External links to a website have long been a prized possession for webmasters and those who earn a living at SEO or from online sales. Links, especially those from authoritative, relevant sites, are still the currency of the Web. They can really boost to a site’s rankings in Google and other search engines.
However, recently the rise in popularity of social networks has made getting noticed on these sites have real value. Websites want to be seen where their current and potential customers are. With the amount of link manipulation going on around the Web for search rankings, links are starting to have less value. This is just one of the reasons why I’d rather have social network shares than links.
The Power of a Share
In a way, a social share is similar to a link. The visitor to the site is giving the content a vote of confidence and trust that is of value. But with a share, they are doing this in a more public way in front of their online communities.
Today, most people are spending much more time on social networks than on Google. Whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google +, or other social networks, a share can have much more value than a link. Social networks also tend to favor younger demographics, which can pay dividends going forward as those customers increase their incomes and engage in more discretionary spending.
A Facebook user could have hundreds or thousands of “Friends”, and then those friends can reach many other friends on the network. The same principal applies in different forms on the other social platforms: a tweet can be retweeted, and a share in Google + could potentially reach millions if it goes “Hot on Google+”, as could a video on YouTube video if it goes viral. You could leverage this by building up your networks and your brand on the Web.
One of the great things in social media is its potential multiplier effect, which is more difficult to get from links. A link by itself isn’t really that interesting and doesn’t build a fan base. And of course, a social media share can include a link, which is an added bonus. Those new visitors to the site can also sign up for the channel, RSS feed or bookmark it. And the next time you produce content, you can get more eyeballs to it.
Once content is shared, whether it is an interesting article, comment, a picture, a graphic, a video, or a combination of elements, it can also create a cascading effect. People want to be in popular neighborhoods and if something new becomes popular, it can really catch fire. Suddenly 10 tweets could turn into 20, which could turn into 60, and so on.
So How Do You Balance Focusing on Social vs. Links
There is a lot of debate how much social networks influence search rankings. Most SEO experts agree that social signals are increasingly becoming a factor in search rankings. The truth is that if you want to market a website or company, in most cases social should be a key component of a marketing strategy. So making social platforms creative, interesting and engaging should be a real priority.
Building up your social media presence and shares can also build up your site and brand’s trust, authority, and user engagement. This can correlate to more links. A strong and broad social media presence also generate a lot of consistent referral traffic. You can build up a fan base of loyal followers or even brand evangelists that can be loyal customers and provide great word of mouth referrals.
Social network traffic also has the added benefit of a website being not so reliant upon Google algorithmic changes. You want a diversified source of traffic, just as you want a diversified source of income. Spreading out your referral traffic and targeting the social network sites that generate the highest quality traffic should be a primary focus for all websites.
Author: +Jason Nelson