In 2005 Google decided they were going to attempt to unsettle the online spam ecosystem by recommending that web sites add an additional attribute to a link from site A to site B if they were not verified to be trustworthy. For instance, if someone left a comment on my site who I didn’t know or couldn’t vouch for – I would add a rel=”nofollow” to the link to their site.
While it sounds like a small change, the longer term plans were for search engines to not include those links when ranking a given web sites content. It was common place for spammers to comment spam thousand or millions of blogs, leaving a link to their preferred sites. Before the rel=”nofollow” attribute was introduced, the search engines had no way of knowing if a web site owner trusted that site and as such had to use other methods of measuring trustworthiness.
The intention is clear, by removing the incentive for a spammer by using rel=”nofollow” in the links – it was hoped it would have an impact on the insidious and incredibly aggressive spam ecosystem online. Unfortunately, spammers aren’t the kind of people that just roll over at the first sign of a battle and the war on spam raged on. As the rel=”nofollow’ attribute gained momentum over the years, spammers have subsequently sought out web sites which were considered dofollow – in that they have clean links that the search engines will count when ranking a web site.
As I’ve upgraded WordPress over the years, I’ve been carrying the same set of themes or templates forward through the upgrades and hadn’t bothered to upgrade to a newer base theme. Of course this meant that links from my site were dofollow links and were valuable to the spammers. So valuable in fact that my site has been listed countless times on different forums as being a dofollow blog – essentially proclaiming to the spammers of the world that they should target my site for high quality backlinks.
I’m happy to say that after a recent upgrade to WordPress 2.9.x, I ported my current theme over to a new base theme provided in the 2.9.x code base which uses rel=”nofollow” links by default. In fact, if I want to allow people to have clean links – I’ll need to specifically allow them by use of a plugin – which is fine by me.
This will no doubt upset the spammers out there that thought they’d be getting easy, free dofollow links from my site. While I understand why they want my clean links, I also hate having to deal with comment spam – so I’m going to leave my comments rel=”nofollow” from now on.