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Is the DoFollow Movement Getting Exploited?


When I first took off the “NoFollow” tags in this blog’s comments, I was thrilled. What better way to say “Thank You!!” to the wonderful friends who have contributed to the conversation on this site!

I expected to start getting comments from new readers as well - and I did, and made some great friends by being an early adopter of the “DoFollow” movement.

After a few weeks, I noticed that I really needed to start paying close attention to the people who left new comments on the site. As the DoFollow movement grew, more and more people were leaving comments that left me wondering… well, whether my generosity was being appreciated or abused.

Now, I really don’t have a problem with good friends leaving keywords in the name field, although some others are getting a little ticked off by it. And of course, those of you who really add to the conversation earn not only a link, but my undying love and affection. ;)

But here’s where it’s getting slippery. People are now using the huge DoFollow list meme to target blogs on their own SEO campaigns. They just go from DoFollow blog to DoFollow blog, leaving one or two sentence comments with good keywords in the name field as a free and easy way to build up their SEO juice.

Quite frankly, I charge my advertisers $70 a month for this kind of advertising. And at least then I can promote products and services I can stand behind, because a link on this site puts my name on the line.

Worse yet, spammers have gotten smart. They realize that if they can get one comment approved, most bloggers will let the rest of the comments through. Imagine my horror when I realize this happened to me and one spammer had built up 10 outbound links on my blog to different non-blog sites over a month, using a different name each time - but by using the same email address, they all slipped through unnoticed. Each comment said something about the actual post, but when I did a search and took a look at all of their comments together on one page, it was obvious the system was being gamed.

And my domain is the one that Google will penalize for linking to a spam site.

So Where Do We Go from Here?

Again, quite frankly, I don’t know. The majority of commenters on this site are people I’m thrilled to be able to help. But I am also running a business here. And my life savings is gone and invested into this blog and my business. 

I love you guys and all, but it’s scary to think that the countless hours of time and energy (and dollars)  spent on building this site could be wiped away in one Google Heartbeat because of the actions of a few people who want to abuse the system.

Ideas? Thoughts? Solutions?! I’m all ears!

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  • Discussion

    What do you think? Leave a comment. Alternatively, write a post on your own weblog; this blog accepts trackbacks [trackback url].
    This blog has removed the "nofollow" tags, so each comment counts as an inbound link to your site. Comment Policy


    On June 5th, 2007 at 11:09 am, Amanda said:

    Of course it is in every way. I don’t think people would comment half as much if it wasn’t to get a link back. It helps it definitely does, and in all essence if they are providing a genuine comment then albeit for me to stop them. I say rock on with ya bad self

    On June 5th, 2007 at 11:09 am, Amanda said:

    oh and to the spam part, delete the spam I go over my comments with a fine tooth comb.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 11:30 am, Andy Beard said:

    Hi Wendy

    There was always the danger, and when things first started off, back in November, I spent a huge amount of time warning people that they should have a clear comments policy, I used to have a huge almost contract thing before my comment form as well.

    I now use the “Don’t Be An Idiot” logo instead.

    If people see they can get away with spammy manual comment, they will leave spammy manual comments.

    I have deleted lots of comments, or just remove the link, or modify it in some way.

    It will get worse - tools like trackback spider and even some tools released before that look specifically for blogs that don’t have nofollow.

    I also strongly promote the use of spam karma, maybe also using Akismet as an additional plugin.

    At the end of the day, it is partially the “comment culture” you build up on a specific blog.

    My initial plans before I started the community on Bumpzee was to use Wordpress as a hub site, with images containing a URL for each site, auto-generated, and no active link, so it would be harder work for spammers, and there would be nothing to scrape.

    In the end I decided that spam tools would find you anyway, and that we just have to rely on anti-spam tools to defend against the automated ones, and manual moderation to defend against manual spammers.

    Even before the lists, you could just search Google for the word Dofollow and get thousands of blogs.

    Anchor text I tolerate for companies. I also tolerate specific nicknames.

    I am less tolerant of names entered which are purely for SEO.

    If I leave a deep link on blogs where I am a regular, or where I have already commented once in the thread, and the link is highly specific to the conversation, I might us something like

    “Andy Beard on Deep Linking” to signify that the link is different to previous ones.

    I haven’t left any comments I can remember where all I have dont is patted someone on the back for joining the movement.

    In fact I have hardly promoted the Dofollow Community on Bumpzee either - I wanted it to grow a solid core of people who really wanted to be involved, and that is slowly happening.

    The community on Bumpzee gives a lot of link love, and you don’t have to use the widgets, though the voting one helps traffic a lot, and sidebar one I would look on as useful.

    The people who give you pagerank are more likely as not your regular readers, and I have seen some wonderful conversions where people who were initially using the links just for SEO have ended up being regular readers and really starting to share links.

    In my opinion Top Commenters giving sitewide links is in many ways worse than gaming normal comment links, and totally changes the culture on a blog.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 11:37 am, Jonathan-C. Phillips said:

    Hey Wendy! Well I have the dofollow plugin enabled on my blog, and I saw that increase in comments, interesting comments that is! But unfortunately I saw also an increase in spammy comments… :(

    The way I deal with that, when I realize the comments are spammy, even if they add “some” value to the posts, but if i have doubts, I’ll do some research on google, and if I find it’s a “potential” spammer, I’ll leave the comment there that’s for sure, but I’ll remove the url, I know it may sound weird, but some spammers actually add value to the discussions… but they are spammers nonetheless! So it’s my way of saying “thanx for your valuable comment and your input, appreciate it, but you don’t need a link from my blog”.

