Eliminate NoFollow to Stimulate Conversation

19 June 2009 Post Author:
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Travel writers are you suffering from few — if any — comments on your travel blog? You’re not alone! I’ve noticed this growing trend while reading many of the travel blogs I (try to) regularly keep up on.

Anyone who has been blogging for a while is probably familiar with the “nofollow” tag and what it does, but here’s a quick primer for anyone who isn’t familiar with this term.

Roughly four years ago Google introduced a new HTML tag called “nofollow”, which was intended to discourage comment spam, a practice whereby some site owners would leave copious amounts of comments at various and sundry blogs across the internet to gain a large number of links to their website, in an attempt to improve their site’s rankings with search engines. If you’re a blog owner you’ve no doubt dealt with comment spam, and many blog owners highly praised the tag when it was first introduced.

But there is a downside — anyone who has been blogging for a while probably has also noticed that it’s getting harder to stimulate feedback and conversation from readers through the use of comments. With a limited amount of time in the day, and a need to get quality inbound links to their websites, many bloggers are focusing their efforts on websites that don’t utilize the NoFollow tag…..and who can blame them? Not me. Although finding such sites is getting to be quite a challenge, since many blogs today are powered by WordPress, and WordPress has been utilizing this NoFollow tag for all versions since 1.5.

Really truly savvy Blog owners know that to stimulate good conversation, allowing a followable link back to the commenter’s site is a good enticement, and they use a plugin that removes the NoFollow tag, such as NoFollow Free, or they modify the core WordPress code, which is what I did (and which I would only advocate if you’re extremely comfortable modifying code, and which needs to be repeated each time you upgrade your version of WordPress).

Yes, that’s right. Travel Writers Exchange does NOT use NoFollow. If you leave a comment on any of our blog posts, that link is fully followable by Google and other search engines, and counts as an inbound link to your site.

It is my personal opinion that if someone has something relevant – and of value – to contribute to the conversation at our site, they should be rewarded with a link. We control comment spam by using another free WordPress plugin, the wonderful Akismet, which is included with WordPress and only needs to be activated and configured, and I’ve seen absolutely NO increase in comment spam since I disabled NoFollow over 6 months ago. For anyone who is concerned about an “all or nothing” approach, a great option is the popular (and free) plugin De-link Comment Author, which allows you to unlink the comment from the comment author’s URL on a case-by-case basis.

My goal in writing this post is to encourage other blog owners — of all topics and genres — to follow our NoFollow lead. If you’re a WordPress user, install and activate one of the many plugins that remove the NoFollow tag. I personally recommend NoFollow Free because it offers other nifty features, such as the option to remove NoFollow only after a commenter has left ‘x’ number of comments (you choose the number). If you let your commenters know that you appreciate them — and show that appreciate with a followable link — they’ll be more likely to return to your site and leave additional comments on future posts that you publish.

Let’s take back the right to stimulate and reward conversation on our sites.

~Trisha

What’s your opinion on the ubiquitous use of NoFollow? Do you choose to leave (or not leave) comments because of it?

23 Responses to “Eliminate NoFollow to Stimulate Conversation”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Great post Trisha. I just downloaded the De-link Comment Author plugin. Thanks! I do find a lot of blogs use the NoFollow. That’s too bad. I use the Askimet spam which catches a ton of spam. My one website can receive 50+ spam comments — Yuck!

    I would like to mention that I’m running into with WordPress is that some of the plugins are not compatible with all versions of WordPress. Not sure if anyone else has run into this as well. Maybe it’s just a matter of time before all plugins will be updated for the latest WordPress. Of course, I’m still using 2.7.1. — will not upgrade until the BUGS are worked out.

  2. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Rebecca – Thanks – I appreciate the feedback!

    I have found the same thing with Plugins – you do really have to be careful before you upgrade to a newer version of WordPress, and make sure that any plugins you use are compatible first so that you don’t encounter an unpleasant surprise when something on your site quits working!

    Like you, I’m sticking with 2.7.1 for a while longer, but also I keep a “test” installation of WP on my server that only I can get to, just so I can be sure a new version will work for me…..I’ll let you know how my testing of 2.8 goes!

  3. Dan
    Twitter:
    says:

    Good post. I’m going to have a look for a plugin that works with wordpress 2.8.

  4. I’m not familiar with the no follow tag, although I have been blogging for three years. There is so much to learn. Thank you for providing valuable support and information.

  5. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    @Dan – NoFollowFree (linked to above) is one of the more popular ones, since it allows you to reward only those who are frequent commenters – another deterrent to comment spam, so I recommend it highly.

    @Barbara – happy to help! We aim to be a full-service, A-to-Z resource for writers, so we’ll regularly feature articles dealing with some of the more technical aspects of blogging – be sure to subscribe to our Weekly Recap so you don’t miss any posts!

  6. John says:

    i know a lot of people that also use keywordluv as well, that gets a lot of attention these days. good post.

  7. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi John – thanks for stopping by!

