WordPress and the Google Link Attribute
As you likely know, blogs get spammed with comments containing links to all kinds of dubious sites. Google is now attempting to "help" bloggers by providing a new link attribute that would cause it not to follow any link to which it's applied. From the Google Blog:
From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel="nofollow") on hyperlinks, those links won't get any credit when we rank websites in our search results.
Yahoo and MSN are joining in on this as well. But just who is really being helped is the question.
WordPress — I've now read at the WordPress forums that the new blog-link attribute has been added to the current WordPress version under development: nofollow support added?:
The CVS says that support for the rel="nofollow" tag, that Google and others now support for comment links as a counter-spam-measure, has been added to WP.
["CVS" means "concurrent versioning system": a program that allows software developers to save and retrieve different versions of a piece of software.]
First of all, to clear up a little confusion: PageRank is not how a page ranks. PageRank is named after Google founder Larry Page; it's about the "importance" of the page linking to yours, and it's only a part of the overall Google ranking algorithm; you'll find many lower-PageRank pages ranking higher than those with higher PageRank. Had Mr. Page had any other last name, this fact might be clearer. Fact of the matter is that the *links* themselves are more important in many respects than the PageRank factor.
I have been designing and optimizing (for search engine rankings) websites since 1998 and was involved in one of the earliest search engine optimization communities since before the term was coined. I do understand that "link popularity" — that is, counting a link to a page as a "vote" for that page and therefore giving it a boost in ranking — has helped search engines to provide better search results. At the same time, I have to say that including "link pop" as a part of search engine ranking formulas has changed the face of the Web: for years now, one has had to link less to other sites in order to preserve one's rankings and, most especially, one has been forced to ensure that one did not link to sites that Google deemed "bad neighborhoods" in order to prevent one's site from being penalized and/or banned.
At the cre8asiteforums where I help moderate, we have had to implement a scenario in which all links point to a "jump" script before going to the target page, and the links themselves can't be read (they're backwards) but still work, all so that members can discuss anything without fear of penalization of the forums.
And now this. This is not pretty. On the one had, search engines have made links more valuable than they ever were, to the point of ridiculousness. Now they want blogs (not all sites, mind you, just blogs) to purposely devalue their links. Fact is, this is a clear admission by Google, Yahoo and MSN that there is a problem, and that they can't control it. So they would like us to control it for them by hampering our own work. And, yes, I understand that the links will still work, but that the target page will not get the link pop boost.
I love the Web. It's given me plenty. And, although I have always spent a good deal of time "giving back", sometimes a little link to a small site with a great service or product is my way of helping. If we're going to be counting links, why shouldn't my link count?
Bottom line: had search engines not made links such a major part of their algorithms, neither we nor they would be having this problem, now would we? This is a problem of their creation, and we are supposed to hamper our efforts in order to solve their problem.
Will using the rel="nofollow" attribute stop attempts at blog spamming? I highly doubt it. Blog/comment spammers will likely try anyway, and possibly go at it harder, in order to find those blogs not implementing the attribute. After all, like their colleagues the email spammers, it's probably just a press of a button for them.
Oh. Here's a little little-known history: Google also has a "nocache" tag for the <header> — use it, Google said, and we won't cache your page. Then penalized sites that used it. Apparently by the thousands.
SO, here's my WordPress vote: I would like my links to count, unless I don't want them to. I'm assuming that all of my clients for whom I have installed WordPress would like the same. So I vote for making the new tag be optional in WordPress. Otherwise, I would like to know what exactly needs to be changed in order to undo this enforced blog-link hampering thing.
And I am going to hang on to current versions of WordPress, just in case.
More WP forums: nofollow should be an option
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