    If after 3 to 5 comments I have doubts it’s spam, I’ll remove the URL, and move on, cause anyway, I have a lot of loyal, respectfful and nice commentators, I don’t need to bother with spammers, even if they add some “value” (whatever that word means to them anyway)

    Oh, and from time to time, I’ll also check older comments to see if they don’t redirect to some adult site or MFA or something, happened a couple times, and it was from bloggers I that were really into adding value and conversations, and building relationships, but bam! 2 months later it’s redirecting to an adult site! That’s bad!


    So, Wendy, what’s your plan?

    On June 5th, 2007 at 11:44 am, Andy Beard - Hacked Wordpress Plugins said:

    A little PS :)

    You currently have more than 20 links on each single page that point to submission forms at social bookmarking sites, Technorati etc.

    It would be good to stick nofollow on those links - grab my hacked version of the Sociable plugin “Antisocial”

    On June 5th, 2007 at 11:51 am, Joanne said:

    I just removed the nofollow tag from my blog but I moderate all comments. Then again, I don’t have nearly as many comments as you get so it’s pretty easy for me.

    I’m sorry to hear that people are taking advantage of this.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 11:52 am, Nathania Johnson said:

    From a user perspective, I’ve had a different problem. The SEM Zone was getting a lot of links from commenting - especially from one blog where the top commenters were rewarded with a dofollow link - but that link was on the sidebar and being indexed on every page. And the anchor text was my name.

    So even though I was trying to participate in the conversation - the links were for my name and not the subject relevant to the blog.

    I started using “Nathania Johnson - The SEM Zone” and then the same thing for Classic Movie Lounge (and now Guest-Blogger) - but only for ONE comment. And I only comment if I have something to say. After that, I try to just comment without linking. It’s not a great idea to have a bunch of links from one source.

    I still leave links on comments from nofollow blogs - simply b/c you might still get traffic and I don’t have to worry about too many links from one source.

    From the blogger’s perspective, all comments must be approved, so I just don’t approve spam, plain and simple. But if someone is offering value in a comment, even if I never see them again - no problem for me.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 11:55 am, Stephanie said:

    I haven’t looked it up yet, but I think there’s a plugin that allows you to decide whether or not a comment link gets the “nofollow” tag or not. I haven’t used it yet, but it is probably something worth looking into.

    I did a quick look, and I’m guessing it’s this plugin.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 11:57 am, Glen said:

    How about John Chows new plugin, but only giving the benefit to regular commentors (free)

    Its not hard for you I imagine to see who these people are

    On June 5th, 2007 at 12:00 pm, Colleen said:

    I started the D list, and some of us who use dofollow noticed what you’re seeing now. I’ve been stripping the URL field from certain comments. It’s pretty obvious to me when people are abusing my generosity and doing a little PR theft.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 12:02 pm, Ryan said:

    I just put DoFollow on my blog a little while ago, but I already had anti-spam comment guards in place.

    I moderate all comments and have Akismet besides. If I don’t like it, it doesn’t make it to the blog. Period. All you need to do is the same thing, and you should be good.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 12:04 pm, Gayla McCord said:

    I will typically run through my comments once a week just to double check them for spammy stuff. I’ve got some friends who keep their eyes out too and let me know if I happen to miss something.

    It’s sad that a few sour apples have to make things so difficult for the rest of the good folks.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 12:11 pm, narcolept said:


    The dofollow list, while an excellent idea, certainly has had potential for abuse from day one. While it’s nice for those of us with smaller blogs to get link love from you, it may be time go nofollow or strip URLs from suspected spam comments. Looking through my stats, even the nofollow links that don’t count for anything other than being a link drive plenty of traffic to my site when they’re on a well respected blog such as yours.

    I would say it wouldn’t really be punishing the rest of the group for bad apples, as most blogs are nofollow anyway, and people who actually have something to say are still commenting there.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 12:18 pm, Deano said:

    I never even realised you were dofollow. It looks like you have a ‘talkative people’ link box. Why not go back to nofollow and do the do follow for the chatty people!

    On June 5th, 2007 at 12:33 pm, Erika, Plain Jane Mom said:

    I had the same problem, although of course on a much smaller scale. Since I don’t have the time to police the URLs of my commenters beyond the obvious*, I put nofollow back in and use the topcommentators plugin instead. It works out OK, and is much less time-consuming for me to monitor.

    *The MLM folks seem to be the biggest abusers in my niche.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 12:33 pm, Cucirca said:

    You’ll have to take care of those bad links from your domain.
    Go back to nofollow and increase the top comentors list ;)

    On June 5th, 2007 at 12:36 pm, Chris Bartow said:

    Google is pushing towards wanting you as a web site owner to identify paid links either by showing ad’s via javascript or using nofollow.

    It may not be feasible, but maybe you need some way to get to DoFollow mode. So someone needs to create an account, the account must be a month old and you must have 10 posts, then your link will show without the nofollow.

    On June 5th, 2007 at 12:51 pm, derek said:

    I’ve also implemented the DoFollow on my personal site and have noticed a few “hit and run” commenters that throw out a few borderline spammy comments and then don’t come back.

    While the comment is technically not spam, it seems rather clear that the person was just after the benefit of the link. To this point I have allowed these comments but the resulting site is not a clear cut spam site like you mention.

    Since I do not get an overwhelming number of comments each day, I still have each comment emailed to me as an additional safety check on anything that may have slipped through Akismet. Obviously this gets more difficult as the volume of comments increases but that is not a problem I have had to confront as of yet.

    As far as solutions, I have a few ideas that may or may not help the situation. One would be to use the plugin that requires a specified number of approved comments before the NoFollow is removed for that user. While this can still be gamed, it makes it a little more difficult particularly if you use something like 5-10 comments.

    Another option is to go back to the NoFollow altogether. While this does remove some of the link love for your loyal commenters, it also removes a serious area of potenti