    There are a number of differing opinions on the KeywordLuv plugin – to be honest I tried it and discarded it early on because of the same trouble that a lot of folks complain about when using it, namely that it attracts high amounts of spam comments, especially from some spammers of rather offensive products. Sure you can use spam-fighting plugins (which I do), but you still have to either moderate all comments (time-consuming) or try to catch the ones that slip through and hope you don’t lose readers over the extremely graphic nature of the comments that get through……in the end it wasn’t worth it, so I deleted KeywordLuv and just went to my present arrangement – I got rid of the “nofollow” to encourage and reward commenters, continue to use spam filtering plugins to combat most of the spam, and moderate any comments that include any HTML or links…..it seems to be working well for me (knock on wood) :)

    Also, another plugin I will likely be implementing in the near future is CommentLuv – which rewards commenters with a link to their latest blog post (if they have one)…..

  8. Craig
    Twitter:
    says:

    We’re no-follow free after three comments, but I’ve never promoted that fact. I’ll do so now and find out if things improve markedly.

  9. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Craig – Excellent! A good place to also let folks know is right where your Comments box is – I’ve seen blogs where they have a brief “comments policy” statement above the name/email/url boxes…..good luck with that!

  10. justin says:

    This is a great tool for bloggers…all thou it gets difficult to find such blogs that have keywordluv or commentluv enabled. I installed this on my blog and I ended up getting a lot more spam then I wanted. But it is a great way to generate backlinks!

  11. thanks a lot for this post. I hope that other blog owners will do the same… i have also notice other blogs that requires 3 or 5 post before your links becomes do follow…

    • There are several popular WordPress Plugin that do exactly that – allows links to be free of ‘nofollow’ after 3 to 5 comments from the same commenter (link to them is in last paragraph of the post above).

      I think this is a VERY reasonable solution.

      Also I find that Akismet does a terrific job of eliminating nearly all of the spam, and only occasionally catches a legitimate comment in it’s queue (which I peruse regularly), so getting rid of the nofollow attribute has really not caused me any more work, and definitely helps encourage commenting.

  12. travel bug says:

    Great move. Comments are often just as or more interesting than the articles themselves, so any move to encourage comment is to be praised

  13. ashimajain says:

    Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading it. I will be back for more!
    Sincerely
    Ashima

  14. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Recently I was asked not leave my website URL in the “website URL space.” I didn’t even think of the No Follow rule. I asked the web admin to explain why I couldn’t enter my website URL and the response was “we use a No Follow” rule which you can read about at the bottom of our website. I scrolled down and saw the print about the No Follow and clicked on the link to read more about No Follow. My belief is if you don’t want readers leaving their website URL because you implement a No Follow rule then take out the website URL box!

    • That webmaster is clearly totally confused – the whole point of “nofollow” is that you CAN leave a URL, but it won’t be followed. If you don’t allow people to leave a URL, then there isn’t any need for the “nofollow”.

      Not only that, but ‘nofollow’ (and that webmaster’s policy) violates the original intent, and “spirit”, of the web, which was to create links from one site to another to another, and so on, which is what creates the “web”.

  15. anonymous
    Twitter:
    says:

    I think that in the near future the comments will be entirely replaced by social bookmarking sites. I don’t agree with this trend but seems to be unstoppable. Anyway, meanwhile I stick to nofollow rule on my blogs.

  16. Chris
    Twitter:
    says:

    Its a fine line to walk with nofollow/dofollow. You risk the possibility of spammers looking for links but you also want to help your fellow travel bloggers out.
    .-= Chris´s last blog post: Kutna Hora and the Bone Chapel =-.

  17. You’re absolutely right Chris – it does mean I have more comments to moderate when Akismet isn’t sure that something is spam, and while most of the time it’s pretty easy for me to tell right away (based on the use of keywords for the name and vague generalities about liking the post…) there are times when it’s a hard decision as the comment does offer value to the conversation. At those times I generally approve the comment but either change the keyword used to “anonymous’ or de-link the URL.

    But in the end I think it’s worth it to help out fellow bloggers, after all that is the intention of TWE – to be a resource and to help others!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for you great tip. I should have come up with it.
    I’ll immediately make my blog dofollow.
    .-= Anonymous´ last blog post: Spain Travel Insights =-.

  19. Kevin says:

    Useful post. I too have Akismet installed in my wordpress site which catches not less than a 100 spammers daily.

  20. Mike
    Twitter:
    says:

    Been researching how to get more people to participate on my blog, and also how to get more traffic. In this I’ve seen lists of blogs that dont use nofollows, that I assume saavy bloggers will use to get backlinks. After reading your post I’m seeing things in a different want, I’d rather give out a link and get people posting comments on my site, if I dont like the comment I dont have to approve it. Good stuff, thanks!

  21. Norfa says:

    Interesting article, when most of the web has started to use these no follow tags. There has obviously been a change in the amount of conversation taking place. If the web goes more lenient and google succeeds into implementing a better ranking method, a day soon will come with no dofollows and nofollows.

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