Why too many little icons can easily distract your visitors

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Because of the popularity of Digg, Del.icio.us, Netscape and all the other social sites out there, social bookmarking buttons have been taken to a whole new level. Instead of bloggers placing a few buttons at the bottom of each blog post, it seems that many enjoy offering their visitors all possible options.

I guess the question is, why shouldn’t you be giving tons of options to your website visitors? It may seem like a good idea at first, but your ever so curious visitors will end up clicking on random buttons which will take them to sites that they are not familiar with and then they will not bookmark your content. Even your most tech savvy readers don’t have accounts at most of these social sites, so why drive them to sites where they will not bookmark your content.

The other thing about many of these bookmarking sites is that they have algorithms (basic to complex) where the more bookmarks your site gets the more visibility it will be given. In essence the goal is to get your story bookmarked multiple times on the popular social sites, which usually results in your story getting picked up by the smaller sites. By giving your visitors too many options you may end up getting 1 bookmark on 10 different social sites instead of 10 bookmarks on 1 social site, which can hurt the amount of traffic you get from these sites.

So if you want to leverage the popular social sites on the web, don’t add tons of social bookmarking buttons on the bottom of each of your blog posts. Instead select the popular ones such as Digg, Del.icio.us, Newvine and Netscape or select the ones that have audiences that are most likely to bookmark or submit stories related to the topic you usually write on.

Neil Patel
Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. Neil also blogs about marketing and entrepreneurship at... Read Full Bio
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  • Neil Patel

    Derek, thanks for sharing the link.

  • stchatterbox

    Interesting article. Seeing so many sites having these little icons, I once thought of adding them on my website. But I thought further, one usually doesn’t have an account in ALL these sites; they’ll instead have an account at del.icio.us or digg, and have a button on their browser where they bookmark things they’re interested. At least I am one of these people, so after some considerations, the idea of having those cuties faded away… …

  • esotericsean

    someone should make a site that allows people to submit one link and then it gets sent to all of the social media bookmarking tools out there.
    that was people could just have one button on their site that says “vote for me” and it gets sent to everything.

  • lansespirit

    esotericsean’s idea is very interesting , maybe it will come soon.

  • Neil Patel

    Esotericsean, good idea.

  • Chris M

    I’m not sure that I agree. If a user doesn’t see the social bookmarking site icon that they’re familiar with, they might just skip over you altogether. It’s been my experience that most people don’t use more than one or two social bookmarking site. I think it is, therefore, more important to let your users make a choice that they’ve already made.

  • engtech

    onlywire.com does “1 click” multiple bookmarking site submission (but they also add spam to your bookmarks — they need a better business model).
    I find it’s much better (but more work) to manually monitor when your pages get submitted to social sites AND THEN add the appropriate buttons.
    I only add “digg this” to a post after I’ve seen it appear on digg — and I’ll make it a much bigger button than a chicklet.
    This also avoids the “getting banned on digg” that can happen if you get a lot of posts submitted that never go beyond 1-10 votes.

  • Jeremy Luebke

    I actually prefer sites that use th drop downs like MarketingPilgrim

  • Jason Murphy

    I think there needs to be a change in approach. It has been my experience that the popular Digg AJAX button that displays the current number of “diggs” gets a lot more attention than a little non-interactive 16×16 Digg icon. If only more social networks would offer this option or an api to get such data.
    I’d love to see a blog platform that would automattically (that’s not a misspelling, that’s a call out!) detect incoming traffic from social sites and would add a button with the current “vote” total from that site. “This article has 423 votes on reddit, must be cool!” click.

  • Drew Stauffer

    Was this a planned post folllowing your last post, “Making your content Del.icio.us”?
    Just wondering if my comment had anything to do with it?

  • Neil Patel

    Drew, the article was not planned, it was just a coincidence. 🙂

  • FeedPass

    FeedPass allows you to put a single subscribe button that creates an easy subscription landing page for any feed. It guides the user through “What is RSS?” and gives them the ability to subscribe using dozens of readers, via email, or to tag the feed or specific posts using a large selection of tools. Contrary to the point of your post, we believe that giving users easy access to just about any tool they might use makes good sense. Digg users will use Digg, etc. Having the other icons doesn’t make them not use the one they like best. In addition, putting a single FeedPass button on your blog frees up valuable sidebar or template real-estate that you can use for content, advertising, etc.

    FeedPass gives you all of this without requiring you to “burn” your feed like you do with FeedBurner. You remain in complete control.
    And it’s free.

  • Social Dude

    I added the Add This to my blog, I feel it looks a lot cleaner and more importantly more usable to my visitors.

  • Nathaniel

    Great post! I find the “Share This” bars quite annoying, myself.

  • Ben Yoskovitz

    I used to have many of those icons on my posts but with my redesign recently, I’ve removed them.
    I still have 3 small text links for reddit, digg and delicious, but I find no matter what you put most people won’t use those features anyway.
    The WordPress digg and reddit plugins might work better because they show actual votes when someone has dugg or reddited something, but I agree – the icons might look cute but I don’t think they’re effective.

  • Brian

    I find any more than two to be annoying. Makes me feel that the author is trying to advertise and not just blog. A great post.