December 10, 2007
It seems as though every day we are being invited to join yet another social network (YASN). If we actually spent time at each of these social sites, participating and becoming respected contributors, we would never get anything else done. It’s just not practical in terms of time for one person to become a valued contributor at all of these sites. (If you have a large team of social network monkeys working for you, you can ignore what I just said.
Sign Up Everywhere It Makes Sense
I do, however, encourage you to at least sign up with each and every social network that you deem might be important in your niche. Immediately set up your profile page, and spend a little time participating. It probably won’t take long to figure out if you should devote any further time to each one. You should eventually choose one or two that you plan to significantly contribute to. The rest can simply exist as mere brand identity placeholders. As long as you have your profile page set up with your chosen username, no one else can grab it. And as long as you have your profile page set up with links back to your site, any stray visitors to your profile have the chance to be funneled to your site. (Your goal here is to funnel traffic to your site, not increase rankings or get link-love. External links are often nofollowed, so they are only useful for direct traffic.)
So what do you do with the social networks you’ve decided are worthy of your time? That’s a question with a lot of possible answers, and I definitely do not consider myself to be a social network guru. There are others that are far better than I at that game. However, we are focusing on only one small aspect of this today, and that’s the profile page. That’s something I feel I can confidently address so, having said that, let’s move on.
Popularity Begins The Funneling Process
Depending upon the type of social network you are dealing with, you will likely be working to increase your popularity at the site. Generally speaking, the more active you are, or the more popular your contributions are, the more likely it is that you will be noticed. (Contributions to the site differ, depending upon the type of network, but may include articles, videos, news submissions, etc.) Some sites may feature you and your contributions prominently, often on the home page, if you are popular enough, and they will usually link to your profile page. This is great because your goal is to get people to your profile page so you can then funnel some of them to your site. Because you are popular, people will naturally be enticed into visiting your site for more information or to get to know you better.
Let’s take a specific example of how you might work this. Let’s say you own a site that focuses on arts and crafts. This would naturally lend itself to having lots of how-to information, right? So you’d probably find your way to a how-to articles site, such as eHow. While eHow appears to be an articles site, it doubles as a social network, in that it functions in basically the same way. Articles and by extension, authors, are judged. The more popular an article is, the more popular the author is. The more popular the author is, the more likely he or she is to be featured on the home page.
Appetizers Lead To The Meat and Potatoes
So you’d want to create a few really good articles for the site, such as “how to create beautiful art from dryer lint”, but you don’t want to give away the farm. Don’t put all of your “how to” content on these social sites. You should have several related but not identical “how to” articles on your own site for every one “how to” article you create for the social sites. Think of your articles on these social sites as how-to appetizers. These appetizers are useful and worthy in their own right, but readers can fill up with lots more knowledge by visiting your site – which houses all the hearty meat-and-potato how-to articles.
I’ve used a how-to article site as an example, but the same principle would apply across other types of networks. When you contribute, do it well, but always have more to offer at your own site. If it’s possible to funnel people via the contributions themselves, great, but more often, the only place you are allowed links is your profile page, so use it wisely.
Work That Profile Page
I think it goes without saying that your profile page should not be blank. Well, let me say it anyway. Your profile page should not be blank. Fill it in. Make it as interesting as possible. Don’t forget to include links to your site, if there is any way to do so. Where possible, give visitors enticing reasons to click on those links. Make them want to pass through that funnel. Not all profile pages allow a lot of editing. You’ll just have to live with the fact that some are better than others for the traffic funneling process. But where extensive customization is allowed, use it to its fullest. If it allows photos or avatars, upload them! If it lets you stream your site’s RSS feed to the page, enter the feed url. Whatever options are available, make use of them in the best way possible. No matter how much time you spend at the social network, or how popular (or unpopular) you may be there, your profile page will be ready for any amount of traffic that might arrive there.
SERPs Love Profile Pages
Want one more reason to make sure you utilize these social network profile pages? They often show up prominently in the search engine results pages. If someone searches for you by your brand name, or nick, there’s a very good chance your social network profile pages will show up in the top 10 results. The reputation management / branding aspects of this alone makes the act of creating profile pages a worthwhile endeavor.
Notice how I never once mentioned Digg? Darn it, now I did. Oh well, my point is that the advantages of social networks and profile pages goes far beyond Digg. Don’t stop there. Find other sites that may more accurately reflect your niche. And then go forth and be fruitful by creating many profile pages. Your time will be well spent.
Author: DazzlinDonna’s take on SEO news, tips and theories.