But there is another loser. One of the strengths of the Internet is that it allows for two-way public communication on a scale never seen before. You post a blog, or set up a wiki; your audience comments on your blog, or adds and changes your wiki.
The problem? While you have complete control over a website and its contents in the normal way of things, sites that allow for user communication remove this complete control from you and give it to your readers. There is no way to prevent readers of an open blog from posting unwanted links, except for manually removing them. Even then, links can be hidden in commas or periods, making it nearly impossible to catch everything.
This leaves you open to the accusation of link spam – for links you never put out there to begin with. And while you may police the most recent several blogs you’ve posted, no one polices the ones from several years ago. Yet Google still looks at them and indexes them. By 2002, bloggers everywhere were begging Google for an ignore tag of some sort to prevent its spiders from indexing comment areas.
Not only, they said, would bloggers be grateful; everyone with two-way uncontrolled communication – wikis, forums, guest books – needed this service from Google. Each of these types of sites has been inundated with spam at some point, forcing some to shut down completely. And Google itself needed it to help prevent the rampant spam in the industry.
In 2005, Google finally responded to these concerns. Though their solution is not everything the online community wanted (for instance, it leads to potentially good content being ignored as well as spam), it does at least allow you to section out the parts of your blog that are public. It is the “nofollow” attribute.
“Nofollow” allows you to mark a portion of your web page, whether you’re running a blog or you want to section out paid advertising, as an area that Google spiders should ignore. The great thing about it is that not only does it keep your rankings from suffering from spam, it also discourages spammers from wasting your valuable comments section with their junk text.
The most basic part of this attribute involves embedding it into a hyperlink. This allows you to manually flag links, such as those embedded in paid advertising, as links Google spiders should ignore. But what if the content is user-generated? It’s still a problem because you certainly don’t have time to go through and mark all those links up.
Fortunately, blogging systems have been sensitive to this new development. Whether you use WordPress or another blogging system, most have implemented either automated “nofollow” links in their comment sections, or have issued plugins you can implement yourself to prevent this sort of spamming.
This does not solve every problem. But it’s a great start. Be certain you know how your user-generated content system provides this service to you. In most cases, a software update will implement this change for you.