My brother and I have been doing SEO work for a number of years now. I’ve made a career out of it, but he’s been able to do pretty well for himself. I talked to him recently about his efforts and he said that he is finding that his work in social bookmarking have pushed him up in the search engine rankings. My first reaction was doubtful on search engine rankings. Yes, social bookmarking can help bring social traffic – we get plenty from StumbleUpon -, but movement in search engines? How could that work they’re all nofollow links… And then it hit me. If the default of the social site is to apply a nofollow, how would the search engines tap into what is happening on websites that are cranking on the social side? Well, they would have to give weight to the nofollows from these social sites.
Remember the nofollow was introduced as a way that a webmaster could decide which sites he wanted to send weight to. He could talk about his competition and link to his competition knowing he could throw a weight killing nofollow on the link. Nofollows also seemed like a cure for blog spam so WordPress applied nofollows by default in their comments. To prevent SEO spamming social sites started applying nofollows to links.
Well, here’s the thing. If links in social sites have a nofollow by default, they’ve basically taken away a user’s ability to apply link weight to a site they want to recommend. So search engines wanting to tap into what’s happening on the social side only have one option… take into account nofollows on sites that apply them by default.
I’m going to be testing this theory. Please let me know if you’ve seen results that support this.