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How to safeguard your privacy while building your digital business

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How to safeguard your privacy while building your digital business

30-second summary:

  • The need to become a public persona in order to be a successful business owner is overrated
  • Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to create an anonymous digital entity while using a majority of efficient marketing strategies
  • The problem arises when you already have your personal data published and want to delete it – it is neither easy nor possible (given all the variety of archiving tools that are publicly accessible these days)
  • So how do you keep your life private while owning a successful online business?
  • How do you navigate this conundrum as your private content may still become public at any moment?

The internet is both, a boon and a bane, depending on – how you use it, and how others use it to interact with you. A lot of new businesses and side hustles emerged post the pandemic, while brick and mortar businesses started digitizing themselves. This has raised well-being challenges around how business owners and senior executives can separate work from their personal pockets over the internet. How can they ensure their privacy and online safety are strong while building a digital business footprint?

Here are a few things you should know about safeguarding your online identity from the internet:

1. Making your site anonymous

Digitizing your business while remaining anonymous is difficult but doable. Here are all the steps you need to take to create an anonymous blog. In essence:

  • You need to come up with an online pseudonym (a moniker as we used to call it back in the days when we were using forums and never used our real names around the web)
  • Set up a new email address and create your new public social media profiles representing your business
  • In addition, you will need to pay for domain privacy protection to prevent your phone, email, and address from being tied to your domain. Domain privacy protection replaces personal information with proxy info in the public WHOIS directory.
  • Make sure you are using an SSL certificate (which you can do for free)

I know we have been talking about transparency and authenticity and building your personal brand too much, so creating a successful anonymous site without exposing yourself seems almost like an unpopular choice.

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Well, I believe there’s still a place for anonymity in social media, and you can still succeed without the cost of compromising your personal details to the public. You just need to take careful steps when using all kinds of marketing tactics – like blogging and social media marketing – in order to keep your private life – well – private.

Of course, that means, not posting family pictures on Instagram, and not telling personal stories, but there is still a wealth of opportunities, from SEO to PPC ads. With more personal tactics, like blogger outreach, you will likely have to come up with an alternative identity as no one likes anonymous emails or emails coming from a business.

There’s one thing to note here: For both ecommerce and SaaS businesses creating an anonymous business entity is doable. Of course, some of your customers may be curious who is behind your brand but if you have working contact information, it is not a huge issue. It is, of course, more challenging for a freelancing business, as most freelance marketplaces require your real name in order to join.

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Some may argue about the possibility of anonymity in the context of E-A-T but in reality, it isn’t common knowledge how exactly Google translates its E-A-T requirements into a ranking algorithm. So far, I’ve seen plenty of websites with no humanized ‘About’ pages ranking, and ranking high. Besides, you can tell the story of your business without telling the personal story of its founder. 

The need to become a public persona in order to be a successful business owner is overrated. It is still a matter of choice. Technical SEO and high-quality backlinks, as well as the quality of content and properly performed keyword research – remain the three pillars of solid organic visibility. A well-done ‘About’ page can exist without personal branding as long as it conveys your business’ proposition, origin story, and conveys values that will resonate with your target consumers/audience.

2. Delete your public content from third-party platforms

Chances are, you have been contributing to several third-party platforms using your real name. It is only natural because there are a few powerful social media players (like Facebook and Quora) that have real-name policies in place preventing users from maintaining anonymity.

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If at some point you decide that you don’t want that content to come up in search when anyone is searching for your name, what are your choices?

The hard truth is that removing your own content that you added to a third-party site is a challenge. Some platforms don’t even have tools for mass-deleting content from the platform. In the case of Quora, you will probably need to delete your own account in order to get rid of your content.

In some cases, like Reddit and Tumblr, even deleting your own account won’t help as your content will remain there assigned to a removed entity.

In case you are curious, here’s a break-through of major third-party content-based networks and how you can wipe your content off them in an easier way:

Third-party content- driven platform Any Way to Mass-Delete Content? Will the content be gone once you delete your entire account?
Reddit No No
Quora No Yes
(except for questions which are mostly anonymous)
Instagram Yes
(You can also make your profile private)
Twitter No
(However, you can make them all private/protected)
Yes
Facebook No (But you can make them all private/hidden) Yes
Pinterest No Yes
(but NOT re-pins other people make from your pins)
Tumblr Yes
(Using the mass post editor)
Not all
(Your group blog contributions will be kept)
Yelp No Yes
(But not instantly)
YouTube Yes
(You can mass-delete your comments and mass-hide your videos)
Yes

In summary, deleting your content from the web will take some work, and in some cases, it will not happen instantly. But it is better than saving future hours trying to block and delete spam communications targeted toward you and your business.

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You can, of course, change your username on most of these networks to hide your real name but mind that your previous name will be still visible through the Wayback Machine and similar archiving tools, should anyone take the time to research.

