Why I Don’t Follow

Posted on January 4, 2008 
Filed Under Blogging advice

Well, I never followed “the herd,” but this is not really about following other people – it’s about the “do-follow” movement that’s becoming quite popular.

I recently came across some posts and groups discussing the pros and cons of having a do-follow plug-in installed on a WordPress blog that passes the pagerank to the commenter’s blog.

Here’s Sarah’s take on “no-follow, do-follow” and here’s what Deron Sizemore posted about his thoughts on the do-follow links.

You may also want to check what Darren Rowse had to say in the comments of the latter post.

One of the more popular bloggers to advocate do-follow is Andy Beard. Two posts worth reading on this topic are:

The Ultimate List of Do-Follow Plugins and I Follow Bumpzee Community.

My Thoughts

If I am to play the Google game and be successful at it, then I have to check what Google thinks about links and make up my own mind.

I haven’t read any official statement from Google on this (if anyone has a link, please post it), but I know this:

1. Google is getting more and more aggressive on all sorts of paid links and is penalizing buyers and sellers of links in various ways.

2. Google also wants to have all links that exist because of some compensation, set to no-follow too.

3. Google’s algorithm is based (partially) on pagerank, which relies on incoming links.

In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A for page B. But, Google looks at considerably more than the sheer volume of votes (or links) a page receives; for example, it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.” Using these and other factors, Google provides its views on a page’s relative importance.

Now think about this.

Getting a one-way link from an established site is a huge vote of confidence that should be GIVEN by the owner of that website.

It shouldn’t be TAKEN by another website (just by commenting).

If a link is given to unique content on a trustworthy website, it complements and enriches the page from which the link is given.

So in reality, getting a quality link is DAMN hard.

There are no shortcuts for getting good-quality links. Your site needs to have REALLY useful information or service in order to gain natural links from authority sites.

Now consider the do-follow movement.

You are able to get a link from high-authority websites like Andy Beard’s, Michael Martine’s, Blogging Tips and others, JUST by taking a few minutes and posting a useful and valuable comment.

Sure, most of these guys will quickly spot a spammy comment just for the sake of link juice and remove it, but it’s still very, very easy to get a high-quality link from an established site.

One thing is 100% sure.

This is NOT how Google wants the links game to be played.

The idea of links as references and votes of confidence originates from the offline world.

It’s similar to having trustworthy references and recommendations from authority businesses and people when, for example, you look for a new job.

You probably had to work for those companies for years and be very good at what you do in order to get their letters of recommendation, which you can then show to your potential boss.

This is what it takes to get a reference in an offline world. And this is how Google would like to have links used in the online world.

Before Andy Beard or Michael Martine includes a natural link to my blog, it will take a lot of effort and useful content to convince them that I am worthy of this link.

And this is when Google will also say: “Hey, if those guys vote for this little blog, then it must be really good. Let’s move it a few spots higher in the rankings.

And what does the do-follow movement do with this idea?

It totally destroys it.

I can get high-quality links from the above-mentioned blogs, just by commenting or even just by linking back to them like I did in this post.

And Andy, Michael and other webmasters that I linked from this post will very likely approve of the trackback, since I hope this post also gives some interesting topics to think about.

And bingo – I’ve got another three or five high-quality links to my blog.

Now how can Google really tell which websites really deserve to rank highly and which don’t?

All this do-follow stuff is just messing with its algorithm, and I am afraid we don’t have much power against the Google gorilla.

Some of the do-follow blogs have already been penalized and are returning back to no-follow again.

I won’t even start.

The only possibility that I have been considering for a while is the trackback do-follow plug-in, which allows you to return the link love given by someone who links to you.

I have to think about this a little more and what would Google think about it…. ;)

Before you start commenting and sharing your thoughts on this topic, I want to show you two pages:

1. A typical Amazon.com product page with customer reviews:

Eureka 4870GZ vacuum

2. A typical cell phone reviews site with consumer reviews at the bottom of the review:

Sony Ericsson K850i

Neither of these sites gives any backlinks to the reviewers.

Most reviewers don’t even have an idea what a backlink is.

And yet you can see over 700 (!) reviews of the Eureka vacuum and 100 reviews of the Sony Ericsson k850i phone.

