Easy to Fix Social Media Sharing Roadblocks to Link Building

roadblock*

Social media shares are the new links, we heard that and read that a lot in recent years. It might not be completely true yet, the old school hyperlinks still haven’t been forgotten by Google. You can’t ignore social media though.

Link building today means engaging on social media and making your site shareable onsite.

We are experimenting on our blog here as well, it’s still pretty new and hasn’t its final form yet. We’re not the only ones where the blog is a work in progress it seems. I’ve seen many notable tech, search and SEO blogs struggle with shareability recently. I made some screenshots and decided to write about the issues that are pretty common even among Web-savvy bloggers.

These are pretty easy to fix social media roadblocks to link building that can be fatal though when overlooked. You actively prevent people from sharing in some cases or make the shares look spammy and worthless!

Using Headline Formulas Everybody Else Uses

how-to

In case you want your post to get overlooked make sure you use a well known and often used headline formula. By now most people stopped using lists but the “how to” plague is still going strong. You get bombarded so often with “how to” postings you will never be able to implement anyway that many people tend to ignore them by now.

There is nothing wrong with DIY actionable advice people can follow right away.

Just don’t start the headline with “how to” or you will join dozens of others who have a very similar headline. Make sure the value proposition is more than just “how to” and stress the actionable part in your headline. Today I chose “easy to fix” instead of “how to”. It’s a bit longer and maybe not perfect but the positive term “easy” is what the people look these days for.

Other enticing adjectives may be

  • “unique”, “one of a kind”
  • “quick”, “fast”
  • “safe”, “trustworthy”.

There is a lack of all those. Even Google loses trust by scrapping services millions of users rely on. There are huge posts with solutions but rarely “quick” ones. There are tons of content every day but most of it is redundant instead of unique.

Btw. the screenshot above shows the Inbound.org frontpage a while ago. You may argue that all the posts have ended up there, notice the numbers though? Pretty small. Also which one do you click in such a case? It’s too much of the same.

Partly Hiding Your Sharing Buttons

cut-off-sharing

Did you know that some browsers, like for example Firefox or Opera, have sidebars? Also did you know that on Windows you can put your taskbar on the side as well?

I know, you are probably on a Mac or using Chrome like al the cool people. In the screenshot above you see a typical issue with one of those pretty popular floating sharing bars. They are great unless you can’t see or click them. The post has a lot of shares despite that but I wasn’t able to share it.

You may argue that not many people use sidebars limiting the space on the left. What about the vertical space?

I’ve also seen bars with too many buttons so that you can’t reach the lower ones at all because they are scrolling along below the fold. Even in case you manage to reach the button you may still get prevented for from sharing on Google+ for example because there is not enough room to display the sharing box below or above your button:

sharing-on-google-plus

You can see the sharing box all right can’t you? Yes, unfortunately I wasn’t able to share this post either because each time tried to write something into the textarea and moved the mouse over it, the box would move up and I couldn’t add a text to the share.

In other cases, quite often, the Google+ box moves partly below the fold and hides the button.

Let’s consider a third example that speaks for itself. The buttons are already cut off to some extent and then there is layer overlapping them:

pc-world-cut-off-buttons-feedback

Fewer buttons and other distractions may be a solution. Another one is placing the buttons on top or below the post where there is always enough room. A modern solution would be to show the buttons on demand when people perform a mouse action onsite. I use Markerly for inline embedding on my own blog.

[Note to self, I can’t click the LinkedIn button on our blog either.]

Too Many Buttons or Zeros

sharing-buttons

So we’ve seen that sometimes too many buttons will result in not enough space to display them or the share boxes. Like in the early days of social media many sites tend to display more and more buttons. 5 years ago we had dozens of “social bookmarking” buttons, now we have social networking buttons with numbers of shares displayed.¬† I call it a CTA overkill.

Assuming that you have followers on all sites or asking the people to share on several sites may seem like a good idea but we know from usability testing that showing more than two choices results in paralysis. The user is rather inclined not to click or choose at all.

Think about the sites your audience is really on, or you are targeting and then only add the most important ones.

For example on SEO 2.0 I had a Twitter button by Topsy on top and a Google+ button below the post until Topsy discontinued the buttons and I switched to Markerly.

Do you really think people will share your SEO advice on baby photo sharing site Facebook? Some will, but you may lose a lot of shares on more targeted sites elsewhere. I rarely share the same stuff everywhere.

A SEO site that has Reddit and Pinterest buttons? I don’t think so. On Reddit SEO = spam. On Pinterest SEO is probably the least popular topic of all. No wonder even such flagship content like Jonathon Coleman’s epic post doesn’t get shared much over there.

Another reason to show buttons on your postings is “social proof” in the sense of “look, 50 people have shared this already”.

In case you have too many zeros there it can easily backfire. The social proof says “nobody shares that crap, let’s bounce off here”. Use buttons without numbers in case you don’t expect people to share a lot. The Google+ buttons for example can be customized easily to hide the share number.

Adding Too Much or Not Enough

share-on-twitter

Most people do not know what to say when sharing so they just share the text you suggest them to share. In most cases it’s the headline. In case that one doesn’t fit they might not share the post at all. So

what you don’t want to do is keyword stuffing your shareable text or adding irrelevant text there.

Lately is seems to be en vogue to add your brand name to tweets when someone clicks your Twitter button. That’s annoying in some cases but in others it may make your tweet too long to get shared at all.

Note how in the example above there is a second mistake: the actual Twitter handle does not show up, instead it shows the template default text which is “[twitter]”.

It’s sad, it was an excellent post. I removed the very long self-promotional part but overlooked the broken handle. Of course nobody retweeted that.

Another tweet that went wrong recently was one where I just wanted to copy a passage of text from a post to quote it. Sadly the prominent blog had an automated sharing script running that forced you to copy a link to it. It broke the whole tweet:

tweet-quote-copy-paste-issues

Adding too much text etc. is a problem, not adding enough of it is a problem too. On Pinterest you can’t pin unless you add some descriptive text to the image:

pinterest-description

Pinterest usually takes the text you put into the alt-attribute but not always. I haven’t found out yet on what it depends. Anyway, not having an alt-attribute at all will result in an empty description. Some people then just add a dot as in “.” to get their pin. That’s not ideal. Others may give up altogether.

As you see I have taken the examples from quite reputable sources. We have some issues here as well we’re working on right now. So probably you will have some broken sharing features too. Test them and fix them. It’s an easy fix in most cases that earns you a lot more shares aka new links.

* Creative Commons image by WSDOT.

3 responses to “Easy to Fix Social Media Sharing Roadblocks to Link Building

  1. Tad,

    I agree completely with you when you write about the epidemic of boring “How To” titles. Despite the over-saturation of these types of headers, I still frequently see blogging tips and advice gurus suggesting those types of titles as optimal.

    As you rightly note, you can still write actionable titles without resorting to the same old “How to blah blah blah” routine.

    1. Yeah, that’s the problem. There is a fine line between usable and overused. As many people advise you to use “how to” headlines/content and multitudes do it you have to resort to more advanced techniques to rise above the noise level.

  2. Tad,

    I agree completely with you when you write about the epidemic of boring “How To” titles. Despite the over-saturation of these types of headers, I still frequently see blogging tips and advice gurus suggesting those types of titles as optimal.

    As you rightly note, you can still write actionable titles without resorting to the same old “How to blah blah blah” routine.

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