January 19, 2005

rel=“nofollow”

For some odd reason this site has a high PageRank. I don’t know why. My high PageRank attracts spammers trying to increase their search engine ranks. To combat this problem a consortium of search engines have begun the rel=“nofollow” initiative. It’s a code change (on the user’s site) that stops search engine spiders from following comment links that are inflating the PageRanks of linked-to sites. It’s a change that website owners make to their code to help search engines provide more relevant results. I’ve implemented the change here on studio2f. However, there’s something that just rubs me the wrong way about the whole concept.

The explosion of blogs, comments and trackbacks have directly affected the PageRank algorithms the search engines use to rank sites. Is that the blogsphere’s problem or a sign that the original PageRank implementation was not developed with the ability to evolve as the internet landscape transforms? Every time a new challenge arises to PR will the search engines push for the users to alter their sites and code to prop up PageRank? Today the problem is bloggers and their comments— tomorrow it’s some sort of interactive-multimedia space car we’re all driving. Who knows. Uses for the internet continue to expand.

Most of us favor the results and PR from Google over Yahoo- or gasp! Carnegie Mellon’s Lycosbecause their results suck. In a couple of years we’ll adore a new search engine with a new means of calculating PR that generates better results than Google. That’s evolution- and it happens on the corporation’s side not the end users.

I aggressively defend my entries from spammers with Jay Allen’s outstanding MT-Blacklist and Brad Choate’s MT-DSBL. I know that every link in my comments is a legitimate link supporting the user’s comment. It’s a constant war… with regular spam attacks daily, I don’t believe rel=“nofollow” is going to stop them. As the spammer’s PRs start to decline they’ll adapt. They always do. They’re like cockroaches.

They’ll still score the top search engine result positions— while cleaning up the search engines will happen at the expense of the little sites (not the big ones like boinboing). Small legitimate (not spam) blogs will drop off the radar as their PRs disappear.

This probably won’t be a popular statement: but the idea that “thinking about PageRank” is evil, and instead you should be creating great content to build yourself into a boingboing is a hollow argument. There’s room for both. Boingboing became what it is today partly because a zillion people linked to it.

I believe this solution is a band-aid to the problem that the search engines have: they need to generate legitimate results. rel=“nofollow” is not the cure— the problem will continue. PR will still be exploited and results will still be tainted. The search engines have to figure out how to filter the crap internally.

Regardless— I’ve implemented rel=“nofollow” here.


4 Comments

100% agree.

And frankly, Jay Allen's contention on his site that "[bloggers'] inflated PageRank, which was a problem created by the search engines themselves, is the rotting flesh that the maggots [spammers] sought out in the first place" is a little too tidy for my tastes. Sure, he can feel comfortable saying that with a 6/10 PR site and a name everyone in the blogosphere knows. This nofollow thang ain't gonna hurt him one bit. http://tinyurl.com/46cbo

What I'm more interested in at this point is how nofollow will affect the burgeoning nuisance of referrer spam. Everyone's talking about comment spam, but referrer spam sucks too. I've written up a long and pretty information post on the subject; feel free to take a look. http://tinyurl.com/4mmn2

The more I think about this the more I feel that instead of tens of thousands of individually managed black lists-- Google should be managing a black list. They should know which sites are trying to exploit the page rank system-- and they should ban them from the index,

In case of error- Google could provide a one-stop dispute center to get yourself off the blacklist-- much easier than you can get off individual blog's black lists.

Again-- cleaning up the search engine results should be their job, not ours. And if the solution is on their end, then the hundreds of abandonded blogs that are racking up spam comments (and will never be patched to add no-follow) could be stopped.

I've seen some posts that relate this spam war to DRM efforts. The more you try to stop a group from doing something, the sooner a solution/crack/hack rolls out to circumvent your attempt.

We can't keep changing our sites to fix Google. Google needs to be the one solving this problem.

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I use to think the new nofollow tag was a good thing.

But I've come to realize that it only prevents the web from being a web.

Instead of interconnected sites there's page rank black holes everywhere.

They collect massive amounts of inbound links without a single outbound connection.

Well except maybe to the SEO company that "fixed" their page.

While this tag is great for cheating the search engines and skewering the search results.

It's undermining the natural interconnected structure of the web.

Wasn't that the cool thing about blogs anyways?

The sheer amount of interconectivity provided by the proper us of hyper text linking.

I guess when all the search engines that have adopted this new tag realize their results have become dominated by businesses that can afford nofollow overhauls and internal link structure optimization, they'll realize the flaw.

What we need is a search engine that only indexs pages WITHOUT the nofollow tag, this will give us a spamdex free search.

Besides removing the motive for spammers to post links it also removes the the credit that is due to valid commentors.

All links in comments on a site deserve PageRank because sometimes a comment is what draws lots of links to a page.

So yeah basically this is an affirmation that google is only interested in the money, and the nofollow is a tool for SEO companies to make out like bandits.

Meanwhile they're shredding the virtual fabric of cyber space for private citizens to make room for the new corporate business centers.

Think about it.

Zen

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