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News: Google Lets You Put Yourself Into Results For..Yourself

By - April 21, 2009

cd3s9vfk_46dpjthjg9_b.pngOne of the principal things nearly anyone does on Google.com is a vanity search: We ask the question: What do people see when they put my name into Google?  

Today, Google is announcing, for the first time, that anyone can change what is seen. (The initial launch is US only).

This, to be clear, is a Very Big Deal.

Joe Kraus, one of the founders of Excite and founder of JotSpot, is now at Google, and this new feature is his baby. I spoke to him today when he sent me a note about the launch. I immediately called him back, because, as I said, I see this as a Very Big Deal.

Why? Well, Google has always been predicated on being a neutral black box. You, as a solitary entity, could not influence the results that Google provided (though of course a very large industry has emerged that attempts to do just that). But this launch changes the game, in a few very, very interesting ways.

cd3s9vfk_50hqx8vvgd_b.png

First, and most obvious, this is Google leveraging its might in search to get more people to sign up for Google profiles. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is important, given the competition from Facebook and Twitter, but trust me, it’s really important that Google 1. know who you are and 2. compel you to have ongoing relationship with the company.

Second, this move creates, for the first time ever, a new signal that is directly controlled by an individual but changes what *everyone else* will see in results. True, for now, the results are at the bottom of the first page of results, but that doesn’t mean it won’t move up once Google learns enough to make it truly useful.

Third, this is Google putting a human, community-driven face on itself. It’s Google saying “Hey search user! We want to listen and respond to you!” This is a very good thing for the company, and how it plays its hand from now forward is going to be very, very interesting.

Fortunately for Google, the man with the hand is Kraus, who is a master poker player (yes, I’ve lost to him) and a generally good guy to boot.

There are many questions to be asked about this new service, but the first one that came to my mind is this: Who ranks first for any given name? There are a lot of Joe Smiths, for example, and even more than one John Battelle’s, despite the relative uniqueness of that name (and even more if you count dead folks on the roles of Ancestry.com).

Kraus explained that the initial signal for which profiles would be shown (four will be shown, with a “more” button) will be based on completeness of the Google Profile. AHA! Another motivation to give Google more info on you!Goog me.png

What if there are like 200 John Smiths, and they all have complete profiles? What signals will determine which get into the top four, and which gets the coveted top spot? Kraus said he didn’t have a good answer for that yet, but one signal will certainly be clickthrough rates (like it is for AdSense), and they will be learning and iterating over time.

Google is also doing a US promotion to encourage folks to set up a profile – when you “Google Me” (literally, “me”), you get an ad (see image at left). Again, this is something of a first for Google, or at least unusual, as there are other AdSense advertisers for the term “me” who are not getting placement at the top – Google is taking it for its own promotion.

This all reminds me of the ending of my book. Which of course is my favorite part. In the epilogue, the final paragraph reads:

What does it mean, I wondered, to become immortal through words pressed in clay – or, as was the case here, through words formed in bits and transferred over the web? Is that not what every person longs for – what Odysseus chose over Kalypso’s nameless immortality – to die, but to be known forever? And does not search offer the same immortal imprint – is not existing forever in the indexes of Google and others the modern day equivalent of carving our stories into stone? For anyone who has ever written his own name into a search box and anxiously awaited the results, I believe the answer is yes.

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26 thoughts on “News: Google Lets You Put Yourself Into Results For..Yourself

  1. the aha moment…(yes, of course, more info for google to cache, analyze and create opportunities with…)bigger question for SEOs me thinks : how does this change the game?

  2. No, actually, it isn’t the same as carving our names in stone, because we’ll dribble down off the bottom of the search priority list quite quickly! And you’re making quite an assumption, at that, that Google is forever. As you began the article: it’s “vanity,” and meaningless beyond our attention-span, let alone lifetime, let alone posterity.

    Socrates once pointed out that writing was a system for forgetting things. But we have overcome that: we now have tools that do even the forgetting for us!

  3. Stefan Kulk says:

    Tim O’Reilly seems to be a featured user: http://www.google.com/profiles

  4. Michael Goller says:

    Google already owns social networking sites – does this forebode a stronger push into the market through one of those channels?

