Social bookmarking began life as a trendy new way to market using the sites of the hour, giants like Delicious and Digg.
When was the last time anyone trendy used Digg? I can tell you that they think they’re trendy. Just look at their site these days. It’s all flat and paned like Window s8, but with a stark black and white theme made for appealing to a certain demographic.
Is Digg really social bookmarking anymore, though? I see no submission form. I see nothing, in fact, that made it what it was when it debuted. In fact, all I see is a site trying almost painfully to appeal to a certain type of hipster with titles like “Revelations from Outer Space” and “Nope, That is Not How a Shower Works.”
Granted, I’m not giving Digg a fair shake, because this is the last of it I’m going to mention. What you really want to know is, is social bookmarking – the real stuff – worth anything for SEO these days?
In the old days, the primary reason anyone would use social bookmarking was the ease of a link. Links used to be far more valuable than they are today, and they also used to be less regulated. Concepts like “nofollow” didn’t exist, or weren’t widely used. Any site with user submissions thus became a great marketing target.
Sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and so forth were perfect for marketers. They had very little filter beyond community upvotes, and here’s the thing; a link on one of those sites didn’t disappear just because no one voted it up. It just settled to the bottom, noticed by search engines but not by users. The backlink was still valid.
These days, the vast majority of these sites nofollow their links automatically. Even if they don’t, well, Google understands what social bookmarking is, and they don’t want you artificially building a ton of backlinks so easily. I feel comfortable in saying that, if your purpose is solely to gain direct backlinks, social bookmarking is firmly dead.
Indirect links are a concept I feel like many marketers disregard, because it’s not something you can control.
The idea behind indirect links is that by posting on social bookmarking sites, other people become aware of your site. They see your link, they click on it, they read your posts. Maybe they like them enough to bookmark them for later, maybe not. The point is, they’re aware of you.
Now, the next time they’re writing about a topic related to your post, they remember what you wrote. They think “hey, maybe I should find that cool article I found before and link to it.” They do, and you earn a link. This link may have come from a site you’ve never heard of and never thought to contact. Sometimes it might even come from a site much more popular than your own. The direct link from the bookmarking site may not have been valuable, but the link you received certainly was.
There’s a certain value associated with simple name recognition. By presenting yourself on social bookmarking sites, you’re putting your content up on a pedestal to be judged. If you fail, on some sites, you just find your link down-voted until it disappears. On other sites, like Reddit, you might even find yourself banned from the site for blatant advertising.
On the other hand, what if you find success? At a low level, success means a few upvotes, which promotes your site and gets you seen by more people. It doesn’t do a lot, but it puts your post and your brand in front of people who wouldn’t have otherwise seen it. Afterwards, when they’re browsing around, they might recognize your name and give you the benefit of the doubt.
If you see great success, you end up with a bit of a viral surge in traffic. People vote your site up and you end up on the front page of whatever site you’re using, be it Reddit or Imgur or anything else. You’ll find your site shared on other sites and linked from sites that wouldn’t have even known you exist before.
Of course, this relies entirely on the quality if your content. There’s no real way to game the votes; if you try to vote yourself up using secondary accounts, you’ll almost definitely be caught and suffer the consequences. Such sites can be very hostile to people trying to compromise the integrity of their voting system.
Social bookmarking has one great benefit, and that’s high quality traffic. The people who use social bookmarking sites use them to find content they really want to see. If they’re clicking your links, they’re legitimately interested in what you have to say, and they’re just as likely to share it on other sites as they are to vote it up on their home site.
Reddit is one of the best for this, but again, it’s a very fickle place. You have to follow their rules, and you have to fit in with their culture, otherwise you’re going to find no traction or end up banned.
Part of this involves simply being a member of the community. They even say, in their guidelines, that it’s okay to be a Redditor with a website. It’s not okay to be a marketer on Reddit.
Your goal, then, is to fit in as much as possible. Be a regular user, learn how to communicate with other users, using the unique language of Internet culture.
The other part of success on a site like Reddit is finding the right place to be. Reddit – and many other social bookmarking sites – has a metric ton of sub-sections for various topics. They can range anywhere from broad topics like politics and marketing to ultra-niche topics only two or three people in the world would care about.
You need to identify those niches and figure out where your topics fit. Spend some time in those sections, learning how those users communicate, and proceed only once you feel you fit in. If you do it right, you’ll get a lot of interested traffic for little or no effort.