24 February 2017

Nofollow considered harmful

Google’s nofollow functionality has been hotly debated. A quick recap, in case you didn’t know: nofollow allows web publishers to select which links should and shouldn’t be counted towards the Google page rank of the targets. A webmaster might, for example, mark all external links nofollow, instead concentrating all page rank value onto his own sites. A real world example is Wikipedia, where almost all external links are marked nofollow. My take on nofollow is this:
  • I don’t like nofollow. I want my search results to reflect the real web instead of being skewed by financial objectives.
  • I reluctantly use nofollow, because it unfortunately is becoming the norm. Since big players such as Wikipedia use nofollow in order to avoid giving me credit for links to my site, I am playing the same game in order to even the field.
  • It has been suggested that nofollow would be necessary in order to keep spiders from crawling sets of infinite links, such as calendars. This argument is not valid, because such safeguards must be built into the spider anyway. Otherwise, what happens when the spider encounters a calendar whose coder didn’t remember to use nofollow?
  • Even if nofollow would be killed, webmasters could anyway try to prevent search engines from following links. Still, nofollow is significant, as it makes it extraordinarily easy to rig search results while still allowing all human readers to follow links (as opposed to client-side scripting or similar technologies that are not universally supported and usable).
In short: Google, please drop your support for nofollow.