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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Google Profiles Onebox

Google has started to roll out integration of Google Profiles into their main results. For instance, search for tony ruscoe and scroll down to the end of the results, where you will find a pic of Tony, a brief description, and links to services like Google Profiles, MySpace, Facebook and others. A little Google cross-integration goes a long way to make Google Profiles a much more competitive product all of a sudden, because it displays right where many people would look for you in the first place.

If you’re not appearing in such a profile onebox on a search for your name, chances are you’ve not opted in to this. To change this, go to your profiles page settings and tick the box reading “Display my full name so I can be found in search” (you may also want to scroll down and check the box below the text starting with “To make it easier for people to find your profile...”, though note this reveals your email address).

I wonder in what ways there’s also room for abuse here – what mechanisms does Google have in place to ensure Tony is Tony, and not an impersonating scammer? (Note you can get a “verified name” via Google Knol.) Reversely, what happens if Tony changes his job title to “Twitter CEO”, will that now be an easy way to get that “info” into the first pages of Google results without even a single backlink voting (backlinks are one crucial way of Google determining the order of organic results)? In a statement Search Engine Land quotes, Google’s Joe Kraus explains “People have no control over how they appear when other people search for them on Google. That’s a big issue we’ve heard ... The new results are to better control what people see and improve the ability for people to fine what they’re looking for.” A double edged sword perhaps, as personal control doesn’t always equal neutrality.

A search for [me] as seen from the US (courtesy of Kevin)

Now, Google in a blog post says these profiles pop up in US searches, but it also worked for me when trying a search from Germany using One thing I was indeed not able to reproduce here was Google’s special result when you search for [me]. In a box called “Google Promotion”, Google advertises its profile services. (The last times Google used such a promotion box, it raised some questions about whether the company really always used the same AdWords tools outsiders use, as they once proclaimed they would. Google say “It’s important to note, however, that our ads are created and managed under the exact same guidelines, principles, practices and algorithms as the ads of any other advertiser. Likewise, we use the very same tools and account interface.” Is this promotion created using the same tools?)

[Hat tip to, Manoj, Reto, Ionut, SocialStream and Kevin!]


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