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Putting a Value on NoFollow Links

This week I was pulled up on my comment links having the default “no-follow” attribute. This led to me installing the WordPress “do-follow” plugin and also to questions about if no-followed links have any value.

First of all let me explain what “no-follow” means. The idea was hatched to prevent spammers profiting from carpet-bombing blogs with their links. Adding the “rel=nofollow” attribute to comment links was supposed to tell the search engines “I don’t trust this link one bit, do not give it any credit”.

Problem is, No-Follow Sucks. It was meant to stop spam but of course it doesn’t. Not even a tiny little bit. Spammers don’t even check for the attribute, they don’t care. Spam is performed by brute-force automated robots, low-wagers paid on quantity or idiots. The only people potentially inconvenienced by it are the innocent bloggers by way of collateral link-juice damage.

But WordPress and co plonked it on our links anyway and felt all warm and fuzzy doing it. Huzzah. So we have to resort to workarounds now to credit comments with the link juice they deserve. Most people however don’t or can’t which means when you comment your links do not (in theory at least) pass any search engine credit to your site.

So if we are now seeing our comments and trackback links shrouded in a link condom, should we not bother commenting?

  • Commenting is always good, do it without even thinking about SEO and you will be a better commenter for it.
  • Every search engine treats links differently.
  • No engine has ever been 100% explicit in how they treat them.
  • nofollow = no trust, not ignore. For example no-follow and redirect links do appear in Yahoo!
  • I take whatever links I can get and let search engines deal with them how they may.
  • Links beget links, the original might not pass “juice” but every visitor is another chance at another link, the more links you get the more links you get so take links you are offered with gratitude.
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Comments

  1. Not too long ago Wikipedia enforced nofollow links, and I was less upset by it than I thought I would be. I have a few links from Wikipedia and I get a lot of traffic from them, so it was no big deal since traffic matters the most. Regardless, it’s stupid of them to enforce that, the wiki links are heavily moderated anyway. At least in my niche.

  2. Not too long ago Wikipedia enforced nofollow links, and I was less upset by it than I thought I would be. I have a few links from Wikipedia and I get a lot of traffic from them, so it was no big deal since traffic matters the most. Regardless, it’s stupid of them to enforce that, the wiki links are heavily moderated anyway. At least in my niche.

  3. Right on! I disabled no follow on the comments for my blog long ago, since they are all pre-moderated.

  4. Right on! I disabled no follow on the comments for my blog long ago, since they are all pre-moderated.

  5. Yeah the traffic benefit is often overlooked but also I agree it is pretty dumb to say they do not trust links that are so heavily moderated. One of the reasons I can safely take no-follow off here is because every comment has passed through moderation.

  6. Yeah the traffic benefit is often overlooked but also I agree it is pretty dumb to say they do not trust links that are so heavily moderated. One of the reasons I can safely take no-follow off here is because every comment has passed through moderation.

  7. Spot on Chris, even thinking about SEO related topics is not going to help a blog…it is supposed to be a conversation after all. You can’t have a conversation with a search engine just yet!

  8. Spot on Chris, even thinking about SEO related topics is not going to help a blog…it is supposed to be a conversation after all. You can’t have a conversation with a search engine just yet!

  9. I’ve removed the no=follow attribute that accompanied comments and trackbacks from all of my blogs, and hope a lot more of the blogs I read do as well.

    I don’t receive too much spam that actually makes it through the filters, but I’m guessing that’s more of a “security by obscurity” type of thing. Oh well, down with no-follow!

  10. I’ve removed the no=follow attribute that accompanied comments and trackbacks from all of my blogs, and hope a lot more of the blogs I read do as well.

    I don’t receive too much spam that actually makes it through the filters, but I’m guessing that’s more of a “security by obscurity” type of thing. Oh well, down with no-follow!

  11. Chris,

    I have read varying opinions about this. Do you know if let’s say a higher ranking site e.g. PR 7,8,9 loses any value by linking to newer, or weaker sites?

    I’ve read on a few blogs that they use no-follow tags because they dont want to “bleed off” pr to newer sites.

    I have a suspicion that is wrong, but Im not a link expert.

  12. Chris,

    I have read varying opinions about this. Do you know if let’s say a higher ranking site e.g. PR 7,8,9 loses any value by linking to newer, or weaker sites?

