Impacting search results isn’t as simple as it used to be. You can’t just plant a link farm or stuff keywords like crazy and expect great results. Those actions are actually much more likely to earn you a Google penalty. Today’s SEO is all about publishing quality content and driving organic user engagement. There are no shortcuts to winning Google's heart.
But, there are still 6 steps I always use as a default when building social profiles for a new client. I’ll go through them here and use my Twitter as an easy example. I ran into some classic stumbling blocks along the way, so I'll share those here and give you my thought process for each step.
Step 1: Reserve Your Custom URL
Keywords aren’t what they used to be but search engines still look to the URL as a sign of what the online property is all about. If I want my Twitter profile to rank well for my name, it’s wise to have my name in the URL slug. That means making my username my full name.
Protip: Don’t get twitter.com/rickross if people know you by Richard Ross.
Above, you'll see the one thing a brand strategist hates to see: the ideal username is already taken.
In this case, there are a number of directions you can go. Ryan_erskine and erskineryan were already taken as well and I’m not one to add numbers at the end of my username. So I decided on ryanerskineNY. Putting my location in the URL slug won't hurt and it might even offer a slight boost to my search results.
Step 2: Put Your Name in the Title
It seems obvious, but step 2 is putting your name — or whatever you’re trying to rank for in search results — in the title. Search engines still take title tags seriously and I would be wasting a useful spot for my name if I didn’t put ‘Ryan Erskine’ here.
Step 3: Upload Your Optimized Image
The next thing you’ll want to do is upload a profile picture. Some social profiles automatically rename and resize your image (as Twitter does here) but it’s useful to remember this step as you construct other social profiles and web properties.
- First, name your image appropriately. This part is easy. Rename your image on your desktop (or wherever you’ve saved it) as the full keyword. In this case, I’ve renamed my image as “Ryan Erskine” before uploading it.
- Optimize your image’s size. As Google cares more and more about load speed as a SEO factor, it is critical to upload images that are appropriately sized. We’re only dealing with a handful of pixels here in the Twitter profile picture, so a high definition picture would be a waste of space and load time.
Step 4: Input Your Location
You should always determine a consistent public location to use when building your social profile foundation. Yes, there will be overlap when people search your name from different locations, but the city you input will be an important factor for search engines that tailor their results according to geography. I've used New York here.
Step 5: Link to a Property in Your Campaign
The logic here is this: by linking to another site in my campaign, I’m taking the valuable authority my Twitter account generates and am providing an authoritative link back to my main website.
My website, ryanerskine.com, is an important link in my campaign’s link structure, so I’m linking back to it here.
Step 6: Write a Unique Bio With Your Name
Your bio is another prime opportunity for you to use your full name or keyword. Clients sometimes feel weird about this concept of writing in the third person, but the reasoning is simple - search engines don’t know what “I” refers to, but they sure as hell know your name.
Unfortunately, Twitter leaves us very little room and I wanted to include @Brandyourself and a number of relevant hashtags so I actually skipped this step in my optimization process.
This is a great place to mention a caveat. You have to pick your battles when working in the world of SEO. Sometimes what’s best for SEO isn’t best for the online branding campaign. In this case, I couldn’t fit my name because it was more important for me to have the association with my company and some relevant, valuable hashtags so I could drive user engagement.
These 6 steps are all important defaults but they are just that — defaults. Feel free to break the rules when it makes sense for your campaign. And don’t forget to have fun!