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Wikipedia is right about nofollow

There’s a lot of discussion on Techmeme right now about Wikipedia’s decision to add rel=”nofollow” (explanation at the end of this article) to all outbound links on its pages. People seem to be unhappy about the decision because they believe Wikipedia should link to the sources of the article data and provide them (the sources) with the necessary “google juice” in return.

Why wikipedia is right

In my opinion, these people are wrong and Wikipedia did the right thing. Let’s think about it for a while. Wikipedia needs to protect their data in order to remain a credible source of information. Part of that data protection initiative must encompass putting a brake on the spam they get daily – and this is the best way to do it.

By adding the nofollow attribute to their links, wikipedia is effectively telling spammers that by adding links to their pages from wikipedia, they get no “juice” (or search engine ranking boost, if you prefer) in return. Which is good because that way there’s no point in them spamming in the first place – wikipedia readers win, and the web in general wins as well, as there’s less garbage being crawled.

But what if I’m an authority on a topic?

The main reason why people are saying this is a bad move by Wikipedia, is because they get no compensation for being a valid information source for something and being linked from wikipedia. And this is right, but Wikipedia isn’t the only page on the web. If you’re a valuable source of information on a subject, you’ll get the necessary links from other people, who’ll boost your search engine position just as much.

This is a matter of balancing search engine rating greed and the understanding that wikipedia information needs to be valid, and kept that way.

Nofollow definition

Quick note for those who don’t know what nofollow is: if when defining a link to a page from one of yours, you add the rel=”nofollow” attribute, when engines like google crawl your page, they disregard those links. This is useful to make engines ignore links you can’t control – like those in comments to a blog post. In short, it makes things tidier.

7 comments
  1. Michael Buckbee says: January 23, 20077:24 am

    I can’t speak for others, but I think the biggest reason not use no-follow is that it plain doesn’t work.

    Has adding no-follow to blog comments stopped comment spammers for whacking the living heck out of the internet with their filth? No, because there remains an economic incentive (albeit a lesser one) in direct views of spam (just like email spam).

    It’s so cheap to “send” a comment spam/wiki edit that as long as nearly any economic incentive exists comment spammers will still exist.

    If you’re interested, I’ve suggested an alternative approach and why no-follow isn’t really about solving anybody’s spam issues but google here:

    http://www.buzzwordcompliant.net/index.php/2007/01/23/why-not-to-follow-nofollow/

    Thanks,

    Mike

  2. JasonM says: January 25, 20079:17 pm

    Another argument against nofollow is if a large proportion of any web community adopt the nofollow usage – then Googles algorithm for weighting more popular sites simply stops working.

    Many mainstream bloggers / blog software have implemented nofollow. I admit the web is made up of a lot more pages, but removing quality content from the mix of pagelinks doesn’t seem to be a sustainable solution in the long term.

  3. [...] So is wikipedia right or wrong? As with nearly everything that ever happens on the internet, wikipedia’s move to turn itself into an all-consuming “black hole” of incoming links has caused some controversy among the web community. No-one really agrees on which is the lesser evil, their fight against spammers and strive to maintain a certain quality of content, or the importance of them ‘contributing’ back to the web community. Search engine expert Philipp Lenssen is very much in the ‘its a bad idea’ camp, and feels wikipedia are being selfish. Heshares his views on why he feels wikipedia’s decision is dissapointing one; What happens as a consequence, in my opinion, is that Wikipedia gets valuable backlinks from all over the web, in huge quantity, and of huge importance … this is what makes Wikipedia rank so well – but as of now, they’re not giving any of this back. The problem of Wikipedia link spam is real, but the solution to this spam problem may introduce an even bigger problem: Wikipedia has become a website that takes from the communities but doesn’t give back, skewing web etiquette as well as tools that work on this etiquette (like search engines, which analyze the web’s link structure). Amit Agarwal provides an illustration of how the no-follow rule may have a negative impact on other smaller websites: Say you discover a cool feature in the iPod (called Stylus) and blog about it. Tomorrow, the Wikipedia contributors append the details of iPod Stylus (your discovery) to the Wikipedia page on iPod. They do attribute your blog but search engines will never see that attribution (or read your blog via Wikipedia) because of the rel=nofollow tag. Now that Wikipedia enjoys higher credibility and trust, the search algorithms will rank the Wikipedia iPod page higher than yours (for queries like iPod Stylus) because the search engine bots are not aware that Wikipedia’s content is actually based on your blog page. Result, your site appears after Wikipedia in the “iPod Stylus” search results and you get less or no traffic while Wikipedia gets to enjoy all the fruits of your labor. some people agree with the change, arguing that this may be the only viable way of preserving the credibility of wikipedia; Wikipedia needs to protect their data in order to remain a credible source of information. Part of that data protection initiative must encompass putting a brake on the spam they get daily – and this is the best way to do it. By adding the nofollow attribute to their links, wikipedia is effectively telling spammers that by adding links to their pages from wikipedia, they get no “juice” (or search engine ranking boost, if you prefer) in return. Which is good because that way there’s no point in them spamming in the first place – wikipedia readers win, and the web in general wins as well, as there’s less garbage being crawled. Theres no dispute that the less garbage their is on the internet the better, especially on sites like wikipedia where purity of content precedes all other priorities. [...]

  4. [...] Wikipedia is right about nofollow [...]

  5. Laura says: February 21, 20077:16 pm

    Hey, sorry for the link above. You can go ahead and remove it. I just wanted to test if adding another rel such as lightbox would override the nofollow attribute. Not trying to spam your blog!

  6. SEO says: July 22, 20075:24 am

    yeah… those stupid wiki’s!
    wonder what happen if we all use nofollow to them?
    Have a good one.

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