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Defending NoFollow Against Angry SEOs

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Defending NoFollow Against Angry SEOs

I’m playing the devil’s advocate here, so keep that in mind in case I end up trampling all over anything you hold dear 🙂

Google has taken a lot of flak on a lot of issues in the past few years – it’s a price an industry leader invariably has to pay.

Apart from Blogger spam (and their plans to control all of the world’s information and then sell it to the highest bidder 🙂 ), NoFollow is possibly an issue that gets Google the worst possible press.

But is NoFollow really that bad a move, or is it something that’s being used to beat Google over the head by people who have grudges against Google?

For the purpose of this debate, I thought I’d take apart Loren Baker’s earlier article on NoFollow: “13 Reasons Why NoFollow Sucks“.

Hope you don’t take it too personally Loren 😉

Does NoFollow even work?

Loren claims in points 1 & 2 that NoFollow doesn’t work because there are better solutions in place available to bloggers.

The implication – that bloggers should be left to police their own mess – smacks of idealism. Would you want Google to leave ranking search results by authority to webmasters as well?

NoFollow exists as the last line of defence for search engines to prevent non-editorial links from polluting the Google index. I expect Google to take care of it’s own index and make sure it is as spam free as possible. Wouldn’t you?

In point 11, Loren quotes WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg as saying: “…In hindsight, I don’t think nofollow had much of an effect…”

Anti-spam plugins prevent spammers from posting spam on our blogs. NoFollow prevents spammy comments from polluting the search engines. There’s an important distinction – Google’s responsibility is to guarantee the best possible results. When did fighting the world’s spam fall under their responsibilities?

NoFollow is Misunderstood

Points 3, 6, 8 and 12 talk about scenarios where NoFollow is ‘useless’. Here’s what I think:

  • If bloggers don’t know their blog comments are no-followed, is it Google’s problem? Read the avoce paragraphs on where I think Google’s responsibility actually lies.
  • If webmasters are misinformed, Google should talk more about PR leakage and why that’s not a problem. But much of the misinformation comes from a misunderstanding of what SEO is. The problem lies in our industry, not at Google’s feet.
  • There should be a solution to selectively No-Follow blog comments, but once again, that’s something WP developers should come up with, not Google.
  • If Yahoo counts NoFollowed links, is it Google’s problem? Really?

Much of the opposition to NoFollow is stemming from a core misunderstanding of Google’s responsibilities and why NoFollow works for Google.

However, some people just like to think too much and then complain 🙂

The Anti-Google club likes to WHINE

If Google came out with a cure for AIDS and gave it away for free, some idiot would stand up and blame them for making it freely available to the world.

There are times when we let our biases take over reason, and after that everything that comes out of our mouths is convulted logic to support our grudges.

Points 5, 7, 9 and 10 are such points.

  • Yes, if you NoFollow a link that means you don’t trust that site enough to recommend it. See but don’t touch, or something like that. That’s what it’s there for.
  • NoFollow is Google’s simplistic solution to preventing spammy links from being counted in their index. They could of course make their algorithms better – what do you think, they don’t want to? That Page and Brin are getting fat and lazy and want to profit from all of us poor webmasters?
  • Smart readers would have noticed that Point 9 criticised Wikipedia instead of NoFollow. I’ll repeat it here because it makes my point quite well:

    “Taking Wikipedia to task over nofollow is fun but ultimately you need to take them to task for why they implemented nofollow in the first place – that is, to prevent spam. Which in turn means that the way Wikipedia was setup was flawed because it opened itself up to easy spamming.

    Therefore, instead of just letting Wikipedia take the easy way out (because ultimately it’s an important resource for many people and replacing it would be tough), they should look at ways into changing their systems so they are not as open to spamming any more.”

  • Do not NoFollow text advertisements if you don’t want to. It’s a tag that’s there for you to use, who cares what Google says you must do, can’t you do what YOU think is right and NOT NoFollow your paid links bought especially to boost your site’s PR? 🙂

NoFollow has SOME value

Point 4:

“Why use NoFollow on sites, text ads, and blogs if there is no value in terms of search engine indexing?”

Once again, something Google has provided webmasters as a tool to let them help Google in keeping the search index spam-free. Yes, there are better anti-spam tools available, but in cases where you cannot manually moderate each comment or each link, NoFollow offers you a quick-n-dirty solution to keep Google clean.

What Do I Really Think About NoFollow?

If you take out the Anti-Google griping and understand that it’s a just a tool promoted by Google as means of a ‘last-defence’ against non-editorial links, there’s very little to say against NoFollow.

Yes, it’s not an ideal solution – the ideal solution would be that the search engine got better at removing spam from it’s index and we as webmasters got better at controlling spam on our end (let’s not dream and pretend that spamming will ever cease to grow exponentially).

But this is not an ideal world, and we need solutions now, not 3 years in the future. Nor can we always rely on webmasters to be perfectly responsible.

So if Google’s pushing NoFollow as a solution to combat comment spam, I’d take it because it helps where webmasters are careless and don’t use moderation or anti-spam plugins.

And as far as Google’s agenda for pushing NoFollow on us for paid links, that’s a totally different story, which I’ll be writing on very soon.

Ahmed Bilal is a business consultant – you can reach him through his blog.

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Loren Baker

Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing ... [Read full bio]

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