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Link building and social media

Written by David Harry   
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 10:10

It’s all about the secondary links silly

Time and time again I see folks in the SEO world talking about getting links from social media websites. Many times this advice will include finding ‘followed’ links and even lists of ‘dofollow’ social media sites. This is quite strange and bewildering to me as the holy grail of link building in SM isn’t getting a link from the actual site…. but getting the secondary links that follow viral content.

You see, one shouldn’t be using the state of the links on the site as the measure… and such approaches are often even frowned upon by many in the biz as noted in this recent Sphinn thread. Regardless of the emotional reaction, the whole concept is flawed. I could give a rat’s ass if the links on a given site (including social and blogs) are followed because that was never the consideration in the first place.

Don't social spam for links

Secondary links are the goal

The main thing, from a link building perspective, is not really about direct links but the secondary links one garners from having a viral story on said site. If one gets a hot story on places such as Digg or Twitter, how many links are being generated? This is where the story begins for link builders. Having a viral story make the rounds can often result in a great number of back links that can often be of far more value than those single authority links social spammers seem bent on getting. This is the greater value to be had from SM sites for the adventurous link builder.

Now, we can discuss brand development and authority building as an important aspect of content distribution, (and social media) but let’s stick to the potential of them for link building. When we look to target a given social site what do we want to know?

  • Is the site targeted? Meaning does it have active categories relating to our market.
  • What’s the demographic? Is there a viable number or market related peeps?
  • What’s the reach? Is it syndicated heavily, (RSS, Twitter, Blogs, Scrapers..etc..)
  • What links are top stories getting? (is the demo a linking group)

You get the idea… we want the best possible opportunity for generating secondary links from the primary exposure. That is the goal at the end of the day (from a link building perspective).


Don’t be short sighted

This is actually true of a lot of content distribution/placement channels. You shouldn’t be as concerned about the type of link as the ability to generate links from the situation. What would you rather have?

  • Scenario 1 – a followed link from a marginally popular location such as
  • Scenario 2 – a nofollowed link from a popular site (or maybe dropped by a top Twitterer).
  • Scenario 3 – a followed link buried on a popular site (poor exposure)

If you said anything but Scenario 2 then please move to the front of the class, because you are failing sadly. Ultimately the actual status of the link is not going to be nearly as important as the ability to get the content in front of as many folks as possible. If you and the content team have done your job, and chosen the right locales, then you should end up with some great secondary links.


The ethical dilemma

Now, let’s deal with the purists ok? If you noted the Sphinn thread cited off the top, there are more than a few folks impassioned around this topic. For starters, I do get kinda pissy when I see folks condoning social spamming – but that’s a personal thing. I also get somewhat bemused when folks think that some tactic has been ‘outed’… cause if social spaming is a tactic, it certainly ain’t a secret. But that’s just me – I really don’t see how marketers are in a position to be complaining about web pollution – ya know what I mean?

And so I submit to you that there are far more distasteful link building methods than social/comment spamming. I don’t think it will go away anytime soon and I doubt they will ‘destroy the web’ as some have insinuated. What is the important thing for SEOs to understand is that social media, for link building, is more about the exposure of the content and not grabbing the core links. The status of the link (followed or not) should never be the consideration… that is simply short-sighted.

What say you? How do you use social media for link building?


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