Nofollow: Think Before You Link

Workbench visitor David Lewis shares my pessimism about the new nofollow link attribute supported by Google.

I predict that lots of people will be clamoring to get rid of "nofollow" within, say, 3 months, if not sooner. It really does little or nothing to eliminate comment spam -- you need a proactive approach for that -- but only solves a problem for Google, namely to get rid of what, for them, are lots of unwashed links.

Unless I misunderstand search engine optimization, there could be negative consequences for Google also, because the attribute gives publishers an economic incentive to use nofollow on all external links, boosting the PageRank of internal links.

Every profit-minded publisher who does this will weaken the effectiveness of Google's ranking algorithm, especially within the commercial subset of the Web. The publisher of a large, popular site like the 500,000-page New York Times could run a script to add the attribute to all external links, bestowing the benefits of its high PageRank exclusively on its own corporate properties.

Search Engine Watch Publisher Danny Sullivan goes into more detail about the issues raised by link condoms on his weblog.

Comments

I doubt PageRank takes internal links into account. That'd be sort of silly, don't you think?

Yep. Links are already $$$, and this increases the leverage that site owners have over that ecconomic power.

I think there could arise a market -- black or otherwise -- in follow-able links. Others will just not give anyone follow-able links. The whole Google pagerank scheme could fall apart.

Anybody for a bet -- Goggle will withdraw this within three months?

--David.

According to this PageRank analysis and several others I've read, internal links also count towards the calculation of the destination page's rank.

Well, I think it is off putting for even non-spam posters, they aren't going to want to post if they don't get PageRank from it.

Hmmm, bit of a sweeping generalisation don't you think; surely SEO is not the only motivator for blog commenting? I find it difficult to believe that everyone who posts a comment on a blog checks the source code for nofollow...

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