Google recently proposed a scheme to deprive comment and referrer spammers of Google juice. Right now, spammers employ evil programs that crawl the innumerable blogs on the web and post bogus comments and push fake referrer information. The comments and referrer information link back to the spammers’ sites. The spammers hope that when Google crawls the blogs and sees these links, their sites will be unduly elevated in search-results rankings because, supposedly, somebody has taken the time to link to them.
Google’s proposed scheme ends this abuse by having all such links branded with a do not follow" indicator that tells search engines not to count the links toward site rankings, thereby depriving spammers of any benefit from their wicked deeds. For this proposal to be effective, the creators of blog software must modify their code so that untrusted links are properly branded. Fortunately, the modifications are easy to make. (I have already modified the copy of “SnipSnap that powers the Community Projects site.) Most vendors of major blog software have signed on to Google’s proposal, and so it seems likely to have widespread effect shortly.
One interesting side effect of this anti-spam proposal is that it may also clear up the blog-generated noise that often crowds out more relevant search results. Remember, the reason that spammers attack blogs in the first place is because it is burdensome to weed out their fake posts from real posts. It most cases, the weeding must be done by hand. Google’s proposal eliminates this manual labor by assuming that all comment links and referrer information are worthless. The reality is that these links – at least the non-spam subset – do provide value, but not much. Thus Google’s proposal is a better approximation of reality than is the present situation, which is to assume that blog-generated links carry the same weight as first-class links that were carefully created by human editors.
I count this proposal as a double win for Google. First, they remove all incentive for spammers to target blogs. Second, they eliminate the unduly high search rankings that blogs receive because of their artificially high link density.
And it’s not just a win for Google. It’s a win for everybody who uses the web. I love it!