that’s the only benefit. As has been pointed out, a legitimate commenter’s link won’t count toward their PageRank, either. Honestly, I like that I can help other’s have a more popular site.

If this nofollow plugin will (eventually) cut comment spam, maybe it’s worth it. But I’m not so sure it’ll cut, slow, or otherwise impede spammer activity.

I make lots of effort to keep comment spam off of this site. MT-Blacklist does a good job of keeping most spam out. It doesn’t catch everything, though, and if a comment or TrackBack spam eeks through, the longest it stays on danandsherree.com is going to be during the overnight while I’m sleeping. So, with rel="follow" enabled, if a comment spam makes it onto this site and if a search engine visits that page in the few hours the spam is on there, that spammer won’t get any PageRank benefit from it. Plus, those legitimate commenters have lost any PageRank benefit.

Gee, rel="nofollow" really helps me and the commenter’s on this site, doesn’t it? If you’re adamant about keeping comment and TrackBack spam off of your site the nofollow plugin won’t help.

Ok, maybe rel="nofollow" isn’t aimed at me. Maybe it’s aimed at those bloggers who have a bunch of comment spam already on their site. Err… wait a minute, they didn’t install MT-Blacklist or other spam-fighting plugins; why would they install the nofollow plugin? Nope, rel="nofollow" clearly isn’t aimed at these people.

Step back and look at the big picture:

  • In the short-term, rel="nofollow" will have little to no effect on spammers. Those of us who keep comment spam off of our websites will still keep it off, negating any PageRank benefit a spammer might get, and causing us the headache of removing it. Those who don’t keep comment spam off their site won’t install the nofollow plugin and will continue to receive spam, and the spammers will benefit from that.
  • In the long-term, rel="nofollow" will have little to no effect on spammers. Those of us who keep comment spam off of our websites will still keep it off, negating any PageRank benefit a spammer might get, and still causing us the headache of removing it. Those who don’t keep comment spam off their site will continue to receive spam, and the spammers will benefit from that.

So, uh, how does this nofollow plugin help us, exactly? If everybody made use of the plugin, I bet it’d work. But then, if everybody made use of the other spam-removal software I bet we wouldn’t even need this.