Saturday, March 23, 2013

5 steps to a healthy web presence

Web PresenceWith my contact lists in order, I took a look at my web presence and social networks today.  It was pretty horrible, outdated information, broken links, missed messages.  Fortunately, the mess hasn’t spilled over to the search engines, which still return valid business and personal links for me.  But given the general entropy of new information displacing old, it seemed like time for spring cleaning.

Especially since it’s snowing a blizzard outside.

Philosophically, I favor a simple top-down approach to managing a web presence.

1- Separate up two simple and consistent information sites.

One site contains static information: a personal page (“web-CV”) that describes me.  This is established once and updated occasionally.

The other contains narrative information: a personal blog, tumblr, or twitter stream that follows my life.  This has little static information but is updated frequently.

Each references the other, backed by a consistent strap line, contact information, photo, and personal description.  That helps people to recognize that they’ve found the right person and creates a reinforcing resonance within the search engines.

Get these right, with good headers and tag so that they re machine- as well as user-friendly.

2-  Establish a consistent identity on a few key social networks.

The ‘big three’ are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+: I use the first exclusively for personal friends and family; the second for Business and Professional contacts.

I keep a high wall between the two, with appropriate contact lists  and privacy settings.  Personal contacts are limited to people I know, like, and trust (less than Dunbar’s Number in total) and I keep a pretty regular, open dialog with them.  Business contacts range much more widely (five times as many) but receive much less information, much less often.

Google+ is shaping up to be a tool that syncs other networks: Plaxo and Orkut both link closely with it, and it holds my contacts and calendar for shared company access.  I suspect that Google+ will become more important over time.

I use consistent login names, so the URLs are predictable (and I put them back into my static web page).  Google+ is the only outlier: they don’t allow users to establish custom URLs, so it’s best to redirect trough an simple service like gplus.to.

3-  Direct feeds into dedicated timelines, not onto status updates.

Narrative sources like twitter, tumblr, and RSS-blogs can produce a lot of updates that overwhelm the status lines in Newsfeeds in the Big 3.  So I set up pages on Google+ (using HootSuite as an intermediary), on Facebook (using RSS Graffiti), and a relay to Twitter (directly from Blogger) to receive blog feeds. 

Make sure that your narrative sources have easily accessible RSS feeds that can be connected to Aggregators (NetVibes) and Readers (FlipBoard, Currents, and paper.li).  Despite predictions that Google’s retirement of Reader means the death of RSS, there will always be a Need for Feeds, and those hooks should be kept technically current.

4- Connect secondary static feeds through apps.

I link in specialty sites, mainly a photo archive (Flickr) and travel recommendations (TripAdvisor) through their dedicated spaces in Profile pages in the Big 3, and linked back into my personal static page and personal blog margins.  I also flag up blog posts through Twitterfeed and make sure that my RSS feed is active for the aggregators.

When I register with social aggregation service,  I pull text and links from the primary sources so that people are always directed back to locations that I know and maintain.  This keeps things simple for sites like the Knowledge Transfer network (they need a bio), InterNations (they want interests) or Expat Blog (they need a description).

5-  Finally, trim the fat.

There’s no harm in canceling my profile at paces that I tried but never visit any more.   I don’t need to be everywhere to be found, I just need to have a strong profile at some key sites where referrals and search engines can find me. 

So, Xing is deleted, Naymz is next, others to go as I find them.

My own web presence is still a bit of “Don’t-do-as-I-do” until I finish following my own advice.  One company site is down, two are out of date, and my main personal site needs an hour’s work.

Another week, though, and it will all be gleaming and humming.

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