The reviewers didn’t get anything in return, except the chance to see their opinion and their name on a website. ;)

What about bloggers?

Can you give something without asking for anything in return?

Can you comment, like these 800 people, just to share your thoughts and perhaps help other people make a better choice?

In Summary:

I think the do-follow movement is not the right thing to do.

The few words that you are going to receive on your post from comments are not really worth the full link juice – in Google’s opinion.

Google’s algorithm, in my opinion, is based on a sound idea and I’m not going to make it even more difficult for them to sort out which links are real links (based on my trust), and which links are based on comments that I may approve just to get a few more words on my site.

I won’t follow. What about you?

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Comments

19 Responses to “Why I Don’t Follow”

  1. Brian Purkiss on January 4th, 2008 4:33 pm

    Most interesting…
    I currently have DoFollow enabled.
    But, I did not know that you could be penalized for having Do-Follow enabled.
    I shall have to think about this.

    Very interesting points.
    Thanks for the differing point of view – most thought provoking…

    hm…
    *ponders*

    [Reply]

  2. SarahG on January 4th, 2008 4:43 pm

    Cheers for the mention. I have a dofollow plugin running but I set nofollow on commentators I don’t know very well or don’t trust. However that’s more to make a point to these commentators (if they care about it) that if they are just commenting for a linkback then they’ll get it nofollowed. I’m happy to ‘reward’ people who actually make an effort.

    However as for the whole linking and how hard/easy it is to get a link, I disagree. Getting a link from the front page (usually the highest PR and most important page of the site) is still hard. I don’t have any external links from the front page of my site besides links to other sites of mine. Getting a link from an internal post is not as good as getting a link from the front page that is completely under the control of the blogger.

    When the web first started up we’d have our own personal websites and link out to all of our friends who also had their own personal websites, bad backgrounds and mashed together HTML. Why should I change my ways because Google says so? I don’t blog for Google, I blog for myself and those who wish to read my ramblings. I like the control nofollow can give you but I use it to my means, not Google’s.

    Anyway, I use Yahoo ;)

    [Reply]

  3. Frank C on January 4th, 2008 4:48 pm

    Penalizing for Do-Follow was a bit of Googlenoia that got started when Google removed the ability for Blogger commentators to leave a non-Blogger URL. They’ve since rescinded this mistake but some of the Googlenoia remains.

    Do-Follow, Top Commentators, and the like are fine although you do have to exercise extra care to insure that no spammy site takes advantage of your generosity. Bad neighborhood links can get you penalized so you have to take proper precautions to prevent their links from ever showing up.

    [Reply]

  4. Michael Martine on January 4th, 2008 5:19 pm

    I don’t agree with you, I’m afraid, though I respect your thoughts on the matter. It is Google who ruined everything with their “no-follow” in the first place (and which, I might add, is not even a standard).

    Google have sunk themselves into a quagmire that not only Andy Beard but also Michael Gray (http://www.wolf-howl.com/) have explained very well. Google gets away with it because they’re Google, not because they are right. They most certainly are not. All of this is a mess that they made.

    I do what I want and I ignore Google. And I have a PageRank of 7. Go figure. :)

    [Reply]

  5. rob on January 4th, 2008 5:24 pm

    You have to look at the reasons why nofollow was originally introduced, and then look at the current state of play and see how it is being used as a stick to hit people with. What you are suggesting, could indeed become a reality in the future. Should it pan out that way then I’d hope that governmental bodies would finally intervene and legislate, simply on anti trust issues alone.

    Is it right that a private entity that has become the defacto gateway to the internet and is for all intents and purposes more of a public utility than a straight up business, be allowed to take further steps to increase its stranglehold over the whole internet advertising industry? If the answer is no, then to make everything you do online nofollow, allowing them and them alone to control and decide what does and what does not succeed within the index (the stuff they’ve scraped from other websites written for and paid for by lots of individuals) means that ultimately we end up with an internet that is owned and controlled by Google.

    If you think that is right and you want to help solidify their power and influence by yielding to their every twist, turn and threat, then I wish you all the very best my friend.I like the traffic they bring too, but at the end of the day it doesn’t exactly pay my bills or clothe my kids, Ive had websites penalised and filtered that at the time of construction complied fully with all of their policies and requests. What is acceptable today is not necessarily so tomorrow.

