Most blogging platforms have the rel=’nofollow’ attribute inserted automatically on the comment section. The initial objective of this feature was to discourage spammers from posting comments just for the sake of a backlink.
Sometime ago, however, Wikipedia decided to insert the NoFollow attribute on all the external links, raising a lot of polemic around the subject. Loren Baker, editor of the Search Engine Journal, recently published an article titled “13 Reasons Why NoFollow Tags Suck“. Here are some of the points on his list:
1. NoFollow = NoWorky. Using NoFollow in blog comments, the original intent of the tag, does nothing to discourage comment spammers. Using other anti-spamming tools such as question, math and plugins such as Akismet and SpamKarma for WordPress is much more effective.
2. If a blogger moderates comments, there is no need for a NoFollow attribute. Everyone who passes a human inspection should get the link love.
5. Linking to someone with a NoFollow attribute is a sign of not trusting them. It’s like reaching to shake someone’s hand, but stopping to put on a pair of latex gloves.
6. No Follow sucks because the search engines (particularly Google) can’t make up their mind about when and how it should be used, thus causing confusion among inexperienced webmasters who do STUPID things like No Follow ALL outgoing links from their website to protect the site from page rank leakageâ€ and other silly ideas.
Afterwards Ahmed Bilal published a counter-article titled “Defending NoFollow Against Angry SEOs“. Quoting the author:
NoFollow exists as the last line of defence for search engines to prevent non-editorial links from polluting the Google index. I expect Google to take care of it’s own index and make sure it is as spam free as possible. Wouldn’t you?
Anti-spam plugins prevent spammers from posting spam on our blogs. NoFollow prevents spammy comments from polluting the search engines. There’s an important distinction – Google’s responsibility is to guarantee the best possible results. When did fighting the world’s spam fall under their responsibilities?
Personally I think that both views are correct. While the NoFollow attribute has many drawbacks it also helps search engines to index sites more appropriately. As Bilal commented the use of NoFollow tags is not an ideal solution, because Google and the other search engines could improve their algorithm to filter spam comments straight way. Still we do not live on an ideal world, and some measures must be taken even if they are not the optimal.
That said I also think that some blogs would benefit by removing the NoFollow attribute from the links on the comment section. If you have a loyal readership that helps to improve your content through valuable discussions there is no reason why you should not share some link love with them.
One of my readers, Andrew Timberlake, created a plugin to solve that problem. It is called Link Love and it will remove the rel=”nofollow” attribute from comments where the commenter has commented 10 (the number is configurable) or more times. Thanks Andrew for creating the plugin.