Sgt_Kickaxe - 5:51 am on Jan 10, 2013 (gmt 0)
There are two kinds of social button links, ones that lead to your profiles and ones that lead to the social network sharing option to post content on visitor profiles.
- If you link to your social profiles sitewide in hopes of generating visitor interaction on the social network ask yourself if that interaction is valuable enough to warrant a sitewide link.
- If you link to the sharing feature of the social network in hopes of having others talk about your site on their profiles ask yourself if the word of mouth is valuable enough to warrant a sitewide link.
My finding is that the second example is infinitely more worthwhile in the long term than the first. A 300 page site for example links to the social network 300 times, once per page, but may eventually end up with thousands of mentions on thousands of DIFFERENT social profiles.
Your goal regardless of which method you prefer is to determine if the buttons are being used or not because if they aren't and you've made a concerted effort, ditch them. Also, Google knows what a social button is and may already discount their existence on a page, only Google knows. I really think they could and should disclose this too so that people stop worrying about linking to various social networks.
Concern: if you link to the social network sharing page it's likely that you have hundreds of links pointing to different urls on the social network since each page appends it's url into the social sharing url. I'm worried that Google looks at the value of each link in part by examining the linked page, which would always be brand new and unused by anyone else. e.g. it may look like a low quality social profile instead of a sharing option.