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Social Media and SEO -- Friends with Benefits?

Mark Jackson
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Nowadays, it seems like everyone has a LinkedIn profile or a Facebook account. Both are popular -- Facebook claims 140 million active users and is growing by about 600,000 users a day, while LinkedIn has more than 30 million members representing more than 150 different countries.

You might be using these for the networking opportunities. And, you may use the connections and dialogue in work applications.

For those of you whose responsibilities -- either directly or indirectly -- involve organic Web site optimization, let's look at how you can get SEO benefits out of social networking.

When it comes to social media and social media marketing, it's important that you reserve your brand's name (or your company name or personal name) on the more popular social networking Web sites. These include sites like Twitter, StumbleUpon, Mixx, Digg, reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others like MySpace and YouTube. You don't necessarily have to be active on the Web sites; however, it's important to reserve your name and fill out your profile on those Web sites.

Typically, many of those sites allow you to put your site's URL on your profile page. Some sites, like LinkedIn, allow you to add more than one link, so take advantage of those links. Also, look at User Name Check to see where your brand is and isn't registered, and claim the ones you can. If you're overly enthusiastic, take a look at Wikipedia's social media list.

Linking over to a few of your more important profiles is fine. Telling your Web site visitors to "follow you" on a certain social networking Web site is OK, too. After all, Matt Cutts of Google recommends that you follow him on Twitter and FriendFeed.

However, keep in mind that real people will follow those links (this isn't just for SEO purposes), so link to a social media profile that you update regularly, not once every six months.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the social networking tool for business. Each of your company's employees can create an individual profile and network with others.

Once you register and log in, click on the "Account and Settings" link at the top of the page. Click on "My Profile." On that page, you'll see a section called "Websites." Click on the "edit" link and you will come to another page that allows you to edit your Web sites.

Select the "Other" option and then use a descriptive phrase to describe the Web site that you're linking to (good "SEO friendly" anchor text). You can also link to an internal page on your Web site. Need ideas for what link text to use? Look at your home page's title tag and use one of the keywords your Web site is targeting.

Facebook

While Facebook is popular, I haven't found a way to link from your Facebook profile page to your Web site that "counts" as a good link. While you certainly can add a link to your Web site in your Facebook profile, these links include a nofollow tag, so they won't provide much value if they appear in your public profile (the version that's seen by the search engines).

Digg

A link from your profile at Digg provides some SEO value. After you log in, go to your profile page (www.digg.com/users/username) and click on the "Add a Bio & Links" link in the "About" section.

You can also go directly to the settings page and scroll down to the "Links and Contact Info" section to add the links. Use a description that makes sense for each link you add. Include your main keyword phrase if possible.

If you don't have more than one Web site to list, add a link to your Web site's home page and an interior page. If a few employee of your company have Digg profiles set up, try to coordinate the links so you get more links to multiple interior pages.

Mixx

A link from your Mixx profile link includes a nofollow tag, so the links don't count. However, links that are submitted to Mixx are "dofollow" or "regular" links, so obviously this helps with SEO efforts.

Regular users will see people checking out your profile and visiting your Web site. Submitting links and participating on a regular basis is even more helpful, especially if the links you submit make it to the "popular" section.

StumbleUpon

There isn't a place on StumbleUpon's social network to add a link to your Web site, and any links you share with other users have the nofollow tag on them. However, the RSS feeds of your submissions and your blog items on StumbleUpon don't have the nofollow tag on them. Adding those RSS feeds to other sites that accept RSS feeds, such as FriendFeed.com, may be helpful for SEO purposes.

MySpace

On MySpace, there are no places where your link "counts" for SEO purposes. However, if your MySpace account has traffic and visitors, it still may help drive some traffic to your Web site.

BusinessWeek Business Exchange

Businessweek's social bookmarking community, Business Exchange, is helpful for SEO purposes. If you have a LinkedIn profile set up, you can integrate your LinkedIn profile with your Business Exchange profile and add up to three links in your Business Exchange profile. These also include your preferred descriptive text or anchor text.

Once you register and log into your Business Exchange profile, navigate to your profile and click on the "edit your profile" link. Scroll down to the bottom "Links" section and select the "other" option. Enter the title and URL. Enter links to the home page of your site using your preferred keyword phrase as well as links to some other important pages on your Web site.

While many social networking opportunities allow you to enter a link back to your Web site in your profile on their site, the opportunities to gain SEO benefits from these links vary from site to site.

LinkedIn, Digg, and BusinessWeek's Business Exchange offer good SEO opportunities. It's important to participate in these communities on a regular basis; the more you participate the more "popular" your profile will become, which will only help your SEO efforts.


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