Search engine optimization is about influencing what people read about you just as much as whether people read about you. I’m confident that most SEO professionals understand this when it comes to their companies, clients, and corporate SEO. Yet my personal feeling is that people, SEO specialists included, frequently fall short in the area of ipseitic SEO: what people find when they search for you, not just your company. As much as we’d like to separate the two entities, distinctions between individuals and their companies are becoming blurred by social media and corporate blogging. People may be equally apt to Google you when Googling your company.
This leads us to Google Profiles, the starting point for individual online reputation management. Compared with other profile sites, Google Profiles are underdeveloped (although I did just squander several minutes of my life looking at Rand Fishkin’s wedding pictures on his profile—they are very nice). Don’t misunderstand me by thinking that by underdeveloped, I mean unimportant. Rather, Google Profiles will change the face of people search as we know it. Consider the following:
1st Page Rankings: Google Profiles are indexed to always appear on the first page search results for your name, with thumbnail photos, as shown below for “Scott Cowley.” Call it the ultimate opt-in bait.
Additionally, major search engines index Google Profiles for organic search results. Experiments by others in the industry suggest that anchor text links in the profiles appear to pass some link juice.
Control: Along with 1st page rankings, you have complete control over the content of your profile. If you’ve done or created something that people aren’t likely to discover on their own, you can link to it from your profile. Basically, the defining document about you online will be your own blend of fact and buzz marketing. That’s a winning combination for anyone.
The combination of rank and control are enough to make Google Profiles both popular and very powerful. Right now, Google is no Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, but that has the potential to change, especially if Google acquires someone like FriendFeed. In Profiles, I already see signs of a greatly improved people search. No longer does a social networking website come first in the search for someone’s basic information and web presence. With Google, you have a self-written, thumbnail-confirming profile one click away—a one-stop shop for hiring managers, potential clients, blind dates, etc. Ipseitic SEO will become much more relevant and those without profiles may be labeled as “irrelevant.”.
I anticipate Google using Profiles as the launching platform for a next-generation web crawler originating at the profiles. Following the link paths generated by the profiles, crawlers will gather a very accurate report of individuals. Monetization with disconcertingly targeted marketing and messaging will follow. It may sound intrusive and border on privacy invasion, but I’m willing to let time either convict or exonerate Google on this one.
I’m confident that some eventual good will come to me because of my Google Profile, which is why I created one. Whether it be reconnecting with a friend, impressing a potential employer, or establishing credibility with a client before we even meet, I like Google Profiles and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the future (and hopefully more crazy wedding pictures from Rand Fishkin).
Feel differently about Google Profiles? Have questions or something to add? Let us hear about it.
SEO Tips for Optimizing Your Own Profile
If you don't have a Google Profile, my advice is to get one. If Google's regular algorithm is any indication, profile longevity helps rank (important because only four profiles are given 1st page search result status). You can even get a vanity URL instead of the standard number string URL.
[A note about vanity URLs: you risk identifying your Gmail address to spammers as Gmail turns your e-mail prefix into your vanity URL. You can also sign up for a new Google Account using an alternate e-mail and select your own URL, which I recommend.]
Once you have your profile:
Add information. More "complete" profiles are more likely to make 1st page.
Verify your name/e-mail. Name verification requires a Knol account and a cell phone or credit card record (Google forgot about the small class of people like me who only use debit cards and tracfones). E-mail verification requires a closed e-mail, i.e., no Gmail or Hotmail.
Build links to your profile. I really only recommend this if you have stiff name competition.
Create a Google Profile for your business (Optional). Google Profiles are only meant for individuals, but that hasn't stopped people from creating profiles for "Web Design" or "Cheap iPhone." Doing so will only get you listed in Google Profile-specific search results or possibly organic rankings and not on the front page with the real names. Still, it can't hurt.