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Social Media Link Building: The Master Plan for Link Building Domination

Picture of Connor Wilkins
Connor Wilkins

CMO, Direction.com

Our guide to social media link building

Done right, social media link building expands content distribution through earned media from followers and influencers alike — bolstering trust signals that search engines factor into higher rankings.

Let’s start with the basic understanding that social media links are, in fact, a type of backlink. Most social media websites are pages that Google crawls and “understands.” Social media pages can mention other sites, and these mentions are usually clickable links. So let’s get the false dichotomy “social vs links” out of the way: social media links are links.

The reason why social media links are usually discarded in terms of their SEO value is because of the way they are set up technologically.

These links are usually redirects, images that link to sites, text mentions, and everything else that most professional SEOs would normally discard since they are not your “good old” anchored do-follow links. But that’s a very skewed approach that makes businesses miss out on a lot of promotion opportunities.

Yes, social media links may not carry too much “conventional” SEO value, especially if you try to measure it with third-party SEO tools and link analyzers. But Google still crawls and detects them — it would be naive to think it doesn’t affect the authority of your website.

What are Social Backlinks?

Social backlinks in the context of SEO refer to links to a website or its content that are shared on social media platforms. These can be links to blog posts, articles, product pages, or any other form of web content that is shared by users on their social media profiles, pages, or groups.

The role of social backlinks in SEO can be understood in two primary aspects:

  • Indirect Impact on SEO Rankings: While search engines like Google have stated that social signals (likes, shares, etc.) are not direct ranking factors for search results, social backlinks can indirectly influence SEO. When content is widely shared on social media, it increases the visibility and reach of that content. This enhanced visibility can lead to more traffic, more natural backlinks from websites, and increased brand recognition, all of which are important SEO factors.
  • Direct Traffic and Engagement: Social backlinks can drive significant traffic to a website directly from social media platforms. This traffic can be valuable in terms of engagement and potential conversions. High engagement rates and low bounce rates from this traffic can indirectly signal to search engines that the content is valuable and relevant, which can support SEO efforts.

It’s important to note that the quality of social backlinks also matters. Links from reputable and active social media accounts may have a more positive impact than those from lesser-known or inactive accounts. Additionally, the context and relevance of the link to the audience it’s shared with can affect how effective it is in supporting SEO goals.

What is Social Media Link Building?

Social media link building is the practice of gaining links back to your website content by leveraging popular social media platforms and communities. The core goal is to earn authoritative backlinks from high-value social media profiles, groups, and forums relevant to your target audiences. This helps increase referral traffic and improve domain authority signals to search engines.

Some key things to know about social media link building:

  • It involves sharing your content across owned social channels as well as participating in external communities to gain visibility and engagement. Things like Reddit, LinkedIn groups, Quora spaces, and industry forums provide opportunities to organically embed links where valuable.
  • Quality and relevance is key – the links should come from profiles or communities with strong reputation and topical alignment to be maximally beneficial. Spammy or forced link placement can backfire.
  • Backlinks are not the only goal – traffic referrals, brand visibility lifts, lead generation etc can also flow through effective social promotion and community building. But the backlinks boost SEO rankings.
  • Tactics range from sparking viral shares of content to building loyal followings through consistent value-added engagement. Tools help manage but authentic relationship building is vital.

The major advantage of social media link building is capitalizing on existing platforms where your audiences already connect and discover content daily. Done strategically, it can elevate both search presence and direct traffic considerably through social referrals.

Google has explicitly stated that “Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google.”

Choosing the Right Social Platforms for Link Building

Selecting the optimal mix of social platforms to focus on when kickstarting a link building campaign should align directly with your audience, industry, and content format strengths.

Factor in where your target demographics, existing customers, and engaged communities already connect and consume information online. B2B companies might prioritize industry-dominated platforms like LinkedIn over others to maximize visibility. While visual content lends itself better to the Pinterests and Instagrams of the social world.

Major social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook groups, and Reddit provide built-in scale and community infrastructure to consider. Think through how each aligns with your business before determining where to focus link building efforts most heavily.

