Go Beyond The Default Social Profile Strategy

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During the most recent PubCon, Kenny Hyder spoke in a session called “Online Brand Management Strategies” where he suggested that you should “own” all ten positions on the first page when someone searches for you. As Kenny pointed out, a few obvious sites can be used to accomplish most of this:

(1) Individual/company website
(2) Individual/company blog
(3) Social media profiles
(4) Niche sites

    Sounds easy enough, right? After all, there are more than a couple of social media sites to choose from. The question is, are they strong enough to be built up to the first page and maintain rank? Are they powerful enough to do what online reputation management (ORM) combined with search engine optimization (SEO) is often meant for, namely to keep a bad review, lawsuit filing, or anti-fan site off the first page where the majority of searchers get their first impressions?

    It’s safe to say that the higher a social profile ranks on its own accord (without any link-building), the better chance it has of staying on the first page with link-building. So which are the social profiles that rank well without help? Let check.

    Surveying Social Profiles

    I used a basic, non-statistical test to determine whether other social profiles might also be powerhouses for ORM. I gathered search results data from 44 different personal names ranging from unknowns (10 monthly searches, like “David Stines”) to high-profile celebrities (100,000+ monthly searches, like “Ryan Seacrest”), spread fairly evenly across the search volume spectrum. I documented whenever a social profile appeared on one of the first three search engine results pages (SERP), meaning it was ranked #30 or higher.

    The graph shows an overview of how often social profiles showed up on page 1 (position 1-10), 2 (11-20), or 3 (21-30) of search results for all names. For example, a Facebook profile showed up on the 1st page for 27 of the 44 names searched.


    Other profiles appearing just once across top 30 search results: LiveJournal, Deviantart, Wiki.answers, FameGame, Slideshare, Mugglespace, Qik, Friendfeed, Getsatisfaction, GrindTV, Vox, ArticlesBase, Goodrec, Naymz, Biznik, TeachStreet, Twittermoms, SheWrites, Trekearth, IMEEM, 1up, Gaia.

    Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Wikipedia Dominating

    If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard repeatedly about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Wikipedia as the end-all default profile sites for ORM. According to the search results, there’s some clear validation for their powerhouse reputations, so don’t neglect those profiles.

    Wikipedia isn’t a true social profile site, because of the collaborative content, but it serves as a good benchmark. And while some of the profile sites only work for individuals, like Classmates.com, others are definitely more business-centric. It’s far easier to get a small business in Wikipedia than an unknown person.

    Evidently, sites like Myspace.com and Classmates.com—once part of the upper echelon, but now dealing with diminishing status—are still ranking very well. Their sites are reputable enough to be a major factor at the top of the search results, even if their reputability has been on the decline for several years. I didn’t expect to see them listed so frequently among the social profiles I surveyed, but they proved me wrong.

    Forgetting Other Profile Sites?

    The overview above shows the major disparity between sites like Facebook or Twitter and the “other” profile sites (which still have millions of users in some cases), but there are also bright spots, as I saw in the broader array of data not shown. Up until search volumes reach 1,000 for a particular name, the frequency of these “other” lesser social profile sites is actually very high. After 1,000 searches, the big boys like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Myspace are nearly the only social profiles to be found on the first three pages of search results.


    Disclaimer: The graph above is awesomely representative of, but not created with, actual data.

    The great thing is, you’ve got plenty of options for social profile building and subsequent link building if the search volumes you’re dealing with are low. (Can I just say how much I would love to make an ORM strategy that includes a Mugglespace.com profile for the client? Talk about ORM wizardry!)  The point is to not waste your time with the smaller profile sites if search volumes are high because the competitiveness is often just as high and you won’t get any return on a smaller profile.

    Setting The Strategy

    If you can afford to use some of the smaller profile sites to fill up the first page for yourself or your client, you’ve got a great setup. You’re basically free to choose a few niche sites that may be more adapted to your interests or your client’s interests. You’ll be more likely to maintain and build the profile and engage the community in a meaningful way while improving your search results. That’s smart ORM.

    Ultimately, you’ll need social profiles for any SEO-driven reputation management project or to get all of the first page listings like Kenny Hyder suggests. A little research will help you determine just how much stock you should put in social profiles, and which sites you’ll want in your arsenal.

    Scott Cowley is an SEO Manager at SEO.com, a search engine marketing company. He also provides social media expertise to local Social Media Club.  Follow Scott on Twitter to





    Scott Cowley
    Scott Cowley is an SEO consultant by night, marketing PhD student by day. He was previously head of SEO at ZAGG and SEO manager at SEO.com. He speaks and writes frequently about social media and digital marketing.
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    • http://www.SEO-writer.com David seo consultant

      Thanks for the data. This is superb. The one caution I would make is to distinguish between what is being done and what can be done. You have measured which sites are in the top 10-20-30, not which can be in the top 10-20-30. Almost everyone has a profile page on FaceBook and Twitter, for example. Very few have a profile page on Plaxo or on Bebo. That does not necessarily mean that a Bebo or Plaxo profile might not get just as good results, almost as good results or possibly even better results than FaceBook or Twitter.

