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Using Social Bookmarking Sites The Ethical Way

By gerardmcgarry on 4th May 2007, filed in Search Engine Optimisation. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed. Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Social Bookmarking services allow people to store their bookmarks online and share them with other people. There’s a popularity element to the process too – most bookmarking sites publish lists of the currently most popular items based on a number of criteria.

Smart webmasters know that by getting their sites listed on the ‘popular’ lists means a major influx of traffic, which can result in:

  • Increases in RSS subscribers. A number of sites have documented a rise in subscribers after a post becomes popular on a social media site.
  • Increased links back to your site. Many bloggers find things to write about on social media sites. If you’re popular, expect lots of nice links back from other blogs.
  • Google Juice. The increased backlinks will ultimately result in better PageRank with Google and therefore higher placement in search engine listings.
  • Reputation. As all these factors come into play, your site has the potential to become a trusted resource and this can all reinforce your reputation as an expert in your niche.
  • Better advertising revenue. Maybe not immediately – social media users are an ad-blind crowd. But increased traffic and better SERP placement is likely to see better advertising opportunities over time.

As you can see, there is a lot to gain from leveraging social media sites. Note that I didn’t say ‘exploiting’ social media sites.


Seeding is the practice of submitting links to social media and bookmarking services like Digg,, StumbleUpon and Reddit. There are countless others, although the impact of seeding is less if the service is less popular. Which explains why attaining the Digg front page is the goal for many bloggers!

Seeding becomes controversial when you’re only promoting your own site, or you’re seen to be submitting stuff purely to gain traffic. This is frowned upon by the users and moderators of social bookmarking services for a very good reason – it’s considered to be spamming. And everybody hates spammers.

The only exception to this rule is if you’re creating quality content and otherwise participating in the community. If you’ve created a unique article or post that will offer real value to visitors, then there’s nothing wrong with seeding your own pages. Nicer if someone else submits it for you though.

My Suggestions For Ethical Bookmarking

  • Limit your activity. Not all social networking services will yield a result, and some are barely used at all. Why waste time with multiple submissions – you could be creating great content!
  • Participate in the community. There’s a reason they call it Social Bookmarking – it’s all about people and connections. Find people with similar interests, comment where you can and build a solid friend list. You might actually enjoy it…
  • Don’t just seed your own stuff. Share the resources you find interesting, particularly in your niche. It’ll vary your submission list and it’s a great way to reward other bloggers whose writing you admire. If you only seed your own stuff, you’ll look like a spammer.
  • Be inspired by the community. Lots of bloggers get their inspiration from their social bookmarking tool of choice. They can also discover great writing in their area that they might never have found before. All this can generate ideas for you to write about and experiments to try on your own website.
  • Above all, don’t spam. Not every post is worth submitting to a social bookmarking service. Shorter posts, or link posts that point out a resource but don’t offer any real insight are examples of this.
  • Hope that people start to seed your pages. The Holy Grail of Ethical Bookmarking – in my opinion – is when people start watching your blog or website and seed your links for you. Word of mouth is better than self-promotion any day of the week!
  • Seed other people’s pages. Reward websites and writers that you enjoy by bookmarking their work. It’ll give them all the benefits listed above, and your Digg account won’t look quite so spammy!

Start Your Ethics Engines

Creating an account on every social bookmarking service available is counter productive, spammy and a waste of time. I believe that you’ll really only see benefits from social bookmarking if you’re participating in the community. That means seeding other people’s pages, commenting on posts and building up a network of friends.

Also, by focussing on one or two particular sites, you stand a greater chance of success with your bookmarking. And it’s long accepted knowledge that when you become popular at one site, it won’t be long before your content gets seeded to other bookmarking services. For instance, if you hit the front page of Digg, you stand a shot at getting popular on or reddit.

Self-promotion fuels hostility in social bookmarking users. Do it too much and you can expect a backlash. Let’s push to drop mercenary linkbaiting in favour of participation and fair use of social bookmarking services.

5 Responses to “Using Social Bookmarking Sites The Ethical Way”

  1. Todd Sieling said on May 9th, 2007 at 4:32 am :

    This is a great article, Gerard; thanks for writing it! I think the difference really does come down to participating in a community rather than trying to brute force one’s way into rankings. Ma.gnolia has a very strong focus on the person behind a collection of bookmarks, which we think is important when discovering new people and building a circle of trusted referrers.

    When people have link collections that are varied and reflect a person with some depth and multiple interests (rather than a singular focus on promotion), others are more likely to take them seriously, trust their work and come back out of genuine interest.

    And in the end, the best way to game the system is to not. It doesn’t take a fancy strategy – just being a real person in an online community works!

  2. Alister Cameron // Blogologist said on June 21st, 2007 at 10:15 am :


    This is some really good sensible advice. Well done ;)

    I do fear that some of us bloggers, desperate for traffic from here or there, can too easily ignore the ethics of it all.


  3. WebDrops said on August 3rd, 2007 at 7:28 am :


    Thanks a ton for these great advice… yes you are right while promoting sometimes people do fall in the trap of spamming… but i guess some real good advice can help and I also liked what Todd Sieling said “just being a real person in an online community works!”… thanks for that as well :)

  4. Michelle said on October 24th, 2007 at 12:01 pm :

    Great article Gerard. I have to admit when I first got involved in Social Bookmarking I got a bit over excited and perhaps submitted too many of my own blog posts.

    Hopefully I’m more balanced these days!

  5. Sohit Karol said on March 29th, 2008 at 2:38 am :

    Great article!
    But I wonder if some people/companies have already found a way to dabotage the “democratic” nature of such bookmarking sites…every now and then, you come across some stores which should not be on the main page..but these folks look like any other regular user, so its hard to catch them.
    My two cents….

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