Go Beyond The Default Social Profile Strategy

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