Social bookmarking refers to saving and sharing specific links to content. The links are saved on specific social bookmark sites, which are used by many different groups to find, post and share new content. The "social" part is important: To use these sites properly, you don't just post a link and leave – you take a look at other shared content, join groups and gain followers. Popular sites include Digg and StumbleUpon.
Why use social bookmark sites instead of just posting to a social channel? Because the sites are handy – they collect a lot of information from around the web in one spot - quality content easily rises to the surface, and you can quickly find like-minded groups or industries where you can make connections. Plus, every link is good for your backlinking practices, especially if you have a particularly successful piece of content to share.
But as you've probably already noticed, this is starting to sound similar to another service, the blog directory, where you also post links to your blog content. Are they two similar? In some ways, yes. But social submission is a very different, more beneficial tactic, and we'll tell you why.
At a glance, posting to social bookmark sites and blog directories may feel similar – they do accomplish some similar tasks. For example, both are good for quality backlinking, when used appropriately. Both make it easier for others to find your content across the web, and so both improve SEO. Creating a list of top sites and submitting your links is a great way to start in both cases…but both services can also be misused by posting or publishing the same low-quality content over and over again.
To reiterate, social bookmark sites are social, and that may mean more than you think. These sites are designed to collect and share interesting content from around the web in a very active way. People regularly post new content, share content with their circles of friends, recommend other content, and generally create an active, moving stream. Often, content can be scored or promoted in various ways to increase visibility. Blog directories, in comparison, look more like stagnant pools: The link lists sit there without change, influencing your backlinking from time to time. At this point, directories don't have much of an active role – there's no conversation, adaptation or engagement happening.
What Does Google Think?
As we've talked about before, Google isn't a big fan of blog directories, mostly because of how they can be easily misused by black hat practices for artificial SEO boosts. But while Google has worked to minimize the impact of blog directories, the search engine is far more sanguine toward social bookmarks. If you have a Google account, you can even use Google's own Bookmarks service.
Why is Google's attitude so different? Because it is more difficult to use social bookmarking the wrong way: social sites, by nature, encourage discussion, updates, attractive posts, and real people doing real things with content – everything Google supports.
All About the Traffic
We've saved one of the most important points for last: While blog directories can give you a backlinking boost, their direct effect on traffic these days is minimal. Social bookmarks, on the other hand, can be much more effective at increasing traffic to your blog. Again, this works because of the pro-active nature of social bookmarking, which encourages perusing the latest news and sharing content with other people. If you want to boost traffic as much as possible (we're guessing you do), social bookmarking can be a more effective method.