The Benefits, Limitations, And Risks Of Shared Platforms
There are a number of shared platforms for B2B marketers that promise increased traffic and search visibility for their members. Before you subscribe to a shared platform, be sure you understand whether it will really help you and how to best use it to drive increased visibility in the search results. This article looks at an example of one of those platforms and how to best use it. You can use the information to evaluate other shared platforms relevant to your business.
Ascribe is a shared platform that allows members in the architectural, engineering, and construction industries share project information and images to build online project portfolios. It promises quick and easy set up, increased traffic to your site, and a substantial increase in search visibility.
Ascribe’s technology lets members quickly set up a project portfolio that can either stand alone or be incorporated into your site. It saves a lot of time and programming; you don’t have to build it yourself. Ascribe also lets you customize the look and feel of your portfolio, so you can not only match design of your corporate website, but you can also include your site’s navigation within the portfolio. This not only helps drive traffic from the portfolio into your site, but also helps bots find your content. Here’s an example of an Ascribe user’s portfolio. You can refer to this example as you consider the factors below.
Ascribe allows users to leverage the photography of other members. When users upload images to their portfolios, they indicate whether other Ascribe members may use such images in their portfolios if they participated in the same construction project. Good architectural photography is expensive. When users have rights to share such images and choose to do so, the broader community of users benefits greatly.
When a member, such as a general contractor first loads a project, the originator typically writes a detailed summary of the project. Other contractors on the project can choose to use the same project summary or edit it for use on their portfolios. Other members save substantial time by not having to write original copy and research details and data regarding the project; they can leverage what others have already done.
A good feature of Ascribe is the ability to specify body copy text links within each project’s description. This didn’t exist in the beginning, but it does now. Although I see few Ascribe members doing so, savvy members will use this capability to build keyword-rich anchor text links to deep pages within their own sites.
At the bottom of each online project profile are links to the other Ascribe members who also worked on the project. For example, visitors viewing a project within the general contractor’s portfolio will see links to the sites of other Ascribe-using contractors who worked on the job. This helps send traffic from one Ascribe member’s portfolio to another’s portfolio or corporate site, increasing traffic throughout the portfolio network and to members’ sites.
Ascribe’s platform also has the option to push members’ new project information their respective Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.
Although the portfolio is easy to set up, your portfolio is not on your domain. The best place for your portfolio is on your domain. While the design of an Ascribe portfolio can be adjusted to match the look and feel of your site, the portfolio itself is on Ascribe’s domain (check out the URL.) Any trust and authority built up with the search engines will accrue to Ascribe’s domain, not yours. If anyone links to a page in your portfolio, it will be a link to Ascribe’s domain. If your portfolio’s content shows up in a search result, searchers will click through to content on the Ascribe domain.
Although part of the benefit of being an Ascribe subscriber is the ability to use others’ project descriptions, if you merely use what someone else has on their project page, chances are your content won’t be indexed by the search engines; they will see it as duplicate content and choose to index the original. While you can review the original project profile for background and information, make sure you write original content if you want that content to be indexed by the search engines.
Recently, Ascribe has promoted new search optimization features. Although Ascribe has been available for several years and the company has boasted about search benefits since its release, the company only recently added the ability to create custom title tags for each project page. Until now, title tags were automatically and rigidly created. The great news is that members can now specify optimized title tags for each project. The bad news is existing members will now have to go back through all of their projects to optimize the tags, but the benefits will be worth it.
While they recently also added the ability to specify captions for project images and have captions be a user-defined links, it seems crazy they also didn’t add the functionality to specify alt attributes for images. Instead, they added the capability to add meta keywords to project pages, a practice that hasn’t had any material influence on search for nearly a decade now.
Ascribe members presently don’t have the ability to specify keyword-rich, descriptive URLs for project pages within their portfolios.
Lastly, there does not appear to be any export functionality within Ascribe or the ability to redirect URLs. Keep in mind, if you ever want to stop using Ascribe, you’ll have no easy way to export and transfer your content, nor will you be able to redirect any of the project URLs to other domains or pages. The trust and authority of those pages in the search engines’ eyes, and the links leading to those pages, will be gone.
On balance, Ascribe is a good tool for construction companies and architectural and engineering firms to use in building traffic and increasing online visibility. Recent additional features now give members more ability to optimize content within their portfolios. It can be an effective tool for those in the AEC community, especially for those with limited website content and less authoritative domains.
Like many of these platforms, there are trade-offs. The ease of use and the ability to get up and running quickly and with limited investment make tools like Ascribe appealing. Recognize, however, that you may not have all the capabilities you might like. Also, using a platform of this nature creates dependency. Once you build up significant content in your portfolio and significant traffic from search, you won’t be able to transfer it easily. You may be able to transfer some of the content, but you won’t be able to transfer any trust, authority, or traffic from the search engines.
If you’re considering subscribing to a shared platform in your industry, make sure you understand in detail the benefits, limitations, and opportunities the platform presents, both in the short and long term. Hopefully, the issues discussed above will help you do that.