How The Rel=Nofollow Tag Will Eventually Reduce Spam

Most blog owners and blog commenters are probably entirely unaware that the links left in a commenter’s signature do nothing to increase PR (page rank) of the site to which they point.

I discovered this when I stumbled across an article entitled PopulaR in Turkey? on the Vanilla Mist blog. This blog has a very high PR, and attracted a lot of spam comments as a result. But as explained in this article, the spam does not help the spammers at all!

On many blog systems, you can leave a comment with your name and your site’s URL. When published, your name becomes a hyperlink that points to your site. This brings traffic to your site if readers click on your name.

Most people assume that this link also boosts the page rank of their site. However, in most cases it does not. This is because most blog systems (WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger etc.) attach an attribute to the like called nofollow. When search engines crawl the site, they do not count links tagged as nofollow towards PR.

This has several effects. The most immediate effect is that comment spam does not pollute search results.

If you are trying to leave helpful comments and at the same time boost the PR of your site, you will not get a direct boost in your PR at all.

trackbacks have a similar effect. If pings are enabled on the target blog, an article like this one (with a reference to a specific blog article) will earn a reference back to it, much like a comment. Again, these references almost always have a nofollow tag. But they are still worth doing if legitimate. Don’t waste your time though, if you are doing it just to boost PR of your site.

So should you stop commenting? Well, yes and no.

I must say, that at first read about nofollow, I was a bit miffed that commenters are not rewarded for commenting. But then when I thought about it, it I realized that it is the author who should be rewarded for writing a good post by getting comments!

By participate in the online community with helpful comments, you are making a contribution. That may attract people to your site, and if they like what they read on your site, they might refer to it on theirs. If the blog writer has a link to your site in the blogroll or in an article, that counts towards your PR.

So you need to write helpful comments, and you need to produce a website with good, well-written, original content. Commenting will eventually lead to good PR, but indirectly. Electronic karma at its best perhaps.

If more people are aware of this, the result of the rel=nofollow attribute should be to reduce comment spam and comment noise, and increase the quality of writing on the web, or at least push the quality writing towards the top of search results.

Happy blogging!

PS your comments are most welcome as always!

PPS I have changed my mind about much of what I have said in this article.

For an update, read:




thanks for the post and for laving me a trackback. I wasn’t aware that the nofollow attribute was attached to comment links at the time I wrote that post. I was just so annoyed to be getting so much spam, I mean, I think every blogger gets comment spam to some extent, whether the blog is popular or not, but when I realized what was behind that particular spam flow all of a sudden, all coming from Turkish websites, I just wanted it to stop! It was very time consuming. Now that I’m aware of the nofollow thing, I realize I shouldn’t have posted about it in the first place (I just wanted it to STOP already lol), but after getting useful comments such as yours, I think I’ll keep it there, as I think people reading about it will follow the link to this article and learn about the nofollow attribute. There might be lots of people out there that aren’t aware of this, just as I wasn’t. So, thanks for the article. :-)

Patricia / March 6th, 2007, 5:45 pm / #

I get lots of spam to. I must say, Akismet really helps and catches almost all of it. There are only a few that get through, and also some comments that are questionable. Anyhow, thanks again for your original article - very educational!

Doug / March 14th, 2007, 12:40 am / #

[…] In a previous article on this blog, I commented that using rel-nofollow may improve the quality of comments. While this may be true, it may also discourage commenting in general, certainly among the link-savvy. At the same time, it may discourage comments for the sake of a link to the commenter’s blog. […]

Discover Doug » Archives » rel=nofollow pros and cons / April 10th, 2007, 6:25 pm / #

[…] Ever since I discovered the rel=nofollow attribute, which prevents Google from counting a link as significant as far as page rank is concerned, I have had mixed feelings about it. At first, I though it was a good thing, assuming that it would improve commenting quality and reduce spam. I have since changed my mind. […]

Discover Doug » Archives » REL=Nofollow Removed (so now I have a Commenting Policy) / April 27th, 2007, 6:05 pm / #

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