    I’ve read on a few blogs that they use no-follow tags because they dont want to “bleed off” pr to newer sites.

    I have a suspicion that is wrong, but Im not a link expert.

  13. Removing the nofollow attribute has not resulted in any automated spam not being caught by akismet. I had a couple of human-generated spam but I quickly removed those without too much trouble. It’s been almost a month now since I allowed links to be counted in the comments.

    What has happened is that I’ve received a lot of participation in my blog via comments. It’s not so much that people want link love that they are commenting, but rather, I think they comment now because I’m saying “hey, please come by and see my blog, comment and participate and I trust you for it and appreciate it so much that I don’t feel the need to moderate your comments with a nofollow attribute.” I think regular readers really appreciate that.

  14. Removing the nofollow attribute has not resulted in any automated spam not being caught by akismet. I had a couple of human-generated spam but I quickly removed those without too much trouble. It’s been almost a month now since I allowed links to be counted in the comments.

    What has happened is that I’ve received a lot of participation in my blog via comments. It’s not so much that people want link love that they are commenting, but rather, I think they comment now because I’m saying “hey, please come by and see my blog, comment and participate and I trust you for it and appreciate it so much that I don’t feel the need to moderate your comments with a nofollow attribute.” I think regular readers really appreciate that.

  15. I just installed the do-follow plugin today and already readers have liked the idea. Maybe this would turn into a movement that would change the minds of the guys behind Wikipedia. ;)

  16. I just installed the do-follow plugin today and already readers have liked the idea. Maybe this would turn into a movement that would change the minds of the guys behind Wikipedia. ;)

  17. I agree… I still have nofoolow on my links, but the only reason for that is because I plan to install dofollow when I do a revision of all my plugins.

    Down with no-follow!

  18. I agree… I still have nofoolow on my links, but the only reason for that is because I plan to install dofollow when I do a revision of all my plugins.

    Down with no-follow!

  19. I added the WordPress do-follow plugin a couple of weeks ago because it seemed unfair to penalise people who leave comments. I only have a small blog, but my readers leave really good, well thought out comments and I wanted to reward them. I can’t see it having any effect on the levels of spam that I receive, most of mine is automated anyway, and Akismet and SK2 catch that. The occasional human produced comment is easy to delete.

    I just wish I could do the same on my Blogger blogs, but obviously you don’t get the same level of autonomy on a hosted service.

  20. I added the WordPress do-follow plugin a couple of weeks ago because it seemed unfair to penalise people who leave comments. I only have a small blog, but my readers leave really good, well thought out comments and I wanted to reward them. I can’t see it having any effect on the levels of spam that I receive, most of mine is automated anyway, and Akismet and SK2 catch that. The occasional human produced comment is easy to delete.

    I just wish I could do the same on my Blogger blogs, but obviously you don’t get the same level of autonomy on a hosted service.

  21. I did the same thing awhile back. I definitely liked the option of setting how many days before the no-follow tag was removed from a posted comment.

    I figured it was a matter of giving something back for a reader who took the time to post a comment on my oh-so popular blog.

  22. I did the same thing awhile back. I definitely liked the option of setting how many days before the no-follow tag was removed from a posted comment.

    I figured it was a matter of giving something back for a reader who took the time to post a comment on my oh-so popular blog.

  23. @Marc Chase

    Interesting point about “PR bleed” there.

    Clearly, sites with lower PR will benefit from links to higher PR sites.

    Apparently Google have never said anything about PR bleed existing and I would imagine that they wouldn’t penalise pages for having outbound links to lower ranking sites – except maybe if the ratio of links to content is very high (link spam).

    I’m off to install this dofollow plugin….

  24. @Marc Chase

    Interesting point about “PR bleed” there.

    Clearly, sites with lower PR will benefit from links to higher PR sites.

    Apparently Google have never said anything about PR bleed existing and I would imagine that they wouldn’t penalise pages for having outbound links to lower ranking sites – except maybe if the ratio of links to content is very high (link spam).

    I’m off to install this dofollow plugin….

  25. This is some great insight into the reasons behind “no-follow” links. I had never really thought about the reasoning behind it, and after reading this, I think I’ll be installing the “do-follow” plugin on my blog. Thanks for the heads up.

  26. This is some great insight into the reasons behind “no-follow” links. I had never really thought about the reasoning behind it, and after reading this, I think I’ll be installing the “do-follow” plugin on my blog. Thanks for the heads up.

