Confirmed: Google Penalties for User-Generated Spam

I just read a semi-funny post from John Marshall at Talking Points Memo, from a couple days ago. TPM received a request from a prolific comment spammer to remove their comment spam from the site. Apparently the spammer has been having some, er, troubles with Google.

If you feel like you must go read it (it contains no important information), then turn on Flashblock first, unless you like being tracked: Talking Points Memo: Chutzpam

The reason why I say this post is “semi-funny” is because user-generated spam is a serious problem. In this case, the spam is creating a problem for the spammers, and that *is* funny, but the spammers aren’t always the ones taking the biggest hit.

DoFollow Penalties? Yep… count on it.

I am working multiple cases where sites are *explicitly* told by Google that they are being penalized for spam that has been generated by *users* on their sites.

2 cases involving profile spam, and 1 case involving comment spam. In all 3 cases, the links were not “nofollowed.” The profile spam cases are a simple matter of the site owners not putting a priority on implementing nofollow – in the comment spam case, it’s one of those “dofollow” blogs.

You know – DoFollow blogs. The ones that, against all common sense, don’t use nofollow in their comment section. The ones that, well… did you know that spammers buy lists of dofollow blogs, just like they used to buy CDs and DVDs full of email addresses? There are even custom-made lists ready made to import into different spamming tools.

While the DoFollow “movement” was cute and stuff, it’s never seemed like a terribly good idea, from any perspective:

  • “DoFollow” and every other variant that allows followed links in user-generated content is an invitation to spammers.
  • If you actually want all the extra moderation that goes with that (most dofollow blogs seem not to bother at all), spammers know how to game that too.
  • A lot of the people encouraging “dofollow” were comment spammers – certainly not all of them, but as them Romans used to say, “cui bono?”
  • And now you can get penalized for allowing user generated spam – at least when that spam comes with followed links.

If you’ve somehow gotten sucked into the dofollow “cause,” I’m not going to tell you what to do here. Just understand that the potential cost to your site is a lot more than you may have believed.

Are you striking a blow for free speech, or against the tyranny of Google? Maybe… so how’s that working out? It might be more effective to go pitch a tent on their lawn or something.


  1. Carl Chapman says:


    I always thought that the “dofollow” movement was started by spammers. It was the ultimate form of link bait.

  2. If everyone starts “nofollowing” links to sites, how will the PR juice/benefit of the link pass on to the other site? A site with 100% nofollow links will have a good SERP ranking or no?

  3. I have the same questions as Jasjot, Will a site with 100% nofollow links have a good SERP ranking?

    • The question doesn’t make any more sense than it did before. Using nofollow on user-generated links is a best practice, but putting nofollow on links isn’t going to cause a site to rank better.

  4. Jaspot and Tanya,
    Your questions themselves reveal the very problem that Dan is referring to and highlight the kind of thinking that has led to this mess.

    The original post and Dan’s post refer specifically to a type of link created under specific circumstances. Right now there is no longer any generic answer to which links are followed and which are not… or should all links be followed or all not followed.

    Every link (not just comment links) has to now be evaluated as to whether it a) should even be there in the first place and b) whether it should be followed or not.

    Those questions are now answered by basically one question alone: Does it enhance the user experience? Google is now evaluating from that point of view and so should you…. or…

    Make it really easy on yourself and forget links altogether! Just create good stuff and the links will take care of themselves.

  5. DoFollow sites were a hurricane of a mess.

    I remember when I started with my first blog and checked the wrong setting. I spent more time dealing with spam comments than any other aspect of maintaining my site!

    Nofollow links “ensure” that only people who are genuinely interested in the content on your site and have something meaningful to say are leaving comments. Personally, I’m glad that Google decided to instill penalties on shoddy DoFollow work.

    It’s one of those little aspects of web strategy that I tell my clients.

  6. Thanks. It’s helpful ! Can you show how to get dofollow links clearly from Google Plus and face and others Social Media ?

  7. I have the same questions as Jasjot, Will a site with 100% nofollow links have a good SERP ranking?

    • You mean, if the default for outbound links is nofollow, unless you actually have a reason to trust the link? It can’t do any worse.