Nofollowing comments has it’s uses.

Posted by FrankP

Nofollow may not have succeeded in stopping the spam comments, but does that mean it’s useless? Nofollow may still have it’s place…

If a link on your site includes the nofollow attribute, you are telling the search engines not to count the link as a favourable vote from you.

Nofollow was introduced in an attempt to reduce link spam and to reduce spam sites rankings in Search Engines. Spammers send endless automated comments to blogs with links to their spam sites, thus increasing their rankings in Search Engines by having huge amounts of pages linking back to their site. It was hoped nofollow would discourage this behaviour. it didn’t.

Ok, it didn’t stop the spammers, but does that mean it’s useless?

WordPress by default nofollows all links in comments. Many bloggers are using ‘dofollow’ plugins and modifications to remove the nofollow – and this may make sense for some blogs.

Some bloggers who tightly moderate their comments feel that their commenters should be ‘rewarded’ in a way by having a link from the page back to their own site. Or perhaps some feel it will encourage more comments.

Which brings me to my reservations about removing nofollow.

If having a link on your blog post encourages people to comment, doesn’t that mean you need to question your commenters motives? I want to know that commenters are taking part in the discussion, not blowing hot air to qualify for a link in the comments.

Linking is an integral part of most blogs. Linking makes the blogging world go round. But I like to be in control of my linking. I want to decide who I link to and how often.

If you remove nofollow you lose control over how many outbound links are on your page. You have to moderate very closely, and check all links if you want to avoid losing control over where you link to. And you may find yourself in a quandary with some posts as to whether they qualify as a type of spam or not.

For example, someone who leaves a comment on your site saying ‘Great post.’ with a link to their site included. Are they sincere? Are they just grabbing every link they can? With nofollow, you don’t have to worry that they are just trying to grab every available link.

Whether you should nofollow your comments or not is an individual choice, and one that has to take into consideration the nature of your blog, but before you remove nofollow consider the advantages it brings.

Just because it didn’t do what it set out to, doesn’t mean it’s useless.

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12 Responses to “Nofollowing comments has it’s uses.”

  1. Cormac Moylan Says:

    Hi Frank,

    Nofollow has prevented sites from gaining anchored back links which, providing the spammer runs a successful campaign, should send the site soaring for their desired search term. This is a great thing. Blogs were getting a very bad name as they were being heavily used as spam arsenal.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving ‘link juice’ to those who provide a meaningful comment on a blog post. If the comments are moderated, which all good blogs should be doing in the first place, then I’m more than willing to dofollow().

    I’m not saying you’re wrong in your post, you are correct with what you have said. Attention needs to be given to comments on blogs, especially on blogs which dofollow.

    I have seen a few comments trickle in on my blog which featured text such as ‘good point’ or ‘great site’. These comments get binned if they get past Dr. Dave’s Spam Karma. You can spot generic spam a mile away :)

    Frank, this plugin should best suit your needs if you ever decide to change from nofollow to dofollow. It’s a plugin for WordPress which turns off nofollow for users who have posted 10 comments or more. The 10 figure can be altered via the admin panel for the plugin. This plugin pretty much guarantees that the comments on your blog are legit and should go a long way to building trust with regards links.

    http://www.allpassionmarketing.com/software.html#linklove

    Cormac

  2. FrankP Says:

    Hey Cormac,
    Thanks for the comment… that certainly goes a long way to addressing the ‘soft-spam’ concern – but there is the concern about control… which I should probably have expanded upon as it is more important really.

    I believe the best policy when blogging, particularly for business blogs, is to have a small number of relevant links to quality sites in any post.

    By ‘dofollowing’ you increase the potential for a massive number of links to sites which may not be relevant or of good quality…

    Long term I believe this could have a negative impact on search engine results…

    What do you think?

  3. Cormac Moylan Says:

    Linking to irrelevant sites is going to become a contentious issue in the coming months. Watch this space > http://www.mattcutts.com/blog
    There was meant to have been a clamp down on links in the past but nothing really came of it to be honest.

    There are dangers in linking to bad neighborhoods which can result in your site dropping out of the index. Obvously this is a nightmare for any blog and more so for a business blog. I still believe that the link love plugin goes a long way to building trust though. I must install that plugin myself when I get a chance. At the moment I’m dofollowing all comments. I believe in Karma so I should really be controlling my links a bit better I suppose.

  4. David Airey :: Creative Design :: Says:

    Hi Frank,

    I’m all for removing NoFollow to promote conversation. Sure, there may be those who are in it for themselves when leaving comments, but more often than not the comments I receive are constructive.

    Plus, by encouraging new visitors to comment they’re flagging up their own blog which could well be of great interest to me. After all, they’re visiting my blog due to its content, so chances are they’re posting about something similar.

    Thanks for visiting.

