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The Great Social Bookmarking Debate

Social bookmarking is best exemplified by sites like Pinterest, Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. If you understand what makes these three sites similar, you already understand social bookmarking. It’s nothing more than ‘creating links to content on a platform that allows you to share them with others.’  A few years ago, before Google Penguin hit, social bookmarking was pretty much considered absolutely standard SEO procedure.

Today, that might not be the case any longer — but it’s not absolutely out as an SEO tactic, which has led to a bit of a debate in the SEO community. There are those people who say all social bookmarking is a waste of time, and there are those who say it should make up a third or more of all of your SEO efforts.

Part of the confusion comes from the word ‘social.’ People hear the word ‘social’ and they assume that you’re talking about social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Social shares from those sites do in fact influence your page’s ranking, and links from those sites can provide traffic for years. But are sites like Digg and Reddit social enough to count as ‘social signals’ as far as Google is concerned?

The simple answer is we don’t know, exactly.  We absolutely do know that Pinterest shares are a strong social signal. But only Pinterest really keeps up with the likes of Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter in terms of impact on your ranking. Diggs, Reddits, Stumbles, and their lesser-known +1s simply don’t seem to have any direct impact on a site’s ranking.

Why That Might Not Matter

Now, there’s a pretty solid reason to go ahead and get into the social bookmarking scene regardless: because social bookmarking sites can provide long-term, high-yield traffic even if they don’t affect your position on the SERPs.

For example, if you can find a subReddit relevant to your industry, find a popular post every month or so, and link back to your site in a way that presents your link as authoritative and non-commercial, you can build several hundred visits a month just from that one source. If your page is built to be highly intriguing, funny, powerful, and/or interesting to an average Joe, you can push yourself a meaningful amount of traffic by submitting your site to StumbleUpon every month or two.

In short, if the purpose of SEO is to get traffic to your site, you might not achieve mad SEO using social bookmarking — but you can use the bookmarking sites to achieve the same goal without Google’s intervention by putting up quality content and attending to your accounts on those sites.

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