Originally the no-follow tag was created by Google in 2005 as a way to prevent spammers from stealing credibility from other sites. However, because of the overuse of no-follow on web pages, today it is crippling search engines such as Google from finding hundreds of thousands of new pages of information. For example, all links shared on Twitter are automatically no-follow links. This means that Google’s spiders won’t crawl any of those pages. This is a huge loss of information for search engines and ultimately consumers.

Linking to a site using a NoFollow tag attribute is essentially saying “I don’t trust you”.  Why should legitimate sites suffer and not get the benefits of link juice because of potential spammers. The WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg even says that NoFollow attributes is a failure; “In theory this should work perfectly, but in practice although all major blogging tools did this two years ago and comment and trackback spam is still 100 times worse now. In hindsight, I don’t think nofollow had much of an effect, though I’m still glad we tried it.” In my opinion, nofollow is a poor solution for search engines to hide its own failure to filter out spammers and rank websites accurately.

Because of the speed in which information and the web is moving these days, a new story can break on Twitter or You Tube and not be searchable on Google for days due to the no-follow tags slowing Google down. Proponents of the no-follow tag might complain that if it were simply removed then spammers would again try to dominate the internet. However, as one webmaster argued and I agree, “If after 10+ years Google can’t tell a spam site from a legitimate one, then maybe we need a better search engine!”

As long as the internet exists, there will be spammers, just like as long as people exist, there will be crimes committed. The trick isn’t to punish the entire web just to prevent a few spammers; the trick is to isolate the spammers, for example through Google’s Sandbox effect, while allowing greater speed for the rest of the internet. No-follow links may have been a good idea back when search engines were still in their infancy, but times have certainly changed. The speed of information is always getting faster and if Google doesn’t do something about their policy on no-follow tags, they might be left behind.