I’ll admit it. As a self-proclaimed technology snob, I’m not easily impressed. Nor am I often surprised when something new comes along that advances how technology is used. However, Google managed to blow me away with their new Google Authorship search function.
First, if you have a web presence at all (which anyone reading this does), then you need to familiarize yourself with Google Authorship (start here). A few months ago when I set-up my Google+ profile, I also added the authorship markup to the sites that I contribute content to (like this blog). My main incentive was the assumed SEO benefits and that my Google+ profile picture would show up next to my articles in Google searches (research indicates that these drive higher click-throughs and that Google algorithms take author rank into consideration).
All seemed fine and dandy and I was indeed seeing some benefits to having a more managed web presence when I received this email from Google:
So what does that mean exactly? Well, let’s rewind…
A typical search for Chris Crosby turns up results for multiple Chris Crosbys. Fortunately I have a couple of links that appear in close to the top, but I’m usually beat out by the comic writer, along with his nice photo displayed on the page.
If you want to find me specifically, then you can add some qualifiers to the search, like: “Chris Crosby Boston”, “Chris Crosby Inflection Point”, etc.
However, when I clicked on the link Google provided in the email to see my Google Authorship results I was blown away.
It didn’t just return content from the sites I’d put markup on, but rather twelve pages of results that go back seven years an even includes my Google+ profile. Everything from blog posts to press releases and articles that I’ve been quoted in.
While it’s not a surprise that Google’s algorithms are able to reverse engineer a personal profile for me, two things amazed me about this:
- There was a not a single false positive. Every result was related to me and not a different Chris Crosby.
- The depth and breadth of items that Google returned was fascinating. I’m talking about comments that I’ve left on other people’s Google+ posts, answers that I’ve voted-up on Quora, and even a YouTube video I didn’t know I was in.
On the surface, it looks like they’ve indexed my various online profiles to extract specific attributes like when I worked where, and then created a composite image of me that associates those attributes to entities found across the web.
For example, my LinkedIn profile lists that I was the President/CEO of Latigent from 2002-2007, so when Google indexes an article from 2005 with a quote from Chris Crosby, CEO of Latigent their algorithms can discern it’s me and then associate it to my search results. Same goes with things like my Twitter and Quora profiles where I list my current roles and url to my personal website. Since my blog URL is also included in my Google+ profile its rather straight forward to link them all together.
I’m sure I’ve oversimplified this, but apparently my Google+ profile and the markup added to my sites is a way for them to weave it altogether with a pretty strong degree of confidence.
There are two critical takeaways from this:
• As the world migrates to Google+ in the next couple of years, its going to be easier and easier to find specific people on the web and get a pretty in depth picture of their online presence and history.
• Regardless of who you are and what you do, you need to take a proactive role in owning and managing your online identity and activities. Everything you do on the web that’s indexable by Google (which most of it is) will be tied to you specifically.
Oh, and the other smokin hot feature is that link to webmaster tools where you can see how many times your links are showing up in search results. The insights there are game changing if you want own search for your own keywords.