Source: Maria Peagler at Social Media Online Classes
Created by: HackCollege
Update: Click here for a great infographic and helpful video added to the end of this post
Google has a search engine devoted just to you. It’s true. For example, here’s mine. And Google changed how it works just a few weeks ago (on 1-12-2012).
Executive Summary: If you want Google to find all you do and rank it highly, from your Google+ account, use “Edit profile>Other profiles” to add all your profiles (e.g. Twitter, Facebook), add the email you use when contributing content under “Edit profile>Work email” and/or use “Edit profile>Contributor to” to add everywhere you contribute content. You can also gain control of content by posting website links back to your profile via a Google+ badge or by adding a snippet of code.
This special search influences ALL other search results that have anything to do with you, because of how something called “Authorship markup” began affecting web search in early June of 2011. And this has nothing to do with whether Google has verified you or your organization. So this is essential for both individuals and organizations to get a handle on.
In this post I’ll tell you how to find the search engine about you, and how to make it return the results you want by managing your Google identity. Of course, if you do NOT want to appear in Google search results, or you just want some things you’ve written not to appear, that’s a different situation, and you might want to read “Dealing with Negative Information About You or Your Business Online” (includes a nifty infographic).
What’s Google Doing With Your Identity?
Why should you care?
Because regardless of whether you want to hide or be seen, manage your identity or let it happen without your knowledge, you DO want to know what the internet’s main search engine is doing with your name and identity! It’s your digital fingerprint on the web.
If you use a Google product such as gmail or Google plus, you have a Google profile already. Google uses it to determine who you are on the web, and what to tell people about you. The key is this:
Special links to or from your Google profile determine your identity.
What is a Google Identity Anyway? How Do I Manage It?
If you need an introduction, read what is my Google profile? first. If you already have a Google profile, start by logging into your Google Dashboard (didn’t know you had one? Here’s a video introduction) or Google+ profile before continuing.
How To Manage What Google Knows About You
So that Google recognizes the different things you do around the web as “you” and displays them in search results, here’s how you can create (if desired) the links that Google uses to understand your web identity.
Any place you create content on the web can show up as being by “you” in Google search results (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, etc.) So you can link to those places from your Google profile or link from them to your Google profile (or both).
How Your Email Might Be Identifying You Already
If you’ve ever commented on a blog and used your email in the comment (or had it used automatically by one of a variety of login/authorization services) you’ve seen the picture/avatar you’ve chosen appear next to your comment. This is an example of using your email in a non public way (people can’t see nor spammers steal your email address).
So a few weeks ago, Google added a new, simplified method that involves managing your email to identify yourself, and affect what shows up in a Google search about you.
Particularly for guest bloggers, it’s the simplest way to manage your identity. Scroll to the bottom of this page and click “New! Option 1″ for directions. However, you might not be able or want to use your email in all cases, so read on for how to link to or from sites where you have profiles or contribute content.
How To Connect Content To Your Google Profile
Linking TO sites
Simply add sites where you contribute or have profiles to your Google+ page.
- ADD PROFILES: Click the blue “Edit profile” box at the top right of your Google+ page and then click the gray “Other profiles” box at top right to add sites that you have identities such as Twitter.
- ADD SITES YOU CONTRIBUTE TO: In the same right-hand column as the ”Other profiles” look closely for the “Contributor to” link and add those sites there (for example, places that you have guest blogged). It’s a very faint gray color, so look closely.
Linking FROM sites
If you don’t always want to use your email to identify yourself, here are Google’s guidelines for how to link to your profile from single- or multi-author blogs and sites (whether content pages or author pages), with specific WordPress tips, including how to test profile and publication links. In many cases it’s as simple as adding Google’s profile button to your site or author profile.
How Can I See The Special Search Engine About Me?
This is what Google considers an “author search.” You could just carefully edit the URL to find yours, but yesterday the awesome @DohertyJF posted about how you can simply drag a bookmarklet into your browser bar whenever you’re at someone’s Google+ page to open the Google search engine about them. I highly recommend you read it here. If you find adding a bookmarklet confusing, read these instructions.
