Before we begin looking at social network links, I do want to say that for all the hype, it is quite possible in many cases to create an effective linking campaign without social networking. I have seen many sites rank well using linking strategies that do not include social networking. In fact it is 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 are no-follow links.
On the other hand some other social networks use follow links, for instance Google Plus.
Yes there are some no-follow links between some accounts for instance, but for now at least the external links are follow links. MySpace provides no-follow that links while LinkedIn provides follow links, but in both cases they are not direct links to the reference sites, they are redirects and not 301 redirects so they do not carry any value.
Yet another example, Delicious, they recently changed to make all external links no follows and their redirects too. Some social networking sites evidently try to decide which links should be followed and which should not. Digg.com for instance says that they provide follow links in cases where a story has reached a certain level of popularity. How about Twitter? Twitter used to use no-follow links but more recently seems to have switched to follow links. Some Twitter feed mechanisms convert them to no follow links though.
By the way here is a quick tip on how to figure out if the link is a 301 redirect link. If you go to a site such as LinkedIn you
will be able to see many redirect links. Point at the link you will see that it is a redirect link through a LinkedIn.com server. Copy the link and search for a server header service. Paste the URL into the service and see what comes back. Depending on the link will depend on the result. You might get a ‘200’ response, which means that it is a double redirect. This means as its redirecting to another LinkedIn page which then redirects to the final destination. Some links will return a ‘302’ response but for the link to have value it needs to return a ‘301’.
How about the link shortening services such as Bitly.com, Google URL shorter or tiny URL?
Twitter users often employee these services to create short links for use in the limited space of a tweet. Well these services typically use 301 redirects and 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, the follow links but what about the no follow links? Is there SEO value to social networking no-follow 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 in theory the answer is no. In theory at least, the major search engines and that essentially means Google and Bing, ignore no-follow links for ranking purposes. They may actually follow the links in some cases but both search engines claim they do not use no-follow links for ranking purposes.
My only problem with this is it seems like there must be a lot of useful information embedded in social networking links. Google has stated quite clearly and quite recently that no-follow links don’t count in ranking. Google has suggested that social networking sites should try to identify trusted posters and make their links follow links. 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 or 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 no-follow links.
But as I mentioned there must be a lot of good information in these billions of no-follow links coming off social networking sites. So I keep coming back to the idea that maybe they do look at some social networking no-follow links. So social networking – is it useful for SEO or not? In some cases definitely useful as you’ll get follow links. In others when you’re only getting no-follow links, perhaps not, the official position of the search engines of course, if you should go ahead and promote your site in the social networks because the links bring traffic regardless of search results ranking and that is perfectly true.
Well executed social networking campaigns 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 doesn’t work very well for many types of businesses and it’s not a one size fits all type of thing.
I will just leave you with this, if you think you can make social networking work for you regardless of search engine results, then go ahead and do it. If there is any search engine lift then that is great, but if you are not sure the results with a social networking campaign is 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, Google Plus and Twitter and perhaps LinkedIn. You’ll also want to use the usual social networking and 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 many social links for you.
Do these link campaigns work? Perhaps depending on what you believe about no-follow issue and what proportion of follow links are created during a campaign. But again as the search engines are continually pointing out linking is just about SEO, sometimes a link is just a link.
This is a guest post by Sadhiv Mahandru who has been involved in online marketing for over a decade covering PPC, Affiliate Marketing, SEO , Content Creation and also creating effective websites. Specializing in SEO Company Manchester and providing services throughout the UK. You can learn more about Internet Marketing and SEO by reading my personal blog which is updated frequently.
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