Search Results for: nofollow

Digg adds nofollow to some links

Digg recently added nofollow to some links on their site:

We’ve added rel=”nofollow” to any external link that we’re not sure we can vouch for. This includes all external links from comments, user profiles and story pages below a certain threshold of popularity.

I think this is pretty smart. Digg isn’t adding nofollow to everything, just the links that they’re less sure about. Once a story looks real to them, I can imagine that they would lift the nofollow. I discussed this for Google web properties in a recent video:

Google does something similar with Knol. Initially Knol authors received nofollow’ed links, but as we gain more trust in authors, we can remove those nofollows. As I recently said in another video, if a site like Wikipedia had good confidence in an editor, you could imagine links made by that editor not having the nofollow attribute. So if you have a way to determine which user-generated links are trustworthy, that could be a more nuanced measure of when to use the nofollow attribute. I discussed this subject a bit more in this video in case you’re interested. It’s about 1:24 into the video:

So new move by Digg is a positive change in my opinion, because Digg decreases the benefit for spammy stories but Digg still helps normal and high-quality stories in the search engines.

Twitter added nofollow to “www.” links in their Bio field

Yesterday John Battelle emailed me to ask about Rae’s post. This will be a little inside baseball to some people who don’t live and breathe search and Twitter, but I figured I’d take what I emailed to John, add some pictures, and post it here. Here’s the email:

Sorry for the delay in replying; I’m really behind on email because I’ve been talking about Chrome this past week.

The short answer is that back in July I saw this post . David Naylor was pointing out that Twitter intentionally nofollowed links in the “Web” part of a Twitter profile, but that you could embed a link in the “Bio” field that would flow PageRank:

Excerpt from DaveN post about twitter

Dave’s blog is read by a bunch of SEOs, including quite a few blackhats, so it was pretty clear to me that Twitter might get hit by spammers who jumped onto Twitter just to get PageRank, or by bots who signed up a ton of accounts automatically trying to get links.

I wasn’t sure of Evan Williams’ email address, so I took my best guess at two of Evan’s emails and dropped Evan a quick note pointing out Dave’s post and that spammers might start attacking Twitter soon because of this. Because I wasn’t sure of Evan’s email, I also sent Evan a Twitter saying “@ev, dropped you an email about (the post that Dave did)” That was all in July, and I forgot about it.

Evidently just in the last few days, Twitter changed that Bio link to a nofollow link. A few thoughts:

– My guess is that spammers have started to attack Twitter more, probably at least partially to get links/PageRank. In an August post at , Biz Stone mentioned that Twitter was hiring their first full-time spam fighter. For a company of ~25 people, a full-time spamfighter is a lot of resources. Evan/Biz have seen how dedicated spammers can hurt users’ experiences at Blogspot, so I imagine that they want to keep Twitter really clean and lock out any spammers early.

– It could be that as part of the process of looking at spam attacks on Twitter, the Twitter team asked “What are the incentives for people to spam Twitter? Are we leaking links to spammy sites anywhere?” If they were asking those sorts of questions, it makes sense if they decided to nofollow the Bio link to prevent spam accounts from attacking Twitter.

– I dropped Evan an email about Dave’s post just as a heads-up in July in case he wasn’t aware of it, but people have been talking about gaming Twitter for links even before that, e.g. :

Excerpt from nickwilsdon post about twitter

and there’s another post someone did in March called “Gaming Twitter for Thousands Of Backlinks”:

Excerpt from nickycakes post about twitter

By the way, I totally support if Evan wanted to lift nofollow for real users in some way, but I figure that Twitter probably wanted to protect themselves against spam as a first step. Given that a month or so after I dropped them a note, Twitter hired a full-time spam person, I’m not surprised if Twitter was starting to see more spammers show up and wanted to take strong action to push back on spam as a first step–if Twitter got gummed up with spam that would be bad for everybody. Perhaps down the road they’ll look at ways to keep flowing PageRank to real users while not opening themselves to a spam attack. I would imagine that they have pretty good signals that would let them separate (most) real users from (most) bots/spammers. So Twitter could take steps such that most users would still get PageRank by removing the nofollow on sufficiently non-spammy users.

Best wishes,

That’s what I sent to John by email, minus the pictures.

Quick comment on nofollow

The rel=”nofollow” attribute is an easy way for a website to tell search engines that the website can’t or doesn’t want to vouch for a link. The best-known use for nofollow is blog comment spam, but the mechanism is completely general. Nofollow is recommended anywhere that links can’t be vouched for. If your logs analysis program shows referrers as hyperlinks, I’d recommend using nofollow on those links. If you have a wiki that anyone on the web can edit, I’d recommend nofollow on those links until you can find a way to trust those links. In general, if you have an application that allows others to add links, web spammers will eventually find your pages and start annoying you.

Let me give an example to illustrate. There’s a domain that runs an oompa loompa dating service. Oompa-Loompas are the small folks from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I think that the dating service is just a gag; it’s a fun way that people can play around and pretend to be oompa loompas. It used to have real people leaving messages for each other. But it also lets you add a link to a webpage, so this fun service has been inundated with people trying to get links. In the picture below, notice that every comment is pretty meaningless: “Good content and very informativity! Thanks!” and “Your website has been very helpfull to me!!”. And if you mouse over the little home page icon, you see why; I’ve highlighted one below:

Oompa Loompa Dating!

The fact that webspammers will find and attack a one-off application is very telling. It shows that if you run a site that lets anyone add a regular link, webspammers will eventually find your site and spam it as well.

I’d be the first to say that nofollow isn’t perfect. For example, plenty of people will set their bots loose, and those bots will spam for links without checking if a particular page has nofollow. But the people that write the bots also aren’t dumb. If it doesn’t add any benefit to spam a particular software package, a smart spammer will avoid wasting the time/effort on that software.

