Over the past few years, many traditional SEO’s have ignored social media sites as link building opportunities. But since Google and Bing are now using Twitter and Facebook links as ranking signals we decided to dig around and find the best social media sites for building a robust, powerful social media link building campaign.
This article reveals the 3 biggest ways you can gain social media links–using social signals, some old school “hidden” link opportunities, and how you can now include “nofollow” links as part of your social media link strategy.
Get ready to tweet, like, and link your way to the top of the rankings. Enjoy!
It’s no secret that sites like Facebook and YouTube have the highest PR scores around. But what most fail to realize is that sites like Facebook and Twitter pass no link juice at all. The reason lies in a little html tag called “nofollow” that 95% of social media sites automatically append to external URLs. In short, any link containing the rel=nofollow attribute will be ignored by Google when it comes to counting the link juice into your site.
The problem is that the concept of the “nofollow” tag is a bit outdated. Traditionally, it was a simple way of websites and social media sites preventing spam by saying to search engines–”we don’t endorse this link, so don’t bother following it.” This removed the incentive for spammers hammering comment sections and open communities with links.
In other words, the “nofollow” tag originally was designed to signal a lack of trust. But if 2,000 social media users tweet a “nofollow” link to your site shouting things like “check out this awesome article!!!!!”–this becomes a collective signal of quality and value, not mistrust. The search engines know this. So, perhaps while the “nofollow” has a bad rep with SEO’s, it has definitely been given a second life in social.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some new social media link building strategies.
Checking your Klout score isn’t just about ranking up virtual points. As in traditional Pagerank, search engines don’t count all Twitter or social media users as equal. People are the new links, as the new buzzword goes. Just as a link from a powerful website can send your page running up the search results page, now a tweet from an authoritative Twitter user can affect your rankings. And as social search continues to evolve, online influence is becoming tied to individual people, rather than web properties.
Also, relevance still applies. If, for example, your are a SEO expert, don’t expect to be able to use your virtual sway to tweet your grandmother’s knitting blog to the top of Google. This is just not speculation–Bing and Google have both explicitly stated that they take into account the social authority of users.
That means, you should be interacting and trying to get some social buzz from influencers in your industry. So don’t just see link building in terms of traditional guest posting on popular websites. Instead, try to interact with the influencers behind those sites on Twitter. If you can get a Twitter heavy-weight in your industry to tweet one of your posts that will still count as a link, or, at least, a strong social signal in your favour. Interact with influencers on Twitter, tweet their posts, and be a social link builder!
If you want your tweets to act as mini-links, the first step is to make sure that your url shortener service is trusted by Google. According to Matt Cutts, “most well-behaved url shorteners do pass page rank.”As Matt pointed out in his video on the topic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMkltd6dZzU), proper url shortening services are treated just like any other 301 redirects and will pass link juice. So, if you want your tweets to count as social votes, then make sure that your url shortener is one of the “well-behaved” url shorteners.
Here’s a quick list:
If social signals are now acting similar to traditional links, then you definitely want to take advantage of anchor text in your tweets. As your probably know, “anchor text” is the descriptive text that you layer on top of your links. It helps search engines understand what your website or article is about.
An excellent case-study by SEOMoz showed the power of an influential tweet on rankings. In the study, a powerhouse tweet by Smashing Magazine helped them rank on the 1st page for an unexpected term– “beginners guide”–rather than their intended keyword ‘beginner’s guide SEO’. What was interesting, says SEOMoz, is that “before the tweet, we had absolutely zero traffic for that keyword [“beginner’s guide”] and after the tweet, we have traffic.”
The moral? Integrate your tweets with your keyword strategy, using the anchor text of your tweets to reinforce the title keywords of the article or site you are trying to promote.
While Facebook and Google have locked horns against each other, Google doesn’t really have much of a choice: they have to take into account social signals coming from Facebook if they want to return the best results for searchers.
While nothing can really be confirmed, Google essentially treats links from Facebook the same as links from Twitter. So you definitely want to be building your Facebook presence, using Facebook notes as blog teasers (which are indexed), and including everything Facebook into your link building–even though Facebook has the “nofollow” tag through-out the platform.
So, we’ve looked at new social signals. Now it’s time to get to some classic link building. Traditional SEO’s have warned for years about the mistake of chasing links from social media sites. The reason lies in a little html tag called “nofollow” that 95% of social media sites automatically append to external URLs. In short, any link containing the rel=nofollow attribute will be ignored by Google when it comes to counting the link juice into your site.
