We didn’t start the nofollow

I really wanted to use “Nofollow, no cry” as a title, but Dan Sandler beat me to the punch.

From the A Comely Turn Of Phrase Department:

Bill de hÓra:

It seems that search engines are destined to be participants, not observers. Yet, Google asking the web to retag its markup to sustain the PageRank theory of links is like a physicist asking subatomic particles to stop moving about so he can take some measurements.

Bill’s right, but they’ve asked us to stop moving, probably knowing full well that we weren’t going to stop where they wanted, but wherever we damn well please. We didn’t get to decide about nofollow, but now we get to use it wherever we jolly well want. Or, not, if we decide we feel better about that.

Jay Allen:

Now, the astute will point out that because links in comments/TrackBacks are ignored by the search bots, the PageRank of bloggers all around the blooog-o-sphere will suffer because hundreds of thousands of comments linking back to their own sites will no longer count in the rankings. And that is most likely true. But that inflated PageRank, which was a problem created by the search engines themselves, is the rotting flesh that the maggots sought out in the first place.

Jay’s wrong, but I love him and his “Shut the fuck up and do what I tell you, maggots! Now give me twenty!” debating style. Jay’s been struggling with comment spam almost as long as I have, and much harder than I have, so he surely knows that one of the reasons we have so much, and it’s so virulent and violent is because the lowlife SEOers who do it are not just jealous of our PageRank, they are positively angry about it, and want to punish us for having it, and ideally make us disappear. There’s a name for the technique where you deflect an aggressor by giving him whatever he wants: appeasement. Not exactly a hallowed name, and not known for great success.

Andre Torrez:

Sometimes I feel bad because I can’t write these long billowing posts about technology. I wish I had some good opinions on stuff like nofollow or atom/rss poop. But to me it’s all just more toys. So thanks everyone for making more toys that might come in handy later if I need them for something cool.

Andre just flat out makes me jealous. That’s exactly the reaction a digital magpie ought to have, and I’m ashamed of myself for not just saying “okay, someone had a bad idea and implemented it without asking, but it’s new and shiny and how can I play with it?”

So, I’ve mellowed about it somewhat since my first reaction.

If you can’t be bothered to take care of your comments at all, and they are a seething mass of hundreds of spams containing hundreds of links each, please for the love of Ghu tag them nofollow, and consider whether or not you should have comments turned on at all. I can tell you exactly how you are hurting search engine users, and the people who try to read your weblog; I’m not at all sure I can tell you anyone you are helping. Maybe turn your comments off after twelve hours, when you’ve gotten bored with them?

If you think your damn face would look better without that nose anyway, slap nofollow on all your comment links and commenter links with my blessing. Personally, I’ll probably be turned off from commenting by that less often than I am by TypeKey-only, and neither one of us is likely to be that hurt by my absence anyway.

And if you choose to wait for someone to do a sensible plugin that will only apply nofollow temporarily to those comments and pings that you haven’t looked at yet, because you realize that the act of collaboratively writing the web, whether it’s in their own space or in your comments, is a noble and open thing to do, and actually does indicate that their own writings at their own URL are probably a more valuable resource than something else that otherwise looks the same to a search engine, then Bravo! You’re my kind of people, taking this all way too seriously because otherwise it’s hard to imagine why you would want to take it at all.

And how is it a shiny new play-pretty? Well, if for some reason you can’t just lock search engines out of your MT scripts directory entirely, I rather like Laurabelle’s solution of nofollowificating the Trackback URL-to-ping links. For that matter, I don’t see any benefit in my transferring PageRank to the sink that is my RSS feeds (well, to the extent I link directly to them, which is about to be a little more), when I could instead send that to my own pages that are actually useful results, and to other people I link to.

And my category and monthly archives aren’t especially useful, either: generally, a searcher would be better off with a single post that includes their terms, or if one term is coming from one post, and another from another, and a third from a third, they’d be better off with something else entirely. Google wants me to stop moving for a bit? Well, let me just get into the proper position to stop, first. No sense leaving all the SEO benefits to the search engine spammers.

5 Comments

Comment by Darryl #
2005-01-24 20:07:19

Andre had it right. Robots.txt broke the web long before nofollow!

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-01-24 21:38:18

Well, no. I purposely didn’t mention that part of it, because it’s a crock. With robots.txt, you do SEO by putting all of your outbound links on one page, which looks stupid and obvious and you still have to drop PR on the floor by linking to that page: even though it doesn’t go out, it also doesn’t come back from that page. The same is true of JavaScript links and redirects, which Anil claims are just the same as nofollow: while they don’t have the lost PR problem, they still make it pretty obvious that something’s odd. However, other than to a few cranks like me who will set up a user stylesheet to out them, nofollow links don’t show any outward sign of being untrusted. It’s a search engine prophylactic: they don’t mind if you pass off whatever infection you have to your readers, as long as you don’t give it to them. Since it’s here, I’ll happily use it to my advantage, and use it to direct PR where I want, rather than remaining a pure and ignored martyr, but it is not robots.txt, any more than GTA is clearly harmless for eight-year-olds because playing Pong didn’t fry my brain (in any directly attributable way, anyway).

 
 
Comment by Kafkaesquí #
2005-01-25 09:24:27

I’m still waiting for someone to use the title ”GoodFollows.” Have I missed it?

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-01-25 19:39:37

Not only have you not missed it, it’s about as unused as can be: right now (until this gets indexed), one typo is it.

And they say all the good names for link blogs are taken.

 
 
Comment by Jay Allen #
2005-01-28 11:14:56

”Jay’s wrong, but I love him and his ”Shut the fuck up and do what I tell you, maggots! Now give me twenty!” debating style. ”

You know I learned that from you Phil… ;-)

 
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