If you run a well-known website or software package, webspam is more of an issue for you. Someone recently pointed me to this wikipedia thread, where someone asked if Google was in favor of enabling nofollow on wikis, so I wanted to give a quick reply: I do think it’s a good idea. For example, I’ve talked to a couple SEOs recently who said that they have a full-time person on their staff dedicated to scamming links from Wikipedia and wikis.

In an ideal world, nofollow would only be for untrusted links. Let’s take the example of a forum that wants to avoid linking to spam, but the same advice applies to wikis or any other web software. If an off-domain link is made by an anonymous or unauthenticated user, I’d use nofollow on that link. Once a user has done a certain number of posts/edits, or has been around for long enough to build up trust, then those nofollows could be removed and the links could be trusted. Anytime you have a user that you’d trust, there’s no need to use nofollow links.

Seeing nofollow links

Update: The ChromEdit extension I mention below is stale and doesn’t work with Firefox 1.5. Someone has made a version for FF1.5 though; it’s called ChromEdit Plus. Follow the directions at the top of that page. The short version is 1. save the .xpi file to your desktop, then 2. drag the .xpi file over onto your browser to install the .xpi file. 3. Restart Firefox to install the extension. 4. To use, select Tools->ChromeEdit Plus->ChromEdit. Select the userContent.css tab and paste the code

a[rel~="nofollow"] {
  border: thin dashed firebrick ! important;
  background-color: rgb(255, 200, 200) ! important;

into the userContent.css area, then click Save. You might need to restart Firefox once more, but when you do, this link should have a pink background, and a dotted red line around it.

Old post follows:
The blessing/curse of learning more about SEO is that it’s often in the back of your mind; it affects how you look at regular web pages. Here’s a simple tip that will help with your X-ray vision: make nofollow links visible.

When you’re using Firefox, you can make a file called userContent.css to override the css on a given page. First you have to find the right directory; all your Firefox settings are stored in a profile directory. This page tells how to find your profile directory. Once you know the profile directory location, go into the “chrome” directory and look for a file userContent.css. If no such file exists, there may be a file called “userContent-example.css” that you can rename. Here’s what you can put into userContent.css:

a[rel~="nofollow"] {
  border: thin dashed firebrick ! important;
  background-color: rgb(255, 200, 200) ! important;

(Note: you may need to restart Firefox as well for the changes to take effect.)

Then if you want to link to a blackhat spammer without it counting as a vote in Google, just add rel=”nofollow” to the hyperlink, and you’ll be able to tell the difference between normal and nofollow links.

When you view a page, you’ll see something like this (please pardon the self-referential snapshot):

Example of visible nofollow CSS

I highly recommend adding code to your userContent.css file so that you can see nofollow links easily. Note: ChromEdit is a nice extension that makes editing your userContent.css file really easy, but it currently (Jan. 14, 2006) only works with Firefox versions less than 1.5.

The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO

Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

Back in the day, guest blogging used to be a respectable thing, much like getting a coveted, respected author to write the introduction of your book. It’s not that way any more. Here’s an example unsolicited, spam email that I recently received:

My name is XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX and I work as a content marketer for a high end digital marketing agency in [a city halfway around the world]. I have been promoting high quality content in select niches for our clients.

We are always on the lookout for professional, high class sites to further promote our clients and when I came across your blog I was very impressed with the fan following that you have established.I [sic] would love to speak to you regarding the possibility of posting some guest articles on your blog. Should you be open to the idea, we can consider making suitable contribution, befitting to high standard of services that your blog offers to larger audience.

On my part, I assure you a high quality article that is-
– 100% original
– Well written
– Relevant to your audience and
– Exclusive to you

We can also explore including internal links to related articles across your site to help keep your readers engaged with other content on your blog.
All I ask in return is a dofollow link or two in the article body that will be relevant to your audience and the article. We understand that you will want to approve the article, and I can assure you that we work with a team of highly talented writers, so we can guarantee that the article would be insightful and professionally written. We aim to write content that will benefit your loyal readers. We are also happy to write on any topic, you suggest for us.

If you ignore the bad spacing and read the parts that I bolded, someone sent me a spam email offering money to get links that pass PageRank. That’s a clear violation of Google’s quality guidelines. Moreover, we’ve been seeing more and more reports of “guest blogging” that are really “paying for PageRank” or worse, “we’ll insert some spammy links on your blog without you realizing it.”

Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains. We’ve reached the point in the downward spiral where people are hawking “guest post outsourcing” and writing articles about “how to automate guest blogging.”

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

For historical reference, I’ll list a few videos and links to trace the decline of guest articles. Even back in 2012, I tried to draw a distinction between high-quality guest posts vs. spammier guest blogs:

Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t seem to hear me say to steer away from low-quality guest blog posting, so I did a follow-up video to warn folks away from spammy guest articles:

In mid-2013, John Mueller gave spot on advice about nofollowing links in guest blog posts. I think by mid-2013, a ton of people saw the clear trend towards guest blogging being overused by a bunch of low-quality, spammy sites.

Then a few months ago, I took a question about how to be a guest blogger without it looking like paying for links (even the question is a clue that guest blog posting has been getting spammier and spammier). I tried to find a sliver of daylight to talk about high-quality guest blog posts, but if you read the transcript you’ll notice that I ended up spending most of the time talking about low-quality/spam guest posting and guest articles.

And then in this video that we posted last month, even the question itself predicted that Google would take stronger action and asked about “guest blogging as spam”:

So there you have it: the decay of a once-authentic way to reach people. Given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward.

Added: It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful.

I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.