Social Bookmarking for SEO in 2023: An Outdated Method
In the ever-evolving SEO landscape, backlink acquisition has been a priority as one of Google’s ranking factors. But what about social bookmarking? Is it worth it? How has Google’s focus on social bookmarking websites like Tumblr, Evernote, Reddit, and Pinterest changed over time? You’re probably here because you’re wondering if it’s still a worthwhile strategy.
To answer the question, in short, it’s not. At least… not how SEO specialists have been used to doing it for the last decade. Social bookmarking in 2023 looks different, largely in part because of how Google prioritizes information with its new algorithmic updates. Social bookmarking isonly relevant when the bookmark itself is shared or interacted with, but only for the benefit of those reading- not for search engines. Read on for a more in-depth review of this backlink acquisition strategy and why we think it’s an outdated method.
For Starters – Know These Key Terms
Backlink – A backlink, also known as an inbound link, is a hyperlink from one website to another. It acts as a reference or citation and is essential in SEO as search engines use backlinks to assess a website’s authority, relevance, and popularity, which can impact its search engine rankings.
Domain Authority – Domain Authority (DA) is a metric developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank in search engine results. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 100, with higher scores indicating a stronger likelihood of ranking well in search engine results pages (SERPs). Similar audit/tracking websites such as Semrush and Ahrefs have also come up with formulas to measure things like page authority, authority score, website authority, etc- but they’re all very similar. Backlinks play a significant role in determining a website’s Domain Authority, as the quality and quantity of inbound links from reputable and authoritative sources can positively influence a website’s overall DA score.
Ranking Signal – A ranking signal is a criterion used by search engines to assess and rank web pages in search results based on factors like content, user experience, backlinks, and website structure.
Google’s Helpful Content Update – Google’s August 2022 “Helpful Content Update” prioritizes rewarding creators who produce original, valuable content that provides a satisfying experience to readers. The update introduces a site-wide ranking signal to identify and devalue content that doesn’t offer significant value to users. This emphasizes the importance of creating high-quality, people-first content and removing unhelpful content to improve overall site performance in search results.
So… What is Social Bookmarking Exactly?
Social bookmarking is a method of saving, organizing, and sharing web pages through online platforms. Users save URLs with tags for categorization and can make bookmarks public or private. It’s essentially a method that is meant to serve as an offline source of important information. In the past, business owners and marketing agencies have commonly practiced the act of “social bookmarking” by sharing relevant information about a website, service, product, or company to one of the relevant websites, therefore improving the visibility of the targeted website landing page.
Previously, a saved social bookmark was a way to signal to Google that the landing page was relevant and important. This improved rankings and domain authority, increasing the volume of people on the website. For example, as a digital marketing agency, I may have previously created a bookmark that included a keyword as well as a link back to the page I’m speaking about (see below).
RiZen Metric’s case study to test out social bookmarking as a ranking factor in 2022- no plot twist here – the old way of social bookmarking had no effect on rankings. Google simply ignored the links.
How Have Social Bookmarking Websites Changed Over the Last Decade?
Social bookmarking has undergone a notable shift in SEO importance. While it once played a more direct role in generating backlinks and influencing search rankings, search engine algorithms, especially Google’s, now prioritize high-quality content and natural, authoritative backlinks over quantity. Sites such as Reddit are focused on user engagement, providing users with up-to-date information that they’d be interested in.
Google’s Stance on Social Bookmarking
With the advancement of search engine algorithms, especially Google’s algorithms, the importance of social bookmarking for SEO has evolved. Google, in particular, has become much more sophisticated in assessing the quality and relevance of backlinks. They now focus on the authority of the linking domains, the context and relevance of the linking content, and the overall user engagement and experience.
This backlink acquisition tactic has actually been a hot topic of Google’s office hours, with experts directly speaking to the matter.
Quick Answer: Google Ignores the Links
In a webmaster hangout session with John Mueller in 2019, he answered a question that a user had about social bookmarking. While the nature of the question was asking if it has any result in a website being marked as spam, John quickly confirmed that it likely doesn’t because Google marks social bookmarking links as spam anyways and simply ignores them!
USER: “I social bookmarked my site. After one week, I noticed that the site which I bookmarked has been marked as spam. Do the pages have any effect on my ranking?”
JOHN MUELLER: “I don’t think those pages would have any effect on your ranking because probably we’re also ignoring those social bookmark sites, the links from there. That’s a really, really old SEO strategy, and we have a lot of practice in recognizing those kinds of links and just ignoring them.”
Google Answers “Is Doing Off-Page SEO Submissions to Directory and Social Bookmarking Sites Worth It?”
In case you can’t watch the video, here is a screenshot directly from the May 2023 SEO Office hours transcript:
In what cases does Social Bookmarking help a website?
Although it may indirectly and unlikely improve the domain authority of your website, resulting in little to no increase in rankings and organic traffic, it can be a good source of referral traffic if it’s done right.
By sharing valuable and engaging content on social bookmarking platforms, websites can attract a wider audience and drive more organic traffic to their web pages. This is only possible if users can actually see the content, meaning oftentimes it’s necessary for the profile to have a following. Social bookmarking sites are highly unlikely to show content to a user from an account with no followers, only posting links back to their website. Similar to the algorithms of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, the more likes, shares, and follows an account gets, the higher the visibility.
Improve brand reputation
Consistently sharing valuable content through social bookmarking can enhance a website’s brand reputation and establish it as an authority in its niche. For certain industries, consumers may be found on sites like Reddit or Pinterest, leading to a gateway where you can get in front of your audience. Similar to how companies update on social media, it would be pertinent to update and engage on these sites as well.
Generate Social Signals
Search engines may consider social signals, such as the number of shares and engagement on social bookmarking platforms, as indications of content relevance and popularity, which can indirectly influence search rankings. Remember, a post with no follows, likes, saves, or shares will not be seen by anyone, let alone a search engine.
If you want to take this route:Focus on building your brand, targeting users that have an interest in your industry by building a following, interacting with similar posts, sharing, reposting, and providing unique value.
While social bookmarking may not directly impact a website’s domain authority or search rankings as it did in the past, it can still offer some benefits if used strategically. Social bookmarking can increase content visibility, improve brand reputation, and generate social signals that indirectly influence search rankings. However, to make the most of social bookmarking, it is essential to focus on building a following, engaging with users, and providing unique value to the audience. Ultimately, while social bookmarking may no longer be an SEO tactic, it can still be a valuable tool for driving referral traffic and enhancing brand visibility in the ever-changing digital landscape. It just won’t work as a way of building backlinks.