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Backlinks and Social Media: The Basics

Well over a year ago, we went over the value of having at least some social media presence to build backlinks to your site. However, as search engines shift from using traditional signals to user intent indicia to rank pages, more needs to be said on the power of social media to impact your efforts on the search engine optimization (SEO) front.

Background: Backlinks

Backlinks are a link back to your site from somewhere else on the internet. Despite slipping a bit, they are still one of the most important aspects of search ranking. Their importance is likely because search engines like Google see them as a great indicator that a particular site is relevant and important for a given search query which should, therefore, be prominent in the search engine results page (SERP). After all, if other people on the internet are nodding to your law firm’s site, it must be a good one, right?

Background: Social Media

Social media (note: media is plural for medium) describes a handful of sites that allow users to engage with other online – they’re a medium through which people can be social. The most prominent examples of these are, obviously, sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Together, though, social media sites give your law firm ways of engaging directly with potential clients and actively bringing your site to them, rather than passively waiting for them to come to it.

No-Follow Tags: The Great Obstacle

This makes it seem like social media would be a great place to build a robust backlink portfolio. By posting things on your social media outlets that link back to content on your site, you’d essentially be giving yourself a backlink, right?

Social Media Backlinks Nofollow TagsUnfortunately, while this is technically true, it’s not quite the case. If backlinks on social media counted for a site’s SEO and improved its rankings, everything would be incredibly easy to manipulate. Precisely because this would be too easy, nearly all social media sites – Twitter and Facebook included – use universal “no-follow” tags to stop search engines from counting backlinks on their site as points in your SEO score and, therefore, in your site’s ranking. So yes, technically, these links are backlinks. But no, because these backlinks are on social media, they do not impact your ranking.

But what if other users on social media share your posts? This would mean the backlink was not on your profile, but was on someone else’s, instead?

Also no. Social media sites use universal no-follow tags, so links site-wide don’t count in your ranking score.

However, sometimes, they do.

We’ll tackle this aspect of backlinks on social media in next week’s post.