PeoplePond: Do We Really Need New Tools for Personal SEO?

01
May
2009

Today let’s chat about a tool from David McInnis, brought to my attention a little while ago by Joe Beaulaurier: PeoplePond.

The site is billed as a “personal SEO” tool, to assist in personal branding. But do we really need one?  So far I’m not convinced. But I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a bad example.

Elastic SEO: The Concept

McInnis talks on PeoplePond’s blog about “elastic SEO.” What is it?

In short it’s just old fashioned reciprocal linking (which, in its often excessive form, has actually been discouraged by Google over the last few years although it does still impact rankings in the SERPs). The idea is this:

  1. You set up a profile page with PeoplePond.com.
  2. You add a link to your PeoplePond profile to all of your other social media profiles (twitter, facebook, or what have you).
  3. You add a link to each of those external social media profiles on your PeoplePond.com profile page.
  4. Yippie skippy, your rankings will increase.

Don’t get me wrong. In no way am I saying that won’t work. I’m sure it will. But why would I want it to? Why would I put that much effort into a page on someone else’s site instead of simply employing good SEO tactics targeting my primary business site, blog, or profile page that already exists?

Why I May be a Bad Example

I’m a very active Web publisher. My name is tied to quite a few websites, some of which I own and manage, some of which I simply contribute to (or used to contribute to), and some of which I use for networking or marketing. I haven’t made any active personal SEO efforts (I focus any and all SEO work on specific content or specific pages on my business site where I’m selling various writing services).

Yet 8 of the top 10 spots on Google for a search of my name–Jennifer Mattern–are related to me including links to my top two traffic blogs and a business site, site’s I’ve written for, reviews, etc.  (the top two go to JenniferMattern.com, the site of a playwright and rather awesome blogger who happens to share my name – on that note I’m actually interviewing her for another site of mine shortly). I have no need to get into an SEO war over that placement.

I’m also pretty selective about my various profiles, as I network with more than one audience. For example, I have a Myspace profile used exclusively to network with musicians, related to a music webzine I run. I’m also a member of communities where I network with writing-related colleagues, and still others where I network with other webpreneurs (many of whom have become clients, but also many of whom I simply enjoy keeping up with when keeping a finger on the pulse of new technologies on the Web).

I don’t want writing colleagues subjected to information meant for musicians, and those musicians likely have no interest in hearing about Web development (at least not most of them). There’s a reason I have different social media profiles at different places to begin with.

In the end, as usual, it’s about targeting. I question anyone who feels a need to join social network after social network just because it’s the thing to do at the moment. Want to optimize? Focus on building a more comprehensive presence with a more limited number of tools, and give people a reason to link to you and talk about you in the first place (there’s nothing better for natural SEO rankings than word of mouth and natural linking). PeoplePond.com does nothing I couldn’t do from my own business site (if I wanted to – and I haven’t had to do that in order to secure decent rankings).

Maybe if you don’t know enough to use your own site as your one-stop-shop for personal SEO and social media aggregation (or you don’t know how), it would make more sense for you.

Who Might Benefit from Personal SEO Tools

The fact is that, unless you’re exceptionally well-known, most people probably aren’t actually searching for your name to begin with (so rankings for that keyword phrase may not mean much anyway). You’d have a better chance of bringing them to your site(s) or profile(s) by optimizing for the specific content hosted there.

If people already are searching heavily for your name, chances are also good that you have natural links to your existing business site or blog anyway (if you don’t have a site, you’re not ready for SEO to be a priority anyway).

So okay. Let’s say that you’re well-known, people are searching for you by name because of your other personal branding efforts, you do have your own site and / or blog, but they’re not ranking well because you just happen to share a common name with lots of other folks. Okay. Then, maybe (if you’ve already tried and failed to increase rankings by interlinking your already-existing sites and profiles unsuccessfully), it would be worth setting up yet another one to try to improve the situation.

Aggregation

I’m all for social media aggregation where appropriate. During my hiatus here I actually had a conversation with a colleague about that topic and how it’s going to (in my opinion) be the next big thing in social media – far beyond what we’re seeing so far with existing tools. So in that sense, I think PeoplePond.com is fine and dandy.