  5. Kelly Clarke says:

    Cool, but does this mean that Google is identifying you solely by your job title? A little too Patrick Bateman for my tastes.
    “Eggshell. With Romalian type.”

  6. Chadwick Jones says:

    This article is plain incorrect. Google did not say they are going to let profiles influence search results. They said they are going to put google profiles UNDER the search results… AT THE BOTTOM… they are not going to screw with the search.

  7. Chaz says:

    John, can you or someone comment on what impact it will have on SEO firms? Will it decrease a Companies need to use them or at least give them the ability to take that marketing role more in house? Would be interested to hear your answer.

  8. The irony is that Google is now free to define “forever.” If I do something that their algorithms classify as undesirable, they can remove my entry from their index, and then I will cease to exist online even if my actual demise is in the far future.

  9. At last, a chance to pat myself on the back in front of the internet world

    http://www.dockerydesign.com

  10. John,
    From what I’ve seen so far the profiles are only displayed if you are logged into your Google account. Is that your experience? I inferred from Google’s “Official Blog” that the profiles would show up on all name searches, but that doesn’t seem to be the case so far. Any insight?

  11. JJ Halans says:

    I think it’s the precursor to social(ized) search results, (additional/optional) search results based on your complete Google profile (its links to your social networks and your Google Contacts from Gmail, your location through Latitude,…)

  12. Wones says:

    PeopleSearches.com

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  14. Srinivas says:

    I am from India and I am eager to check where my profile stands in the google search. But I can’t check as this is not rolled out.
    Is there a way to workaround and get a Google US search view outside of US ?
    I know of one website offering this facility. Is there a official Google way of doing this ?

    http://www.redflymarketing.com/blog/google-global-view-results-different-locations/

  15. firma rehberi says:

    I know of one website offering this facility.

  16. ZH says:

    OK, I went to the site and looks good. I copied “Tim O’Reilly” went to google.com to perform a search got re-directed as usual to google.co.uk, paste in the “Tim O’Reilly” but his profile page is not in top 10 results page…

    I thought that would be the reason. I don’t get it. hmmm.. How many profile do we really need on the net? why there is no openprofile? like openid? Well I don’t mind having profile but can you all let me re-use it in other sites please..

    Thanks

  17. Eric says:

    John,

    Email Michael (Peeyou.com CEO) to discuss this important vertical in more detail. Here at Peek we’re well ahead of where Google is, aren’t limited by sites associated with Google, and have some fairly exciting developments ready for prime time.

    What this does is validate the “people search” space as the next hot zone in search. Of course Google needed to act…as much as 25% of their daily searches are people searches. Their algo is still limited. Finding the “best” John Smith isn’t a query that makes sense to humans. We want the “John Smith” we know.

    Peek’s patents cover data-layering and this deep inter-linking. We’ll share with you the really exciting stuff that no one else is even thinking about. Yet. This is a classic “blue ocean” play, and the water remains relatively clear for us, even after this announcement.

  18. Hashim says:

    Google has been allowing businesses to do this in local search for some time. This seems like a natural extension of that service.

  19. Great new feature by Google. Thanks for the information.

  20. I know of one website offering this facility.Thanks.

  21. Obviously, it’s all about “me.” What happened to unbiased organic results? Who will vet the profiles — maybe there will be lots of puffery and inaccuracies?

  22. samuel says:

    I have searched my name before and I was dismayed at how many Samuel Craigs were out there…

    Who gets top ranking?

    Google will probably add some refining fields. But all this will take them further from their roots as they try to become all things to all people.

  23. neon says:

    The seen so far the profiles are only displayed if you are logged into your Google account.

  24. Matthieu Catillon says:

    being ranked in these fake arbitrary results will be the lamest thing on mother Earth. that will be a shame, if my wife was listed there I would divorce her :–)! I am not married yet.

    lame lame lame! this is just for noobs… this ill be perceived the same as having an email @aol.com in 1996 … shame on you!

    organic is everything…

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  26. Cinderella says:

    thanks I think whoever wrote this would maybe be my boyriend