3. Make your remaining accounts private

If you think going off the grid is an extreme sport and want to maintain some sort of social media presence to stay in touch with friends and family, simply make your accounts private. But remember that your name and profile picture may still be public and findable through Google, even when a profile is set to private.

Here’s an example of a private account on Instagram which still makes your name, username, description, profile picture, and website public, even for a non-logged-in viewer:

Safeguard your personal identity over the social media while growing a digital business- making your account private still keeps some parts of your profile visible

Generally, when a social media account is set to private, neither logged-in nor unregistered people cannot access your content or your friend list.

The culture of spontaneous sharing is going too strong: People publish and share private information without much consideration or without meaning any harm.

And let’s not forget about an always possible data breach risk that can land your personal information in the possession of hackers. From the past incidents, it is quite clear a social media platform is unlikely to even let their users know about the breach (they may do that but months after it happened, months after your private data may have ended up in the wrong hands).

That being said, deleting your accounts is probably a better – still not a perfect – option.

Conclusion

The truth is, once we start opening up our lives to the digital world, that private content gets wings of its own. It becomes very difficult to bring it under control and can easily spread without you even being aware.

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If this is something of a concern to you, take at least some steps now: When starting a new business or digitizing your current one, keep your anonymity options in mind and make an informed decision as to what you want your customers to know about your personal life.


Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

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SEO

On-Page SEO Or Link Building?

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On-Page SEO Or Link Building?

Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Taha in Chicago, who asks:

My question is on ecommerce SEO. Currently, I am working as an SEO Executive for an ecommerce brand. They have zero content on the site and their total backlink profile is around 1,000 links (which is nothing compared to competitors).

Which area should I focus on first in order to rank category pages? Should I go for the content and on-page optimizations or create backlinks to compete with my competitors’ profiles?

Taha, great question.

The short answer is: you should start with content and on-page optimization.

Now, let me give you the long answer, which applies to more than just the category pages you mentioned.

Start With On-Page SEO

Backlinks are important and we know they are part of the ranking algorithm.

However, you must have optimized content on the website so the search engines know what to rank your website for.

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Below is a brief checklist on what to focus on in terms of on-page optimization before you start investing time in link building.

1. Determine Your Keywords & Themes

If you haven’t already, spend some time identifying your keywords.

Go from broad to narrow as you create your list, but keep in mind that relevancy is the most important consideration.

Even as you identify broad terms, though, they should still be targeted and relevant to your categories and products.

When I do keyword research, I like to brainstorm first and then expand my seed list using tools, such as Semrush, SE Ranking, or SpyFu.

Once I have built my list, I will then prioritize it, generally in three categories: Priority 1, Priority 2, and Priority 3.

You will need to assign keywords to the pages on your website, which is referred to as keyword mapping and will help you avoid keyword cannibalization.

After you have finished this process, it’s time to optimize your pages.

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Keep in mind that it is common to have 2-3 primary keywords per page, and several secondary keywords.

2. Optimize Your Pages

When you are optimizing your pages, focus on your title tags, heading tags (especially H1s), body text, and image alt attributes.

Even though the meta description doesn’t play much of a role in ranking, you should optimize it as well.

There are best practices to follow when optimizing, which you can find in The Complete Guide to On-Page SEO.

Here’s a pro tip: Use Google Search Console to identify if the search engine is already recognizing your pages for relevant queries.

The Performance Report in Google Search Console will show you the queries for each page.

If any of these queries look like good keywords, or maybe they’re already on your list, focus on those keywords when optimizing the associated page.

You might update the page title and/or H1 to include the keyword(s).

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You might even look for opportunities to weave the keywords into the body text more, but don’t ever stuff keywords. The content should read naturally.

3. Add Relevant Content

Adding optimized content is critical no matter the type of website – and ecommerce is no exception.

Since you mentioned category pages in your question, I will focus on recommendations for that type of content.

First and foremost, know that category pages present a lot of opportunity to add text.

However, a lot of companies are hesitant about adding too much text on category pages because they believe it will take away from the shopping experience.

The good news is there are creative ways to add optimized text without being too intrusive.

Target.com provides a good example.

The following is a screenshot of the Baby Gifts category.

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When you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can see optimized text with an expendable option (i.e. Show More).

Screenshot from Target.com, June 2022

TheCompanyStore.com provides another example of category content that also includes FAQs.

ecommerce category optimization company storeScreenshot from TheCompanyStore.com, June 2022

In both examples provided, a website visitor can still easily scroll through the products as they make their way down the page.

The content contained toward the bottom of the page is good for optimization purposes, but also helpful to the visitor.

Review + Refine

One final note: After you have optimized your pages, always be on the lookout for opportunities to improve.

That is where the pro tip I provided can help.

Be in the habit of monitoring the performance of your pages and make updates, as needed.

More resources: 


Featured Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

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