Comment Spam and rel=”nofollow”

There has been a lot of noise recently about Google’s proposed “solution” to comment spam – the rel=”nofollow” attribute for links, which makes search engines ignore them for the purposes of ranking pages by their associations.

It seems to me that there are actually two distinct problems here.

  1. Google’s problem. “All these comment spammers are messing up our search results. We’re not making as much money as before!”
  2. Joe Blogger’s problem. “All these comment spammers are polluting my blog, and I have to spend ages deleting it all!”

Now, which problem does rel=”nofollow” actually solve? Well, it certainly solves Google’s problem – which is not surprising, given that they suggested it. The Googlebot can say “Ah, this is a blog. Does it have some links with rel=”nofollow”? If it does, I can therefore trust all the other links on the page. If it doesn’t, I won’t trust any of them.”

However, to solve Joe Blogger’s problem, spammers would have to say “Hmm. I’m going to rewrite my extremely efficient spamming engine to check each blog to see if there are links there that have rel=”nofollow” and, if there are, not bother to spam it”. But they won’t. They’ll just spam you anyway.

The only way rel=”nofollow” will ever help Joe Blogger is if so many blogs use it that blogspamming becomes entirely pointless – and then the blogspammer will just stop outright. And, given the number of old and abandoned blogs littering the web, that time is some way off.

I suppose it might have more immediate effect on spammers who target particular centralised communities, like LiveJournal. If all LiveJournal links suddenly acquire rel=”nofollow”, then the spammer may hang up his script. But for Movable Type users like me, where every installation is different, this won’t happen. I’ll be getting my daily dose of online poker and phentermine (what is that, anyway?) for some time yet.

8 thoughts on “Comment Spam and rel=”nofollow”

  1. Well, I win as well. I won’t see that many search results for spammvertised products anymore which makes it less likely that I will unwillingly support them with my money. I like it.

  2. As I see it, if the supporters of this technology include Sixapart, who provide the software running several million blogs (Typepad, Livejournal), and MSN Spaces, who run a couple of million more, then it *will* make the rate of return on comment spamming low enough for it not to be worthwhile…

    I can’t think of a major blogging software vendor or host that haven’t got behind this idea, offhand.

  3. LiveJournal doesn’t get much spam these days, as far as I know. It’s got a hell of a lot of mechanisms to make spamming very difficult, at any rate.

  4. From
    A drug that suppresses appetite by altering the body’s metabolism of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, used in the management of obesity.

  5. Six Apart’s TypePad site has rolled this out. Therefore anyone spamming TypePad is wasting their time because it’ll have no effect.

  6. I agree… I don’t think it will do too much to stop or slow down the comment spam. Spammers will continue to keep sending whether this new rel=”nofollow” is in place or not. Look at all the spam filtering/stopping techniques that have popped up for e-mail spam. The spammers will find a way around it or just continue with their old ways of doing things.