The top social media networks used to provide some of the best opportunities for acquiring those all important 'dofollow' links that are so crucial for ranking well on search engines.
In 2013 our colleague Alesia Krush wrote a great blog post on how the top ten social sites stacked up in this regard, and how to take advantage of the best followed links on each.
A lot has changed since then, however, so we figured it was time to revisit those same sites (plus one addition!) and see what's changed in the past couple of years.
Let's get going!
Despite Google+ being created and owned by Google, links on the platform aren't given any extra significance or weight.
Up until a few years ago, the only followed link from Google+ was the link icon in the "Share what's new" section. Everything else - from text content links you share to comments from respondents - was always nofollowed.
Since then, Google+ has quietly nofollowed all of their links, including the link icon (internal links to other Google+ properties are still followed however).
You've always been able to add a description with links to any YouTube video, but unfortunately, those links have always been nofollowed.
In 2013, Alesia passed on a great tip when she discovered that your YouTube channel's social links in the header were actually followed links. In addition, if you used a free hosted service like WordPress.com (as opposed to a self-hosted site) or Tumblr.com, your header website link would also be followed.
Today, YouTube seems to have gone the same way as Google+ by nofollowing all of their external links.
A quick trip into the source code confirms that the links are indeed not followed:
Although they look important, most "pinned from" links on Pinterest are internal, meaning they won't lead directly to your website.
Back in 2013, however, your profile link used to be followed and provided an easy option for a high quality backlink to your site.
It seems like Pinterest has gone down the same road as Google and nofollowed profile links to both your website and other social networks. Again, a quick trip to the source code confirms what's going on:
Just as it was in 2013, your LinkedIn profile is typically one of the first search results that shows up for your website or name, making it a great indirect resource for driving traffic. You can also add three website links to your profile which can help with referring visitors back to your websites, but be aware that these links don't have any positive SEO value.
A further opportunity for adding links is the Publications feature in your profile:
These are useful links in the sense of boosting authority and driving referral traffic but again, unfortunately, they have no intrinsic SEO value. The articles themselves, however, are likely to rank highly due to LinkedIn's own authority. Managing this extra opportunity for content publishing can be seamless if you use a tool like BuzzBundle to quickly repurpose content from another blog or site.
Self-hosted WordPress provides site owners with the option of creating both followed and nofollowed links as they see fit. However, by default, WordPress nofollows all user-submitted links (such as comments) in an attempt to cut down on spam.
HubPages can be a great resource for information, but the service has had its problems with spam over the years.
In 2013, some of your account or profile links were followed if you had a high quality score. Today, however, even the most popular accounts have nofollow links implemented across the board.
Tumblr is another simple publishing platform and social network that has unfortunately attracted spammers and attempts to game the SEO system over the years.
Years ago, if you 'reblogged' a post (similar to liking a post), your profile link was followed. Today, however, all trackbacks and reblogged posts are nofollowed. In a similar manner to WordPress, links in original pieces can be set to dofollow or nofollow, but all comments are automatically nofollowed in an attempt to prevent spam.
Blogger, another Google property, used to have a reputation for fast indexing and followed links. Similar to Tumblr and WordPress, authors can set links to be either followed or not at their own discretion.
Comments on Blogger are heavily policed, however. All profile links are automatically nofollowed and text links are entirely disabled within comments themselves.
Reddit is one of the few social platforms left with followed links, which makes it a great opportunity for link building if you can hit the sweet spot of a particular sub-community's taste with some compelling content. You'll notice that advertising links are automatically nofollowed, but that's consistent with most networks.
BizSugar is a social news site where readers can submit content to be voted on across popular categories including business, entrepreneurship, social media and online marketing.
Content links are followed and BizSugar tackle potential abuse by employing a team of moderators to monitor spam. As with Reddit, there is a great opportunity to expand your reach and boost incoming links if you can create the right content to resonate with the site's audience.
Digg is a popular social news aggregator that curates and displays information from all corners of the internet across a dizzying array of subjects.
In terms of popularity, the site has fallen from its previous peak but still attracts millions of visitors per month. As with Reddit and BizSugar, you can submit a link that the community can then drive to the top of the ranks if it appeals to them.
There's good news and bad news about using Digg to generate dofollow links. The good news is that all links are followed. The bad news is that you're facing some stiff competition from the best sites around the world, and the front page listings are editorially curated, so your odds of landing on the main page are slim.
Are Social Network Links Still Worth Pursuing?
Things have changed significantly since 2013 in terms of links. Easy dofollow links from social networks are pretty thin on the ground these days and, where they are available, you're going to have to put in some serious work to snag them.
This isn't to say that you should stop trying to get links on social networks generally, though. Obsessive focus on dofollow links runs the risk of distracting from the real job of engaging with an audience and creating great content that's truly valuable for users. Social networks are hard to beat for bringing engaged users to your site, whether the links they use are nofollow or not.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Are you still actively trying to build dofollow links on social networks or are you making use of different strategies? Get in touch and let us know!