    David

  5. FrankP Says:

    As I said in the post above, it is a personal choice, and it may indeed make sense for some blogs…

    For business blogs, who are particularly interested in improving search engine results I would have to say I would be extremely wary of ‘dofollowing’ though.

    Quite a few people seem to be joining the move to dofollow, it will be interesting to see how it turns out, what the impacts are and, if enough people abandon nofollow, whether Google responds in any way.

  6. Andy Beard Says:

    If you use smart linking structures you can have as many external links from comments as you like, and still be in control of the flow of link juice.

    It fluctuates a little (ok sometimes a lot), but last time I checked Google likes me and has over 4K of my pages indexed, and only 3 in supplemental.

    Use a comments policy and enforce it. (I need to remove a couple of links from some comments I received today)

    Also note that a link that is someone’s name, linking through to a blog that is about them, is not an irrelevant link, though some people could use it a little smarter and link through to related content.

    As an example I have used my link above to link through to some highly relevant content on how you can control links on a page that gets lots of comments.

    The biggest problem currently are the people running around leaving comments just because it is a link, on blogs they wouldn’t think of reading other than for the link.

    My hope is that eventually people will start using the benefit of DoFollow with trackbacks, linking from relevant content to relevant content, and effectively being able to choose your anchor text.
    Obviously legitimate trackbacks, not spam.

  7. FrankP Says:

    Hey Andy, thanks for the comment, but to my mind (and I’m not trying to be smart here) your comment currently confirms my own belief that for many blogs using dofollow just doesn’t make sense.

    It increases the management overhead and risks getting a lower search engine ranking for the page if not managed very carefully.

    I think that there are cases where dofollowing makes sense, but it’s not something I would generally advocate, nor is it something I’ll be implementing myself – not just yet anyway.

    As I said on another blog, Google treats a link to a site as a favourable nod – as the author of a site I wish to remain in absolute control of the direction of those favourable nods.

    And I think that makes sense. When Google is spidering my site and deciding relevance, I want to be in total control of that. And I don’t want to have to remove a valid comment due to a link I feel is irrelevant…

    Of course, if you notice any improvement in your search engine rankings as a result of dofollowing from your own site, I’ll sit up, pay attention and apologise for ever doubting you :P

  8. Andy Beard Says:

    It does confirm what you are saying.

    I couldn’t give you an improvement, because over the last 2 years I have been using Dofollow on every WordPress installation I have that has comments switched on.

    Whilst I encourage people to use DoFollow, I also try to provide information on how to balance internal and external linking.

    On this blog, as it is currently setup, I would advise you not to use DoFollow, but at the same time I would say you don’t have enough relevant internal linking.

    But that is me thinking the way I do for SEOing a blog which is being used for personal communication or discussion, and not a niche website. Niche websites I sometimes do differently, with all juice flowing to a sitemap, and from there to the content – such sites I generally don’t have comments switched on, unless there is a product in some way to support or pre-sell.

  9. FrankP Says:

    Sure, a lot of that makes sense.

    Meant to say I read the article you linked to and that concept of increasing internal linking in relation to number of incoming links was interesting.

  10. Deborah Says:

    Hi Frank,

    There isn’t much more that I can add to what Andy, David and Cormac have said advocating Do Follow, other than it helps to build relative content on your blog when readers know that they’ll get some kind of reward for adding their input, especially when it’s a hot topic.

    One thing that I would like to point out, is that you had taken slight advantage of posting a link back to this post in your comment with your cons against using it, on a post where I am rewarding those that ARE using it with links back to their sites, ahem.

    Everyone has the freedom of choice, and there will always be pros and cons. But when the pros far outweight the cons, as I believe Do Follow does, then one might want to give it some consideration.

    For a site that doesn’t monitor their comments closely, then it’s probably a good idea not to remove No Follow. I monitor all of my posts, so it’s not an issue for me. Those that leave a comment just for the link without contributing anything but ‘good post’ can be easily deleted.

    As mentioned, there are plugins and filters that you can add that will catch the majority of spam, and you can control who is allowed to receive links back after so many comments.

  11. FrankP Says:

    Hi Deborah,
    I think there may be more at stake here for a domain than many people realise.

    A good linking policy is generally considered to be good practice, and implementing dofollow makes it very difficult to maintain.

    As I’ve already mentioned, the potential snowball effect of many non relevant links on many posts could have a negative effect on your search engine positioning…

    Also, I believe that if the dofollow movement gets enough momentum, Google might move against it as it skews results based on linking – worst case scenario Google move blogs out of the main search and into blog search as has been bandied about a few times.

    And to go back to the lesser issues of maintenance, I posted a relevant link on a relevant post, and yet you seem concerned that I was taking advantage. This is not a concern you would have to be remotely worried about if you were using ‘nofollow’.

    So all in all, I’m still not convinced, but this is a really interesting discussion!

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