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Examining social networking links

From: SEO: Link Building in Depth

Video: Examining social networking links

Before we begin looking at social network links, I just want to say that for all the hype, it's quite possible in many cases to create an effective linking campaign without social networking. I've seen many sites rank well using linking strategies that don't include social networking. In fact, there's also the problem that in many cases, social networking links are no follow links. Take Facebook, for instance, the single most important social network. Links from Facebook to external pages on nofollow links as you can see here.

Examining social networking links

Before we begin looking at social network links, I just want to say that for all the hype, it's quite possible in many cases to create an effective linking campaign without social networking. I've seen many sites rank well using linking strategies that don't include social networking. In fact, there's also the problem that in many cases, social networking links are no follow links. Take Facebook, for instance, the single most important social network. Links from Facebook to external pages on nofollow links as you can see here.

I've got the Firefox's DoNofollow plug-in turned on, so you can see the pink links. On the other hand, some other social networks use follow links. Take a look, for instance, at Google+. Yes, there are some nofollow links between Google+ accounts, for instance, but the external links, at least for now, are follow links. Myspace provides nofollow links while LinkedIn provides follow links, but in both cases, they're not direct links to the reference sites.

They are redirects and not 301 redirects, so they don't carry value. Yet another example, Delicious, they recently changed to make all external links nofollows and they're redirects too. Some social networking sites evidently tried to decide which links should be followed and which shouldn't. Digg, for instance, says that they provide follow links in cases that the story has reached a certain popularity. How about Twitter? Twitter used to use nofollow links, but more recently seems to have switched to follow links.

Some Twitter feed mechanisms convert them to nofollow links, though. By the way, here's a quick tip on how to figure out if a link is a 301 redirect link. You can see a redirect link here. Point at the link and you'll see that it's a redirect through a linkedin.com server. So let's copy the link and search for server header service. We'll paste the URL into the service and see what comes back.

You can see in the case of this LinkedIn link, we can get 200 responses. In fact in this case, it's actually a double redirect as it's redirecting to another LinkedIn page which then redirects to the final destination. Some links will return a 302, which is a redirect, but for the link to have value it needs to return 301. How about the link shortening services such as bitly, Google URL Shortener, and Tiny URL? Twitter users often employ these services to create short links for use in the limited space of a tweet.

Well, these services typically use 301 redirects. These three certainly do and you can check your favorite service for yourself using the method I just described. So some social networking links do carry value to follow links, but what about the nofollow links? Is there SEO value to social networking nofollow links? That is, will the search engines consider the links for ranking purposes? Will social network links help push your site up in the search results? Well, as explained in an earlier video, in theory, no.

In theory, at least, the major search engines, and that essentially means Google and Bing, ignore nofollow links for ranking purposes. They may actually follow the links in some cases, but both search engines claim they do not use nofollow links for ranking purposes. My only problem with this is it seems like there must be an awful lot of useful information embedded in social networking links. Yes, Google has stated quite clearly and quite recently that nofollow links don't count in ranking. In fact, Google has suggested that social networking sites should try to identify trusted posters and make their links follow links. That is, as far as Google is concerned, it's up to the social networks, not Google, to decide.

So you'll have to make your own mind up on this one. Either Google is being honest and such links have no value, or perhaps you have a situation in which Google is claiming they have no value and yet at the same time, deciding that in certain situations they will look at nofollow links. I just don't know the answer to this, but as I mentioned, there must be a lot of good information in these billions of nofollow links coming off social networking sites. So I keep coming back to the idea that maybe they do look at some social networking nofollow links. So is social networking useful or not for SEO? In some cases, definitely useful as you'll get follow links.

In others, when you're only getting nofollow links, perhaps not. The official position of the search engines is, of course, you should go ahead and promote your site in the social networks because links bring traffic regardless of search results ranking. And that's perfectly true. A well-executed social networking campaign can help a website get traffic directly bypassing the search engines. Don't get pulled in by the hype, though. Social networking is no silver bullet. And in fact, doesn't work very well for many types of businesses.

It's not a one-size-fits-all type of thing. In any case, in this video course, we're interested in SEO in optimizing for the search engines. So I'm not going to get into a general social networking discussion. I'll just leave you with this, if you think you can make social networking work for you regardless of search engine results, then of course, go ahead and do it. If there is any search engine lift, then that's great, but if you're not sure the non-search engine results from social networking campaign are worth the cost to you, and social networking is very hard to succeed at for many types of businesses, you might simply do the basics; set up the obvious social network accounts, just don't spend a lot of time on it.

You will want Facebook and Google+ accounts, perhaps Twitter and Linkedin. You'll also want to use the usual social networking share buttons, of course, and try to encourage people to link to you from their social networking accounts. Social networking has become popular in SEO circles and in fact, there are many companies that will go out and create social networking links for you. We'll be discussing the whole idea of buying links like this in the later video. Do these link campaigns work? Perhaps, depending on what you believe about the nofollow issue and what proportion of follow links are created during such a campaign.

But again, as the search engines are continually pointing out, linking is not all about SEO, sometimes a link is just a link.

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SEO: Link Building in Depth

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