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(Yes, the title is obviously hyperbole. See comments below.)

In this comment, Shog9 confirms that all links from meta sites to outside the Stack Exchange network are marked with rel=nofollow, causing them to pass no pagerank to the target sites.

Yes, that includes even these external links in our highest-scoring post, FAQ for Stack Exchange sites:

External links

Actually, the first one of those isn't nofollowed, since it points to blog.stackoverflow.com and is therefore exempt. But, even though we rate those pages as valuable enough to list them in our FAQ index, not one single drop of "link juice" is passed to them from anywhere on MSE. Surely the authors of those pages — which include ESR and our very own Jon Skeet — deserve better treatment than that?

(Note: If you'd like to easily see for yourself how many of the links on SE sites are nofollowed, install this user script which gives them a cheery and seasonal red hue.)

The mission of Stack Exchange is supposed to be about "making the Internet a better place". We're not doing that when we tell Google and other search engines to ignore links to sites which our community — including the meta community — clearly considers to be useful resources.

I hereby propose that the "logic that removes nofollow" from certain posts considered to be sufficiently reliable be also applied on MSE and the per-site metas. I'm OK with setting a higher threshold for nofollow removal on meta sites, if the SE staff feel it's needed, but "higher" should not mean "impossible".

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Pro-tip: using "tyranny" to describe any website behaviour is always over the top. Sometimes that's okay, though. :) –  Anna Lear Dec 16 '13 at 17:06
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Ps. While I generally consider those trite old "would the downvoter please comment" requests pointless at best, this time I am genuinely curious. If you think the current behavior is, in fact, desirable, I'd really like to hear your reasons why. –  Ilmari Karonen Dec 16 '13 at 17:17

1 Answer 1

Certain links are, after a period of time (and criteria we don't disclose) automatically adjusted to remove the attribute. The system will do it (albeit somewhat infrequently) when it has determined that a question is highly valued, well-curated and nothing to fear.

The primary reason for having it as we do is to remove incentive for folks to plant links hoping that page rank will pass. It also helps to protect us from the links that get in through the cracks that we're not exactly .. proud .. to have. Google does penalize you if you appear to be attempting to pass page rank to low quality sites.

A common support request that we receive is to remove links. Sites hire these "SEO Marketing Experts" that spam a bunch of links all over the Internet, then regret it when they get a notice from Google about a bunch of unnatural links. These almost always lead to undiscovered spam.

I understand the sentiment behind the request, and it would make us better netizens if we went ahead an passed the tiny bit of page rank that meta sites might convey - but would it be anything significant compared with the potential for abuse? I'm not putting a status tag on this yet, but:

  • All of the stuff this would help doesn't really need any help, those things return prominently
  • Meta sites (thankfully) don't see a lot of spam, in part because of the rep prerequisite to post on them, but also because they're not discovered by all. Would we want the spam rings catching on to this and creating more work for us?
  • Page rank is an aribirary value that one search engine allows one site to pass on to another, which (to me) makes it more of a courtesy than an imperative, but I do see the position that you're coming from.

All in all, is it worth it?

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This answer kinda sounds like you didn't read the question. Nobody here is asking for nofollow to be removed willy-nilly. The request was just to have the same thing you described in your first paragraph here apply to Meta sites, because it seems like it doesn't apply there at all. The FAQ mentioned in the question, for example, is from '08, has over 1300 score, but still has every external link Nofollowed. Seems very much like the un-nofollowing just doesn't apply to metas, maybe MSE (which this question predates). –  Billy Mailman Jul 16 at 15:21
    
Thanks for the answer -- here, have a +400. :) Obviously, I do believe it would be worth it, or rather, I believe the risks you seem concerned about are minimal. As you note, even without any nofollow at all, meta sites would still be less tempting targets for spammers that the main sites (due to both lower pagerank and the rep threshold for posting). Meta sites also have a lower post volume, a narrower scope and, on average, more informed participants than the main sites, making it harder for any spam to slip through the cracks. –  Ilmari Karonen Jul 23 at 19:22

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