Social Media Link Building

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When it was finally confirmed that Twitter & Facebook links pass SEO value for search engine rankings, I must admit: I cringed a little.  It’s not that I didn’t see it coming.  It’s just: now that they have confirmed for everyone what many have been predicting for years, even the doubters are rushing to incorporate social media into their link building strategy.  And that worries me.

Eric Ward wrote about this a couple years ago, calling the idea of using social media for link building: “Spam 2.0”.  I think it needs repeating:

“…those of us who are in the link building business need to recognize and respect the distinct culture of social media networks. Social media is not there to be exploited for SEO. Don’t ask “what can social media do for my links”. That’s just spam2.0. Instead, ask, “what can I do to contribute to the conversation aside from link drops”. If you have nothing to add but company and/or client links, frankly, your wasting your time, and ours. If you worked for the engines, would you really trust anything about social links enough to incorporate it into a ranking adjustment? Maybe In certain cases, and for certain topics, but if you spend some time looking through the social apps, you’ll see they are polluted already by the usual suspects. “

Polluted now more than ever, I’m afraid.  And I can’t see how that will be getting any better in the near future, especially on Twitter.  So before you start revamping your Twitter and Facebook accounts in an attempt to advance your link building efforts, there’s some things you should consider first:

“Limited Situations”

Since Google admitted that they use signals from social media sites “in limited situations”,  there’s been a handful of SEO’s who are rushing around to do testing in order to determine just what the actual benefit these links carry.  What I believe they’ll find is this:  Just because you have a twitter account with 10,000 followers and you link to your site via tweeting, it doesn’t necessarily mean that link is providing any SEO value.  I might actually go as far as to say in MOST cases, they won’t.

The search engines are looking for signals of quality for the content in their index.  How far a link spreads and how influential the users are who are doing the spreading (followers ≠ influence) are going to be the big factors for what (if any) value is being passed.  There’s little doubt that a few will still find a way to take advantage if this value, but most spammers will be wasting their time.  At least, that’s my hope…

Questions about PageRank

An area of confusion of this new advancement is whether or not links from Twitter now pass PageRank.  The short answer is no, they don’t (they’re still nofollowed).  Yet the question remains: will the link carry weight similar the way PR works?  Or is it something totally different?

For example: even if you happen to be getting the link benefit from a tweet, it has been speculated that it may not only be temporary, but also page specific.  In other words: you may not be able to pass value to the rest of your site like you can with links that carry PageRank.   Just an FYI: I have little to back up this claim; further testing is needed to determine how this new signal actually works.

It’s not just about Twitter & Facebook

Social media link building doesn’t stop at Twitter & Facebook (I have plenty of evidence to back up this claim).  There are literally hundreds of social media sites & tools to take advantage of for their potential SEO value.  The problem is, even more so than on Twitter or Facebook, it’s not about adding a link and walking away.

You can submit to spam hundreds of social media sites and get little to no value from it.  Even if your content is appropriate and of acceptable quality, you still need to have some influence and a network of users for it to spread.  Otherwise you’re wasting your time.

Getting REAL link value from Social Media

Some social media bookmarking sites award submissions a direct dofollow link.  Sometimes it’s only in certain situations, like if the submission has become popular by being featured in a main category page or hitting the front page.  What I’d warn people about, however, is that it’s not the links from social media sites themselves that should be focused on.  For one, the PageRank value, if it’s passing any at all, doesn’t last  long.  Second, similarly to how SE’s are treating links from Twitter & Facebook, if they’re to take quality signals from these other social sites as well,  it’s all about how far the link spreads, and by whom.  Third, the link from the social site itself isn’t where the real SEO value comes from.

So where does this REAL link value come from?  It’s all about getting high quality linkable content in front of as many relevant webmasters & bloggers as possible:

  1. Network on appropriate social media sites & within relevant subcategories (this means being social)
  2. Focus on creating high quality linkable content designed to spread (e.g. link bait)
  3. Submit and promote your content to get it in front of webmasters
  4. Webmasters provide natural links to your content

Regardless of the added value Twitter & Facebook links pass, it’s also a great place to do this type of promotion.  In fact, when successful on Twitter, I’d argue it can be the best.  And I would still take the links you receive for having created content of value over the added power of a Twitter link any day.  But it’s a nice bonus!

Todd Heim

Todd Heim

Todd Heim is CEO, co-founder, and SEO manager of Essential Internet Marketing, LLC, an SEM and Social Media Marketing company based in Albany, NY.
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