If 1,000 or more people have added your commercial (organization, brand, or product) Google+ page to their circles, you can apply for verification once your G+ page links to your organization’s website, and the website links back via a Google+ badge or by adding a snippet of code.
Even then, verification is NOT guaranteed. For example, a celebrity would also need to be considered a “commercial brand” to be eligible.
From my vantage point, I’m seeing engagement down quite a bit at Twitter, and up at Google Plus. And since the number of “active” users on Twitter currently approximately matches the number of new Google Plus users, Google Plus appears to only have to continue what it is already doing to succeed at becoming a social network on a par with Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Google itself has many more active users than any other network does. Besides users of its search engine, think of other Google products (many of which are inherently social) like YouTube, Gmail, Blogger, Maps, Documents, Picasa, Orkut, etc. (Realize that email is in some ways the world’s biggest social network.)
G+ only needs to have some integration into its existing products to become huge. People don’t have to leave other social networks for Google to grow huge, virtually overnight. While it clearly is a new social network, it can also simply be used as a social feature added to everything else Google does. And the vast majority of internet users use one of more of Google’s products.
And don’t overlook that Google can grow by buying other networks, even if it means overpaying a lot for them. Google can afford it. They’ve lost some bids in recent years, and have surely learned from the experience when to buy and what to pay.
But how much of the current success is just people trying out Google Plus? Every day that people keep using Google Plus actively is a sign it will succeed. How many days do we need before we can declare that people will keep using Google Plus? I think we’re already there. To succeed, I believe all Google Plus has to do at this point is not fail. And yet they could be the cause of their own failure, such as by suspending accounts without good reason and alienating users, for example.
Finally, realize that neither Twitter or Facebook are cool. What’s cool is what people do with Twitter or Facebook. Millions of people are already declaring that they’re doing cool things with G+, so If they can manage simply not to alienate users by breaking things or changing things in frustrating ways, I think G+ will continue to be a huge, huge success.
Who will be the biggest loser: Twitter or Facebook?
Look at it this way: If G+ had been available years ago, would Twitter have ever grown so large? Quite probably not. Almost all of the people that made Twitter grow have tried Google Plus already—and are declaring that they will keep using it if G+ doesn’t somehow screw it up. The early adopters of G+ are mostly not people migrating from Facebook, however. That’s because G+ and Twitter are both anyone-to-anyone connectors. Facebook is more for immediate circles of friends.
Also, Google has an incredible infrastructure and team around the world to handle growth, fix things and build things right from the beginning. It’s a huge, huge advantage. It wasn’t clear years ago what the best ways to build things were. A lot of what works best, infrastructure-wise, has been determined, and Google is poised to take advantage of that. No social network ever started knowing how to scale things for hundreds of millions of users. Google Plus is the first. Facebook, Twitter and Google have for many years been labs to figure out what the problems are, and what works. Solutions have been found, and now Google can benefit.
Twitter is the most likely loser in a head-to-head battle of “is it broken?”
Twitter knows it needs to upgrade parts of its infrastructure, but this is like swapping out the engine on a jet in flight. Even so, I believe they plan to do it. But in the meantime, they are stuck trying to make things the least bad, instead of the most good. While Google Plus will have technical problems, its very unlikely to build something that is already broken.
Twitter had no choice, since they never knew what they were building from day to day. It wasn’t completely their fault—no one knew what Twitter would be good for, and no one knew how popular it would be, or how fast it would grow. Facebook had a clearer, steadier growth path, and they’ve had more time to get things right, infrastructure-wise.
What kinds of problems does Twitter have? Besides downtime, the worst, in my opinion, is that Twitter won’t show you all tweets. (While Twitter’s “firehose” does show all tweets, it isn’t available free.) While Twitter tries to talk about this so as to minimize its importance, I have found in tests that I miss tweets every single day. Of course, as @TweetSmarter, I can get hundreds a day. And many of them show up eventually. (That’s how I can tell I missed them in the first place, by comparing.) But lots of folks trying out hashtag chats have found the same things. Some people and some tweets just don’t show up. It’s like duct taping the mouths of some participants in a group discussion.
I believe the second-worst problem is spam. The problem is that spam is an arms race, where anything Twitter does can cause spammers to change their tactics.
