The Future of Blog Comments

Recently, Matt Cutts (head of webspam at Google) announced that they have changed the way that nofollow links are used.  In fact, the way that Google have treated these links changed nearly a year ago but they only got around to announcing it now.

For most people, this doesn’t matter at all but for those of us that are SEOs or those of us that have a blog, it matters a reasonable amount.

First, a bit of history.  the nofollow attribute was added so that you could tell Google that a link from your website wasn’t to be followed by their spider.  So if someone paid you for an advert that linked to their site, or if you linked to a dodgy website for some reason then you could tell Google to ignore it.

Nofollow was also used by SEOs to carry out what is known as “PageRank Sculpting”.  Essentially, every page on a website has a certain amount of juice.  The more juice you have, the higher your ranking for certain searches.

You gather juice by having websites link to you and you pass juice to other people by linking to them  The amount of juice you have depends on what websites are linking to you and how much juice they are passing to you. If the BBC links to you then they may be giving you 10 units of juice because they are a popular site whereas if your mate’s dog site links to you it may only pass 1 unit of juice.

Logically, the less you link out then the more juice you hoard and the higher your rankings for that page.  It’s not actually that simple, since Google doesn’t like it if you don’t link out at all, but we’ll keep it simple!

What often happened however was that people would spam blogs by leaving hundreds of useless, innane comments just so they could get a link back to their site.  Nofollow fixed that since you could set your blog so that any comments are nofollowed. That way you would save your link juice and not risk linking to any dodgy areas either.

It was a simple and elegant solution.

But with this new change, there are two major impacts.

1 – The juice that you thought you were hoarding by nofollowing a link is now just evaporating into nothing. If you have nofollowed lots of unimportant pages on your website (such as the terms and condition pages) then you’re no longer saving that juice – it’s just disappearing.

2 – If you have a blog, every comment on every page is causing that page to lose juice that enables it to rank for various search terms.

Most SEOs are up in arms about point (1) because all of the effort they spent PageRank sculpting now has to be removed and their site architecture reworked.  This won’t affect most people.  But what WILL affect most people is the use of n in blogs.

The simplest way to fix this is to switch off comments, but that’s a pretty unsatisfactory solution and doesn’t encourage any conversations on your blog.

Thankfully, Shaun, over at the Hobo SEO company has developed a clever solution that actually encourages people to comment and rewards loyal blog commenters.

This is how it works: if you comment X number of times then you won’t get a link at all.  But the more trusted you are and the more comments you have approved, the more trust you gain.  Once you’ve gained the trust of the blog owner (by giving useful, insightful comments) then every comment you write will have a nice dofollow link which will actually pass juice to your website.

It’s an elegant solution and the first decent thing to come out of the nofollow changes.  I actually think it’ll become the norm for blog commenting in the future.

I’ll be installing the plugin over the next day or so and then the MMD will become a dofollow blog for those loyal followers!  I recommend you do the same.

You can pick up the plugin here. It’s still in beta so fire any comments back to Shaun.