Oh sweet “nofollow!” I use you on my blog to keep my link juice from spilling out onto the shady, dark world of the Internet underbellies. I even use you to sculpt my sites, hoping to wrangle PageRank and content into my own little silo of SERP love. Yet you are fickle and have proven to be a lying, cheating bastard.
You might be asking, “why all the prose?” And by prose, I know you mean really crappy melodrama. It’s because Google keeps changing the rules, but keeps their public message the same. I find this both irritating and also brilliant. Such is the case with the infamous rel=”nofollow” attribute.
The nofollow attribute is supposed to behave. It’s supposed to not let search engines follow its links. It’s supposed to do what we’ve been told by Google what it’s supposed to do. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do that. Instead, relevance and juice still seems to get past it. How do I know this, because we’ve experimented with it — experiments I’m unwilling to share to protect the identity of the not-so-innocent.
The biggest place that we’ve seen the offense is with blog comments. We’ve recently found that the anchor text and links that are supposed to be nofollow’d by Google are doing quite well. In fact, we’ve done (loose) experiments with unique anchor text — using the anchor text only on blog comments that were nofollowed — and have found them ranking #1 and #2 on Google. Let me repeat, we never built any other links with anchor text remotely close to the anchor text we used on those comments, yet we got results from it as if it had been dofollow.
We’ve only seen this recently in the past few months, which leads me to believe that Google is fiddling with their algorithm and changing the rules with nofollow once again. But like the government, we won’t find out about it until it doesn’t even matter anymore.