You’ve seen them everywhere. They live at the beginning and at the end of every blog post, and you can often see them on the homepage of many websites. Guess what I’m talking about?
In case you haven’t caught on, I’m referring to social sharing buttons.
Ever since the advent of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, social sharing has been everywhere. I still remember when they were at their earliest, and simply adding them was a novelty in itself.
But the fad is now long gone, and it’s time for them to go.
Why we removed our sharing buttons
We’ve had our fair share (excuse the horrible pun) of social buttons on CPOThemes. Every blog post has had them for a long time. The main blog had them. Even the theme pages had a way to share content at some point.
But starting from a few days ago, there are no longer any sharing buttons in this site. At all. And yet, we are still doing fine.
This decision did not come on a whim; we had been considering for a long time whether these buttons were of any use. As it turns out, they did not provide anything of value– in fact, I would say that they were distracting and detrimental to the site.
And we are not the only ones doing it.
So, what were our main reasons to remove all on-site social sharing?
1. Nobody clicked on them
I had my own suspicions for a long time, but I wanted to confirm them through a little experimentation. So, I started measuring how many times these buttons were clicked through a Google Analytics event.
It may come off as a surprise, but the truth is that almost nobody clicked on the sharing buttons. Most of the time, the articles were being shared directly on a social network (as a result of me publishing the article on our profile), or through an external service such as Buffer.
As a matter of fact, I can’t even remember when was the last time I clicked on a sharing button myself.
In short, the very few uses it had, it was an almost negligible amount. And for me, the benefits were far outweighted by the problems of having them.
2. They were distracting
I must confess: I’ve never liked sharing buttons. In way, installing them on every single article you write feels like you’re trying to desperately promote your content, which is never a good thing.
Another issue I take is that they can distract the reader and take away from the experience of enjoying an article. There is a lot going on already on a blog post, so adding more stuff can easily get in the way. Just to name a few things:
- The byline
- Related articles
- The comments listing
- The author box
- The content upgrade or email optin
Adding sharing buttons to that list means cramming the page with even more content. And if they weren’t even being clicked on, then it’s logical to get rid of them.
You might notice how the blog does not have a sidebar anymore– it’s because it didn’t serve any real purpose other than to populate the site with content. So we did away with it.
3. They were slow
Another big issue I had with them is that they were taking a toll on performance. A serious one.
I have lost track of the many different plugins we’ve used to implement social sharing by now. Each one of them was worse than the other, and none of them provided a great user experience.
I started using AddThis and Shareaholic, which were heavy and slowed down our site to a crawl. Then came Easy Social Share Buttons, which– albeit a bit better– had so many options that I spent hours trying to configure it.
We finally opted for Simple Share Buttons Adder, which was probably the best choice. It was straightforward and only added a few links without a big bump in page size. It’s worth noting that we found this plugin thanks to MaAnna Stephenson and her wonderful performance analysis– be sure to check her blog.
After so many tries, we gave up. Even Simple Share had its flaws, loading its CSS and JS assets everywhere on the site– even if the buttons were not being used. In some pages, that accounted for up to 12% of total page size!
4. There are plenty of ways to share now
Times have changed.
Having sharing buttons five years ago might have been a good thing. People were getting used to social networks, and installing them on a site meant you could easily publish the page’s content.
But that was a few years ago. Facebook and Twitter are taken for granted now, and people are used to sharing things directly from their profile or from an app such as Feedly.
There are also many different ways to share now; you can share any page from your mobile browser thanks to social being at the heart of the smartphone experience. You can make use of great apps like Buffer and Pocket to publish with a single button.
There is virtually no shortage of ways to take a piece of content and send it to your preferred network.
We are still doing fine
So, as you can see, we are doing fine.
Our social traffic hasn’t gone down, and things are pretty much the same after removing all traces of social sharing from our website.
What have we gained in exchange? Our website is now lighter and faster. The reading experience is more streamlined and less distracting to our business goals. And we have one less plugin in our website to worry about.
To us, sharing buttons were not a big deal, but that’s something we found out by measuring and evaluating behavior– it was a data-driven decision.
It’s not a matter of deciding that they’re not worth it anymore for the sake of it, but whether they contribute to achieving business goals.
Are your sharing buttons serving any purpose? What would happen if you remove them?