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Not just Google, but all the major players in the search and blogging spheres. However, this is a Google initiative.
The specific method described is correct, and the rel attribute is designed to mark "untrusted links".
> How does it FIX blog spam -- even down the road? Blog spammers DON'T CARE about the blogs where their links don't work, but they still hit them.
I think "fix" is an inappropriate word, but I also think it's a semantic issue. Perhaps "help stem the tide?"
Yes, spammers, of any sort, DON'T CARE about the roadblocks we put up to defeat them, they still spam knowing that a certain amount will get through the filters. But does that mean we should abandon products like Spam Assassin, since it's not 100% effective?
It seems to me that some of the folk here feel that since this stopgap measure is not a be-all, end-all solution, then why bother with it if it doesn't completely eradicate comment spam past, present and future. I'm trying to figure out if it's a defeatist attitude, or if some here are secretly hawking generic Viagra (and are perhaps running a little scared).
No doubt this can and will be abused - that's just human nature. But the 'net is self-healing on a grand to - using the "word of the thread" - granular level. Once abuse reaches a critical mass, the SEs will naturally deal with it. (For example, how well does keyword stuffing still work?)
I don't think this will "break the web," nor do I think it will have a significant impact on SERPs. I am (actually, we are) perfectly happy with the size of my member and it works fine; baldness? I shave my head; cheap & legal software is available around the corner at the office-supply shoppe; cheap drugs are supplied by my government... I don't search for these things, and if I was interested in any of these products, I'll check my email!
I don't think this attribute (dammit!) is really necessary, but I will use it to my advantage. Does Amazon really need some of my PR? No, but what about my favourite little niche book seller? Sure! (And if that's "abuse," then my grey hat just got dirtier.)
This is a problem that exists in blog software, and that's where the "fix" should come from. A "solution" that can be applied to every single link on the web is no solution at all. If blog owners are having trouble with comment span, remove that feature from your blog. "Oh, but that breaks the blogosphere!" Ahem - <sniff, sniff> What about demanding a feature for pre-moderation of comments from the developers? (Perhaps this exists, I don't know.) "Oh, but that's so much work for me!" Please don't cry about being a victim of your own success - it's called "site maintenance," deal with it.
I'm trying to figure out if it's a defeatist attitude, or if some here are secretly hawking generic Viagra (and are perhaps running a little scared).
Neither, but you did help me pinpoint why this whole initiative has me both bemused (at the response) and annoyed (at the entire scheme).
Will this initiative improve SE results? Possible.
Will it lessen my "site maintenance"? Highly Doubtful.
The SEs reap benefits, but the blogger's life? No noticeable difference.
Sure, this will have lots of unintended consequences (as others have noted above), but none of those seem especially terrible. To the extent it allows site owners to fine tune the way a search engine sees internal links, as well as external links, that isn't all bad either -- why shouldn't site owners have more control over how the SE's "see" their site and its internal structure.
As a matter of simple fairness and putting power back into the hands of the bloggers, forums, and other siteowners, it seems to me this is a positive development, even though it has potential to excacerbate the gap between the most sophisticated webmasters and the less sophisticated ones.
It will be very interesting to see how Wikipedia articles move in the SERPS now that all external links are "nofollowed".
Lets here your vote, will wikipedia articles:
1) move up because they aren't 'leaking' any PR?
2) move down because G uses outbound links to help determine the topic of the page?
3) remain unchanged because outbounds have little or no effect on rankings
Here's the basis of my quite unscientific guess:
There's a single search term which returns about 4800 results (at Google). While I haven't SEO'ed for the term, I'm the fourth result. This page of mine is linked to from a Wikipedia article (and a poorly-written one, at that.) I think it was about a year ago that the link was added, but I'm not sure since I didn't add it.
Around two weeks ago I did a search on the term, and IIRC, the Wiki article was on the second SERP, around the middle, and was a "complete" result. (That is, it had a title, ransom note, URL, etc.) The article sticks in my mind since, well, it links to me!, and I know it's of low quality.
After today's revelations on Wikipedia employing the "nofollow" attribute and instinct's solicitations for guesses, I redid my search. The Wiki article is now 24th in the SERPs and appears as:
Hmmm, looks like Google isn't as impressed as it used to be...
Checking the article itself: it was last modified in October, 2004; does use "nofollow" on both external links; it has 'meta name="robots" content="index,follow"' in the head.
Take the above with a grain of salt; if I knew I was going to be quizzed, I would have paid more attention!
I just recorded the results for 10 random phrases whose Wikipedia results I knew had not been spidered since the change.
Average G ranking for the Wikipedia articles returned bu these 10 phrases was 17.3
When these pages are re-spidered/re-ranked I will check their rankings to see what the change is.
This is no cached page. The result for this page is exactly as it appears in the "quoted" box in my last message - no freshdate, no title, no cache link - nothing but a URL and a "Similar pages" link. (In other words, it looks just like a page Google knows exists, but has never spidered...)
It could all be a coincidence, but I'll be watching this one quite closely...
Yes, this should work according to the specifications. It of course remains to be seen whether the syntax is supported by the search engines or whether it could lead to confusion.
Update from the Google Blog...
Q: Will Google recognize the 'nofollow' keyword when it's part of a space separated list? According to the HTML spec, the value of the 'rel' attribute is a space separated list of link types.
A: Absolutely. We'll practice the "be liberal in what you accept" philosophy, which means recognizing spaces, commas and, in fact, most punctuation. But we strongly recommend using spaces as separators to follow the specification.