Confusion is ruling the Internet. Google is partly responsible for it, partly it’s the popular publishing platform WordPress and sometimes both. Google encourages the use of nofollow attributes which amount to a “no trespass” sign for search engines on links and WordPress does the same not only with comment links but also with all links on a page or site.
When installing WordPress one of the first questions is whether you want to protect your privacy by disallowing search engines “like Google and Technorati”.
We can observe strange practices appearing on the Web due to both Google and WordPress supporting nofollow in such an adamant way.
Noindex and nofollow for pages has been around in HTML for ages. You could mark a page not to show up in search results with this meta tag attributes. Nofollow for links has been added by search engines and blog software makers just a few years ago to combat comment and trackback spam as the official explanation was.
Since then Google steadily extended the scope of nofollow.
- First it was spam
- then all, even legit advertising
- automatically gathered content
- then all even legit user generated content
- then your own legit content on your pages that is “not important”
Nowadays chief engineer Matt Cutts of Google personally contacts websites like Twitter and urges them to use nofollow on their outgoing links. In accordance with large parts of the SEO industry he even makes people use nofollow on internal links. This controversial (to say the least) practice has a weird name, it’s called PageRank sculpting.
Which internal links to use nofollow on isn’t quite clear though so that many people throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Publishers use noindex, nofollow on whole sites or they use nofollow all over the place, even on legit links.
So basically, there are only a few links left and most links on the Web are regarded as spam links today. Only so called editorial links where a publisher willingly decides to add a link are legit as of now. Not always though. More and more publishers sabotage their websites attempting to use Google PageRank and WordPress correctly.
I want to show 5 examples of websites using noindex and nofollow in a way sabotaging both their own sites and the Internet as a whole.
Good Magazine – Good.is
When Good Magazine, a quite new but already very well known non profit progressive magazine moved to a new URL and platform based on WordPress they have chosen the “privacy protection” feature apparently and haven’t been indexed by Google in any useful way. Since then they have removed the noindex, nofollow attribute. To no avail as of now. They have currently whooping 23 pages indexed correctly now, most of the others are naked URLs which are are devalued as duplicate content. Noindex, nofollow make only URLs appear in Google so that you can’t find them using for keywords that are not in the URLs itself.
Online Journalism Blog
This is a renowned, if not the most known UK online journalism blog (or should I say journal ;-) – A few month ago the blogger pinged me on a “dofollow” post of mine stating that he wants to to disable the nofollow attribute on his blog and give real links to commenters. Then I visited his site and noticed that he used noindex, nofollow on his whole blog. It took several weeks to fix that even after my tip. Since then the page fully recovered though. It’s fully indexed now.
Stepcase Lifehack is more of the most famous lifehacking and productivity blogs. With Lifehack.org it’s a different story. They used an older version of WordPress (WordPress release a new version every two weeks approx.) and proudly bragged about it in the meta tags as WordPress adds the software version in the head so that criminals can easily find older versions to break in exploiting well known vulnerabilities. Spam links have been added to a legit list post from 2006. I contacted Lifehack.org without ever receiving a reply or thank you and it took them a few weeks to take down the infested list and update WordPress.
Either due to this or due to them not using the nofollow attribute on their advertising links they are still penalized by Google. They have a Google PageRank of only 4 in spite of having thousands of links even from sites of the highest authority like Adobe.com or The Huffington Post (the most popular blog on earth according to Technorati).
Technorati, which I mentioned above, is a blog search engine with a bunch of other features. It’s has almost no real content though besides the contents it grabs from the blogs it finds. For a long time it used nofollow on most of its links. Now after I minor redesign they removed all nofollow atributes it seems. While they were hurting themselves not using real links on their site they might be hurting themelves now even more as Google will probably penalize them as both a competitor and a site containing only automatically gathered contents.
Delicious is the most known and accepted social bookmarking site. It’s owned by Yahoo for a while now. As Yahoo and Google compete with each other Yahoo uses noindex, nofollow to prevent Google from accessing the resources. So all your user generated bookmarks and the wisdom of crowds is used exclusively by one company whereas the overall web does not benefit from it.
So what’s the core message of this post? It’s: Do not sabotage your site and the web as a whole. It’s also: Nofollow breaks the Internet which relies on links. Fix your search engine and don’t cripple the Web instead.