This is a question I’ve been pondering more and more lately.

Once a standard prominent feature of every blog, the RSS button has slowly been disappearing from them. After the demise of Google Reader, the pace accelerated. While feeds themselves are still an integral part of the web, showing they exist via a button isn’t: modern feed readers find feeds for you when you enter in the website’s address. The RSS button has been largely replaced by a call to subscribe to the blog’s newsletter; which, if automatically sent out, is based on the blog’s feed too.

In recent times, Facebook and Twitter (amongst others) social media buttons have been given prominent positions on websites: particularly in the main menu of the site. Blog authors have been so keen to get people to subscribe and get social media following to justify this placement. But has it been worthwhile using this prime position for outbound links?

As I’ve been looking through Google Analytics for various websites (including my own), I’ve come to realise that while these buttons have been given very prominent placement, they generally just don’t get the number of clicks you might expect – and nowhere near the number of clicks as other main menu items they’re sitting right next to.

As a result, I’ve dropped off the social media buttons from the top of this site to keep the focus on the main navigation. Facebook and Twitter links still feature in the footer. Two examples from our clients: Dianna Huff has moved social media buttons from a very prominent place at the top of her site to the bottom of her left hand sidebar. Whale Oil has dropped social media buttons from the main menu but kept them in the footer. I’m also currently talking with other clients about removing social media buttons from the main menu.

Assuming you’re using current Google Analytics code, check to see how well your social media links are working by going to Behavior > Events. You can also have a look at In-Page Analytics. Let me know what you find, I’d love to hear!

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