How WordPress Commenting Platform Screws Up Your Blog’s SEO

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Most WordPress users stick to the default commenting system, because it’s very easy to operate, both for the administrators and the commenters. However, Google’s policy update about rel=”nofollow” links has made it look very poor from an SEO perspective when you’re using a non-modified version of the default WordPress commenting system on your blog. The commenters’ website links, though nofollow’ed, tend to waste a majority of PageRank points of the pages of your WordPress site. This is more troublesome for active blogs that get thousands of comments on each of their posts. The more number of comments with links to the users-websites appear on post pages, the more amount of PageRank point gets wasted, resulting in poor PageRank flow between internal pages.

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WordPress Commenting System

The default WordPress commenting system is very popular because it seamlessly works right out of the box. Most users also find it very easy to use. Back in the days when other decent commenting platforms didn’t exist, it used to be the only option for WordPress users. When Google first announced the rel=”nofollow” attribute to control comment spamming in various websites, WordPress was quick to add the feature in its default commenting system, which set all user-website links as nofollow.

When the nofollow didn’t exist, if a WordPress post having 1,000 points of PageRank had 10 intentionally put links on it and 90 comments, with each linking out to external user-websites, then the PageRank points would be divided evenly among the 100 links and each linked page would receive 10 PageRank points, if you don’t take into account the damping factor.

As you can easily imagine, your own links would get only 90 unit points of PageRank out of the 1000 total of that page. It’s obvious that it’s bad for the SEO of your site, especially when most of the user-websites tend to be irrelevant to the original topic.

How rel=”nofollow” Works Now

It used to be the case that advanced site owners used to control the flow of PageRank within their site by extensively adding the rel=”nofollow” attribute to various types of links (both external and internal). That manipulative practice was called PageRank Sculpting. Google doesn’t like it when others can easily manipulate their algorithms. So, in 2009, they tweaked the correlation between nofollow’ed links and PageRank flow.

Now, the whole thing works differently.

Suppose, a web page has a total of X points of PageRank and links to 5 other pages, out of which one is nofollow’ed. The nofollow’ed link still won’t get any PageRank point, but its existence will affect the amount of PageRank love other dofollow’ed links are getting.

If you don’t include the damping factor in the scene, each dofollow’ed link basically gets – the total amount of PageRank points belonging to the page, divided by the total number of links on the page.

That’s one of the reasons why I ask site owners not to nofollow an internal link unless it’d benefit the search engine, for example – feed pages, paid link and banner advertisements and similar things that are either unrelated or not useful to search engines. If a link does count in PageRank calculation, it’s better to pass the PageRank juice to it that it wants, rather than wasting that amount of PageRank points, unless you deliberately don’t want it to be a normal dofollow’ed link.

Effect on WordPress Sites Using The Default Commenting Platform

WordPress blogs that use the default commenting platform are hugely affected by this issue. Generally, if a blog gets an average of, say, 5 comments per post, then it’s not that much of an issue for it. But when a blog starts getting 50, 100, and more comments per post on an average, then the issue gets real big. So, if you manage a somewhat active WordPress blog getting quite a number of comments per post, then it most definitely is affected by this.

Imagine what actually happens. Your blog’s homepage isn’t affected by this issue, so it passes decent amounts of PageRank juice to your posts and other internal pages, but the post pages (and other pages with comments on) pass a very low amount of that PageRank juice back to the homepage and other internal pages, so it clearly hampers the natural flow of PageRank between your internal pages. Make sure you use some deep linking techniques to improve PageRank flow and search engine crawling on your site.

Tackling The Problem

One easy way to handle it is to remove the website URL field from  the comment form. In addition to doing that, you should also remove author website URLs from the comment template, so that, for existing comments, author names are not linked to their websites.

Here’s the manual code for removing the website URL field from comment forms. Add it to your theme’s functions.php.

add_filter('comment_form_default_fields', 'unset_url_field');
function unset_url_field($fields){
if(isset($fields['url']))
unset($fields['url']);
return $fields;
}

Another way to get around the problem is to use a third-party commenting platform on your blog, such as DisqusIntenseDebate, and LiveFyre.

A side-effect of using most non-default comment plugins is that they tend to increase the page loading times a little bit, even though they reduce the server load.

Any of the mentioned commenting systems don’t directly link to user websites from the comments pages, and mainly utilise javascript when they do link to user profiles on the respective platforms. The comments posted through them are still SEO-friendly and can be indexed by search engines. Overall, now might be a good time for owners of busy sites who were looking for a change in the commenting platform to switch to a third-party one with more features and improve the PageRank flow within their own site at the same time.

Conclusion

If you use the default WordPress comments in an active enough blog, you probably have messed up the internal PageRank flow already, but you can still get things back to their best states if you handle the issue in time.

It shouldn’t be that difficult for you to either tweak the default commenting system or install a brand new commenting platform altogether.

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