PeoplePond: Do We Really Need New Tools for Personal SEO?
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:
- You set up a profile page with PeoplePond.com.
- You add a link to your PeoplePond profile to all of your other social media profiles (twitter, facebook, or what have you).
- You add a link to each of those external social media profiles on your PeoplePond.com profile page.
- 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.
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.