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Four Ways to Optimise Social Sharing on Your Website

12 September 2011 BY

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Recently, I was working on integrating social sharing buttons on a client’s high-traffic website, with the hope that even just by implementing the sharing buttons a small proportion of visitors will share / like / tweet various pages, thus having an impact on the website’s social referral traffic and number of social signals.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen straight away. There were several shares, but only just entering the double-digit threshold, which was well below my expectation considering the site had received hundreds of thousands of visits in that time. Apart from making the content more ‘shareable’, here are a few little tips and tricks I learnt that you can use to try and increase your rate of social shares without having to increase your site’s traffic.

Don’t assume people are going to share your stuff – ask them to share it

This sounds so obvious, but I bet if you took ten random websites that had integrated social sharing buttons, eight or nine of them wouldn’t be doing this. Adding a call to action such as ‘help us spread the word’ or ‘tell your friends’ does have a positive increase in shares.

I actually noticed this when I looked at where the social shares were coming from on my new book Get Noticed’s website.

Out of 106 social shares, only 9 came from the home page (illustrated below).

the remaining majority of shares (particularly ‘likes’) came from this page – where there is an explicit call to action to help us spread the word.

A/B test the location and quantity of share buttons

I had hoped to provide some recommendations on the best plugins, layouts, and on-page locations to display sharing buttons, but in reality there is no optimum universal layout for these. That said, the location and type of buttons you use do have a large impact on how accessible your content is to be shared and it is something I highly recommend trying to improve, particularly for high traffic sites where even a small improvement can result in a dramatic increase in shares.

I would recommend using an A/B split testing tool such as Google Optimiser combined with onclick tracking codes applied to the share buttons to identify which layout or button produces a higher rate of shares.

Add social proof – don’t make people think they’re the first to share

Many people don’t like to feel they’re the first to share or engage with a piece of content. If your posts are highly shared or you have a Facebook Page with a large number of likes, display this close to your social sharing buttons to add ‘social proof’ to your website / content. Also make use of the settings that Facebook and Google+

Optimise your title tags, Meta Descriptions, and Images for social

Something that I think is often not taken into account when encouraging social shares is that particularly on Facebook and Google+ you want people to leave your content on their wall i.e. not ‘hide’ or remove the post, which would remove any possibility of receiving traffic from these social sites.

What’s most likely to make people remove a post they’ve liked or +1’d from their profile? A crap image, spammy titles, non-sensical or embarrassing meta descriptions. Make sure they’re not just optimised for search but also social!

AUTHORED BY:
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Marcus Taylor is the founder of Venture Harbour, a company that specialises in digital marketing for the music, film, and game industries.
  • http://www.iCheckWebsite.com Anand

    Great – all of these things are extremely simple to do, but still many websites do not do it effectively. Based on my experience, I believe social proof is more or less there on most of the websites these days but Call to Action, crappy titles, images, meta etc is still missing.

    For call to action – Do you think people consider this as a favour (It is a favour, IMO) and that’s why they are a bit hesitant to use it or it’s just ignorance? Would be interesting to observe our own behaviour – why do we share? Do we share because we can see (realize) some benefits of sharing or would we do it as a favour to author?

  • http://www.linkjuice.co.uk Kes Phelps

    Yet another reason to create compelling meta descriptions… i love how this tag does so little for SEO yet is still such an important element to optimise. O the irony :)

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