Bill asked about the nofollow attribute; I posted:
As I recall, Google also introduced a nocache tag ... but didn't sites employing the tag get booted from Google?
So. I'll preface this with saying that this is totally my thought, not even a theory but just a concern. But I'd be concerned that sites employing nofollow might suffer a similar fate: once identified as a page or site employing nofollow -- that is, identified by the site owner as containing untrusted links -- it's possible that the results would be more than just not following and/or giving credit to outbound links.
I've blogged a bit about this, and got into something of an argument with a troll with a vested interest posting anonymously over at the WordPress forums. I can say it clearer here, where there is an understanding regarding PageRank versus link pop versus anything else:
Fact is that Google doesn't "like" link farms. They've been made something of a laughingstock over Googlebombs. And while blogs are not link farms per se, some of the more popular ones with lots of posters link back and forth and all over the place, giving them all kinds of ranking power based on links alone. Heck, Anil Dash (SixApart) won a prize in the nigritude ultramarine SEO contest by getting zillions of his closest friends to link. Think Google likes this?
WordPress is installing nofollow by default without a toggle button to turn it off. I won't be using that version.
and Stock asked:
Does the nofollow tag only kick in in comments? Or in the main blog post, too? That's the key - the blog posts themselves should be followable, but the links in the comments, should not.
to which I reply here:
G, that's what one can surmise from the amazing amount of assumption at the WordPress forums: nofollow only in the comments. Not in the rest of the site. All I asked for was an on-off toggle, or a way to undo nofollow if I so chose.
The whole link-pop-in-the-algo thing is a double-edged sword for search engines. On the one hand, links to sites were supposed to be "votes for" rather than just citations of material being discussed. I think when you assume that a citation is a "vote for" or any type of approval, you've assumed far too much.
Example: let's say that in an article/discussion/post you link to a page as an example of the wrong way to do things, poor ideas, etc. That's not a "vote for" although it is a citation.
However, for the sake of argument, let's say that 'way back when there were only X number (however large a number) of news sites, discussion sites, commentary sites, etc. So far so good. With the advent of blogs, however, and free or cheap software, we have a gazillion sites pointing links to anything and everything, and comments and trackbacks doing the same ... which only magnifies the "vote for" assumption. Exponentially. 'Cause, gosh, those bloggers sure like to chit-chat and link to each other. Can't even call it a link farm, or the entire blogosphere might go ballistic and it would probably hit the evening television news.
Heck, if I owned a search engine and I employed link pop, I'd be dying right about now for a simple method of identifying those types of pages and links. I might not even penalize pages employing that method; of course, it would depend upon how much effort/time/expense it cost me or saved me. And on my Good Mood on any given day.
Of course, I might just be clever enough to present it as a "benefit" for those who would use it. Say, to stop comment spam. Although, in that regard, I expect it to be about as effective as anti-virus and anti-spam programs have been in stopping email spam.
Call me wrong. Call me cautious. Or call me bored. <grin> Of course, I was the one who was pooh-poohed for uttering a caution over the BuddyLinks thing 'way back when. And this is going about the same way.
Look: if I link to, for example, a post on Kim's blog, that is both a citation and a "vote for" -- and I want to be able to give Kim the benefit of that link, since the availability of such benefit has been given out to one and all by search engines employing link pop of any kind. It's a realistic view, unless we're being asked to "pretend" it doesn't exist.
I wouldn't mind an attribute that said "hey, I'm linking to this but I don't mean it as a 'vote for'" ... but I'm cautious enough to want to know how that attribute will play out in the long run. And, just as I don't want to use Microsoft-only tags, I'm leery of using an Google/Yahoo/MSN-only attribute.
But, since the real issue, for bloggers, is stopping the sometimes avalanche of bot-driven comment and trackback spam, I think I'll continue to employ methods or to find ways to stop that.