If you want one link to pass around that will point folks to all of your social media presences, by all means, it may work for you. Personally though, if I’m going to take the time to build links to a page or promote the URLs to drive traffic to it, I’m going to send that traffic and those links to a page on my own site.

Really, the PeoplePond concept could work with any of your other profile pages, or even something like a personal Squidoo lens. But I’ll give them credit for working to help people aggregate content (it would be nice of course if people did that without forgetting about targeting – not saying they are, but that it’s a risk with any aggregation tool).

So do you need a service like PeoplePond to get the benefits of personal SEO? No, not really. And with the way tools designed solely for SEO linking value tend to get bitch-slapped down by Google before long anyway, I don’t see myself wanting to take the time to optimize that page on someone else’s site.

I’ll stick to good old fashioned white hat SEO – building natural backlinks by posting content people choose to link to, bookmark, and pass around; not obsessive reciprocal linking (there’s a reason you don’t see links to all of my other sites from any single one of my sites – I used to do it, realized how sickly spammy that was, and stopped – my sites still tend to rank well for my targets).

It’s interesting to note that the PeoplePond blog specifically talks about Google profiles, and how they’re not really focused on helping the user with SEO – that’s because Google frowns on any activity with the sole purpose of manipulating their rankings, and have made it clear repeatedly to the webmaster community for a few years now (why paid links, Squidoo, and Web directories all took hits at various times over the past two years). I’m one of the last people to do anything just because Google says it’s the right thing to do, but I always have been and always will be a big believer in natural and deserved linking as much as possible, and if you’re going to link to your other sites / pages, make sure it’s of value (so for me, not connecting the various unassociated groups I network with through a single service).

I’m not saying you shouldn’t sign up. Go ahead. Set up a page and play with the service for a while. It may be more your cup of tea. The fact that it didn’t strike my fancy certainly doesn’t mean it won’t be beneficial to you in some way if you need a boost in the SERPs.

Beyond the emphasis on SEO, PeoplePond.com is designed to give you contact portability by incorporating Weavemet and DandyID services into the site. While it doesn’t really apply to the personal SEO issue I wanted to discuss today, if you’re looking for a tool to help you manage your multiple online identities, PeoplePond might be for you.



10 Comments

  • Jennifer,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response to my recent blog post. I agree with you that this tool may not be for everyone. That said, PeoplePond was never intended to be just another SEO tool. For example, we are working on our authentication tools to verify ownership of content that should be released shortly.

    I too was all over the place in the search results mostly as a result of my days building and promoting PRWeb. The challenge for me was to find away to get my new persona and content to rise above “old David”. My PeoplePond profile did just that for me.

    I am now #2 in the search results for “David McInnis”. The elastic approach was just about the only approach I had to accomplishing my goals, especially with a new service like PeoplePond.

    That said, I am and have been a longtime advocate of not trying to game the Google system. It is really a bit silly to build a business on a single pillar. My focus is on making my content work for people. Make life easier for people and the Google thing seems to sort itself out on its own. Creating a single brand profile is just one of those approaches. It is about providing the right link structure for people to be able to learn what I want them to know about me (You have actually inspired me to put together another blog post that has been rattling around in my head for a while. I will do so on the plane today.). Turns out that the whole cross-linking thing I encourage through this blog post is actually accretive to Google as it helps Google understand the relationship between content and its authorship.

    You ask another compelling question, “Why would I put that much effort into a page on someone else’s site instead of simply employing good SEO tactics targeting my primary business site, blog, or profile page that already exists?” Again, you need to really know what you are trying to accomplish. PeoplePond does provide the added value of distribution. Remember Gravatar? It is a convenient service. Basically I upload your avatar in a single location. Then when I register on a third party website that supports Gravatar my avatar is automatically discovered saving me the hassle of uploading a new one with each new registration. I get the added value of being able to change my avatar in a single location and having all of my avatars across my social network updates. We are doing the same thing with your profile through our ADAM API. The ADAM “AutoDiscover About Me” API allows sites to auto-discover your “About Me”. I now have the ability to control all of my about me profiles from a single location.