Look beyond the social media giants as well to niche platforms and online forums thriving in your industry. Whether it be tappedin.com for education or github.com for developers, examine more specialized networks with hyper engaged user bases. The context targeting inherent to niche platforms often leads to higher quality backlink opportunities less saturated by competitors.

Determining the right platform mix requires both data-driven analysis of audience behavior as well as first-hand testing across social channels. From backlink profile assessments revealing valuable referral traffic sources to engagement analytics on owned accounts, let data guide high-level prioritization. Then refine through experimentation publishing content and gauging traction. With a thoughtful social media link building strategy rooted in platform relevance, the impact multiplies rapidly.

4 Tactics for Driving Social Media Link Building

Executing a successful link building campaign through social leverages both original content creation and community engagement. The four primary tactics include:

1. Create share worthy content optimized for key platforms

Crafting content specifically designed to resonate on priority social channels makes sharing and linking more likely. This means using formats and styles suited to each – like brief threaded tweets rather than longform posts on Twitter or eye-catching visuals for Instagram Grid. Optimizing content for the platform fuels visibility.

2. Engage with influencers and thought leaders

Relevant influencers and brands with existing audiences provide immense potential for links and referrals. Engage through likes, shares, and comments while providing value. Collaborations taking things further establish relationships for ongoing promotion.

3. Provide value to online groups and forums

Participating in niche communities and forums through insightful commentary and advice earns trust for profile links. Consistently adding value rather than only self-promotion organically leads to link sharing.

4. Promote links across owned accounts

Encouraging followers across owned accounts to share or link to your content allows tapping existing audiences directly. Cross-channel posting expands reach further.

How to Optimize Content for Social Sharing

Creating compelling social content that gets shared and linked requires strategic optimization tailored to the platforms being leveraged. Some key elements to drive sharing include:

Visuals and graphics that stand out. Eye-catching images and bold graphics perform better across social posts. Visually striking content encourages more impressions, engages scrolling users faster, and leads to higher social engagement overall.

Conversational tone and style. Adopting an engaging, approachable writing style resembling real conversations makes pieces more shareable. This informal tone combined with narrative formats spreads readily through social channels.

Clear main message or “thesis.” Ensuring content revolves around a definite central theme or main message allows simpler sharing. When the core takeaway is concise, users easily grasp what to promote.

Actionable takeaways. Including practical tips or tactical next steps social followers can implement amplifies word-of-mouth distribution. The actionability gives users added incentive to share.

Fine-tuning content components like visual impact, digestible style, unified narrative focus, and usable advice pave the way for social virality. This optimizes opportunities for netting backlinks as followers put content in front of their own audiences. Checking performance analytics provides the data to continuously adapt and improve link driving content over time.

Standard Link Placement Tips

Link inclusion etiquette varies across social platforms, but when done appropriately can expand link building. Some of the top tactics include:

Links in profile bios/descriptions. Most social sites allow linking within expanded profile details visible to visitors. These serve as persistent URLs for every follower.

Include links in relevant posts when allowed. Within platforms permitting links directly in posts or updates, prioritize natural inclusion aligned to the surrounding content rather than forced inserts.

Links in user bios on platforms like Twitter and YouTube. Even if links get stripped from main posts, persistent user bio links stay rendering them ideal options. Just keep descriptions concise.

Checking each site’s specific guidance is important, but profiles, bios, and contextual posting offer repeat visibility that accumulates value over time. The links demonstrate thought leadership when paired with insightful commentary.

How to Find Link Opportunities

1. Leverage Relationships

Being active on social media will help you run outreach naturally and organically, which is the best way to go about it. No one likes to be pitched links — but when you contribute to the conversation regularly your pitch does not seem inappropriate or forced.

Focus on non-competing businesses and adjacent industries, don’t just stay in an echo chamber of your direct and indirect competitors.

Be consistent and automate as much as possible. Have lists of users you need to interact with and update it regularly.

