New link attribute may cut spam
It's not often that a tweak in HTML is major news, but the announcement that the major search engines would support a way to make link tags not "count" in their algorithms promises to offer both opportunities and threats for website owners and for those involved in search engine optmization.
The background is simple - blog comment spam has become a major issue for blog owners and seach engines. The ease of posting these comments allowed spammers to use automated tools to gain thousands of links. Not only does this create problems for blog owners, but it also distorts search engine results. So, they developed a new attribute for links - rel="nofollow" - that tells the search engines to ignore the link. The hope is that blog software makers will make that tag the default option, making comment spam useless. In addition to blogs, forum and other software may be good candidates for the nofollow tag attribute.
How to use the nofollow tag
Here's what a link tag normally looks like:
<a href="http://spam.example.com/">see my site </a>
To render the link unattractive to spammers, this is the change:
<a href="http://spam.example.com/" rel="nofollow">see my site </a>
The idea is that software developers will build this in so that comment tags won't "count".
Will the nofollow tag work?
The effectiveness remains to be seen. Many blogs, forums, and the like aren't updated frequently, so they will still present spamming opportunities. If spammers keep using automated tools, then even "protected" blogs may still get spammed.
Suggestions for alternate uses for the nofollow tag may not be what the search engines had in mind:
- blocking internal links to focus PageRank on the remaining links
- blocking "reciprocal" or other links to keep PageRank onsite
- blocking entire links pages
Undoubtedly, creative optimizers will come up with even more nofollow tricks.