Follow or NoFollow? We will Follow!

Comment spam is a huge problem for blogs.  Spammers use programs to automatically post thousands of bogus comments to blog articles with links to their websites in them.  Because search engines consider a link to a site to be a vote of confidence for that site, spammers spam blogs in the hopes that the links they post will boost their Viagra-hocking site (or whatever) to the top of the search results.

The NoFollow link attribute was developed to combat blog comment spam by telling search engines not to follow the link or count it in their ranking algorithm.  The theory was that if spammers are not getting any benefit from the links the post, they would stop spamming.

Unfortunately, the theory is flat out wrong and the NoFollow attribute has been a total failure. Why is that?  And what has Christian Web Trends done about it?

Why NoFollow Has Been a Failure?
Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal recently posted 13 reasons why NoFollow has been a failure.  It’s a great read!  The bottom line is that the NoFollow attribute doesn’t prevent comment spam because spammers will spam you whether you use the NoFollow attribute or not.

We can vouch for that first hand as we get more than 100 spam comments a day.  Thank God for the amazing Spam Karma 2 plugin that filters comments or it would take a full-time staff person just to delete the junk.  (Yes, we hate the name as well, but the plugin is just a tool and has nothing to do with concept of spiritual karma.)

To Follow or NoFollow, That is the Question
I had always assumed that the WordPress blog software we use for Christian Web Trends did not use NoFollow and allowed search engines to follow and credit the links posted by commenters.  But after reading Loren’s article, I realized I had never actually checked.  As it turns out as of version 1.5, WordPress automatically adds the NoFollow attribute.  Moreover, WordPress does not even make turning off NoFollow an option.

Fortunately, there are two free WordPress plugins that remove the NoFollow tag and are a snap to install.  I downloaded and installed Follow URL (the other plugin is DoFollow), activated it, and now links posted in comments will be followed and credited by search engines.

Our primary motivation for making the change is that we want to reward our readers for commenting.  If you put the time and thought into contributing to the conversation here in the Christian Web Trends blog, then we want to help you get whatever boost in the search engines that link might give you.

What do you think of the NoFollow attribute?  If you blog, do you have NoFollow enabled?  What do you think of our disabling of NoFollow?  Are you more likely to post a comment knowing that it will help your website/blog in search results?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

11 Responses to “Follow or NoFollow? We will Follow!”

  1. I think it is worth pointing out that even with rel=nofollow in links, the search engines still follow the links (webserver stats show this), they just do not attribute rank authority.

    As the article linked to above says, spammers will still post comments even with nofollow, in the hope someone (not even a search engine) will be duped into following it.

  2. Pastor Richard Feb 16, 2007 at 11:21 am

    A friend of mine just re fixed my computer I thought I had all the protecion from spam and all the virus out there It Got me 100 files cleaned out as a ministry
    on the computer it hurts it is fixted now with all new soft wear and anti spam
    and virus protection

  3. I set up nofollow on my blog when the idea was first announced, and haven’t really revisited the concept. However, I also set up a captcha system (where the commenter has to enter a string displayed in an image to prove they’re a human and not an automated system posting spam), and that has all but eliminated my comment spam altogether.

  4. The article here… Follow or nofollow; as been very usefull for me. Not only do I get this stuff sent to my blog, but also to my website. We started filtering everything submitted on our blog and site due to this and other problems. And now are working on the captcha type system that Joel mentions: There is just too many submissions that are legitimate to handle without some automation.

    Thank you OCC;
    Mike Cook;
    A Gathering Of Christians

  5. I think the no follow tag was a great idea that really has changed things for the better. I used to get loads of spam – but because I’ve included no follow tags in my blog section I know longer get quite as many junk responses.

  6. David – I think whether search engine crawl NoFollow links but not give credit or simply stop and not crawl the link is in dispute. Google claims that they do not crawl NoFollow links:

    http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Webmaster_Help-Indexing/browse_thread/thread/c5a52187d1f8f6e1/c8a9c671bf43aa19?lnk=gst&q=&rnum=22#c8a9c671bf43aa19

    My guess is that not all search engines treat the NoFollow attribute the same way, so some may still crawl the link.

  7. Thanks Paul, I don’t disagree that what the search engines do is in dispute. They hold a lot of power of the web at present.

    And I agree with what you have written it seems wrong to introduce a separate attribute to foil spammers who are trying to play google. Why can’t we just get on and create content? I assume that is why most people leave wordpress untouched.

    I think link spaming could become more of a problem, as free blogs people create on wordpress.com or blogger get abandoned and they don’t bother to review the comments that get subsequently posted. So any spam that slips though doesn’t get picked up. I had a suggestion for wordpress regarding this.

  8. Weblog tools collection links today to an article with a comprehensive list of ‘do follow’ plugins for wordpress.

  9. On my blog I have removed the nofollow attribute.

  10. I am against nofollow, and will not support it on my pages. Web masters are being pushed a little too far with all the rules and regulations. There need to be finer methods defined for filtering out spam.

  11. Thanks, I enjoyed reading your post. Its nice to see someone writing something worth reading. Take care.

    - Jack