“nofollow” Background

The rel="nofollow" html attribute was initially proposed by google and was supported by MSN and Yahoo! The intention was to stem spam-links, that can largely occur in some webpages, especially blog comments. The famous blog engines founded that idea very cool and most of them are setting the nofollow attribute out of the box. WordPress does it by default too. But like many of good-mentioned ideas can lead to some not wanted problems.

Analysis

Let’s look closely on nofollow attribute and his purposes. If “nofollow” relation is set within a link, the searchengine (like google) should not consider this link in the PageRank calculations.

But what is when all comment of one blog system are marked with “nofollow” by default. Does it mean, that all comment on your blog are spam, or irrelevant information? If so why enabling comments at all? Nofollow probably does not make really sense in comments or at least in all comment per default. Then comments that are deserve to be marked as “nofollow” are not really comments you wish to see on your page. They should be deleted by your spam-filter-plugin. So the is not really any need to have “nofollow” in comment links.

But many of famous blog use it per default.

No NoFollow initiative

So should we consider nofollow attribute harmful in any case and forever like No NoFollow initiative1 do? Let’s inspect their 11 Reasons against nofollow:

  • nofollow does not prevent comment spam - at one side, of course “nofollow” do not prevent automatic spam since there is no penalty and less cost to make such spam comments.
  • nofollow is confusingly named
  • nofollow harms the connections between web sites - I strongly agree with this.
  • nofollow is not useful for humans, just for search engines
  • nofollow could be used to shut web sites out Imagine: all bloggers from now on will add “nofollow” on the wikipedia links. Ok you will be never able arganize something like this, but if…! ;)
  • nofollow discriminates legitimate users as spammers
  • nofollow commentators earned attention
  • nofollow could be used to further discriminate weblogs
  • nofollow prevents the Web from being a web
  • nofollow eliminates the dissemination of free speech - na.. this is probably too much :))
  • nofollow was developed in privacy with only search engines companies taking part in the discussion

What i think

I agree that it can lead to fewer human-made spam, because if someone sees that somebody’s blog sets nofollow by default, he may not post senseless post, just to have link. But on the other side nofollow leads to the fact, that also wanted comments are in absence, be course authors do not receive this little “revard” for their commenting job (Assuming good comments) I my opinion we should be careful with “nofollow”. Nofollow can be dangerous. No follow does not change the world in better way, and spam should be fighted before it reach web page. If spam is on page (in comment, forum-post, ..) it already to late, and nofollow do not handle it.

But the can be some usage for noFollow if can be handled by humans and not automatically. For example if someone buys adverting on your page. Or probably you cites someones page that you don’t like, ant you don’t wish this page gain from it - why not “nofollow”?

conclusion

I am sure, future brings more relation-tags, to specify page relations more precisely. “Nofollow”- Tag may be not the perfect one, so use it careful or just don’t touch it - disable it!


  1. Reviewed in 2015 “No Nofollow” initiative is not existing anymore. So i left this post for historical reasons ↩︎