Social Bookmarking Site Networks Slapped by Google

google slapGoogle has been very busy updating its algorithm over the last year or so and many of the updates have hit certain social bookmarking sites. Note the operative word here – ‘certain’ sites, not all of them! There are most definitely some social bookmark sites that stand the test of time and enjoy high page rank and lots of traffic year after year.

IMAutomator allows you to submit to many of these high profile social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, Bibsonomy, Diigo, Bitly, FolkD and many others in just a few moments of your site. One of our goals is to ensure that our list of supported sites is always closely monitored and kept fresh. To that end we run a PageRank report daily which checks the PR of every site in the system.

Over the weekend just gone we noticed that around 8 sites in the system all dropped to 0 at the same time; they got Google slapped!

What was also significant is that all of these sites appeared to belong to some kind of network. They linked to each other which is in fact how we found them in the first place. We found one of the sites in the network, and then found the others through that initial site.

It’s easy to put up a social bookmarking site

Templates such as Pligg make it incredibly easy and quick to put up a social bookmarking site. Add to that the ease with which you can buy expired or soon-to-expire domains with PR for just a few dollars means that it’s very easy for someone to make a social bookmark network by buying up a few domains, putting Pligg or a similar template on them and then inter-linking them to keep the PR juice flowing.

We even tried such an experiment a couple of years ago. However, from our own experiments we found that this network idea for social bookmark sites was NOT a good idea. Within a few weeks, all the sites in the network had their Pagerank removed – they ended up at either 0 or unranked. With the purpose of social bookmarking in bulk being to get backlinks – have a bunch of PR0 backlinks isn’t going to do you much good! We removed that network.

Poor quality social bookmarking networks are short lived

poor quality social bookmark sites are short lived

However, because of this easy barrier to entry, new networks of social bookmark sites are popping up all the time. On the surface this seems like a good thing as there’s always fresh new sites for us to add to the system but in the long term it’s only good if those networks survive the Google algorithm changes. When a site drops to PR0 we deem it as too low value to be of benefit and so it’s is free of charge; and we remove them from the IMAutomator system pretty quickly 🙂

But there’s also another negative point that may not be apparent at first glance. Imagine you are the owner of one of these networks. You’re not creating it for fun; you’ll be monetizing that network in some way. Indeed we often find such sites are plastered with ads and some of them in a particularly intrusive way – full page ads that cover the whole screen, tons of pop ups etc.

For us, this is not actually a problem because once that site is plugged into the IMAutomator system, the members never see those ads – our submission engine sees them and our engine doesn’t care 🙂 However, coming back to the owners of these bookmark networks… if you have a large (or small) network of sites and overnight there’s a shift in the Google algorithm and all of those sites drop to 0 what is going to happen? They will almost certainly not be getting the traffic they used to.

There are thousands of social bookmark sites to submit and whether you submit to them manually or use an automated submission service such as ours or pay for a manual submission service – either way that is going to cost you in either time, money or both. So, anyone who uses social bookmarking as part of their link building strategy is most certainly going to want to get the best value for their time and money so all those PR0 sites drop to the bottom of the priority list.

Less submissions to the sites means less traffic for the site owners which translates to less eyeballs on ads and ultimately less income. What will happen to that bookmark site network that just got slapped by Google? The site owner will undoubtedly take those sites down before long and replace them with something else.

High PR links provide the best long term value

So if you are a link builder and you have put your time and money into building links on those sites only for them to disappear just a few months later – your investment is not as solid. What can you do about it. To our IMAutomator members what we suggest is to be sure that you bookmark your best content and the best sites. These are obvious – they’re the ones with the highest page rank that are in the system month after month after month,

We still suggest diversifying your link profile by including a wide range of sites so by all means throw in some of the more ‘throwaway’ sites into the mix but just be aware that these links may not stick around for as long as the high PR ones.

IMAutomator works with a credit system where the credit value for a site is equal to its Pagerank which means that a PR7 site costs 7 credits to submit to where as a PR2 only costs 2 credits. It can be tempting to avoid to the high PR sites and select just the lower PR ones as you’ll get a lot more individual backlinks for your money but if you are interested in the quality and longevity of those backlinks then its worth spending those few extra credits for your best content.

What’s the future of social bookmarking?

prepare for the future

My personal opinion from looking at what Google has been doing over the last few updates is that they will continue to penalize the kinds of cookie-cutter sites that are put up in minutes and not developed in any way. What makes the big sites like Digg, Delicious, Reddit etc so popular? These are high quality sites; they do so much more than just slap up a bunch of links. They monitor and filter submissions to keep the content high quality, they encourage user interaction etc. In other words they are building the kind of site that people want to use and this is exactly the kind of site that Google is pushing to the top of its rankings.

On the other hand, those people that use templates such as Pligg and do nothing other than leave the site as-is, may find their sites losing PR over time. That’s my prediction anyway. I’m not bashing Pligg as a platform – I think it’s great. But like with any website, it should be used just as a base; a building block and not as the whole package.

If you’re a blog owner, you’d most likely use WordPress to build your blog. But would you just install the base software, keep the standard template and then just leave it alone? No, not if you cared about your blog! You’d install a custom theme that matches your content, you’d install some plugins that are useful for you and your visitors and you’d keep on top of comment spam to ensure that your blog remains high quality.

I think in this day and age if somebody wants to create a new social bookmarking site that is going to hold its ranking with Google, then it needs to do more than just upload a cookie-cutter template site. It may even be that Google does indeed target Pligg itself as a platform! I certainly hope that’s not the case because for us, we’ve developed our software to work seamlessly with Pligg sites so we can add them into our system pretty quickly.

As always, time will tell!

2 thoughts on “Social Bookmarking Site Networks Slapped by Google

  1. Brad

    Great post. I’ve been a fan of social bookmarking for a long time and get listed on page 1 of Google all the time using this medium. I hope the slap isn’t too hard!

  2. Patrick Williams

    This is a great article, because it does a good job in giving us SEO’er insight into social book marking and just what IMAutomator can do. It does show that there are real people behind the site and even though a goal is making money, information dissemination is a goal as well. Thank you for the insights int an ever changing profession.


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