Recent events have caused me to rethink the use of the nofollow attribute on my blog comment links. Much has already been written about whether or not to use the nofollow attribute, so I won’t re-hash those arguments here. Personally, I had come down on the side of believing that nofollow did little to stop spam. Besides, commenters add value to my sites and it’s appropriate to reward them with a link. So I’ve been running one of the DoFollow plugins for WordPress to override the default nofollow behavior.
Then the spam flood came that most of us have seen by now. These spam comments are harder to detect because they seem to be written by a human and customized to somewhat fit the post content. You can often tell only by the URL they promote and the awkward wording of the comment that shows they don’t truly grasp the topic. More of them are slipping through the trusty spam-fighting superheroes: Akismet, Bad Behavior, and Spam Karma.
A little research showed that my URLs were ending up on lists of dofollow blogs on sites made just for the purpose of gaming Google’s Pagerank. (I won’t link to them and give them publicity.) The lists are all neatly sorted into groups with the highest Pagerank sites at the top.
And then today, I found comments with a referrer from a site that sells a script to help you find blogs without nofollow. I was tempted to buy it to see how it worked so I could block it, but I just couldn’t stand the idea of giving them any money. (It’s dofollowblogs.net, which I also will not link to.) What really irks me is that they refer to this as white-hat link building to make it sound palatable to the average Joe! (Oh joy, here’s another one: http://www.commenthut.com/)
I still believe that using nofollow fails to stop spam, however, I am now convinced that:
- Turning off nofollow can be a spammer magnet.
- Some sites are promoting dofollow to increase the number of sites available to abuse.
- Some sites are promoting displaying a dofollow graphic on your site only to make it easier for them to find you.
- Not using nofollow may effect Google search results ranking. It may be coincidence, but I had a site that by every statistic should have ranked #1 for certain keywords, yet it remained at the #3 position for many months. The site leapt past the competition to #1 within a month of turning nofollow back on. I can’t prove a correlation, but further study is certainly warranted.
Well, I’m still not ready to give up. So what can we do about? Here are a few possibilities:
- When you run across sites like this, report to Google through their webmaster tools.
- WordPress users should flag these comments as spam in Akismet. If we all work together, we can make a dent in the sources.
- Use a dofollow plugin with advanced features, like the one I mentioned above.
- It may be possible to block some of these with some .htaccess rules looking for referrers including “nofollow” or “dofollow”. Be careful, though, as it’s easy to block legitimate traffic or yourself with this, e.g., I had to quit blocking those so Google searches for this post would get through. 🙂
- Don’t display the little graphics announcing that you dofollow unless you rename the files so they’re not so easy to find with a Google search.
Anyone have any more ideas or know anything about the scripts being used to abuse our blogs?