      For instance, of the 40 people you tracked, 35 might hypothetically have Twitter profiles and we see 31 of those ranking. Of those 40 people, 4 might have Bebo profiles, and we saw 4 of them ranking (That would be 100% ranking). These are hypothetical numbers, just to illustrate that we must be careful about what conculsions we draw from this data.

      • http://www.seo.com Scott Cowley

        David, you’re absolutely right about making the right inferences from the data. Facebook and Twitter definitely have many more users out there, so the numbers alone aren’t completely revealing.

        A better way to look at the data in the chart is to look at ratios and which pages the profiles are found on when they DO appear. Facebook appears often, and almost always on the first page. Plaxo, the few times it shows up, is spread between page 2 and 3, but never page 1. (Not to say that Plaxo won’t ever show up on the 1st page, but it could be getting crowded out by more authoritative sites)

    • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

      What did you do to account for links pointing to those profiles? Your research is interesting but if you did not normalize the results then your conclusions are premature.

      • http://www.seo.com Scott Cowley


        The idea was to see how profiles would perform in their naturally competitive environments, not to normalize the profiles and make some statistical inference. A name with high search volume, for example, is likely going to be associated with profiles getting a larger number of natural occurring backlinks, whereas a name on the low end would not. So if you’re dealing with a case on either end of the spectrum, you’ll generally end up with most names receiving the same level of natural linkage as others around their same search volume.

        Normalizing and taking a much larger sample sounds like something that would be valuable and I’ll leave that to the SEO theorists. 🙂

    • http://www,kinedoinc.com Kinedo Atlanta Web Design

      The question I have, is do they really help considering that most of the time you’ll get a “no follow” tag. Is it just for the purposes of being able to have a lot of data that comes back with a search if someone specifically searches for your company?

      • http://www.seo.com Scott Cowley

        It depends. First, the profile is more about the people and the community than the tag. Second, it’s usually more about the search result rather than the tag.

        While it’s nice to have a network of do-follow links on social profiles to boost SEO (there are many do-follow profile sites), it just depends on your goal, whether that be ORM or community-building, or rank-building on your own site. That will determine where the ultimate value lies. Thanks.

    • http://andybeard.eu Andy Beard

      Isn’t it better to look on it “If you don’t rank with that site, someone else can”

      Thus you have to have the profiles and show some life other wise someone else will instead.

      Dormant profiles die – I notice when I submitted just one new article to Mixx for the first time in a year for it to suddenly spring back into my SERP (2nd page), the same happens with any new profile.

      Also need to own other venues such as video and image.

      • http://www.seo.com Scott Cowley

        Good example, Andy and on-target about “showing life.”

        I don’t know many people who have many successful social “lives” across 10 different networking sites. It’s just not practical and those who come closest are automating a lot and still failing to really be part of the network. It’s better to pick a select group of social networks that you can really become passionate about (which is often where the smaller profile sites are winners) and make up the rest of the listings with static, but authoritative non-profile sites. You don’t have to worry about upkeep as much.

        A dormant profile may still make sense in some cases. If the host site is robust or growing, and the goal is merely to keep hold on the first page, then a dormant profile with a few dozen links would probably hold its ground without damaging the overall “reputation portfolio” of the individual.

    • http://www.teachstreet.com Dave Schappell

      I’ll echo the first commenter’s (David) point. While my company (TeachStreet — thank you for the mention) doesn’t pretend to rival Facebook or Twitter, I don’t think it’s fair to say that we don’t help general users appear high on search results.

      Rather, we’re a site geared to local teachers and schools — and that’s a small subset of the overall population. So, we’re much more like the ‘4 of 4’ scenario that the first commenter raised. We’ve had tremendous success getting piano teachers, scuba instructors, yoga shops and the like in the first 3 results (often higher than their own website efforts!), all because we focus on one vertical (education/learning/local), rather than trying to be a service for everyone.

      I’m sure you’re aware of these types of specialist sites, but in case readers were polarized by your topic, I suggest that they consider vertical sites when they have appropriate client engagements.

      Dave Schappell
      Founder and CEO
      TeachStreet – Find Great Local and Online Classes

    • http://www.vizibility.com James Alexander

      Thank you for this article Scott. It’s these challenges and the gamesmanship behind them that inspired the idea for a “Google Me” button. Why play cat and mouse trying to influence search results when you can own them outright? For example, I can be one-click Googled at http://vizibility.com/james. I have put this link on my LinkedIn page under the tag “Google Me”. It is in my email signature and on other online profiles as well. When anyone clicks this link, I get a text message that I was just searched.

      I originally created it for me (I’m a guy with two first names) but decided to form a start up around the concept. We call it PreSearch (because you’re creating the perfect search before anyone needs it). Vizibility launched just last week…we’re pretty excited. It makes creating and managing these SearchMe links very simple. I’m sensitive to being commercial here but I just want to interject this concept into the discussion.

      I don’t think there’s anyone solution to these challenges but hopefully the tools are getting better. Hope this was worth knowing about.

      James Alexander
      Founder – Vizibility

    • http://www.russiansearchtips.com Verona

      Hi Scott,

      Really nice post! Thanks a lot for the analysis.

      Did you only test it in Google.com? Do you think it will be fairly similar picture in local Googles as well? Or would you think that local Googles would rank local social media sites higher?

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