The original concept of using rel=”nofollow” to combat blogspam or splogs was a good idea when originally proposed by Google.

This was to identify links that should not be counted as a vote or endorsement by the linking page. It’s interesting to note that it was originally designed to be utilized on pages where users or visitors could add links by themselves such as blog comments, guestbooks, visitors stats or referrer logs.

I’m seeing more and more comments on the expanding use of this attribute by some search engines, especially in relation to paid links or text ads placed on a site.

For instance, Matt Cutts suggests using rel=”nofollow” on paid links:

What if a site wants to buy links purely for visitor click traffic, to build buzz, or to support another site? In that situation, I would use the rel=nofollow attribute. The nofollow tag allows a site to add a link that abstains from being an editorial vote. Using nofollow is a safe way to buy links, because it’s a machine-readable way to specify that a link doesn’t have to be counted as a vote by a search engine.

On a site that we are associated with, the owners sell advertising to help offset some of their operating expenses. They offer several advertising options including button ads, text ads, individual topic sponsorship or for the most visibility they offer site sponsorship ads in either format.

The most popular ads by far are the text ads, which are placed on the bottom of the page where a reader might want to find related information from other web sites after reading an article.

The ads and web sites are reviewed prior to their acceptance and must meet certain guidelines. While the owners do not endorse any of the products or services advertised, they do not use nofollow links for the most part as they are completely unaware of this tag or it’s intentions.

I really hope that this doesn’t cause them any problems with “trust” in the future. We’ll have to wait and see.

I think the original intent of “nofollow” was a good idea, but it’s sad to see that it’s been ineffective at stopping blog spam. It’s now referred to as Google’s embarrasing mistake.

I’m encouraged by Jeremy Zawodny’s blog post Nofollow No Good?

Look. Linking is part of what makes the web work. If you’re actually concerned about every link you make being counted in some global database of site endorsements, you’re probably over-thinking just a bit. Life’s too short for that, ya know? Link and be linked to. Let the search engines sort it out.

  1. hvizdak’s avatar

    I would like to mention that the nofollow evil is not officially supported by w3c.

    What’s more, Google Sitemaps shows links with nofollow value (rel is the attribute, nofollow is it’s value) as ordinary links pointing to your web pages. Does this make any sense? Google claims that such links don’t count, but Google’s own product (or service or whatever), Sitemaps, claims something else… Weird.

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