    Again, thank you for your insights.

    David

  • I want to comment since you’re my friend and you wrote about something I’m working on. But David did a great job of assembling my thoughts here already.

    The only point I’d add is the most people are not controlling multiple sites like you are. Instead, they are sharing space on social media and networking sites run by others. As such, they are challenged to be visible amidst all the content around them. For them and others, PeoplePond is a blessing as it connects their content together and to their “main” site (if there is one) and helps themselves and others promote their brand.

    Thanks for posting about PeoplePond. Even though it may not be necessarily appropriate for you, you’ve provided many insights for people to mull over.

    ps… PeoplePond isn’t an aggregator beyond the twitter and news feeds available in the last section. Yet, we are constantly confused as being one.

  • David and Joe – thanks for stopping by. Just to respond to a few points:

    “That said, I am and have been a longtime advocate of not trying to game the Google system. It is really a bit silly to build a business on a single pillar.”

    On that we agree completely. I’ve been very much against catering any site to Google, or any other single source, for quite a while. I wouldn’t be as nice and only call it “silly,” but that’s another story. 😉

    “Remember Gravatar? It is a convenient service. Basically I upload your avatar in a single location. Then when I register on a third party website that supports Gravatar my avatar is automatically discovered saving me the hassle of uploading a new one with each new registration. I get the added value of being able to change my avatar in a single location and having all of my avatars across my social network updates. We are doing the same thing with your profile through our ADAM API.”

    I’d argue that example in that no one’s being asked to specifically promote a gravatar page (and by noting that all of their other profiles should link to peoplepond, there is that overt SEO vibe in contrast. I definitely don’t take any issue with the ADAM API itself – questioning the duplicate content vs brand consistency issues, or whether people are spreading themselves too thin and things like that encourage it, may be worthwhile discussions in and of themselves (but for another day). All in all though, I think that’s potentially very useful, but I think it can be useful without the SEO emphasis currently on the site (blog, site title itself, etc.).

    “The only point I’d add is the most people are not controlling multiple sites like you are. Instead, they are sharing space on social media and networking sites run by others. As such, they are challenged to be visible amidst all the content around them.”

    I definitely understand the thoughts there. But it still comes down to two things with me on the SEO side (since that’s what the post is focused on):

    1. In the case of most people, not many people are searching for their name, so personal SEO simply doesn’t do much for them, and I think that time could be better spent elsewhere.

    2. I’d imagine most people who care about any level of personal branding probably do have at least one website (but i could be wrong). In that case, I still can’t see the benefit of optimizing and connecting profiles through a 3rd party site (for the SEO value, and not considering the cross-platform updates), when their own site could be used for the same thing without losing any traffic to a middleman.

    “PeoplePond isn’t an aggregator beyond the twitter and news feeds available in the last section. Yet, we are constantly confused as being one.”

    Thanks for clarifying Joe. I think a part of that confusion might have to do with the site copy. There’s mention of your content being strewn all over the Web for example – which is a “problem,” leading to (me, at least) assuming the proposed service is going to directly address that problem by putting that “content” all in one place, as opposed to links. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if it’s a case of constant confusion, that might be a part of it. Or maybe it’s a hint that PeoplePond should aggregate more of that content down the road if that’s the kind of cohesive online identity people are looking for. 😉

  • Belinda says:

    The “other Jennifer” sounds like she’s losing her mind, to be blunt. Until I saw this post, I thought this was also her site. I’d find a way to make sure people know you’re two different people.

    I’m sure she’s wonderful and all that, but her blog posts don’t inspire confidence in someone looking for public relations advice.

    • It’s a good thing it’s not her job to inspire confidence in someone looking for public relations advice then — just as it’s not mine to appeal to an audience interested in parenting. We do just fine keeping folks clear, thanks. No need bringing unnecessary attention when most seem to figure it out on their own. I suppose poetry and witty humor aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the same goes for my rants on PR and SM issues. To each his (or her) own.

