I was asked an excellent question today in my post from last week on white hat link building. The question, from Irina Wiedemann, asked: –
thank you for the article, it was exactly the information I needed! But I still have a question left… I’m a newbie to “the online business / blogging / SEO world”, so please don’t laugh
Ok, can comment links (urls linked to the name of the person who left a comment on my blog) harm the rank of my site if the site of that person contains black hat SEO?
Because I heard that enough links from spammy or suspicious websites can get rapidly a website down, even if this is a high quality site (due to Penguin 2.0 I guess).
Thank you for your answer in advance!
My first thought was assuming you have the rel=nofollow attribute added to comment links, then no. The rel=nofollow attribute was originally designed to tell google ‘I cannot vouch for the quality of this link’ – it’s a bit like saying ‘it ain’t my fault what they’re up to guv!’. I am sure you are also aware that nofollowed links do not pass pagerank or do anything directly to improve the linkees search rankings.
But then I started to think about it…
Would an excessive number of nofollow links to bad neighborhoods potentially cause a red flag, or at least trigger google to take a closer look at your site?
And what is an excessive number of bad links anyway? 10, 20, 200, 2000?
If a large percentage of your comments were linking out to unrelated sites could this potentially cause theming and relevance problems?
Clearly this was something I had to look into in more detail.
I turned to google and did some searching for what other people thought about the matter. Unfortunately there didn’t appear to be any concrete school of thought and in fact, it was very difficult to find any opinion. There was a lot of the usual stuff about linking out to bad neighborhoods etc, but this was mainly relating to ‘dofollow’ comments.
So, in the absence of any clear guidelines, I think it is best to be mildly cautious and I would advise the following as best practice when dealing with external links in blog comments.
1) Always set your blog up to require moderation on comments (apart from trusted users)
2) Always have rel=nofollow, certainly for new commentators
3) If the name of the commentator is ‘my keywords’ then I would suggest declining it
4) If the url looks suspicious, check it out before approving. If the comment is good, but the website looks dodgy, approve the comment, but remove the link. You might want to drop an email to the commentator to explain why.
Comments are the lifeblood of blogs and a good comment deserves a link (for traffic, not for ranking juice), but if you feel something is not quite right, then it’s probably best not to approve it. As I mentioned above, even if your site is not penalised directly, it might cause a manual review and this is something you (probably) don’t want.
One final comment (on comments). If your blog runs on wordpress, you might want to install the broken link checker plugin, which will scan for broken links on your site, inlcuding comments. This will be particularly relevant if your site has been around for a while. Broken links are never good for your site’s SEO.
So, what do you think? Can nofollow external links in comments potentially hurt your site? Do you agree with my advice on best practice?
Thanks again to Irina for the great question and eh… feel free to leave a comment![bigsignup]