2. Use the Search

Sometimes you can use the search on social media to find link placements — just like you would use Google’s search; e.g., searching for “guest post/blog post/new blog post” + “yourkeyword” and switching to “latest” on Twitter will give you a bunch of recently shared content that you may be interested in.

Pick between the accounts and interact with the best and most active ones.

3. Ask and Interview

Social media websites can help you connect with experts in the field. Each of the experts has a following and an ego — you can use both to your advantage. You don’t even have to look for local experts to get the local SEO benefit.

The funnel for link building this way would look like this:

  1. connect with experts on social media websites
  2. produce a post on your site interviewing them (the best part is you can take many at once)
  3. ask them to share and promote their interview

This can result in a lot of backlinks to your site and a lot of traffic. Each of the experts interviewed will link to the interview post from their site, and some of their followers will as well.

4. Connect With Consumers, Not Just Brands

Try to spot some fans of your products and services — establish relationships with them and interact in fun and outside-the-box ways.

Most consumers will not be running their blogs (although some of them will!), but they will be able to leave reviews and engage with you socially using likes and shares.

All of that adds up (especially the reviews!) and boosts the authority and relevance of your domain.

Tap Into Social Media Events and Contests

Engaging online communities can bring you some of the best links you can ever get. Also, these links will be the hardest for your competition to replicate, since they can’t be just bought or traded.

There are many social media contest ideas (e.g. in this post by Hootsuite) — you can engage social media users with contests, trivia, giveaways, viral challenges, call for poems/stories/submissions, and a lot more.

The best part about these activities is they can give you several tiers of links — the first tier coming from the actual event participants, and the next tier of links coming from people and brands writing about your activities (recaps, case studies, reports, guest posts, etc.)

This creates potential for perfect promotional sequences:

  1. Run a giveaway
  2. Get links from participants
  3. Publish a recap post with giveaway results and stats on your own blog
  4. Run an outreach campaign promoting that post
  5. Guest post about the results of your giveaway to marketing blogs
  6. Pitch links to your recap and the guest posts to more sites, and so on

Activities like these can be repurposed, and if you are working with smart link builders who know what they are doing, one engaging social media event or a contest can put you light years ahead of your competition.

Analyze Your Competitors on Social Media

You need to be closely monitoring everything your competitors are doing on social media, and you need to be strategic about it. Try to understand why they are doing what they are doing and how you can leverage that for growing your own backlinks.

Keep in mind, however, that your competition may actually not know what they are doing on social media and just act randomly. This is where you have a chance to get a step ahead of them since they would be easier to beat.

Hijack your competitors’ fans and followers, repurpose their content, engage with their partners, and outreach to their links. No need to get obsessed with it, but it’s always a good idea to be doing everything they are and a lot more.

Participate in Campaigns and Events That Other Brands Run

Sometimes it’s a good idea to take part in a social media event, contest, or a viral challenge that’s run or started by some other brand. If you see an opportunity — jump on it, especially if the campaign is started by a non-competing business.

However, as we remember our main goal here is building more links, so gather all mentions of the contest/event/challenge you took part in — use Google or Google Alerts for that and gather all the mentions. Reach out to them, tell them you participated, and offer your commentary as a brand or a professional (it has to be meaningful though!) the chances are pretty high that your commentary will get published with a link.

Social Media Link Building = Multiplier of Engagement and Authority

Strategic link building is more pivotal than ever for robust search visibility. As social platforms continue their unprecedented expansion, integrating social media emerges as a required link building pillar for serious brands.

The reasoning is straightforward – billions of people already gather on these networks. So optimizing owned channel content and thoughtfully participating in external communities aligns perfectly with surging engagement patterns. Traffic and improved authority scores follow.

Treat social platforms as the link building goldmine they are…

  • Identify where your audiences connect most
  • Craft compelling, shareable content suited to those sites
  • Provide consistent value through engagement

Doing so taps into built-in referral traffic pathways and strengthens SEO rankings signals simultaneously. That 1-2 punch of direct visits and improved search placement means embracing social link building is now utterly indispensable. The data-backed dominance of these platforms renders them centerpiece opportunities link-minded organizations must seize.

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