That said, there are a few exceptions. Here at One Net Marketing, we’ve spent the last couple of months looking for major social media sites that are devoid of the “nofollow” and where link juice is a plenty. Without further ado:
SitePRLink LocationLink Description
Google10google.com/profilesWe recommend creating profiles for key employees and founders. Be sure to add custom links with anchor text. Your profile link will be devoid of a nofollow and you can add a ton of info to go with the link including videos, photos, and info about yourself.Google Places10google.com/placesCreate a local business listing for all your offices. Use target keywords in profile / description field. This is a great place which is devoid of nofollows and has a high visibility in the search results. Powerful, easy, and effective.LinkedIn9LinkedIn.comRecommend building a business profile plus individual profiles for key employees and founders. Select “Other” when setting your 1st site link to create custom anchor text. Take advantage of the 2 additional links (no anchor text allowed).Digg8digg.comDigg is great for traffic and a large community, plus you can submit (and get a link) for articles you want to promote.Foursquare8foursquare.comYep. You get a link on your profile!Reddit8reddit.comThe links you submit will be devoid of the nofollow attribute. It’s a great site.Squidoo7Squidoo.comTons of link juice opportunities. Create as many pages and links as you like.Stumbleupon7stumbleupon.comAll the links you submit will be devoid of the nofollow attribute.Yelp7yelp.comYour profile link will be devoid of the nofollow attribute, but comments have the nofollow tag.Yahoo Local Listings7listings.local.yahoo.comThis local business portal allows you to create a profile for your business and is devoid of the nofollow attribute. Use target keywords in profile / description field and anchor text if possible.YouTube6YouTube.comCreate a custom YouTube channel. While comments and any URLs you include in your descriptions will have the rel=”nofollow” attribute, YouTube gives you a link in your profile that is devoid of nofollow. If your channel becomes popular, that profile link will be pretty powerful!Ezinearticles6ezinearticles.comArticle submission is a little dated as a link-building tactic. But use it to recycle posts that you have published elsewhere.Hubpages5Hubpages.comWrite articles with custom links. Tons of link juice here.Dotpoch5dotpoch.comWhile this site’s PR is low, they give you lots of link love–in your profile and let you submit news stories and articles which pass link juice.Dzone5css.dzone.comLow PR again, but it allows you to upload articles and create a profile–all devoid of the nofollow attribute. Take advantage of your anchor text.
Just attack this list for a few hours–presto! You got some high-powered links pointing back to your site. What’s more, you can control the anchor text on most of them which can help boost your rankings for a few of your main keywords.
If you know of any other sites that we may have missed please add them to the comments section below. We will update this post periodically as we learn of more link juice opportunities.
Okay, so tons of social media sites have “nofollow” attributes. That doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Take YouTube as one glowing example of the value of social media links, even if they are “nofollowed.” While any links in your profile or descriptions in YouTube are “nofollowed,” Google continues to show more and more videos in your search results page. And they get most of these videos, of course, from YouTube. In fact, Forrester conducted a study that showed it’s 53 times easier to get a video ranked in Google than a regular web page.
Other reasons for chasing some social media “nofollows” include:
As the goal of a link campaign is to mirror the organic growth of the influence of a website on the web, a natural part of that web ecosystems are “nofollows,”pointing back to your website. A normal user doesn’t care if he links to your website in a forum or comment and that link doesn’t pass link juice. All he cares is talking about your site and helping others find it. And Google uses that organic behaviour as a benchmark to judge your website’s authority and quality–so definitely, make sure that you have a healthy collection of “nofollows” to add some diversity to your link portfolio.
Twitter doesn’t allow any real links from its profile or from any of your tweets. But search engines do index your profile (if you search for your own name, chances are your Twitter profile will pop up in the first 20 results). Twitter is, and will continue to be, a force in real-time search results. That means, you should be vigilant on reporting breaking news in your industry as your tweets will be indexed. While Google recently suspended it’s Realtime search deal with Twitter social media has such a powerful function in breaking news and current events that it’s absolutely unlikely real time search will disappear.
A few studies have shown that tweets can help a page get crawled and indexed faster. It makes sense–as a tweet from a “well-behaving” url shorter is treated as a link by Google. It goes without saying that the more powerful Twitter account that tweets it, the better. Here’s an interesting study about how to use tweets to get your content indexed and ranked faster: http://www.freshegg.com/blog/tweetserping-heard_6671
1. Always place your company name, or target keyword, in the anchor text of all links that you create pointing back to your site.
2. Don’t assume that in-bound links from social sites are invaluable because they contain a “nofollow” attribute. SEOMoz recently released their 2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors report in which it was determined that social signals are a major contributing factor to site ranking. Social signals also take into consideration inbound links, social shares, followers and other relevant social data even without the “nofollow” attribute.
3. Never overlook the value of an in-bound link from a traffic perspective either. A link from Facebook or Twitter is still a link that is likely to send some interested visitors to your site.
4. Never spam social media sites (or any site) to generate in-bound links. You need to add value to your users and spamming isn’t value.
Establishing a social media presence can help you develop a solid network of inbound links both with and without the “nofollow” attribute. While inbound links devoid of “nofollow” attributes are key, social signals are becoming a major ranking factor for major engines like Google and Bing. Use the information above to develop your social media outposts and to help target your content marketing campaign(s). Focus on adding value to your readers/followers and the link juice will follow.
If you know of any other sources of link juice please post the info in the comments below. We will update this page as new link ideas come in. In the mean time – happy (social) link hunting : )
If you’d like to take advantage of social search mechanisms to improve your organic search results One Net Marketing offers expertise in both Search and Social with proven results across B2B and B2C sectors. Check out our service page for more info or contact us directly for a free consultation.
And don’t be shy. We’re on Twitter @OneNetMarketing to respond to online marketing questions.