Google’s “Me On The Web” Pushes Google Profiles — Take That, Facebook?

Google has launched a new “Me On The Web” section within its Google Dashboard area, which seems designed to push more people toward creating Google Profiles, as well as create greater awareness of how things that leak out of Facebook and other social networks may end up on Google.

The Facebook Factor

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the feature. But I think it has to be taken in context with Facebook’s recent accusations that Google has been somehow been secretly collecting information about people from Facebook and other social networks without their permission or their knowledge.

Examining Facebook’s “Smear Campaign” Concerns About Google Social Circles is our post from last month that goes into details about those accusations. In it, I covered how the information that Facebook was concerned about being “scraped” was itself actually being published onto the open web by Facebook itself.

How Google Knows About You

Still, it might not be clear to some Google users how something on a social network could end up being linked to them in Google results. The new tool, as Google explains in its blog post today, seems in part to help clarify that:

Your online identity is determined not only by what you post, but also by what others post about you — whether a mention in a blog post, a photo tag or a reply to a public status update. When someone searches for your name on a search engine like Google, the results that appear are a combination of information you’ve posted and information published by others.

Nothing above is new. Our online identities, even before the rise of Facebook, were defined by material placed on the web either by ourselves or by others.

What’s the new tool exposing or helping with that’s different. Not much, except maybe giving Google more cover if people complain that it has found some info about them from a social network.

Google Profiles & Me On The Web

Let’s take a look at my own “Me On The Web” section:

On the left, there are a sample of links that are listed on my public profile page with Google.

Not everyone has a Google Profile page. You have to make one, and if you do, then only links you choose to add to them will be shown. Our article below explains more about this:

In terms of “Me On The Web,” showing links from someone’s Google Profile may enlighten them little (if they haven’t added links to a profile) to nothing (if they have no profile) about who they are on the web. Plus, the links are focused on what an individual might be publishing, not what others might be publishing about that person.

Why bother showing this “links” area? For one, if you have created a Google Profile and linked up your various accounts, then it’s a little more obvious that you’ve alerted Google to those accounts. Despite them often already being public in various ways, this potentially makes it harder for another company like Facebook to suggest that Google has somehow stumbled upon your social profiles.

Pushing The Google Profiles

Another reason is that it helps promote Google Profiles themselves. After all, consider what you see if you do not have a Google Profile:

No profile? Then Google urges you to create one to “help control how you appear within Google search results.”

This is also advice that Google offers if you select that “How to manage your online identity” link that’s listed on the right side of the “Me On The Web” section:

The advantage of having a Google Profile? If you open that help topic, you’re told:

With a Google profile, you can manage the information–such as your bio, contact details, and other information about you–that people see. You can also link to other sites about you or created by you. For example, you can link to your blog, online photos in Picasa, and other profiles such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Yes, you can manage the information on that page. Having that page might give you an additional listing in Google’s top results, such as you see here in a search for Leo Laporte:

Potentially, if there’s something you don’t like in the top search results, that profile link — if it shows up — might “push” something negative into the second page of results, where it will be seen by fewer people.

Google Profiles Offer Little Help With Reputation Management

Of course, the negative stuff might appear above your Google Profile page. If so, nothing will get pushed out. You might not even see your Google Profile page appear at all for your name, even if you have one. Google’s incredibly inconsistent about if (and where) it shows Google Profile listings.

And if you’re US presidential candidate Rick Santorum, sorry, that Google Profile isn’t going to help at all with your reputation problem for searches on “santorum” on Google.

Google Profiles Help Google Know You

What Google Profiles will do is help Google better understand who you are as a Google account holder. That’s extremely helpful if you’re trying to make your search results be more socially relevant to searchers. If they have a profile and link that profile to their social accounts, then in turn, Google can better guess who their friends are.

Indeed, that’s exactly how Google Social Search works now. It depends in part on people having Google Profiles. No Google Profile? Then Google is more limited in how it can create socially-relevant search results. The articles below explain this in more depth:

From Google Profiles To Google +1

As for Google +1, it does NOT depend on Google Profiles to create connections. But in order to use Google +1, you have to have a Google Profile — and if you want to show your +1s publicly, you have to take a further step and enable the +1 tab on your Google Profile. This explains more about Google +1:

Now that Google +1 buttons are now appearing on web sites, Google’s got even more incentive to get people using Google Profiles. They need them in order to use +1. And at some point, Google +1 will have to be improved or linked into a system that allows anyone to easily “follow” what others are +1′ing.

