I recently stumbled upon this old post explaining why linking to external websites can be a good thing for your website. The article explains how one of the biggest problems on the web these days is that everyone wants to be linked to, but nobody wants to give links away. The author claims that it is about time for a paradigm shift towards a much more generous, out-linking web policy. And can’t deny that I agree whole-heartedly.
This in turn got me thinking about the rel=”nofollow” tag. Ever since the internet started to exist, spam has been growing rapidly. Many different measures have been and are being taken place to prevent these spammers, but most to no avail. One of these preventions was the famous rel=“nofollow”.
The initial idea of this addition was that you let people link out to external websites without losing anything on your PageRank, by saying to the search engines’ spiders not to follow links that are tagged with the nofollow flag. This was an excellent idea to discourage spammers, as adding a “nofollow” link to spammed links would not help any website that was being linked to in the first place.
Google has described the usage of the nofollow tag as something that you add to links you do not want to vouch for, and they also encourage adding the tag on advertisement links. That way, the search engines will take notion of which links that are placed on your site are relevant to the content of the pages and are recommended by you, and which specific links are not to be given any value by the search engines. In this case, your page’s PageRank is divided only over your “dofollow” links, and none is given to the nofollowed websites that you placed in your content. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, this excellent idea backfired: Spammers continued to spam , but that is not all. Every website owner was afraid to lose their valuable PageRank, so they all started to add a nofollow to all of their links! They think that by not having spiders following the outbound links all that, that Google simple would stay inside their website and potentially ranking it higher in the search results. But that, ladies and gentlemen, is not what Google meant at all! How do people and search engines know which of the placed links were valuable or related to your website’s content, and which of them were not valued as such when you started to add a nofollow tag to everything? Other people were even going a step further, by practicing the ‘PageRank sculpting’ nofollow links within your website to have more concentration on the PageRank flowing to the more important articles and not to waste it on less quality sections of your site or blog.
At that point, Google eventually decided to put a stop to all of that. They started to change the way that nofollow flowed with the pagerank, and when nobody even noticed the change, Google announced what they did. You can read more about this change on Matt Cutts’ blog. If you are still not convinced about the evil of rel=”nofollow”, you must really read these 13 reasons why nofollow tags suck.
So, to get back on the subject of linking out, I have always thought of NoFollow like this: I would like all people to link to my site and vouch for me. I would actually like more than anything if a lot more people would link to a lot more websites. It is why I always link out a lot to of websites that I like. By linking out, you show your readers what websites you think are interesting for them.
In fact, search engines rely on this practice nowadays; the more a website gets linked to, the more people apparently favor that site, and the more it will be valued by the major search engines. That is the reason I think it is in everybody’s best interest to link out to others websites that you think are interesting, or in other words: worth linking to. In the end, the internet is based on their links, and not linking to other websites hurts the entire purpose of the internet. How else are we to know which websites are worth visiting and which are not?
Prevent Spamming, Reward Users
Of course, the entire linking concept is made to attract hungry spammers. It always has and it always will. But randomly adding the “nofollow” tag to any of your links, or not linking at all, is not going to solve that problem and it will not help the web. Here are some things that do help:
- Checking for spam
Run the placed blog comments, users forum posts, wiki edits or whatever kind of user-submitted content you get, through several spam checkers. Akismet is probably the best tools for this dirty job, and there are plugins available for a lot of software (I use it on platforms like WordPress, phpBB and vBulletin).
- Check for bots
Spammers are not really humans that are posting their site links everywhere. They are programmed bots that are designed to spam their links. Checking if something is posted by bots can be done in several ways. One of the most popular is Captcha, a tool that I am not really a fan of, but there are other ways too. Filter out the bots and you will already have a lot less spam on your sites.
- Reward your users
If you are manually approving the comments on your site, why not have the links in there to be followed? If a discussion arises, than most of the comments are related to the current subject that you posted about. Who will be hurt when those links followed. If the author of the comment places a link in his comment, why should you not reward this person by giving them some of the Google love? If you get loads of comments then you do not manually approve, maybe you want to have them nofollowed just the first few times, but drop the tag after the user is making two or three useful comments on your behalf. This way you are actively block the one-time spammers, but still give some though love to the actual returning and contributing users.
there are a lot more possible ways, but you pretty much get the idea. My exact point is: stop punishing your valued users for other people their spam. Start linking to each other again.
What is your opinion about Nofollow & Dofollow? Please leave a comment below!.