Google hits comment spammers hard?

Simon thinks Google will soon announce that they won’t be calculating PageRank for links with a rel=”nofollow” attribute. And he’s probably right, it makes complete sense for Google to do this. Dave Winer has a “mysterious” announcement coming up, and if you view source you see he has the rel=”nofollow” implemented.

There are two ways rel=”nofollow” could work: either Google simply doesn’t follow these links, or they don’t attach Pagerank to these links. As opposed to Simon, I think it is probably the first. It makes semantically more sense. It’s probably easier to implement for them as well. Also, Pagerank has become less and less important in Google algorythms over the years.

This means that you just add this attribute to all the links that are added by users, like links in comments. You don’t add it to the links in your blog posts. People can still follow ALL links, but search engines (only Google for now) would only follow the links in your blogposts. The stuff *you* link to in your blogposts still gets yummy Pagerank goodness – your blog doesn’t loose its Google power.

And more importantly, Google doesn’t loose its blog power – it can still take advantage of the meaning embedded in the links on blogs, just without much of the pollution. I can even see them implementing a little Pagerank boost for outgoing links on a domain that does have some rel=”nofollow” links implemented, since it means that the links that don’t have that attribute are probably somewhat more meaningful.

When you do this, the incentive for spammers to spam you (increased Pagerank) is pretty much taken away. Comment spammers don’t do it in the hope that some human will follow that link. They’re in it for the Pagerank.

The amount of spam you get won’t diminish immediately – spammers use automated tools and don’t really care about whether it works on a particular blog. But if the majority of blogs implements this, then it will become less and less attractive for comment spammers to spend time comment spamming.

This is where hosted services like Blogger (owned by Google) or Typepad really shine. I expect them to support this from the moment of announcement on, making the majority of blogs protected against spam. It wouldn’t make sense for Google to implement this and not let Six Apart (owners of Typepad) know about it – that would be abusing their search engine power a bit.

The most popular blogging packages would support this as well, and as people slowly upgrade to new versions, within a year or so 80 to 90% (I’m making these numbers up) of blogs will be protected. OK, who makes the condom-like logo that says “my blog is spam protected”?

Not everyone is optimistic though.

An open question: as Google looses some of its dominance in the search world, will other search engines start supporting this? If not, the measure may not be as effective as we hope.

Will this stop comment spamming? Not right now. Will it stop the growth of comment spamming? Hopefully.

Then again, this may all be wrong, since Dave supposedly left a comment saying “Pssst. Good work. You’re getting warmer. ;->”

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