Friday, May 17, 2013

Personal Branding and Social SEO - a Case Study

I thought I would share a recent post I published over on Google+ entitled 'Integrating Social Media, SEO and Personal PR' which was nattily subtitled 'A Case Study in Combining Social Media Channel Management, SEO and Personal Branding'.

The post is reproduced below and illustrates an exercise in improving one's personal brand online, identifying a social media strategy and leveraging social for SEO. It goes something like this....

One unexpected benefit of participating in the recent Digital Kent event as a speaker was that I got to enjoy some excellent and through provoking presentations. Several things struck me about their talks:

The ever growing importance of Google+, like many I don’t feel I can ignore it any longer thanks to the talk by Thomas Power
The importance of knowing what it is I should be saying before using social media, as Jonnie Jensen  has spoken about what are my Causes?
The importance of people speaking to people on social media, as Zoe Cairns pointed out.

But I’d add something else to the mix. As search marketing experts we also look at social media with an SEO hat on. In another words we ask ‘how can we use social media to help manage, manipulate or dominate relevant search results?’. In other words how do we practice 'socialseo' ?

To try and answer this question for myself, the team at Webscape and ultimately our SEO clients I’ve been carrying out the following trial I’d like to share. The case study followed these steps...

Step 1. Chose the subject
So with my brief clear, I now needed a willing subject for my evil experiment. I guess the most relevant search term you could apply to me personally would be... my name, Josh Whiten.

Having recently undertaken a number of personal branding and reputation management projects for other clients  I decided I would sort out the social media strategy for myself (and by extension my business) then see what impact this had on my exposure and branding online, plus any impact in search results.

Step 2. Audited social channels
Like many of us I had collected a wide range of social media in both my name and that of my main agency business, Webscape Marketing.

For me personally these included a fairly well used LinkedIn profile, a dormant twitter account and a hardly used Google+ personal page. I also had an active but locked down Facebook profile which I decided to keep solely for personal use.

For Webscape we had a Twitter @webscapeseo used sometimes, a Google+ company page, Facebook company page, Linkedin company page and a blog within our website. As the only one in the business spending any time on the company channels, their output was essentially down to me!

Step 3. Set my strategy
After reviewing all these profiles and thinking about what I had learnt at Digital Kent I realised that I should actually revive my personal social media channels rather than hide behind the business profiles. After speaking at the event and participating in other projects and activities I realised people would probably look for me personally and would respond better to me in person online.

Step 4. Decided on my cause
So what should my personal brand be about? Well I thought about the different areas of my life which should be reflected, causes I am passionate about, how my brand could help support and promote my businesses and also help me network with new contacts in the digital marketing field.

Then came the SocialSEO aspect - I did some crafty research on Google Trends to see what SEO related search terms were on the increase and found that ‘SEO expert’ and ‘SEO company’ were both on the rise. So why not use my personal online presence to target searches for the former and my business Webscape to target the latter?

I ended up with this bio which I could adapt for my personal social media presence;

SEO Expert in Kent | Digital Marketing Collaborator | Owner of Webscape Marketing  SEO Company| Director of Simply Lawyers  Start Up| Champion of Folkestone Digital Hub | Founding Partner of Digital Kent | Charity Trustee

This bio also gave me a set of topics that I should be talking about, sharing and engaging with.

Step 5. Checked Myself Out
Part of the exercise is to take ownership of how others see me on the web, why not see what search results say about me? Now trust me I don’t do this often but yes I Googled myself! After cringing at some really bad old photos in Image results I discovered some amazing things on page 1 of the search results including:

A blog in my name at Blogger that I didn’t even recognise (and as it turns out hadn’t used since 2006!).
An out of date profile page on the 4networking website.
Profile pages on some high credibility media and content sites which I had literally only just created.

I never cease to be fascinated at how Google works sometimes and why it would display some of these results on page 1! But I decided to go with the Big G and try and reclaim some of this valuable online real estate about me, to turn it to my own advantage.

Step 6. Got Blogging
After some fiddling around with Google Accounts I managed to finally get admin access to the blog Google loved so much, I spent a few hours upgrading the template, adding Google Analytics, Tagging old posts, adding Google+ widgets, and adding my new bio. The end result looked reasonable so I published some content I’d had sculling around for a few weeks looking for a home to let Google now I was back on the case!

Step 7. Got Verified as an Author
Then I wanted to try out the rel=”author” trick where Google displays a persons profile photo from their Google+ page next to content they have written if it appears in search results. The idea is it helps promote your Google+, attracts more attention in the SERPS and I wouldn’t be surprised if content with verified authors ranks better (I’m pretty sure it will do in the future buts that another article for another day). It took some fiddling (this blog post was useful as was this tool from Google to check it worked but I finally got my blog associated with my Google+ page, now I am writing to see how long it takes for my mugshot to start appearing in search results for blog content.

Step 8. Cleaned up Profiles
Then came the time consuming process of going through all my profiles on third party websites which appeared in the first couple of pages of search results. This involved digging out old passwords and logins and updating content with the new bio. It’s still going on by the way.

Measuring the Results
Its early days yet but I have been giving some thought as to how I measure the positive outcomes from this exercise. Well if nothing else I now know what sort of content and messages I should be putting out on my different social media channels. This has already made the process of posting content quicker and easier. Gone are the days of sitting down on a Friday afternoon thinking ‘what can I talk about on social or blogs’ – now I have a set of rules to follow.

Then I want to see how search results are affected for terms like ‘SEO expert in Kent’. It’s going be interesting to see if any of my social profiles rank in their own right or if they collectively pass link juice to a page in my website?

Then I can measure my growing influence on social media. For example my Klout score has already started pushing up and I am getting relevant new followers on Twitter and Google+.

Finally, it’s helped me better explain all this to our clients!

I will report back as soon as further results become apparent but in the meantime comments or question are welcome below...
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