Buttons, Buttons, Everywhere – Site Owner, Beware!

Placing social media buttons all over blogs and web sites has been a hot trend. Webmasters feel that adding these small buttons to their website will increase their social traffic. In some cases this is true, but in most it is not.

If you look at the article below, there are two social media buttons within the red box that I’ve highlighted:

Let’s zoom in:

The first button is for Del.icio.us, and the second is for Digg. You would think that people click on these buttons, which might cause the article to appear on the Del.icio.us popular page and the Digg homepage. This article was good and had the potential to do well on social sites. However, it didn’t get popular on either of those sites. Instead, it ranked on a third social media site – Reddit:

Why did this story do well on Reddit despite the fact that a button for Reddit was not placed on the article? Here are the two main reasons:

First, most people place these social media buttons on every page of their site, which causes them to become common and blend into the design. If this is how you place them, no one is going to click on them, which will just cause these social media buttons to potentially take up valuable website real estate.

Second, you are scattering your visitors to sites that they are probably not familiar with. Even in the technology industry, there are millions of people who don’t know what Digg or Del.icio.us are. The way these sites work is that the more votes you get, the higher your chances are of getting on the homepage. By giving your visitors multiple options, you might decrease your votes on each individual social media site, thus decreasing your chances of getting on the homepage.

For an SEO analogy, think how many people have learned that it’s often better to try and build links to one particular page, for a particular topic, rather than to several of them. Just as you want to concentrate your link love, so you want to concentrate your vote love.

Due to this, I don’t recommend placing all of these small social media buttons your website. If you have content that is potentially worthy of social media sites, pick the site (and its audience) that it is most suited to your article and place a big social media button just for that one website. Another option is to specifically tell your readers to vote for your story on that particular social media site, right within the story or content you’ve created.

Whatever route you decide to take, just make sure you do not overdo it. If you constantly ask for votes, your readers will get used to your solicitation and begin to ignore it.

Neil Patel is co-founder and CTO of ACS and writes regularly on social media issues through the company’s blog, Pronet Advertising. The Let’s Get Social column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social | Social Media Marketing


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  • http://www.rrove.com David Quiec

    Point taken but you are missing from the bookmark effect. I’ve found that if you have these buttons, you can use diggers to push you to delicious popular. You get a double dip this way.

    And, if you notice, you have two buttons here… :p

  • http://www.ericward.com eric_ward

    Neil – So true. I call the overuse of these chicklets “chicklitter” :) I’ve used the Socializer as a way to clean up the mess – http://ekstreme.com/socializer/
    and have a hunch that this type of solution will be one answer. I expect companies will write their own socializer-esque type of gateway page, which will reduce the chicklitter to a single link.


  • http://www.currybet.net Martin Belam

    Ha! Ha! And do you see no irony in the fact that at the bottom of this story you have:

    Subscribe, Share, Bookmark This Story:

    Subscribe to this feed • Email this • Digg This! • Save to del.icio.us • Reddit It • Submit To Netscape • Stumble It! • Google Bookmark This • Furl This • Fark It • Share on Facebook • Blog This • Add to Yahoo MyWeb2 • Add to Technorati Favorites! • Seed This


  • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

    I see plenty of irony! However, I’m still comfortable with many of the small links there. They’re easy to implement, and some of them are there because our own readers have said they want them handy (say to bookmark at Google or Delicious).

    I’ve long had mixed feelings about the more intrusive buttons. I added the Digg and Delicious ones about three weeks ago as an experiment. In particular, Digg rolled out a new style button that was more interactive. I wanted to see how it worked.

    The Digg buttons haven’t been that useful and even less so since Digg is happy to allow unknown people to continue to bury every single one of our stories (described more here). You’ll likely see them go away and instead me returning to doing what I used to do, putting bigger buttons out selectively on stories as Neil suggests. But I’ll still likely keep the smaller text links for some services, as well.

  • http://blog.smtusa.com Brent

    Would you place four or five call to actions at the bottom of your web page? “Subscribe to this feed”, “Email this feed”, “Digg It”…

  • http://weblogs.macromedia.com/jd John Dowdell

    One other reason to critically examine the number of third-party links on a page is for accessibility to those on constrained connections… when there are more than twenty media requests on a page, and a few such pages are loading simultaneously in the background, then the stack of HTTP connections can easily time-out before delivery.

    (Another reason is for privacy: If a page makes a request for a small graphic to Amazon, Digg or others, then the IP address of the viewer is sent to these (potential) cross-site viewing trackers.)



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