POST is the new nofollow

POST is the new nofollow Google has recently posted some trivia on the use of nofollowed links. I had to check the clock to make sure this wasn't one of their April fool's stunts. It's not, which is a bit scary.

Matt Cutts sums it up right here in an interview with Danny Sullivan.

Danny: So there’s 10 links on home page, 5 pages Nofollowed, where is that link juice going?
Matt: You can think of it as evaporating.

Wow, ok. Oh, by the way, Google has been crawling Javascript links too.
Danny: You guys have click-change, that now you are actually reading javascript, but you said "if you have paid links, you can use javascript and your good", now you're not good?

Matt: As Googlebot got smarter we started changing our advice on this. What we haven't mentioned is that elsewhere, even on the onclick, you can put a rel=nofollow on a link within javascript, you can do that if you want to be completely safe, I expect to see those stay safe.

Optimising your links

Right. So for those who have been busy sculpting their pagerank via the nofollow attribute (which is what Google designed it for) it now appears that we have been shooting ourselves in the foot. All our nofollowed links are actually working against us by reducing our PR, and our javascript links are being clicked on.

So - how do you link to something that is a bit average quality or you don't really vouch for it? Nofollow has now lost it's shine, and the javascript option is gone too.

Options

Which leaves precious few options. The obvious one is no links. I speculate there will be a plethora of Wordpress plugins released soon that give no link at all. In lieu of a link, you will need to copy-paste a plain-text URL into a browser window if you wish to visit the site. Not especially great for usability, but now one of the few ways to preserve your PR so you might understand webmasters going down this path.

The other option that springs to mind is a flash based link. This could be complex because Google's crawling of Flash sites is constantly improving, so you might need to embed your links into an external XML file or obfuscate them somehow. This approach would be an accessibility disaster, but I can definitely see webmasters going down this path too.

POST

The third option, and perhaps the best option I can think of is HTTP POST. Google doesn't follow through POST forms, because POSTing data can potentially change the contents of a website. POST forms often contain things like delete buttons, and you don't want spiders running around clicking those all over the place.

Google confirms this on their blog, illustrated by the following comments.
Gael Fraiteur said...

For good internet citizens (and according to the REST bible), the rule is that a robot should not invoke POST methods, because they may have side effects. GET methods are supposed to be programmed so that they have no side effect.

I hope Google respects these rules too.

Susan Moskwa said...
@Gael: As mentioned in the post, we'll only be retrieving GET forms, not POST.


OK, so how about we add a POST form with a single submit button. The form POSTs to redirect.php?r=www.domain.com which then does a 301 redirect to the actual link.
  • This isn't a link, so it doesn't need to be nofollowed.
  • It's POST, so Google will respectfully ignore it.
  • The user will end up where they want to be.
  • You can use CSS to disguise the submit button and make it look more link-like, perhaps even using javascript to edit the statusbar rollover information. Unfortunately, I don't think you can get the context menu for 'open in new tab' to show up.

I'm giving serious thought to making this change to the blogs I administer.

Nice one Google

Google has their head in the clouds if they think webmasters are going to ignore this change and simply go about their business of 'creating great content' and not worrying the fact that half their PR is heading down a black hole. I think the way websites link together is going to change, and expect usability/accessibility of websites to go backwards as a result.
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Tags: nofollowpagerankmatt cuttspost