    As their power has increased in line with the number of websites available looking to fill the top 10 spots per SERP, then so has their pickiness and choosiness as to who gets to be in those spots and who gets to be ejected. Inexperienced evaluators are employed to make value judgements which ultimately affect a sites ability to rank, leaving the site owner with no reason or feedback as to why, net option being PPC or the hinterlands. The reality is they don’t really care a hoot as in most cases there is a long line of other people just waiting to fill the void and give ‘their’ users the options they so seek. Meantime, they continue to flourish as people click on the ads and they ( the se’s) continue to gain in strength.

    Getting back to nofollow – I moderate all of my commenters. I reward them with a non condomised link, if I think they are just there trying to get a decent anchor text link from the off, then I edit them or remove their url. If they hang around and interact on my blog then again I might go a little further and in some cases have even added them to my blog roll.It’s really up to the search engines to decide how they should then adjudge my content and the people I link out to.

    Sorry for the long comment.

    [Reply]

  6. Tomaz on January 4th, 2008 5:35 pm

    Thanks Brian, SarahG, Frank C, Michael and rob for your thoughts and your time to post them.

    It’s 0.33 AM here so I am going to sleep. I might have to approve some new commenters in a few hours so be patient. ;)

    [Reply]

  7. Andy Beard on January 5th, 2008 2:20 am

    I would love to see some “Google Opinion” on this, but the closest they have come to it is that they would like to see nofollow removed from verified links on Wikipedia.

    AFAIK there is no specific penalty for removing nofollow from comments, and a lot to gain. Some sites that were hit for page links were also Dofollow. After the paid links (or in some cases just mentions of P P P) were removed, and a reconsideration was filed, the sites regained their green.

    In such as case a site would have had at least 2 manual inspections, thus if there was a such thing as a dofollow penalty, it would have been enforced.

    There are SEO considerations with how much juice you allow to flow.

    So far I have never had someone comment with junk like “First comment!” but I do delete lots of manual spam.

    There is a huge difference between commenting to get a link mentality, and giving something back to your frequent community members, and it always shows in the quality of comments.

    [Reply]

    Tomaz Reply:

    Thanks for stopping by Andy. I appreciate your opinion on this topic and thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

  8. AntiBarbie on January 5th, 2008 9:08 am

    The reason no follow was implemented was to try and stop spam. It failed miserably.

    I have a very active community at my blog and I see no reason to not allow them to gain backlinks from me. I don’t depend on Google for all of my traffic and never will stick all my eggs into one basket so that some corporation can tell me how to run things on my own property and I will have no choice but to kowtow. My blog was do follow from day one and within two months I was a PR of four. Go figure.

    [Reply]

  9. IsMyLocationOnline on January 5th, 2008 2:46 pm

    WOW! A lot of crazy info here. You seam to talk of giving a vote like it’s worth something. The value of the link pointing to the site leaving the link is very very small. For instance, this page has about 100 links on it. The value of this link is .01 pr score. It could be more, but I don’t think this page has any PR value at all. Do not confuse pr score with real pr. Anyway, I wrote a pretty good backlinks article on this.

    [Reply]

  10. ジェイソン (Jason) on January 6th, 2008 8:03 pm

    There are ways to give some link-love back to commenters while also leaving no-follow active for anyone that’s worried about getting slapped by Google. Several sites have a list of top commentators on their front page without the no-follow and this seems like a great way to give back to the people that add value to your site the most.

    As for Google “owning” the internet, I think that statement is just a bit over-rated. In Asia, Google is nothing and Yahoo! is king. In Africa, Google is nothing and the local whatever is used. In South America you can see the very same thing. It’s only North America and some English-speaking European countries where Google has serious pull on the web. For anyone that’s interested in diversifying thier sites for other parts of the world, the key is to make Yahoo! happy. And that can be done just by giving them a link every few months.

    Well … that’s my 2 cents, anyways :???:

    [Reply]

    Tomaz Reply:

    Hey Jason,

    Those are some interesting facts, thanks for sharing.

    Can you elaborate more on giving Yahoo a link every few months?

