I don’t like the nofollow attribute. In fact I think I’m starting to hate it. Why? Because of the extensive use for purposes it wasn’t meant for. Linking is the basis of the web. And therefore it plays a major role in search. Offering the possibility for nofollowing links distorts this structure. In this article I will highlight some types of links which shouldn’t be nofollowed.
But first of all, let’s take a look at the original purpose of the nofollow attribute as stated in the article “Preventing comment spam” on the official Google blog:
“We encourage you to use the rel=”nofollow” attribute anywhere that users can add links by themselves, including within comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists. Comment areas receive the most attention, but securing every location where someone can add a link is the way to keep spammers at bay.”
Nofollow on internal links could be used to flow more PageRank to important pages and less to unimportant pages like disclaimers, login pages etc. This was clearly not one of the original purposes of the nofollow attribute. However it was a minor hype for a while. Matt Cutts says you shouldn’t do it, some research shows it still works. I´ve never heard of a case where internal PageRank sculpting got someone from the second to the first position on a competitive keyword. The effect that could be reached with PageRank sculpting doesn´t really weigh up against the time invested in it.
Originally nofollow links were meant for links that could be added by your ‘users’. The term users however can be interpreted in many ways. Especially for platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It’s highly debatable whether you’re the owner of your profile page or a user of the platform.
There are two reasons why the links in your status updates on your profile page shouldn’t be nofollowed. First of all you are the only user that can post status updates on your profile page, so I would argue you are the owner, or at the very least the administrator of your profile page. That means you’re much more than a regular user. When you add links to your status updates the links on your own profile page should therefore be followed. Since you choose to post these links, they will probably be relevant for your network. Of course, there’s a possibility to spam, but you can post spam links on your own website as well. It will not get you the same authority (in this case followers/friends) as when you post relevant links.
The other reason is that status updates and links on social networking sites are starting to become the new backbone of the web. When you see an interesting page or website you don’t post it on your blog anymore, you share it through your social networks. Nofollowing these links completely would mean a page with one link on a blog would be more important than a page which got shared 1,000 times on social networks. That sounds pretty wrong, doesn’t it?
There are a lot of admins from blogs, forums, etc. who moderate all the links added by users. If you moderate links, you check them for their added value. When you still have to nofollow your links after moderation, you´re just not moderating adequate. The purpose of the nofollow is not to devaluate all links added by users, but to devaluate links for which you can’t guarantee the relevancy or quality. Links with added value should therefore be followed.
One thing that bugs me a lot is Wikipedia nofollowing all the external links. Wikipedia is a platform which thrives on user generated content. The use of the nofollow attribute is a way to make spamming almost worthless. But Wikipedia also moderates all the information on the website. The use of nofollow makes that all the original information sources don’t receive the value they should.
People link to Wikipedia because they find their information there. This way they pass value to their sources. But Wikipedia doesn’t pass value to their sources. So Wikipedia is gaining value for information from others. I don’t think the nofollow attribute was meant for this. You’re a researcher who put a lot of time in your research but everybody searching for that information finds Wikipedia.
When you look at Wikipedia’s reasoning for using nofollow they even are able to mention more bad things about it than good things themselves. That seems like a signal to me that maybe they shouldn´t.
Like to follow those discussions between a certain Mr. “car insurance” and “student loans” in your blog comments? I didn’t think so. Nofollowing is a solution to prevent this. If people still use it even when links are nofollowed, I say delete the comment altogether. What’s the chance of getting a valuable response when someone uses such a name?
Writing this article I’ve come to wonder. Should we even use nofollow at all? Isn’t it a sign of weakness for search engines’ valuation of links and our own moderating abilities? What do you think?