For example, if you receive a tweet from someone you don’t follow with nothing but a link, 99+ of the time it’s spam. But what if Twitter blocked these? Then spammers could just add one word with the link. If Twitter blocked those, then spammers could add two words, and so on. And should you be blocked from sending a tweet with a just a link? That would block lots of legitimate tweets. Read more about the problems of misidentifying spam here.
Twitter currently blocks links to phishing sites as soon as they identify them. But why not identify the language and then block the tweet completely? Since hackers inevitably use the same “is this you in this pic?” kind of tweets for awhile, it would reduce spam. Of course, spammers would then just mix up their language.
So in some ways, it’s better for Twitter to let spammy tweets through. It causes users to mark them as spam, for example, which helps Twitter determine which accounts to suspend. And Twitter suspends obvious spam accounts very quickly. The problem is that thousands are created *or waiting to be activated) all the time, and so the total spam is a problem.
One idea is to let new users know that they will be receiving a spam test tweet from an unnamed account. They would have to reply to a tweet of a picture with a description of what is in the picture, for example. This would make it VERY hard to run an automated spam account, because spammers would have to have a human read all incoming tweets to find and respond to the the test tweet.
What about the influencers?
If the kinds of people and entities that are most active and influential on social networking sites find Google Plus working for them, Google Plus will succeed, and other sites will suffer. We can guess whether this will happen by asking three questions:
- Does the G+welcome them? Do its features make it possible for them to much of what they did elsewhere? Do they gain useful features they don’t have elsewhere?
- Does the G+ welcome their community? Will their community follow or join them there?
- What will they lose in spending time on G+ that they normally would have spent elsewhere?
Is G+ as easy and useful as Twitter and Facebook for influencers?
Influencers have already declared they like Google Plus, so the answer is pretty clear regardless of specific feature sets. And Google will be making business/non-personal accounts available soon so as to have a product for all influencers.
Do influencers really lose a lot, feature-wise, at Google Plus so far? Mostly not—and Google has said many features are on the way, and it will be changing in response to feedback. But since Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus are all changing rapidly, it’s somewhat too soon to compare features. However, in the end, Google is very likely to have the richest feature set of all, by over time integrating all their current tools. Also, Google Plus is free to take what works best from Facebook and Twitter.
Will people follow influencers to Google Plus?
Yes, many will. People are already marveling at the rate of engagement on Google Plus. Longtime bloggers with lots of commenters are getting anywhere from double to 100 times the number of comments by publishing on Google Plus instead of on their blog. Sure, one reason is simply that a lot of people are testing Google Plus, but when it’s working so well, the “test” becomes the new normal.
Also, influencers are already finding that they are following people to G+, not the other way around. When your community moves, you have to listen. And G+ will experience huge growth when it comes out of invitation-only.
What is lost by spending time on Google Plus?
This is not as important a question as it seems. Once tools like TweetDeck let you manage Google Plus from the same interface you use for everything else, time isn’t as big an issue. And this will happen soon. There are a already a variety of tools to manage content across G+ and other networks.
If you’ve decided you need a social networking presence, it’s going to be hard to avoid also being on Google Plus. And there is hardly an influencer of any kind anywhere in the world that doesn’t have a social networking presence of some kind, a Twitter account or Facebook page (or a Chinese equivalent).
Google Plus has been tested, and has already succeeded. They are unlikely to screw up by breaking things. Because of their huge userbase and by satisfying millions of early users, huge growth is virtually assured.
I predict once they get beyond their current invite-only state and integrate Google Plus into all Google products, if people don’t find reasons to avoid it, G+ will have more active users than Facebook by the end of 2012.
What do you think? You can leave a comment on the Google Plus version of this post here.
Two users have created great comparisons of Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook, in table and infographic forms. I’ll show the infographic first, and below that, the table.
Hutch Carpenter (VP of Product, Spigit) posted this great cheat sheet as a table on Quora to highlight where Google+ is like either Facebook or Twitter.
