Matt Cutts says a small majority of the web is nofollowed (which is confirmed by Linkscape data). He doesn’t say that a huge majority of the social web is dofollowed. I firmly believe it isn’t. And since Google loves editorial links, they should love the good social links – forums, blogs, voting site comments, etc.
So why is so much of the social web still nofollowed? In theory, it helps us webmasters to rank better when we link out. It helps our social contributors receive link love. It’s great for Google in general.
Oh, right… SPAM. The applications that auto-spam WordPress blogs and Pligg, and the SEnuke’s of the world. There’s plenty of them. So, Google gave us the nofollow microformat to let us help them keep the web clean(er). But is slapping an automatic “nofollow” script really that helpful?
It’s a social web. I believe it’s our responsibility as good, contributing webmasters to monitor our user-generated links. If you’d like, put up rules about what you’ll accept and don’t accept (for example, no business names in the anchor text, or no links to product sites, etc). Make these rules simple and visible. Then, routinely prune anything that fails to meet the criteria. It’s a little extra work, but it’s worth it if you love your site.
I’m a dofollow SEO blog, and though Akismet (in WordPress) catches most my obvious automated spam, I still routinely go through my comments and make edits to rule breakers. Oh well. Clearly most don’t see it my way.
But as Google grows into a more contextual, learning machine, I think these nofollows are going to be a hindrance. I have heard of the tests that claim Google may be opting to follow certain links that are marked nofollow when it suits their needs,
but I haven’t seen it yet in my tests. As Google’s algorithm gets better, and they start to better understand what they read, while simultaneously finding other ways to defend against spam, I’m sure they’re going to start hopping the nofollow fence more often.