  27. @Jack yup, conversation is so much more valuable than just focus on raw traffic

    @Stephen, I haven’t noticed a marked difference either, we will have to see long term :)

    @Marc, I am not a link expert either but in my opinion PageRank is over emphasised in peoples minds versus the real algorithm and Google wants the same thing we all do, what benefits the web more, link hoarding or link sharing? If there is some detriment to search results, and I do understand the theory why that might be, it will be negligible against the community you build. Rather than second guess the *current* Google algorithm, we need to do what works for our readers benefit.

    @Philip that’s a good point, what signal are people sending to their readers by saying in effect “I don’t trust you enough to clean link your site … but please comment anyway”?

    @Jhay it seems Wikipedia have a lot of problems before they even think about changing their broken policy on no follow ;)

    @Nenad it’s a shame no-follow is the default isn’t it?

    @Kate, with all the smart folks at blogger/google you would have thought the new version of blogger would have quietly “forgotten” to include no-follow wouldn’t you? ;)

    @Kirk, every link counts, especially in technorati and Google :)

    @Steve, agreed :)

    @Cory, we tend to take what we are given with our blog software. I lean towards the theory no-follow was “anti-spam theatre” rather than an attempt at a real solution :)

  28. @Jack yup, conversation is so much more valuable than just focus on raw traffic

    @Stephen, I haven’t noticed a marked difference either, we will have to see long term :)

    @Marc, I am not a link expert either but in my opinion PageRank is over emphasised in peoples minds versus the real algorithm and Google wants the same thing we all do, what benefits the web more, link hoarding or link sharing? If there is some detriment to search results, and I do understand the theory why that might be, it will be negligible against the community you build. Rather than second guess the *current* Google algorithm, we need to do what works for our readers benefit.

    @Philip that’s a good point, what signal are people sending to their readers by saying in effect “I don’t trust you enough to clean link your site … but please comment anyway”?

    @Jhay it seems Wikipedia have a lot of problems before they even think about changing their broken policy on no follow ;)

    @Nenad it’s a shame no-follow is the default isn’t it?

    @Kate, with all the smart folks at blogger/google you would have thought the new version of blogger would have quietly “forgotten” to include no-follow wouldn’t you? ;)

    @Kirk, every link counts, especially in technorati and Google :)

    @Steve, agreed :)

    @Cory, we tend to take what we are given with our blog software. I lean towards the theory no-follow was “anti-spam theatre” rather than an attempt at a real solution :)

  29. I do believe that WordPress and it’s default “no-follow” was originally an attempt to combat spam and I know I remember reading that somewhere in the near past (but heck, I’m getting old-er). What should be done in the next WP versions is include an option in the default install that offers the same functions as the “Do-Follow” plugin. It shouldn’t be hard. I may just suggest that into the Idea’s section of WordPress.org.

    I think you’re right Chris—any results from using the plugin will be long term only. Look how long it takes to see the results just by adding a “packed” robots.txt into your root in place of a blank one. It can be around two weeks before you might see a difference.

  30. I do believe that WordPress and it’s default “no-follow” was originally an attempt to combat spam and I know I remember reading that somewhere in the near past (but heck, I’m getting old-er). What should be done in the next WP versions is include an option in the default install that offers the same functions as the “Do-Follow” plugin. It shouldn’t be hard. I may just suggest that into the Idea’s section of WordPress.org.

    I think you’re right Chris—any results from using the plugin will be long term only. Look how long it takes to see the results just by adding a “packed” robots.txt into your root in place of a blank one. It can be around two weeks before you might see a difference.

  31. There’s only 1 site that I ensure no-follow for and that’s Wikipedia – who does it to everyone else. Welcome to the no-nofollow revolution!

    :)

  32. There’s only 1 site that I ensure no-follow for and that’s Wikipedia – who does it to everyone else. Welcome to the no-nofollow revolution!

    :)

  33. Thanks for the comprehensive no-follow description, Chris. It sure demystified the topic for me.

    (I’ve even downloaded the nofollow.php file already, but didn’t feel as if I knew enough to make a decision on whether or not to use it yet. Now, I do. :) )

  34. Thanks for the comprehensive no-follow description, Chris. It sure demystified the topic for me.

    (I’ve even downloaded the nofollow.php file already, but didn’t feel as if I knew enough to make a decision on whether or not to use it yet. Now, I do. :) )

  35. Doug, I’m for a nofollow revolution. Sign me, up, pass the gun powder, and as Chris Cree just commented on my post, let’s storm the castle.

