Social bookmarking is a trend from years past that has lost some steam in recent years, mostly due to penalties stemming from Penguin. The problem with social bookmarking is essentially the lack of quality to the links. When using them before, webmasters would create a single link anchor and post their link on any site they could find.
It’s 2014. Penguin has updated before, and it’s going to update again. Is social bookmarking a valid source of links? Is it a risk you might be able to take, if you’re careful? Or is it a ticking time bomb waiting for the next update to go off?
The Key to Powerful Social Bookmarking
To study the effects of social bookmarking, consider two sites; Digg and Reddit. Both of these sites began as ways to share links with other users, to create bookmark lists other users can view. The difference is that Reddit was quick to establish a community around the links, while Digg focused on the link ranking and came to the community party late.
Consequently, Digg is rarely used today, while Reddit is one of the largest sites on the Internet.
Reddit is still a very valuable location for building links, but you need to do it properly. As Reddit says themselves; it’s okay to be a Redditor with a website. It’s not okay to be a website with a Reddit account. What this means is that you need to respect the community, you need to be a person first, and you need to limit your self-promotion.
A Balanced Link Profile
One of the warning signs of bad link building, the target of the fearsome Penguin, is a link profile that skews too heavily towards a small group of sites, a single type of anchor text or a single type of site. You need diversity in your links.
Take a look at this list of 122 social bookmarking sites. You’ll see some modern names, like Reddit. You’ll see some outdated names, like Ebaum’s World. You’ll see some names you may have never heard of, like, well, almost any of them. There are a lot of problems with that list. Some sites are geared towards other countries. Some are specific topics. Some are too small or outdated to be valuable. With 122 options, only five or six are going to be valuable to your site in any way whatsoever. That’s okay.
The trick is to recognize that a good social bookmarking site today is a community, not just a link dump. You need to take part in the community, just as you would in a LinkedIn group, to establish a place before you advertise. It’s time consuming and tedious, but it’s essential.
Tips for Using Social Bookmarking Properly.
If you’re still interested in using social bookmarking, you can follow these tips. The first thing you should remember, however, is to keep a diverse link profile. Focus too much on a social bookmarking site and you’re putting the crosshairs of the Penguin on your chest. Focus too much on anything and you run that risk. Only use a few social bookmarking sites, and only so long as they are effective.
First, you need a focus on your niche. Reddit is a good example here. It’s a bad idea to step into one of the largest, most genera subreddits to try to advertise your site. Instead, you need to identify a subreddit that suits your niche or is dedicated to your products. You can also look for social bookmarking sites in your niche; Hacker News is a good example of a focused site.
Next, you need to analyze the lay of the land. Using Reddit as an example again, examine their rules as mentioned above. If you break the rules, your link is going to be downvoted into oblivion and your account might be flagged as a spammer. If you follow the rules, you may have goodwill racked up from positive interactions and will benefit more from an involved community.
When you’re about ready to start linking to your site, you should make sure the content you’re linking to is as valuable as you can possibly make it. The less valuable it is, the more likely you are to be called out as a spammer or advertiser. When you pack your content with value, you can lead with a disclaimer along the lines of “I know this is my site, but I think it really fits with this discussion.” You can, essentially, get away with it.
Once you have posted a link, go back to acting like a normal user. As long as you’re not posting your links constantly, you can get away with a lot on these communities. Treat every link as a precious commodity. The more valuable you are, the more valuable your site becomes, and the more willing users are to view it when you post it.
Alternatives to Social Bookmarking
With the exception of a few sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon, social bookmarking doesn’t have a huge presence. You can gain some benefit from using the sites, but it’s far more effective to put them on the back burner and spend your time on more useful strategies.
- Content creation. You’re going to have to be creating content if you want to have content to share on social bookmarking sites, so you might as well focus more on the content. The more content you have, the more opportunities you have for that content to rank and catch the eyes of influential bloggers. Leave the social bookmarking to the people who use those sites; when they find your valuable content they’ll post it on their own.
- Influencer networking. Track down influential people in your industry, bloggers, thought leaders and the like. Network with them. Use their information in your own posts, and link to them as references. Encourage them to link to your content. Interview them for mutually beneficial content.
- Social media marketing. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and the like are all much more valuable than any social bookmarking site with the possible exception of a viral link on Reddit. A good social media presence with a decent audience will get you a lot more engaged traffic.
- PPC. Sure, it’s not free, but pay per click advertising is some of the most effective traffic you’ll find. Plus, it’s incredibly agile to test and iterate.
- Content curation. When you think about it, social bookmarking is just a form of curating content. You can curate content on your own site and grow an audience away from the bookmarking sites. Then they’re already present when you want to post content of your own.
You don’t need to rely on outdated social bookmarking sites, even if they’re still potentially useful; your time is better spent elsewhere.
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