<< by on February 13th, 2008
I’ve always seen the value of social media in driving traffic to a website. StumbleUpon has really given our blog significant traffic. But I must admit I’ve had my doubts about using social media sites as a vehicle for link building. My belief was that most of those sites use the “NoFollow” tag which is a non-standard HTML attribute value used to instruct search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. I also believed the same about links found in online forum postings.
But my mind has been changed in the last few days by two blog posts. Rae Hoffman recently surveyed 11 preeminent link builders about their link building strategies. Almost every expert surveyed emphasized the use of Social Media for link building, and several mentioned that they are using forum postings also. I was still skeptical, because I really thought the NoFollow tags on most of those sites was preventing those links from counting in search engine ranking algorithms. The potential of getting your social media content to a broader audience and getting referral links from that audience is really increased, but that is really an indirect (but great) way of getting links.
Marty Weintraub also recently blogged on Search Engine Watch about this same issue. Marty says that there are several Social Media sites that are “DoFollow”instead of “NoFollow”. This means that links within your Social Media site content do pass on “link juice” to search engines that index those sites that can improve your SEO rankings. This doesn’t mean that you can submit a bunch of gibberish to these sites with your anchor text links in the content and expect your rankings to improve. These are communities that don’t take kindly to what they would rightly view as link spam. It’s kind of the equivalent of dumping trash cans in people’s yards. Social News Watch has great examples of Social Networking Spam and a good perspective on how detrimental it is to those online communities.
A slightly older, more inclusive post, with good user comments about social media sites that don’t use the NoFollow tag was written by Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal. Virtual Marketing Blog also gives a nice list of Forums that don’t use the NoFollow tag.
The important thing people need to realize if they are going to utilize NoFollow Social Media sites for link building is that they have to have worthwhile content to submit to these sites if they don’t want to get labeled as a Link Spammer and possibly get kicked out if they don’t. This means you need a blog and real content that people can get some benefit from reading. If enough people continue to spam these sites the site will begin using the NoFollow tag and the link building party is ruined.
The smarter strategy for using social media is to submit your content to both NoFollow and “DoFollow” Social Media sites. The reality is that it’s entirely possible that you might get more traffic or more quality traffic referred to your site from these sites than you will from Natural Search Engine results if the content appeals to Social Media readers.