March 18, 2005

Google on Nofollow

Thread on Threadwatch.org: at the recent Search Engine Strategies conference, Scottie Claiborne asked Google about nofollow. The response was telling, and Scottie’s remarks pretty much follow my January 22 analysis of WordPress and the Google Link Attribute.

They were very careful..

I was the one who asked the question as to how they actually treat nofollow links.

Putting a nofollow attribute on a link is “a vote of no confidence”.

All the engines agreed they would recognize that nofollow meant the website owner did not wish to endorse that link.

However, they did NOT agree on how to treat a nofollow link. Google said, for now, they would not follow the link. They did not say it wouldn’t be indexed as part of your page, and he was careful to say they reserved the right to change how they treat that link in the future.

Yahoo declined to say how they were treating the link, saying they had just “implemented recognition” a few days earlier and were “still experimenting”.

IMO, if you have a page made up mostly of nofollow links… you obviously don’t trust anything on that page. Why should they treat that page with any respect either?

Those who use the nofollow tag are saying to the engines- “hey, you know, I don’t know wtf is on this page and I didn’t have anything to do with it.” If you ran an engine, would you rank that page well…

The funny thing is they are worried about blogspam. “Real” blogs don’t get spammed. Do you think Nick would tolerate a bunch of spam link posts here? I don’t think so..

Interestingly, or perhaps
tellingly, when this issue first came up at the WordPress forums, there was much huffing, side-taking and even veiled threats from an anonymous poster. Reality prevails: it pays to have a grasp of how search engines will treat anything, now and in the future.

Some blogs have long since been abandoned, and any blogspammer can post links. Why paint a sign on your well-maintained blog that states unequivocally that you don’t trust the links on your own pages?

5 Comments to "Google on Nofollow"

  1. Cre8pc on Usability & Holistic SEO The Beingness of Blog Being, How To Be a Worthy Blog » says:

    [...] olicy about avoiding posting at blogs that use the nofollow tag. I never liked the idea of nofollow because it’s used in conjunction with a practice we hold so dear – lin [...]

  2. teli says:

    I agree. Personally, this whole “nofollow” hubbub will do no good to curb blog spam because the 1% which causes them to continue (i.e. the abandoned blogs) is still there.

    Sometimes the logic boggles the mind…

  3. DianeV says:

    You’re right, Teli — nofollow can’t possibly curb blog spam. What it does do is get site owners to willingly identify their blogs as irresponsible spam-infested sites not trusted even by them.

    I’d laugh if it wasn’t so weird. Consider how Scottie put it: “They did not say it wouldn’t be indexed as part of your page, and he was careful to say they reserved the right to change how they treat that link in the future.”

    That’s just plain scary. I’ll stick to plain HTML/XHTML and comment moderation, thank you. Until I have time to look into spam-stopping techniques (that don’t require an endlessly growing .htaccess file).

  4. EdB says:

    And what if your blog is maintained and doesn’t consist of a bunch of nofollow links? Seems to me if I was a search engine I’d tend to ignore pages that had mostly nofollow links. OTOH me-as-SE would say “ah heck this here page got a couple of nofollows and a truckload of regular links so I guess I’m indexing this one after the spammer hit and before the owner cleaned up so I’ll be cool and consider it worthy”.

    Since they say it happens to everyone eventually I’ll accept that I could be wrong… ;)

    Fair winds, EdB

  5. DianeV says:

    You have a point there, something I’ve wondered about too. Though Google, for one, advocates the use of nofollow, it seems to me that using nofollow indicates something about the way the site is maintained. I’d be curious to know.

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