Way back in November 2008, I decided to start an experiment. Against the advice of a few SEO professionals, I decided to see what would happen, if I offered ‘dofollow’ links from the comments section of this blog.
I have been able to take this gamble, because this blog is 100% free of advertisers, affiliates and sponsors. In other words, I have none of the traffic pressures many of my fellow bloggers have.
After 6 months, here’s my experience.
What’s a dofollow link?
Briefly, for those who do not already know, when you leave a comment on a dofollow blog, the links you put in your comment are followed by Google, from the blog, to wherever your link points. However, the vast majority of blogs and websites offer ‘nofollow‘ links, which means that Google is told not to follow the links you leave in your comments. By offering dofollow links, it’s believed that you give a tiny SEO boost to those who comment on a blog.
The dofollow results
3 weeks ago, I removed the dofollow attribute from the blog, so that I could see what difference, if any, it made. I thought it would take weeks to notice any real, measurable difference, but the change started after just a few days.
Here’s what happened.
Spam comments from REAL people
Sadly, this blog slowly became a magnet for people seeking to get dofollow links for their sites and their client’s sites. This form of spammy commenting, has already all but stopped. This is because those who make a living from targeting dofollow blogs, usually have software installed on their machines, which shows immediately if a blog is dofollow or not; (like Quirk’s popular SearchStatus plugin for firefox).
Let me make this clear – I am NOT talking about automated spam, which every blogger gets. I am referring to spammy comments left by real people, exclusively designed to get dofollow links to their site (or their client’s sites.)
Search engine results
After just 3 weeks with the dofollow attribute turned off, search traffic to this blog from Google has increased by over 25% (and it’s still increasing.) My Google Pagerank has also increased from 3 to 5. I have discussed this considerable increase in search engine traffic with several SEO professionals. It seems the general belief is that I was being penalised by Google, NOT because I offered dofollow links; but because too many of those links pointed to what SEO professionals refer to as ‘bad neighbourhoods.’
In other words, people were linking to dubious sites from here and I was being penalised by search engines for allowing it.
I believe that this problem can be rectified, by manually checking the URL’s of every link left by every person who comments. However, this blog has around 4000 comments – one post alone has almost 700 comments (and growing!) The large number of comments on this blog, made it just too time consuming for me to manually check the URL destination of each comment. Yes, there is software out there which is supposed to be able to do this for you, but I found it to be way too inaccurate – often claiming great blogs were spammy and visa versa.
Just offering dofollow links shouldn’t have any negative impact on a blog – providing you have the time to be able to manually check out the URL of every person who comments on your blog AND you are able to correctly identify what is a good or bad neighbourhood.
This causes a REAL dilemma though. That’s because the temptation is to delete any comment from someone, with a link that you are not 100% sure about. This inevitably means you run the risk of deleting comments from great, genuine people.
There’s an old saying in marketing, which tells us; “success leaves clues.” So, this weekend, I checked out the 50 most successful blogs that I read and NONE of them offer dofollow comment links. By the way, these include; scobleizer.com, techcrunch, mashable, ducttapemarketing.com and veronica belmont’s blog.
Over the past 6 months, my dofollow experiment has been really interesting. My conclusion is that dofollow is a GREAT idea, if you have the time to check out the URL of every comment and the ability to call it right each time.
If you only get a few comments a day and can afford the time to check them out – Go for it! However, if you get a lot of comments to your blog and you want to avoid a lot of extra work, I think you have a call to make.
Ironically, the dofollow benefits you give your commenters will make very little difference to their SEO anyway.
This post covers my unique, personal experience with dofollow links. I would like to hear your experiences with dofollow links or nofollow links. What kind of impact did they have on your blog; positive or negative?