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My recent reflection on blogging currency (that would be backlinks) deserves a follow-up. In seeking the balance between contextual value and link-love reward, user comments come to the forefront of a digital war. The epic battle involves search engines, millions of competing websites, and even more spam. Here are generally two camps of thought:

nofollow

The default behaviour of most blogging platforms adds rel=’nofollow’ tag to every link appearing in the comments section. What this does is that the links appear as normal to the reader, but the search engines don’t count them. In practice, it is a good idea to limit the number of outbound links to irrelevant content, especially to sites of spammy nature. To search engines, your links are your votes in favour of authority. The downside, of course, is that authors of insightful and relevant comments also don’t get the full benefit of proper citation.

dofollow

The opposite extreme is to disable the rel, and make every link on the page to have a full-credit weight. Easily done with Wordpress plugins, this option is still very limited as it requires understanding of different link types, and a strong confidence in one’s spam filters. Arguably, advertising one’s membership to this camp of thought will attract more comment participation, both real and spam related. The downside is that a flood of “sweet post” comments will effectively dilute the content-to-links ratio. The full implications of such I leave for the SEO experts to discuss.

in between

Seeking a middle ground, that would allow me to recognize relevant links and reward authors for insightful comments, without running the risk of automatically authorizing a bucket-full of nonsense – I have put together an experimental Wordpress plugin. The idea is simple: moderate for exceptional comments. The code is a mess, but this is my first Wordpress plugin. I will be running this setup for a while to see how it works out. If there will be any interest expressed, I will consider cleaning up the code, and publishing the plugin for others to use.

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Uhh... nothing else appears to be relevant enough.

Discussion

  1. Posted by ClappingTrees | March 15, 2007, 3:20 am

    Glad to hear that you are working on such a plugin. I would be interested to use it.

    Only yesterday, I added a DoFollow plugin and a Show Top Commentators plugin to my blog and then announced this via a post. I immediately receive more comments than before. However, it also occurred to me that “follow” should be for special comments and not just any comments. My workaround next was to use LinkLove which rewards frequent commentators. Still, I have an inkling that I could be placing the wrong emphasis — more on quantity rather than quality. So what you’ve created sounds just right!

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  2. Posted by paul | March 15, 2007, 6:01 am

    Clean that thing up…interested!

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  3. Posted by Avinash | March 15, 2007, 9:54 am

    Interesting stuff! I’ll wait to try your plugin when it’s ready.

    On my own blog, I recently installed the DoFollow plugin. It’s my normal habit not to approve useless comments including comments like “good stuff”, “It was a pretty useful article”, etc. I’ve configured Akismet 2.0 plugin to put all such comments as spam comments.

    Still, I’ll wait to see what you come up with. :) A unique plugin is always welcome!

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  4. Posted by Tony | March 15, 2007, 3:34 pm

    Thx for expressing such interest guys :)

    I’ll clean the source code up over the weekend, wait a couple of days to make sure no new bugs turn up, and publish the plugin some time next week. I’ll make a post and everything, so the announcement will show up in RSS.

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  5. Posted by engtech | March 15, 2007, 7:48 pm

    Hi Tony,

    You might be interested in this list of existing dofollow plugins. Or hate me for posting it. :)

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  6. Posted by Tony | March 15, 2007, 8:24 pm

    Well there’s a dozen ways of removing nofollow, and half the plugins offer an option of marking select links with nofollow again.

    I’m going the other route, where I would moderate to remove nofollow, not turn it on. So this idea would be unique to that list. I’ll ask Andy to include this plugin when it gets released. So no, I don’t hate you engtech, you get a star! ;)

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  7. Posted by Art Kauffman | March 16, 2007, 2:42 pm

    I’m very interested in your “middle-route” idea. Definitely let me know if you do get anywhere publishing a plugin that does that.

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  8. Posted by Andy Beard | March 16, 2007, 3:35 pm

    Thanks for the mention engtech

    I am happy to include the plugin in my list as soon as you feel it is ready, especially considering I just gained a link because engtech’s post earned a star.

    This plugin does seem a little like micromanaging the links, and that would be hard work on blogs which receive a lot of comments.

    What would be useful and I have seen people express a need for such a plugin is a universal whitelist / blacklist plugin, which would filter posts and comments with a high priority and force the links to be either nofollow or dofollow for certain domains.

    That would allow you to whitelist every comment from a trusted commented, and blacklist domains you choose, such as the popular Wikipedia nofollow plugin.

    On another note, I use a comments policy to handle junk comments and manual comment spam – some gets through regardless.

    You are running subscribe to comments – the spam will hit people’s email box with blue pills comments possibly originating from your domain.

    People are so worried about a little thing like whether a spammer gets a link for a couple of hours, when they should be looking into safeguarding their business from being shut down by a host or domain registrar.

    I used the link box to a way of improving your legal position, it is fairly simple.

    To counteract the SEO, you should add a few more related posts to the single pages, and possible add some tagging with UTW or Simple Tags

    On my blog it doesn’t matter how many comments I get, I still retain a lot of the link juice on a single popular post and spread it out. It still leaves by external links, but it is more even in distribution.

    Reply to comment

  9. Posted by Tony | March 16, 2007, 4:02 pm

    Thx for all that info Andy.

    You are absolutely right, this is micromanaging of links. Though I think this might be combined with the whitelist idea, where a number of stared comments will promote the comment author to a distinguished contributor status with automated dofollow. Yieks, that’s more development work, but sounds like a pretty cool feature to have.

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  10. Posted by Andy Beard | March 16, 2007, 4:07 pm

    Including the blacklist functionality, and having the ability to set the number of posts for whitelisting to zero would be extremely useful.

    How does your star system handle nofollow on trackbacks?

    That is another important feature of the dofollow plugins, and gets me lots of links

    Reply to comment

  11. Posted by Emily | March 21, 2007, 1:42 am

    I think the star thing is really cute!
    (Sorry for making all your work sound so… cute)

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  12. Posted by morganusvitus | April 4, 2007, 9:10 am

    The site looks great ! Thanks for all your help ( past, present and future !)

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  13. Posted by ClappingTrees | May 23, 2007, 12:34 am

    Hey Tony, where is the download page for this plugin?

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  14. Posted by Hobo Design | June 20, 2007, 12:19 am

    Nice idea. Where can it be downloaded though?

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  15. Posted by Bape | September 27, 2007, 10:18 pm

    Its ironic that many bloggers talk about this but then they actually use no follow.

    Reply to comment

  16. Posted by Bree DoFollow | October 3, 2007, 10:19 pm

    Put my vote in for dofollow, I do-follow links now on my Aussie housewife blog. After a long time procrastinating I have seen the importance of dofollow and using the “do follow” principal to help keep the Internet better connected. http://www.reallyreally.net – Take a look at my dofollow blog and feel free to comment. Thank you, Regards Bree.

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  17. Posted by mlankton | October 4, 2007, 10:16 am

    Here is one thing I haven’t seen discussed. We all rely on akismet to help us keep spam comments off our pages. My sarcastic sense of humor got the better of me when commenting on a blog last week, and there must have been something in my comment that made akismet hold it. The blog owner probably hit delete all comments held by akismet without looking at them (bad idea, akismet is great, but it sometimes holds good comments). I was added to the akismet blacklist. I was lucky, and found out about it within 24 hours of it happening, and the good folks at akismet removed me and apologized. How many comments did I make on blogs that got deleted because I was briefly on akismet’s blacklist? I don’t know, I’m just glad I found it quick instead of commenting for a month before I figured it out.

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