The post today deals with link building using social media. Most SEO practitioners love to use social media to build backlinks to a site. It is a powerful method and can gain numerous inbound links in a short period of time.
For this, the content has to be of high quality along the lines of linkbait and capable of going viral. It gets picked up by various social media properties and earns lot of link love. Yet, there are people who complain that they are not having success in using this technique. One of the major reasons for failure is the inability to build relationships.
The most impressive feature of social media is that links obtained are completely organic, very editorial in nature and highly valuable. The more number of social media properties that link to your site, the greater is the domain diversity and so is their domain trust. All these factors definitely boost your site on the SERPs. The success of social media in promoting your site also depends on the service or product you provide.
There are a few steps you can take to improve your external link profile. It is true that visitors from social media sites may not be targeted or suitable for your product/service that you offer on your site. But interested users will certainly provide links to interesting stuff on your site.
1) Indirect Process Of Link Building:
Use of social media for link building, albeit a lengthy process, is extremely rewarding. It is not a hands free process as some would like you to think. The general belief is that you create user accounts on major social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Digg and Reddit with your user profile linking back to your site. Other users would follow your profile links and end up on your site. This can happen if you are a celebrity and not otherwise.
The indirect method can be diagrammatically represented as:
The indirect process of link building involves having quality content on your site. You must register (if you already are not part of online communities) for user accounts on the major social media properties.
First and foremost, build relationships amongst the various online communities. Get to know others who share the same interests as yours (and hence your specific industry relevant product/service) and paritcipate in conversations. If it is a discussion, leave a comment that adds value to the conversation and to the topic in whole. Be courteous and polite to everyone. Avoid hype and flame.
You must also realise that promoting a baby nappy product on Digg will never see the light of the day as the Digg community is dominated by tech savvy younger crowd. A more mature gathering can be found at Facebook or Gather where such products can be targeted to the right crowd. Ensure that you put in efforts to gain traction in the right places.
Assuming you are an established user in particular social media sites and you have a good following, a good post with a catchy title linking to great content on your site gets popular and goes viral and gets linked to by other sites, blogs, forums, press releases and rss feeds. Rand at SEOmoz refers to these propagators collectively as Linkerati. It is the links from Linkerati to your site that helps your site climb up the rankings on the SERPs.
2) Update Your Social Media Properties:
If you have an active blog going on your site with regular updates, most social media (SM) sites let you have a feed directly from your blog. This helps in keeping your social media account fresh and regularly updated. Some of the SM sites have their own internal ranking (Squidoo is a good example) and if your post is a featured lens, it gets lots of eyeballs and also gets promoted to the major search engines.
2) Thou Shalt Not Spam:
Everyone hates spam and the social media community is very intolerant of spam. If you try to post links to irrelevant stuff or excessive self promotion using your profile on various sites and you get reported, your account can be terminated. You will be shunned by the rest of the community. It is not easy to change your reputation online because negative comments cannot be edited or removed. It will be an uphill battle to salvage your reputation after the initial damage is done.
3) Engage With Your Community:
Not everyone can produce viral content at will. Linkbait is a double edged sword that has to be used carefully. It can be extremely successful or damage your reputation irreparably if done the wrong way.
Even if you cannot put out great content, you can be an active member and promote other people’s posts and become a popular figure in the community over time. Anything you say or do after attaining that position will give you lot of leverage.
4) Share Selflessly:
If you take an active part in the community and retweet your friends’ tweets on Twitter, share others links on your status update on Facebook, dig colleagues posts on Digg, stumble sites on StumbleUpon etc, you are sure to earn lot of goodwill from the community and others will generously pass their link love to you by promoting your posts and tweets and the like.
Give freely without expectations and the links to your site will follow. Selfless appreciation of everything going on in your community is the secret to getting more inbound links to your site. All this takes time and effort and it is not a fly by night operation. Building relationships is the key to your link building success in the social media sphere.
Ravi Venkatesan is a senior SEO consultant at Netconcepts, an Auckland search marketing consultancy , offering organic seo  and pay per click marketing services  to its clients in New Zealand and Australia.