Friday, October 7, 2011

How Google "Sees" Me

I find this exercise very interesting because I teach a class at UW-Whitewater that I developed called Social Media Optimization and the New Web. One of the first things I ask students to do in this class is to Google themselves using a variety of modifiers, such as: Google Search your name, image search, video search, news search, add limiters such as “Wisconsin” or “Whitewater,” then try all these same techniques in Yahoo and in Bing, etc. Students are almost always weirded out by some the results they weren’t expecting. Often they’re disappointed to learn that they are the equivalent of cyber-ghosts, invisible to the web. In other words, they have no search visibility or social media influence. In building up my project, GameZombie TV, I used to search (or egosurf) “GameZombie” religiously, looking to improve the SEO and SMO of the project online. This assignment has given me the opportunity to egosurf myself, which I haven’t done in a while.

A social networking analysis of the term “Spencer Striker” returns a lot of results because I set virtually everything to public and have published content online for five years or so. I have linked tons of my social network profiles to my Google Profile which helps Google know which online identities are mine—it’s kind of like submitting your website to Google’s spider index: Google would have found it anyway, but this way there’s no ambiguity. SEO is still pretty imperfect, as I’m always totally frustrated by this image ad of a hammer that shows up when I search myself—it’s a hardware store bid on a “Spencer…Striker” hammer. Doh! And during image search, uploads to Google Plus show up as me, because they were uploaded by me, but of course they are not me—they are the subjects of the photos I have taken. This happens because Google is blind, and can only associate tagged words in an algorithmic attempt to generate relevancy. This tech will get better and better in the future and we should all keep an eye on how Google “sees” us.

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