Many +1s are probably happening just within search results. How many are happening web sites at all — and why anyone would push them there seems to be a mystery. Do they just push buttons because people like to push buttons? Do they understand that pushing the buttons might possibly improve their search results?

Leaving nothing to chance, Demand Media’s eHow even tries to educate people about this, I noticed recently:

On some eHow pages like this one, a question mark symbol appearing next to the +1 button cleverly explains that using +1 is a way to signal a “stamp of approval” to Google for search purposes.

“Me On The Web” Another Social Tool?

Like I said, eventually, the +1 button needs to be hooked up into something that lets people follow what others are +1′ing. Earlier this week, MG Siegler wrote a nice piece at TechCrunch on this, on how the Google +1 button isn’t offering much of a treat to users.

I also covered this in my Has Facebook Become The Master Key To Unlocking The Web? story:

What’s the bribe for visitors? Twitter’s button makes it easy to share to friends and followers on Twitter. Facebook’s buttons make it easy to do the same on Facebook.

Google +1 promises to maybe improve my search results and to make a list of things I like if my friends choose to go to my profile page on a regular basis to check — and only if I’ve opened up my +1 tab.

That’s complicated and not particularly compelling. I think Google’s going to need to up the offer for visitors, to get the clicking started. If it doesn’t, it’ll only win half the battle. It’ll get space on sites, but it won’t get the valuable social sharing data it wants.

I think “Me on the Web” is part of Google enlisting Google Profiles into the battle with Facebook.

Of course, I also think Google’s trying to actually help educate people who view information that Google lists in it results somehow as information that Google “has” about them and want to control this. But I do think Google Profiles gets a boost in a new way, as part of this.

Removing Information & Alerts

Beyond the social networking aspects, Google’s “Me On The Web” does provide a link with information on how people can get content removed from Google’s listings. Don’t get your hopes up, however. This can only be done in very limited cases, and our articles below explore this in great depth:

The area also brings greater awareness of Google Alerts, a way to monitor what people may be saying about you online. Google Alerts, they’re not just for Katy Perry, you know!

The “Set up search alerts for your data” link brings up a “Manage Personal Alerts” box:

That looks promising. It’ll even automatically search for your linked Google Gmail address, if you like.

But after hitting save, it doesn’t take you to the list of alerts you’ve created. If you use the link again, you’re also not shown previously created alerts. Nor does anything found appear in the “Me On The Web” dashboard area. You also don’t get the wider range of options that going directly to Google Alerts provides, such as to search just against news content.

Bottom line: if you want alerts about yourself, you’re probably better off going to Google Alerts directly.

Overall, maybe “Me On The Web” will develop into something more impressive. But right now, it seems less about telling you what Google knows about you from the web and more about helping Google understand who you are on the web.

Related Stories

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: +1 | Google: Accounts & Profiles | Google: Dashboard | Google: Social Search | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Mary Kay Lofurno


    As always, excellent article, very thorough. I still don’t see what real value this offers me the consumer over say Google Alerts. I have used Google Alerts for years to monitor any search results around my name.

    I agree, we will have to see where they take this and what they add to it to make it worth my time. At this point, I don’t see it and I have profiles in linkedin and facebook that have to be kept up and the engines find those anyway.

    My two cents. Mary Kay Lofurno

  • Azzam Sheikh

    I am a big fan of Google and love their attempt to be innovative, but I have to agree with Mary that there is plenty to do already in maintaining social networking sites and Google can not add to this anymore as ‘a-yet-another-social-networking-site’, it is just too late for it.

    But saying that I do like to see what Google may have to offer in the long term and I do actually like the +1 tab which displays what you have essentially bookmarked. If anything it will bring me back to see what I have ‘bookmarked’ with the +1 button.

  • Paul Gailey

    great – yet another Google service that Google Apps users still cannot use.

  • Jon Peltier

    Here is a scary thing:

    When a Google Profile member links ot an article on the web (“likes” it, whatever it’s called), the entire article is loaded into their profile, and the page it occupies makes it look very much like the profile member has scraped the contents of the article and reposted it as their own. The profile member has done nothing of the sort, and doesn’t know it even looks like this.

    On the one hand, Google is telling us to eliminate duplicate content, on the other it produces duplicate content unbeknownst to the source and the profile member on whose profile it is duplicated.

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