BrandYourself is a site with a very good idea – helping people gain a bit of control over the pages that their names rank for in Google. I first read about it in an article explaining why such a service may be useful at TechCrunch, which caught my eye due to my interest in SEO.
I have my own site (you’re on it), and I feel I know enough about SEO to have some influence over what shows up in a Google search for my name, but I was curious about what they were doing and wanted to see if they had any tricks I could learn. I created a profile and a links page to help promote my resume (2nd page on Google) and my GitHub profile (3rd page). After viewing the source code, I’ve determined that BrandYourself isn’t doing anything wrong, but I feel the execution misses a few things. It’s obviously designed for people who have a limited number of web presences, and probably no presences that they completely control (ie, they don’t have their own sites), but do have one or two accounts on sites like Facebook or YouTube where they can post information.
The main idea of the site is to create additional pages, and/or promote existing pages, that rank highly for your name. It is an opportunity to add another page to Google’s index, but one that is designed to rank well for a single phrase – your name.
While BrandYourself claims to have a deep understanding of SEO, many of their techniques are very beginner – url, title tags, h1 tags, etc. Using a phrase in these places is a safe and proven way to rank for that phrase, although there is no guarantee that a page that does this will outrank a page that does not. Using a phrase in various places on a web page are among the ‘on-page factors’ that Google looks for when determining the relative importance of a page. They claim that 3-5% keyword density (the amount of text on a page that is comprised of keyword phrases) is the target, but at first glance a not-very-completely filled-out profile page seems to easily exceed that density for my name. The links page in particular looks rather sparse and spammy.
Other factors contribute to rank as well. ‘Off-page factors’ are mainly links to that page from other pages, and these links carry significant weight. BrandYourself doesn’t seem to be doing any linking internally from profile to profile, or from profile to school/career/location hub. At the very least, I feel they should be using the person’s name as the link text in the single link pointing from the links page to the profile page. They encourage users to create inbound links (also called backlinks) to their page on BrandYourself, but don’t appear to link out from it, other than to a Links page that contains the links to your other profiles (ex. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).
Each account is given a URL that is a subdomain of brandyourself.com. My page is oliverbaty.brandyourself.com. That’s not bad, but I’m curious to see what happens when two people with the same name sign up. It’ll also be interesting to see if the brandyourself.com profiles for people with more common names can rise to the first page of the SERPs. The external pages you choose to promote, including your other social profiles, are displayed on a separate page on your personalized subdomain.
Interestingly, each subdomain has a robots.txt file, but not a sitemap.xml file. It does have its own 404 page (that sends a 404 HTTP status header), and the page will echo back the path part of the URL you pass it (url encoded, of course).
The interface is pretty slick, with lots of nice Ajax effects that one would expect from a startup today. There’s a little bit of badge-earning, but no big deal.
I already rank pretty well for my name, but there is always room for improvement. When I Google myself, about half of the results on the first page are profiles that I have some control over.
Oliver Baty | LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/oliverbaty (my profile) Ardamis www.ardamis.com/ (my site) Oliver Baty | Facebook www.facebook.com/oliver.baty (my profile) Oliver Baty (@ardamis) on Twitter twitter.com/#!/ardamis (my profile) Oliver Baty - Google+ https://plus.google.com/113392027226542020317 (my profile) Oliver Baty (1862 - 1941) - Ancestry.com records.ancestry.com/ (not me) Oliver Baty in Oak Park, IL | Miami University Of Ohio | Profile at ... www.peekyou.com/ (about me) Internet Archive Search: creator:"Oliver Baty Cunningham Memorial ... www.archive.org/ (not me) Oliver Baty Cunningham Memorial Publication Fund [WorldCat ... www.worldcat.org/ (not me) Oliver Baty Cunningham Memorial Pu Fund - Barnes & Noble www.barnesandnoble.com/ (not me)
Maybe it will take off later. The TechCrunch article states that BrandYourself had nearly 6,000 sign-ups between March 8 and March 17, so that’s pretty good. A Google search on March 20 for site:brandyourself.com returns “about 8,760 results.”
As of March 20, a Google search for site:brandyourself.com oliver baty returns no results. Two days later, my profile page and my links page were both in Google’s index. This was probably helped along by the links to those pages at the beginning of this article. As of March 22, a Google search for my name, without being signed in to Google, shows my BrandYourself profile page as the 10th result.