Link Building & The Blurring Of Brand Identity

Is link building becoming harder as brand identities become more blurred on social media sites?

Go search for a big brand on Facebook and try, in less than 5 seconds, to correctly identify the official brand page. Try to determine whether a Twitterer is the “real” one you want to follow. It’s not that simple anymore.

As everyone on the planet becomes savvy about using social media, brand identities could be in danger. How will this affect link development for those brands? When you spend loads of time using social media to build links and traffic for your brand, it’s a bit disheartening to see how easily you could be losing out to someone who may not have an official representative voice.

We’ve seen this happen with content scrapers in the past, as people have written great content that’s been scraped and, at times, ranked higher than their own for various reasons. The original does not always triumph, sadly. We’ve lost links to scraper sites in some cases. We’ve also seen all the uproar over the use of brand names, by competitors or unofficial sources, in paid ads. Now, we’re poised to witness a major issue as official brand representatives lose out to non-official brand representatives on the hottest in the emerging online spaces.

Let’s take an example: Brand X is a coffee company that is sold in stores all over the US. They have a Facebook page with 500,000 fans, maybe 2,000 of whom actually regularly interact on the page. When an update is published, maybe 10,000 people like it and thumb it up, on average. 4,000 people might comment on it. That’s a decent amount of people viewing this content and potentially linking to it, whether it’s from their own site or from another social media platform. Forget improving your rankings; these links help you with traffic. Brand X has a special Facebook-only promotion that goes live, and, due to the amazingly rich content/fantastic deal of said promotion, it has the chance to garner a decent number of new inbound links and traffic.

However, let’s also say that there are a fair amount of unofficial brand pages that represent your brand, ones that have as many (or maybe more) fans as the official page does. As you can imagine, this is highly possible. When someone is looking for your official brand page, in order to become a fan and thus see all your lovely content that you post, he or she could quite easily be confused and become a fan of the “wrong” page. Let’s say that, for this example, there are 5 “competitors” that look official enough to grab what should be your own fans. Thus, your brand page has lost a potential source of links and traffic. (I’m assuming that there is no intention to do anything negative, here, for the record; it’s the simple fact of not actually being able to control your official brand in terms of building links and increasing your traffic.)

This could happen on Twitter as well, with followers. The good news is that, with Twitter, users tend to be a bit more reluctant to follow and interact with unofficial representatives. In a worst-case scenario, though, an unofficial brand representative could gain loads of followers and be sending out content to people who should, technically, be following the official representative. Again, a nice way to lose the chance to gain new links and traffic…

As other methods of link building seem to fall out of favor, link development through social media is becoming a mainstay of how many people go about bringing in fresh blood to their sites. Due to its ease of use, however, it’s ripe for abuse. What can be done to counteract this?

  • Create, maintain, and monitor your brand
  • React to attempts to sabotage your brand
  • Push forward with new ideas for your brand

First of all, the creation and maintenance of a brand identity is not something to be taken lightly, especially on social media sites where anyone and everyone can proclaim to be a guru, an expert, or a representative of something. I have zero expertise in brand creation so I’ll leave it at that. On the side of the people creating/maintaining the brand, there should be an immense amount of monitoring that occurs. If you’re doing a good job of watching what should be your space, you should be able to catch a lot of this as it starts to become a nuisance. If you’re not, and you’re surprised by something, you should make plans to take back your space.

It is for this reason that you’ll read about how you should try and rank for your name/brand, buy your brand name domain in the .com and the .net (and more, of course), go ahead and secure your Twitter name even if you aren’t yet tweeting… the preventative maintenance list goes on and on. You want to be poised to capture your links, not let them leak to someone else. This is all covered in basic reputation management strategy, honestly. You just have to apply it differently according to the specific medium.

Secondly, as you’re monitoring your brand, you should be able to react to any attempts from an outsider to hone in on your territory. A while back, people got very excited thinking that Matt Cutts was following them on Twitter. The only problem was it turned out it wasn’t really him. This became a big issue, as it happened to more and more high-profile people in our industry. The targeted individuals reacted very quickly, issuing statements that brought this to the public’s attention. Celebrities who were spoofed on Twitter became fodder for the news. If you’re monitoring your brand on Twitter, for example, set up some alerts for any alternative names that you can think might be used to fool people. Be proactive in letting your followers know about this if something happens.

The last step is to keep pushing forward with new ideas for your brand. People currently look to social media for innovative ways to interact, so it’s the perfect place to try something new. The most recent US presidential election was partially played out on Facebook, which attests to the power of using social media followers to gauge the general public’s response to certain ideas. The immediate feedback that you will receive can let you know how your new product/idea/widget is being received so that you can react to it, either by pulling it (if it falls flat) or boosting it, if you’re being inundated with praise. In a successful case, you stand to gain a lot of new links, as people see your new ideas being promoted on social media sites and check them out. Everyone likes to be the first to get on a nice new bandwagon…

Overall, it’s key to remember that social media sites are not the only way in which your brand can gain recognition. However, if you do use social media for branding purposes, and hopefully you do, you really should keep a close eye on your own brand and others who attempt to represent it so that any links gained will be yours.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: owns the link development firm Link Fish Media and is one of the founding members of the SEO Chicks blog.

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