One of the steepest learning curves I have encountered as the owner, writer and chief Search Engine Optimization guy of a blog site is with the art—and science—of social bookmarking. As I discuss in one of my recent posts Inexpensive SEO Strategies for Small Company Websites: Part III, getting websites to link back to yours (a.k.a. reverse-linking) is the Holy Grail of SEO. Until search engines like Google and MSN see a significant number of inbound channels to your website, your search engine rankings aren’t going anywhere; no matter how good your content is, how clever your theme is, or how slick your website design might be. And social bookmarking is far and away the most effective technique for building up your web site’s reverse links.
Before I get too far into this post, it is important we agree upon a simple definition of social bookmarking, so we’re all on the same page. Understanding it might not line up exactly with definitions others have written, for the purposes of this article I will use this:
Social Bookmarking: any method, website or technology used by web surfers to track Internet content, or tag Internet content for others to find.
Social bookmarking can take any number of shapes and forms, including links from networking sites like Twitter and FaceBook, referrals from content-rating portals like Digg and Sphinn, and readers from blog syndication feeds like Technorati and BlogSpot. Even the RSS feed on your own site can be considered a social bookmark if someone subscribes to it. For a massive list of social bookmarking sites and methods, check out The Big List of Social Bookmarking and Networking Sites for over 160 choices.
With the above in mind, below are three critical Dos and Don’ts for maximizing your link building campaign thru Social Bookmarking.
Don’t . . . Give People Too Many Choices
Does your website or blog offer a primary button bar with icons for Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Del.icio.us and Digg, and a secondary bar with icons for FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube, MySpace, YaHoo and Flickr? Here’s an interesting law of human behavior: if you give people too many choices, they won’t make one.
Do . . . Narrow Your Social Bookmarking List
As an alternative to a shotgun approach, resist the temptation to sprinkle your website with colorful thumbnail graphics and scale back your social bookmarking options to a set of five, plus your RSS feed. Limiting social bookmarking choices for visitors will not only result in more social bookmarking activity, but give readers a clearer picture of which types of traffic are most important to you.
Don’t . . . Get Lazy
One bad habit many bloggers and web designers have is getting too comfortable too quickly, and putting the social bookmarking pieces of their sites into ‘maintenance mode.’ On a growing website, social bookmarking options should be kept nearly as fresh as the content, but rarely are.
Do . . . Change it Up Once in Awhile
With nearly 200 social bookmarking options to choose from and more on the way, bloggers and website owners have no excuse to stand pat. In terms of social bookmarking, it is very likely that the next big traffic generator for your site hasn’t even been invented yet. How are you going to find it if you never look around?
Don’t . . . Assume All of Your Channels Are Working
Once social bookmarks are in place and traffic numbers begin to increase, it is easy to believe your social bookmarking strategy is a winner. But chances are, most of your newly found traffic is coming from just one (or maybe two) of your social bookmarking options.
Do . . . Track What You’re Using
Like any other Internet-based marketing campaign, each social bookmarking option used on your website should be evaluated as its own stand-alone program. No matter where your site is hosted, there is always web log data available to figure out exactly where inbound traffic is coming from. To some degree, the free Webmaster Tools at Google and MSN can provide important pieces of the puzzle as well.
Wrapping it Up
Regardless of their size, social bookmarking icons take up premium real estate on your blog or website. Not evaluating each social bookmark as an individual marketing investment—even though the links are free—will cost you traffic, search engine rankings, and (if applicable) affiliate marketing dollars. If you invest the time and avoid the mistakes outlined above, your social bookmarking efforts will generate traffic you never knew existed. And this, my friends, is the reason we read and write things like this in our spare time.
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