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Pretty much every business owner dreams of going viral online. Picture this: you post a link to your brand’s Facebook page, and go to bed. When you wake up, you’re inundated by a gazillion and one notifications. People are sharing your content like crazy, your website traffic is through the roof, and your sales have literally skyrocketed overnight. Now, wouldn’t that be a dream come true?

Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy to engineer virality, but here’s the good news: you can take certain steps that will help you earn more backlinks through social media. While we can’t guarantee that you’ll become an overnight sensation, you’ll definitely be able to rely on these techniques to generate a steady stream of traffic to your website; assuming that your conversion rate doesn’t change drastically, this will result in more sales, and more money in the bank.

Before we start looking at how exactly you can earn backlinks through social networking, we’ll address a frequently-asked question: do backlinks play a part in your SEO services strategy?

Now, there isn’t a clear-cut answer to this question, but here’s how Google’s Matt Cutts puts it: “Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index, and so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it then we can return that in our search results.” That being said, Matt Cutts has also stated that social signals (metrics such as Facebook likes and Twitter followers) do not affect search rankings.

Confused? Here’s our take: Cutts is basically saying that backlinks from social media websites do impact your rankings… but there’s no difference in impact between a backlink from a page with 50 followers, and a backlink from a page with 5000 followers. Now that we’ve gotten this sorted out, let’s dive into how to earn backlinks through social networking!

#1: Question and answer sites

One great way of getting backlinks is by answering questions on Q&A sites such as Quora and Yahoo Answers.

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The process is simple: you sign up for an account, search for a keyword which is related to your business or industry, and then start answering a few questions. Paste a link to your website, and presto, you’ve gotten a new backlink!

Before you rush off and start answering questions, though, here are some tips to keep in mind:

First, make sure the link you’re including in your answer is actually relevant to the question. If you’re spamming links which don’t answer the question at hand, you’ll probably get downvoted, and you might even get banned.

Second, don’t just copy an entire chunk of text off Wikipedia and/or Google, and call it a day. Instead, take the time to craft a helpful, comprehensive response. Flesh out your answer with examples, add in a couple of pictures (you can do this on Quora, but not Yahoo Answers!), and make sure your grammar is on point. The more your answer value-adds to the community, the more they’ll upvote it. This translates into more people reading your answer, and clicking on your backlinks!

Now, I know some people will read this and say: gosh, that seems like a ton of work. I don’t like the idea of having to write an essay every single time I want to get a backlink… maybe I’ll just stick with Facebook instead.

To these people, here’s what you need to know: if you’re intending to skip the answer sites altogether, and rely solely on social media sites, you’re making a huge mistake. Yes, it might be a lot easier and faster to post a backlink on Facebook, but it’s also that much harder to stand out on someone’s newsfeed. Basically, your backlinks will be nestled between pictures of their high-school friends getting engaged, and videos of cats. And you can’t fight with that.

On a site like Quora, on the other hand, things are completely different. People go to Quora with the specific aim of seeking out information, and they search out the topics they’re interested in. Assuming you have the relevant expertise, it’s easy to stand out. Plus, given that you get qualified traffic on these websites, you’re likely to experience more conversions with this crowd.

#2: Forums and blogs

Q&A sites aside, you can also try and get backlinks from forums and blogs. First, let’s talk about forums. Again, you search for the forums which are relevant to your industry, create an account, and start posting and linking to your website. Simple enough, right?

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Like how you would with Quora, make sure you include the backlinks to your website only when they’re relevant. This differs from forum to forum, but in most cases, people will call you out if you’re obviously just there to plug your product. (For example: your account is completely new, you’ve only posted thrice, and all of these three points are about how awesome your product or service is). Instead of going in with all your guns blazing, consider setting aside a month or so to interact with the community, before you start seeding those backlinks.

When it comes to blogs, the same rule on contributing to the conversation applies. Let’s say there’s this article on losing weight, and you want to post a comment so that you can insert a backlink to your eCommerce store, which sells blenders. A comment that runs along the lines of “Love the article! You can also eat healthy & lose weight by incorporating smoothies into your diet – and here’s where you can buy the best blender and smoothie maker there is!” is way too transparent.

As a general rule of thumb: if you’re just trying to drive traffic back to your website without interacting with the article in any meaningful way, that’s not cool. Instead, try sharing a useful tip or statistic in the comment – in this context, you might reference a study which talks about how its participants lost weight by swapping out their cereal for smoothies. This is something that’s useful to the other readers, and it showcases your product perfectly. Talk about a win-win!

#3: Social news websites

Reddit was built for social sharing, so why not use it to get backlinks to your website, right? There’s a caveat, though – if you create a new account and start aggressively promoting your own website right off the bat, you’ll probably get yourself banned or suspended from the site. So follow the same advice we mentioned in the context of forums – start interacting with the community first, and don’t post about your own website until your account is more “seasoned”.

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When you do start posting backlinks to your website on Reddit, don’t just share the link, and be done with it. Give your readers a little context, and offer some insights. Of course, it helps when if you’re linking to awesome, share-worthy content (as opposed to a product page). In general, case studies which give readers a step-by-step process which they can use to achieve a certain goal tend to do pretty well. Here are some examples:

[Case Studies] How to Take Your E-commerce Business from $0 to $1 Million

Follow Along as I Flip this Website – Case Study

Other than Reddit, there’s also StumbleUpon. This isn’t as popular as Reddit, and it’s more difficult to get traffic via this platform, so we won’t delve into the details. If you’re interested to learn more, though, this article will help you get started!

#4: Social media websites

With your social media channels, you should be linking to your website in your bio or profile. On top of that, you’ll also want to regularly Tweet or post status updates, and share backlinks to specific articles or content on your site.

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In the context of Twitter, here are some golden rules to abide by:

Use one or two hashtags per Tweet – this increases your engagement rate by up to two times. (Don’t be tempted to go overboard; if you use more than two hashtags, your engagement rate will actually drop by 17%).

Try and include pictures or mini-infographics in your Tweet, instead of just relying on plain text. The more it stands out, the more likely people are to read your post, share it, and click on your backlink!

When it comes to Facebook, here are the must-knows:

First, don’t just post as and when it’s convenient for you. Post during the times when your audience is the most likely to see your content, and click on your backlinks!

Second, get creative with your posts. Again, it’s all about standing out. You might find that posting short video clips and linking to your website in the caption works better than simply posting a link as a status update. Go ahead and experiment!

Lastly, here’s one final tip which is relevant to all social media websites: don’t be afraid to repost old content. You might have Tweeted or posted about a specific article before, but this definitely doesn’t reach all your followers (in fact, it doesn’t even reach the majority of your followers). Bearing this in mind, go ahead and “reuse” old content, and maximize its value. Your followers won’t even notice!

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