Search Engine Watch has confirmed that Google, Yahoo and MSN plan to support a new ‘nofollow’ link tag.
For all the obvious reasons, and stated in the above linked article, this is a big step forward for allowing blog owners to gain a bit of control of the blog spam that comes their way. You’ll notice that PPW does not allow comments to be posted, as other blogs do. This was done strictly to prevent blog spam. We didn’t want to have to deal with the constant removing of spam comments, so we simply shut that feature off altogether.
This new nofollow tag won’t stop blog spam, however it will make it less desirable to the spammers, by removing the “vote” that is normally associated with the link to their site. Take that vote of popularity away and then a link is just a link.
While I fully support this new tag I do see a very likely negative side effect to occur.
Because of the importance that links are to search engines in determining a site’s importance, many sites set up link directory pages to facilitate quality link exchanges. Many times you’ll find someone who wants you to give them the link vote, while not providing that vote back. They will do this by adding your link but use sneaky redirect so the link is not legitimately pointing to your site. The link still takes you to the site, but no “vote” is associated with that link because of the redirect.
In most cases these can be detected by simply right-clicking on the link and selecting “properties”. Most browser will show you where the link actually points, regardless of what you see on the page or the mouseover.
This new nofollow tag poses a new problem. I’ve done some quick tests and found that when viewing the properties of the link some browsers won’t show if this new ‘nofollow’ tag is being utilized. FireFox and Netscape both provide this information, while Internet Explorer and Opera do not. I’ve not tested other browsers.
Sites that resort to trickery in their link exchanges will undoubtedly utilize this new tag by providing a link to your site using the nofollow tag hoping that you link back to them properly, therefore getting that “vote” from your site while not returning the favor.
I urge all legitimate and honest businesses to take new caution when exchanging links. You’ll want to verify that these links point directly to your site AND provide the vote that should be associated with it. Download FireFox browser if you must (its free and its a good browser), but be sure to protect yourselves from such link frauders.