As Jonathan points out in the comments, Twitter offers near-inline graphics and media, and should probably get at least a 1/2 for that
G+, as a new network, is free to take what appear to be the best features from both Twitter (for example, unlimited followers) and Facebook (limited following). And it can more easily change as it grows and sees what works and what doesn’t. It’s the perfect time to create a new social network, because it’s become clear on Facebook and Twitter what works and what doesn’t. Much of what constitutes good online etiquette and feature use has only become clear in the last couple of years.
They’re even learning from how the networks grew. Facebook, for example, became popular in three stages. G+ is already at the first stage:
People like you, no noise from outsiders
Facebook, limited to your local university, had most of the people early members cared about, and no noise from outsiders. It was easy to be active, because you were with people similar to yourself. People with similar rules of etiquette.
Stages two and three were to grow big by doing this at every university around the world, then to grow HUGE by allowing you to connect worldwide.
Google Plus is following a similar path.
Since Facebook began, many more people have learned online social etiquette well, and many of them are now on G+
G+ is at the “People like you, no noise from outsiders” stage. Many active tech and social early adopters are on it. They enjoy being with others of their kind. No fanpages, businesses, quizzes or games; no noise from outsiders. The noise is even less because of the limitation of the invitation system (so far).
But, G+ circles are designed so you can limit your primary activity to ONLY the people you want (best of early Facebook), while still letting unlimited others follow you (popular Twitter feature). In fact, you are limited as to how many you can follow, which prevents one of Twitter’s most annoying features: following people just to try to get them to follow you back.
Learning from Twitter and Facebook
In the last year or so, the pros and cons of main features and common etiquette practices on Twitter and Facebook have become widely agreed upon. It is as if they were a lab to learn the best and worst of how people interact online socially, and to discover the features that make things better or worse.
So it’s the perfect time to learn from Twitter and Facebook to create a new network, because it’s very clear what works and what doesn’t. It’s hard for either Twitter or Facebook to fix some of their issues, because
- Changing features people are using angers your userbase;
- Changing features for hundreds of millions of users strains infrastructure;
- Changing features drastically has effects impossible to predict.
- Visit @LearnGooglePlus for a collection of tips and resources
- Got a Google Plus question? Add it to the comments below.
- Like to help? Answer a question in the comments below!
Thanks to all in advance for your help. I’m a bit swamped right now, and still learning, but I’d love to see every question get answered. (Sarah and I will help where we can.)
Some tips to get you started:
- The Google+ Tips and Tricks “wiki” [collaborative google doc] http://bit.ly/pfiZI6
- Using Google Plus to Source Ideas http://bit.ly/oOdCP2
- Watch out—Private Google Profiles Will Be DELETED From Google’s New Social Network: http://bit.ly/rf3P6C
- The Google+ Privacy Settings You MUST Know http://bit.ly/ruR3mQ
- How to use Facebook on Google+ http://lifehac.kr/qlP85
Looking for an invite?
Tweet one of these great users on Twitter, who’ve commented on this blog post or tweeted to offer their invitations:
Update: Don’t worry—I’m approving all comments quickly
Want to find people—and help people find you—on Google+? Need an invitation or are willing to invite others?
If you are on Google+ already
- Tell us a little about yourself in the comments below, and put the link to your Google profile first in your comment. It should look something like this: http://plus.google.com/103209908345925536722/about
- Include enough information about yourself to help people decide if they should connect with you. You might mention the names of the circles you are creating, if that is helpful. If you want to include extra details about yourself, it’s still put a short summary first
- Look through the comments of others to find people to connect with. Please send invitations to anyone who needs one that you would like to connect with.
If you need an invitation to Google+
- Share and tweet about this directory to help us all find one another!
- Start your comment with “NEED INVITATION” and include some information about yourself to help people decide if they should connect with you. Also include your Twitter username so people can contact you to get your email address to send you an invitation. While you could leave your email address in your comment, I advise against it because it can easily be picked up by spammers even if you try to write it out cleverly (spammers are clever too). (But it’s up to you.)
- If you want to include extra details about yourself, it’s still put a short summary first in your comment
Thanks for helping out, and I look forward to connecting!
P.S. You may want to follow @LearnGooglePlus on Twitter for the best tips and articles each day.