File Under: Social

Facebook Offers Vanity URLs for User Profiles and Pages

Starting this weekend, Facebook is letting each user pick a real name to identify the URL of their profile.

Right now, your Facebook profile’s URL ends in a decidedly inhuman string of numbers. Not so easy for anyone to remember (except search engines). Starting Friday night, the social networking site will allow users to pick out a profile URL that contains their real name. This will make URLs on the site much cleaner, easier to remember and (hooray) more appropriate to put on a business card.

Starting at 12:01am Saturday June 13 [that's 12:01am EDT, Friday 9pm Pacific], you’ll be able to go to Facebook and claim your name on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have a fairly common name and your full name is already taken, you’ll be given the option of choosing an alternate permutation, like first initial and last name, or the addition of your middle initial. User names have to be at least five characters long, and they can only contain letters, numbers or periods.

Also — and this is important — once you pick a user name, you won’t be able to change it or transfer it.

The switch is not mandatory. Users will be able to assign real names to their profiles as well as any Facebook Pages they administer, but only if that Page has more than 1,000 fans. Groups and Events won’t get human-friendly URLs at this time. Facebook has a full rundown of the eligibility requirements on its site.

Facebook’s move towards so-called vanity URLs for user profiles echoes a similar change Google made to its own user profiles earlier this year. The trend towards offering real names in URLs is part of a wider movement among social websites, as users want to make it easier for their friends to find them, either by simple logic or through search engines.

And that’s the “big deal” part — by getting a Facebook URL with your real name in it, you’ll be much easier to find on Google. You’ll also have a single public page where you can link off to all of your other social profiles.

This is something we’ve already been able to do using lifestreaming sites or social aggregation sites like Plaxo Pulse or FriendFeed, but with limited success.

Check out the contact info listed on my personal blog — I point to my FriendFeed page as the place to go if you want to find me on all the social networks I belong to. However, when I search for my name in Google, I see that my Facebook profile pops up on the first page of results. My FriendFeed profile doesn’t show up until you go deeper. Obviously, Facebook has far more Google juice than FriendFeed, and its pages get ranked higher in the results because they have more authority.

So, this is a win for the SEO of your personal brand, whether it be your name, your business, or a nickname you’ve had your whole life. You’re simply going to be that much easier to find on the web.