Why Is rel="nofollow" important?

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There’s a debate going on about how effective the rel=”nofollow” solution really is. Some believe that Google is flattering itself by thinking that the primary motivation for comment spam is Google juice.

I do not believe that rel=”nofollow” will stop comment spam as I’ve stated before (though I’ve applied it myself). Getting their links out there may be motivation enough. However I think it will have a bigger impact than some people think.

In terms of sheer economies of scale, I don’t think comment spam is like regular email spam. Sending an email to millions of users is very easy both technically and costwise. Buy a list and start sending. Comment spamming millions of websites takes a lot more work.

The primary benefit to comment spam was that a sites page rank increased. Think of it this way, if I spam 100 sites, that might increase my exposure a little, say 10,000 people come via those sites. But suppose those 100 sites increases my page rank and now scores of users are finding my site via Google. That’s where the big financial impact comes in. Those 100 sites might now bring in 1,000,000 users. (I’m pulling these numbers out of my ass but I’m probably not too far out there).

Removing the Google juice increases the comment spammer’s work by a factor of 10 or even 100 to get the same financial impact. This might not stop the comment spammer, but it will hopefully put a damper on their activities in the long run.

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4 responses

  1. Avatar for dilvie
    dilvie January 20th, 2005

    I'm not convinced that this is a good solution to comment spam.

    - I don't think it'll stop the spammers. It requires work to see whether or not your links are using rel="nofollow" -- and there's no reason NOT to spam anyway, on the off chance that people will click thru, pagerank or no. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

    - I'm not convinced that it's a good idea to remove the pagerank rewards for links that are _not_ spam. I want to reward people who post related and constructive links to my blog, or, at least, reward the owners of the sites.

    - I think that human interactive tests are a better guarantee against comment spam.

    - Comment moderation is a great option for popular sites. Low scores hit the trash heap.

  2. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked January 20th, 2005

    I agree, it won't stop it. But I think what we'll see is that as they continue to post without the corresponding page rank increase, they will change course. Either they'll pursue other avenues, or step up their comment spamming.

    As to rewarding constructive links. I'd propose a feature for reverse comment moderation. If you want to award links in your comments, remove the rel="nofollow".

    Or just mention it in your next post. I think it's a right start and should be considered as a complement to CAPTCHA.

  3. Avatar for dilvie
    dilvie May 25th, 2005

    Okay, so it's been a few months now. Has comment spam decreased? Do you know of any studies that have measured the before and after?

    - Eric

  4. Avatar for haacked
    haacked June 7th, 2011

    @dilvie I don't know of any such studies. I think this has probably been a failure in this regard.