    [Reply]

  11. Angela on January 10th, 2008 1:04 pm

    Great topic! Thanks for pointing me here Tomaz:)

    I got myself on a few lists of people who have the dofollow plugin enabled and I found that it brought me a lot of people who were posting with their keywords in the name field just to get a link.

    For a while I left it because ‘hey it’s cool I’m getting lots of comments’, but now it’s become obvious that most people ARE commenting so they can just get a link. Of course I put this out there as acceptable on my blog and got on the list so I can’t really blame people for doing it.

    Now I’ve put a Blog Comment Policy into place and have told people they need to put their NAME in the name field and that I would allow one link to their website as a signature. I know some people don’t like signatures on blogs either but I think since I did enable dofollow I should allow them the benefit of it.

    If I knew that google frowned upon it though I’d probably remove it.

    [Reply]

  12. Tomaz on January 10th, 2008 4:21 pm

    Jonathan Leger actually posted a case study of his blog commenting strategy on do-follow blogs so this is quite a popular approach to getting links.

    (And by the way, his blog is a do-follow and he accepts keywords for signatures. I’ve posted a couple there too.)

    So far Google (or Matt Cutts) hasn’t said anything about it but in my opinion it doesn’t make sense for Google. They’ll probably figure out how to disregard the links from comments from their algorithm.

    I’m sure the geniuses at Google can figure out which links on a WordPress blog are from comments. ;)

    [Reply]

  13. Michael Peter on January 10th, 2008 7:30 pm

    I love that quote…:

    “…then I have to check what Google thinks about links and make up my own mind…”

    Thank you very much :-)

    [Reply]

  14. Deron Sizemore on January 11th, 2008 1:04 pm

    Thank you very much for the link!

    The whole nofollow idea was started with the intention of slowing spam, it didn’t, so now Google has decided to use nofollow as a means to stop paid links on sites. I’m guessing that won’t work either in the end. I don’t believe Google penalizes blogs for having dofollow enabled, they just want nofollow on paid links.

    If you ask me, Google needs to reassess their algorithm to fix these things instead of penalizing everyone. When they came up with the algorithm, it probably was a great idea, but the web has evolved and things change, so maybe they need and update to get with the way the web is run today? The one major way it’s changed is the way money is made online, and that’s one of the big issues at hand with nofollow and paid links. If it keeps going like it is, it will get to a point where a lot of people just boycott Google altogether. They don’t own the web and I’m guessing that a lot of bloggers get a lot of their traffic from referring sites, not from Google. Or at least that’s how it is with the sites that I own, so really for me, Google could cease to exist tomorrow and it wouldn’t really effect my sites.

    It seems to me like Google is just taking the ‘easy’ way out? I mean, instead of using some of the best minds in the world which work for them to develop a better solution to the problems they’ve created, they place the burden on the webmaster to follow their rules or else be penalized (so they don’t have to change anything). Just seems bass-ackwards to me. Yes, I like to see the little green bar with PR when I load up my site. it’s a nice little ego boost, but if I dropped down to zero, I wouldn’t change anything. I would continue to blog, continue to try and help people when I can and just go on with my life.

    Anyway, that’s how I feel right now. Ask me again in a few months after the online world goes through it’s next set of changes, and I might think differently. ;)

    Thanks again

    [Reply]

  15. Tomaz on January 11th, 2008 4:32 pm

    Good points, Deron.

    Yes, I think Google is trying to figure out how to adjust their algorithm although the effect of linking will stay forever.

    And if your sites can succeed without Google than congrats! I’ll have to take a look at them and see how you make it. ;)

    [Reply]

  16. Deron Sizemore on January 12th, 2008 12:24 am

    hehe, well everyone’s definitely of success is different. My two sites are doing pretty good for the short time they’ve been online, but I’m not Darren Rowse or anything. ;)

    Yeah, you’re right though. Linking will definitely stay forever, or at least in the foreseeable future. It’s what makes the web great. Can you imaging sites with no links to external sites?

    [Reply]

  17. datafiedbpo on March 3rd, 2008 11:40 am

    Thanks man for providing indepth info. for do follow, i have started the do follow activitiy but today i know the indepth of it.

    [Reply]

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