  • Belinda says:

    You say you do just fine keeping clear, but I was confused until I saw this post. Who’s to say that other people have found both sites and didn’t know there were two different people? It’s not all that apparent, and as you’re writing about personal branding, you might ask how you can make sure that search engines and actual readers can easily tell you apart.

    Depression is more the topic there than witty humor.

  • Like I said, it’s generally not a problem. If people aren’t too lazy to take two minutes to read an about page or bio page before making assumptions connecting people, they can figure it out fairly easily without each of us saying “here’s what I do and, oh yeah, here’s what I don’t do – that’s some other chick.” The styles aren’t the same. The information we cover is not the same. The audiences we target are not the same. If there were a significant overlap, I may agree. But there’s not. Clients and colleagues find me just fine as it is – a little bit of logic says if they’re looking for the Jenn Mattern who writes about PR issues, they’ll visit the PR-related site and not “Breed ’em and Weep.”

  • Andy Greider says:

    Jennifer-

    I have to wonder where you are getting the impression people aren’t Googling your name if you are not famous or notorious? To be frank, that is a dangerous assumption. On top of that – why would you want to have ANY chance of confusion between you and someone who is not you? For the first few years I had been working on my own digital brand and SEO, I had an internet doppelganger by my name who was listed on page 1, due to having a myriad of DUI’s in Chicago. Not someone I want being confused with me – however, it did prompt the question “are you from Chicago?” as the other Andy Greider had no picture up – just a listing as frequent visitor to the Illinois court system.

    If you are someone whose name is your brand (and in truth that is the case for each of us as our name is one thing that will likely not change much at all, if ever (excepting marriage)) it is very important you be found in the right way, right away. I use a smattering of tools and methods to position my own brand – among them PeoplePond and QAlias. I can testify that by telling people to “Google Me” – I’ve made myself more findable, more referrable and more accessible. In fact, that phrase has a direct ROI of $300 in (@ $9.95 per month) with $52,456 out (again that us directly attributable to people finding me through my SEO/SEM efforts.)

    Thanks for the interesting article. I strongly believe you are not the best subject for the story – like most business owners are not their own best demographic. If applied to other people, groups and more – there is much wider appeal and need, from my own experience teaching digital branding and positioning as an expert online.

    Thanks again.
    Andy “Google Me” Greider

    • Andy,

      I think the comment is either a little bit disingenuous, or perhaps you misread my post. I didn’t say people aren’t Googling your name if you are not famous or notorious. I said MOST people are PROBABLY not Googling your name — pretty big difference. And it’s not a dangerous assumption at all. Working heavily with SEO firms, I’m relatively in tune with SEO and search marketing issues, and that includes understanding the market (including the fact that a significant portion of the population doesn’t turn to search engines, and that when it comes to the more important aspect of local search for small business owners the usage may be growing but is still a fraction of total searches going on).

      Let me also clarify that nowhere in this post (unless I missed it, which is possible) did I say that personal branding and SEO aren’t important. In fact, I believe both are very important. Working as a freelancer now, it would be insane for me to feel otherwise. This article doesn’t take issue with personal branding, but instead “personal SEO” tools which I consider more clutter than constructive tools – doing little for you that you can’t already do yourself (by focusing on your OWN “home base” if you will through a website you have full control over as opposed to driving further traffic to yet another 3rd party site). I also find any tool that focuses predominantly on reciprocal linking strategies for SEO (not exactly “loved” by the search engines to begin with) to be rather outdated in its approach.

      I’m all for other opinions, but I think your comment took one line in the post somewhat out of context. In a general sense, we’re probably more on the same page than you think. I simply don’t advocate taking your time to build traffic to someone else’s site instead of your own in your quest for better rankings in the SERPS and greater visibility for your personal brand.

  • Alwin Parker says:

    sir… i just want some free press releases sites not a paid list beacause i see your list on socialrealist.com that’s many number of sites are paid there avalaible only free account….
    please post only Free press release wbsites not paid


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