Author: Joshua Mabilia
NoFollow attribute came into being to prevent spammers from gaining undue advantage arising out by posting backlinks in discussion forums, blogs, etc. In other words, a nofollow attribute is a necessity to overcome the problem of comment-spamming.
In this article we will attempt to understand the rationale behind nofollow attribute, coming as it did after lot of confabulations.
Importance of Being Seen
In just under a decade, world wide web has emerged as a great medium for publicity. Many websites that debuted in early stages have shot into fame in no time, and for some success has been phenomenal. As the rush to create web-presence picked up, the need to be widely linked also grew manifold.
Eminence and usability of websites depend to a large extent on incoming links. Google is known to stress on incoming links as an important parameter. This meant that both quantity and quality of incoming links play crucial roles in the eye of Google.
Since high quality backlinks are difficult to come by – especially for a new website – webmasters look for ways to augment this handicap, often at disadvantage to others.
Field-day for Spammers
Public forums became the first victim of link spamming. While discussion forums have their own way to deal with the problem, blogs lack that since they are mainly one-person efforts, which is understandable because blogs are mostly referred to as personal commentaries.
Spamming with unwarranted comments by those whose sole purpose is to seek high search rankings by posting backlinks to their sites became a real hazard. Bloggers had to face the brunt of this onslaught. Often, indiscriminate spamming deters those who are willing to offer genuine comments.
Since indexing and tracking tools, such as Google’s, tend to consider backlinks as expressions of support, it therefore follows that to nip the problem of link spamming in the bud, the solution has to originate in situ, that is the place where the link exists. NoFollow attribute is born out of this necessity.
Apart from nofollow attribute, there are other suggestions. Some prefer another attribute (for example, inserting rel=”vote-against” within tag), while others take alternate steps, such as creating captchas, requiring comment makers to register, pre-moderation of comments and so on. A good write-up is available here [http://www.threadwatch.org/node/803].
NoFollow attribute is one that has to be placed within an anchor tag. Example : click here. When NoFollow attribute is inserted, it signals search engines to the effect that the outgoing link does not have approval for having appeared in the webpage.
NoFollow attribute is an indicator of undesirability of a hyperlink in the webpage in which it appears.
How NoFollow Attribute Helps?
Let us have it directly from Google [http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/01/preventing-comment-spam.html]:
“From now on, when Google sees the nofollow attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn’t a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it’s just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.”
In other words, Google proposes to deny any benefit accruing from a hyperlink that contains nofollow attribute.
Will NoFollow Attribute Stop Spam?
Increasingly it is felt that simply including nofollow attribute will not be able to arrest content-spamming. In fact, many blog software automatically include nofollow attribute in comment backlinks. Still spams are rampant.
One reason could be that content spammers make use of automated programs that dole out thousands of comments at the click of mouse targeted at vast multitude of blogs.
The second reason may be that spammers feel some links might just be clicked on and convert into sales. For them it is worth taking chance. Also, who knows some blogs may still be unaware of nofollow attribute!