The Lost Art Of Social Sharing Buttons

Sharing buttons are no doubt one of the best ways to get your content shared via social media, email and other online channels. However, while many website owners agree that sharing buttons are a good thing, not everyone agrees on how to implement them. There are several ways to optimize these buttons to increase your shares — thus increasing traffic, engagement, and total online presence.

Optimizing your social buttons is as easy as doing initial research on your existing button traffic (if possible through Google Analytics or social button metrics) to make sure you are choosing the best networks, context, options, and code.

Choosing The Best Social Networks

As Doug Antkowiak of Search Engine Journal relates, too many social sharing buttons can “cripple decision making.” Many sharing buttons, like AddtoAny or ShareThis, include several networks to which a user can share content. However, the majority of online users only use five main social media networks: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

While this is a good guideline, the most popular social media networks for a given website may vary — for instance, StumbleUpon or Reddit might be better suited than Pinterest or LinkedIn for certain types of content — so be sure to take referral source reports from your website analytics into consideration when deciding which sharing buttons to use.

To eliminate any chance of crippled decision making, offer only a few options — say five or six, depending on your website layout — along with an “email this” button.

Making It Easy

It is important to make sharing as easy as possible, both for the website developer and the user. Many CMS platforms have plugins that incorporate several sharing buttons into one grouping, like ShareBar on WordPress. Most of these plugins allow you to customize which social networks you’d like to include and in what order.

Other developers may choose to hard code each social sharing button. Steve Shattuck of Bloomerang argues that hard-coding social sharing buttons is the best option, as it gives webmasters complete control over the placement and look of the buttons. Steve also suggests that the main social networks prefer that their button codes be used over plugin API versions. Native button codes are usually more up to date than third-party options and may load faster as well. However, it all depends on what looks and works best for your website.

Test the buttons regularly on a cleared browser to make sure there aren’t any bugs. Most users won’t report sharing bugs and will instead just choose not to share the content at all.

Picking The Right Context To Share

Rachel Freedman has a good point when it comes to choosing how to incorporate your social sharing buttons:

Context: I see this all over the place, especially with news publications. If you post the article (fictional, for example purposes) “Crazed Psycho Burns Down Entire City,” chances are your readers do not want to “Like” the story but rather “Recommend” or “Share” the story to their friends on Facebook.

This is a good example of why it is important to ensure that you’re using appropriate sharing language on your site. If your site sometimes includes negative information or news stories, that will necessitate different language from what’s used by a blog that focuses on positive stories or content with no emotional slant (like craft projects or budget advice).

It is also important to choose the best placements for your social buttons. Buttons linking to your website’s social media profiles are usually best in the header or footer (or both), while social sharing buttons should be placed as close as possible to the page content — under the title, beside the text as the reader is scrolling, and/or at the end of the article.

Button Customization

Another integral part of social button optimization is to ensure sure each plugin or button is customized to best fit your site.

social media sites

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Button variables to test might include:

  • Width and height
  • Color
  • Format or size
  • Visible share counts (it may be best to show share count if many of your posts don’t get a lot of shares, or to only show shares once a piece of content has gotten a certain number of shares)

Customizing these options can make the social buttons more noticeable or accessible, leading to greater user interaction.

Stalk Your Shares

Using Google Analytics social tracking and event tracking metrics, you can look at how and when users are sharing your content via social sharing buttons. To find out this information, Google Analytics provides an Activity Stream under the social plugins section of traffic reports to display information, including likes, tweets and shares.

Analyzing this information can provide valuable information by showing you what social buttons are most used, what content is most shared, and what time(s) of day content is shared most frequently. You can use this information to help guide your future content marketing and social promotion strategies.

Social sharing buttons can help you not only get more of your content shared via social media, but also give you a glimpse into what types of content is being shared the most. By combining this information with your existing social media and content strategy, you can not only increase traffic, but engagement as well.

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

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


About The Author: is the Senior SEO Manager for the agency, Red Door Interactive.

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  • Dennis Yu

    Jordan– wow, comprehensive article on sharing buttons! What are your thoughts on when to put a share button vs an open graph object (such as on

    We find that OGP is more powerful, but harder to track, since you have to find the object id of that url.

  • Jordan Kasteler

    Thanks, Dennis! There’s no one-size fits all for everyone. Always Be Testing (ABC) :)

  • Michelle Stinson Ross

    Great, actionable info, Jordan. Thanks for pointing out that there needs to be a distinction made between the sharing buttons and the following buttons. I’ve landed on a few sites where they had something I wanted to share, but all the buttons enabled me to do was follow :( Lucky for them I’m determined enough to copy and paste a URL when it’s really worth sharing.

  • Scott Allen

    I’ve tested every single social sharing plugin for WordPress, and I pretty much hate them all. Ok, not hate, but certainly it’s fair to say that not a single one of them has all the features I want. I was using Sharexy until it just suddenly stopped working, and I just don’t have time to troubleshoot it. I’ve switched to Flare, but I still had to do a ton of CSS tweaking to it to make it work in my theme…and to fix a feature that doesn’t work in it.

    Still waiting on the perfect social sharing plugin.

  • Jordan Kasteler

    Thanks, Michelle! For that reason I always keep browser plugins handy. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do much +1ing if I left it up to buttons.

  • Crest Media

    We created an infographic regarding common placement for social buttons on web pages. Jordan makes a valid point that there is no 1-size fits all solution, but there are some more common locations that can be used as a starting point for your testing. Feel free to check out the infographic on or our blog:

  • Durant Imboden

    On “evergreen” information sites like ours, sharing tends to occur in the form of links. People who are planning a trip to Elbonia and researching where to stay or how to ride the local metro tend not to click “Like” or “+1″ buttons when they find the information they’re seeking. On the other hand, they may link to a relevant article from a forum at TripAdvisor, Fodors, or CruiseCritic in answer to other travelers’ questions.

    A while ago, I took the social buttons off most of our pages to reduce clutter and speed page-loading, simply because we were getting so many more links than “Like” and “+1″ clicks.

  • Don Harrison

    I haven’t found a good social sharing plugin for WordPress that works well on responsive sites, particularly at mobile breakpoints. At least when it comes to posting a comment from the FB Like button. The “Post to Facebook” submit button is off screen!

  • AJ Ghergich

    I was looking into flare but I think it used an iframe for FB so you lose the comment box slide out on click..big issues because posts with comments are WAY better.

  • Rob Jenkins

    There is nothing worse than having a 3rd party social like code on your site and seeing that they have not adapted to an api update. Then having to wait around for them to do so. I say code it yourself if you can.

  • Michelle Stinson Ross

    If only I could +1 that reply :)


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