How Social Media Sites Should Use Internal SEO, Part 1

  |  May 27, 2009   |  Comments

Social media sites would be even better at reputation management if they'd follow some basic SEO principles. First in a series.

My criteria for "reputation management" sites are generously defined: If it's about you, controlled (directly or indirectly) by you, and shows up in a search engine results page, it's a reputation management site. Several years ago, these sites rolled out en masse as business directories and corporate information sites, such as AboutUs.org, ZoomInfo, Lead411.com, PR.com, Jigsaw, and so on.

Along the way, sites realized that "people search" had as much or more pent-up demand as "company search." Sites like Classmates.com had an early foot in the door of people search, but their login barriers kept them from getting much more than a foot in.

Today, plenty of options are available if you want to own the SERP (define) for your or your company's name. The growing demand for people search has increased the value of those eyeballs, and sites are doing whatever they can to show up for your name. But some could do better.

Twitter and Capitalization Style

I'm always on the lookout for potential duplication issues. Twitter has a few biggies. First is the duplication of nearly every post on both m.twitter.com and www.twitter.com. Second is the way it allows multiple capitalization styles for members.

Take, for example, one of Twitter's most popular members: CNNBrk, the member that posts CNN breaking news and was only recently obtained by CNN itself. Notice here how many different capitalization styles are indexed with the characters "cnnbrk." I counted at least six out of the first 10.

The Personal Profile Paradox

Both Google Profiles and LinkedIn (and soon, others) offer users the option of a unique "personal" profile URL in addition to the machine-generated version from their own systems. Each of these, however, presents certain challenges and frustrations.

Google Profile's personal URL is based on your Gmail or Google account login. So it's not quite as customizable as some profiles, because if your account login is your first initial plus last name, that's what appears in your custom profile URL.

Alongside your personal URL, Google also creates its own zillion-random-character URL to house the same content. Consequently, you end up with two distinct URLs, such as the URLs to my profile, shown here:

http://www.google.com/profiles/106452064686118425079

http://www.google.com/profiles/edafforn

About three weeks ago, my boss noted that Google numerical-based URLs were redirecting to custom profiles, but they were using a 302 instead of a preferable 301. Today, however, I'm happy to note that's changed. As of this writing, the 302 has changed to 301.

Not all sites are as current. LinkedIn's public profile is nice and clean with few extraneous characters:

http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikdafforn

Proving that it's nearly impossible to make search engine marketers happy, I'm frustrated with LinkedIn's system for the opposite reason I used to be frustrated with Google's: LinkedIn has no redirect at all. In essence, this takes the now-obsolete problem with Google's profile and magnifies it, because now, LinkedIn's "personal" profile now goes head-to-head with its machine-generated profiles.

For example, if I do a vanity search, the LinkedIn profile that shows up in Google is:

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/erik-dafforn/2/a31/b27

That's fairly recent. Until a few weeks ago, the URL that showed up was:

www.linkedin.com/pub/Erik/Dafforn/

But when a site like LinkedIn offers a custom profile, most people are going to accept it, send it around, and link to it. Between the emphasis you put on your own custom URL and the emphasis LinkedIn puts on its own directory, you could wind up with several profiles competing with each other for your name (and your company, in the case of LinkedIn company profiles). For example, I currently have four distinct profile URLs, all with the same content. This is needless self-flagellation on LinkedIn's part.

Conclusion

I'm going to spend more time on this issue in subsequent columns because it's an interesting topic that is far more widespread than just the few sites mentioned here. Ultimately, the more we learn about how social media and profile sites are improving their SEO, the better off each person and company will be due to improvements in their own personal and corporate searches.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik Dafforn

Erik Dafforn is the executive vice president of Intrapromote LLC, an SEO firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Erik manages SEO campaigns for clients ranging from tiny to enormous and edits Intrapromote's blog, SEO Speedwagon. Prior to joining Intrapromote in 1999, Erik worked as a freelance writer and editor. He also worked in-house as a development editor for Macmillan and IDG Books. Erik has a Bachelor's degree in English from Wabash College. Follow Erik and Intrapromote on Twitter.

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