Apr 23 2009

google’s new self-control


We’ve all done it, we’ve googled our name.  And, in the process, we’ve found all the other Perry Evans’ of the world.  There’s Perry Evans in Hollywood, Perry Evans the gospel singer (my favorite alter ego) and Perry Evans the family practice physician in Cleveland, and so on.  This practice has even been the subject of an indie documentary film named, appropriately “Google Me“.  Problem is, all name matches are “correct search answers”, but the consumer isn’t well served for meaningful people search on today’s Google.

This week, Google launched “Google Me”, a new feature that let’s you claim your profile, which will then be integrated into the search results for matches to your name.  It’s the first time individual consumers have really been able to have any control over any placement on the SERP.  Yes, your photo and summary info will show up in a special new Google Profiles section (currently) located at the bottom of the first page results.

it’s natural

As many have pointed out, the consumer pull of such a concept is compelling. It’s a very safe bet that this will become a mass participation model, if for no other reason than the implicit feeling of having some control over the black box of Google search.  In today’s world of identity fear and loathing, consumers naturally gravitate in these directions. Thus, by default, Google is placing itself more squarely into the forefront of personal identity.  By default or by design?

fear factor

ReadWriteWeb nicely captures the big brother issue – should you stop and think before giving Google even more personal context? Will their artful data miners convert this into all sorts of ingenious models of “improving your personal search experience” by applying this deep profile content?

Of course you don’t have to fill out anything, and when you claim your profile, it can be a simple name, rank and serial number.  However, being the naive social beasts that we are, the average joe will probably continue to fill in Google’s profile form with all sorts of interesting nuggets of interests, personal links (think of the derivative deeper mining!).  Copied from the RWW article, this is the form. Think about the marketing value that can be derived from parsing this content AND the content on the personal links you provide, and perhaps a few things they may already know from your search history and DoubleClick’s asset trove.


who, me?

On the surface, this is a smart search quality move.  It improves the people search value of Google.  Not the best time to be in the people search business, I’d suggest.  It’s also an ingenious method for Google to put themselves into the middle of personal profile collection.  Given Google’s rabid focus on personalized search, this feels like a carefully contemplated move in that chess game.

As quoted in RWW, Google’s Joe Kraus responsed on this bigger picture issue, attempting to dispel the notion of a bigger agenda.

“Google doesn’t do a lot of forward looking things; we serve our users’ needs and then we iterate.”

Gimme a break, Joe, this kind of BS really backfires.  Own up to the treasure trove you’re building, and be transparent about how you intend to use it.  Anything less just adds to the growing pile of reasons for consumers to begin fearing the brand as an opaque, too-powerful monolith.

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2 Responses to “google’s new self-control”

  • Sebastien Provencher Says:

    Haven’t had time to blog about it but it is yet another “identity” play like Facebook Connect, Twitter Connect, MySpace ID, etc. Google will attach Gmail info with this to create identity + social graph. This is getting very close to “White Pages” territory, yet another directory industry opportunity getting captured by online players.

  • Nico Brooks Says:

    I share your skepticism about Joe’s comment. I joined Atlas shortly after the settlement the lawsuit against Doubleclick regarding misuse of PII. The industry was still reeling from the implications of that suit, for good reason. Getting users to voluntarily give their personal data to Google is hugely strategic. While we should be thinking about what Google will do with that data today, we should also be thinking about what they will do 5 or 10 years hence when they are struggling to hit a quarterly revenue target.