    Adam, since you’re working with me, forget the nofollow plugin. I can remove the nofollow from your code almost blindfolded.

  36. Doug, I’m for a nofollow revolution. Sign me, up, pass the gun powder, and as Chris Cree just commented on my post, let’s storm the castle.

    Adam, since you’re working with me, forget the nofollow plugin. I can remove the nofollow from your code almost blindfolded.

  37. @Kirk – I have seen a small uptick in spams but that could be because the google bot is giving me more attention

    @Adam – looks like Dawud has you covered

    @Doug, @Dawud – power to the people ;)

  38. @Kirk – I have seen a small uptick in spams but that could be because the google bot is giving me more attention

    @Adam – looks like Dawud has you covered

    @Doug, @Dawud – power to the people ;)

  39. Hmm, it seems that I can’t actually get rid of nofollow on MT as easily as it seems. When I turn off the plugin, it replaces the commenter’s link with some roundabout link that goes through the MT software, and I can’t find a way to hack the plugin to get rid of the rel code.

    If anyone can help I’d be forever grateful.

  40. Hmm, it seems that I can’t actually get rid of nofollow on MT as easily as it seems. When I turn off the plugin, it replaces the commenter’s link with some roundabout link that goes through the MT software, and I can’t find a way to hack the plugin to get rid of the rel code.

    If anyone can help I’d be forever grateful.

  41. Good timing for this post. I just read about a week ago that WordPress had nofollow on by default. I thought about it for a couple days, and then decided that, since I moderate comments myself, I’d like to do away with them.

    I poked around looking for a preference in WP-admin, and then Googled the problem, and found the DoFollow plugin and installed it on all 3 of my blogs a few days ago.

    On top of that, I posted a comment in my MyBlogLog profile saying that I had done so, and that I hoped folks would be encouraged to comment when they stopped by the sites. Early response has been encouraging. I was also thinking that it would be good to work on a groundswell movement among other bloggers, so I’m glad you’ve already beaten me to the punch!

  42. Good timing for this post. I just read about a week ago that WordPress had nofollow on by default. I thought about it for a couple days, and then decided that, since I moderate comments myself, I’d like to do away with them.

    I poked around looking for a preference in WP-admin, and then Googled the problem, and found the DoFollow plugin and installed it on all 3 of my blogs a few days ago.

    On top of that, I posted a comment in my MyBlogLog profile saying that I had done so, and that I hoped folks would be encouraged to comment when they stopped by the sites. Early response has been encouraging. I was also thinking that it would be good to work on a groundswell movement among other bloggers, so I’m glad you’ve already beaten me to the punch!

  43. “@Adam – looks like Dawud has you covered”

    Like a jimmy hat. Thanks.

  44. “@Adam – looks like Dawud has you covered”

    Like a jimmy hat. Thanks.

  45. Hi Chris!
    Got you listed, as I too “do follow” :-)
    Helpful blog, I just subscribed.
    Look forward to learning more from you.
    To our success & empowerment,
    Ponn

  46. Hi Chris!
    Got you listed, as I too “do follow” :-)
    Helpful blog, I just subscribed.
    Look forward to learning more from you.
    To our success & empowerment,
    Ponn

  47. Want to tell everyone that you’ve turned off the nofollow in your comments? Check out my new “ifollow” logos- grab one for your sidebar!
    http://randaclay.com/archives/the-i-follow-movement

  48. Want to tell everyone that you’ve turned off the nofollow in your comments? Check out my new “ifollow” logos- grab one for your sidebar!
    http://randaclay.com/archives/the-i-follow-movement

  49. This is becoming quite a movement – it’s great.

  50. This is becoming quite a movement – it’s great.

  51. It IS a great movement. One that benefits even a newbie like me since it’s something that doesn’t just whiz over my head. After making my blog – which is just a month old – dofollow, it really took off quite well. I also learn a lot reading and commenting on various dofollow sites.

  52. It IS a great movement. One that benefits even a newbie like me since it’s something that doesn’t just whiz over my head. After making my blog – which is just a month old – dofollow, it really took off quite well. I also learn a lot reading and commenting on various dofollow sites.