Google Search Updates Take a Personalized Turn

I had cause to do an ego search on my name yesterday and noticed that when I did, Google popped up a couple of new features on the right-hand column, saying that I could post updates and suggest edits to searches on my name. I haven’t seen news or posts about this new functionality anywhere. I was curious, so I went through Google’s verification process and then posted an update, which I highlighted in the photo above.

So apparently now, when anyone Googles me, among every other thing they will see, they will see an update actually from me, which is I think a very interesting thing. I have not suggested an edit to my search results, although I am interested to know what that might entail. On one hand, if people are trying to manipulate Google search results to spread lies about one, I could see it coming in handy. On the other hand, if one is trying to get Google to suppress inconvenient truths about one’s self, this could be a problem. We’ll see how it eventually functions, I suppose.

To be clear I certainly don’t mind Google allowing me to have a little space on my search results. On first blush it seems like a neat idea (and it’s appropriately off to the side, rather than in the actual search results). My update pops up on “Scalzi” and “John Scalzi” but not on related searches like “Old Man’s War” or “Whatever,” so it also appears reasonably tightly targeted.

During the verification process, it was noted that this is a sort of beta/trial run program, so I don’t know if it will be available right now to everyone notable enough to have a right-hand column when someone searches on them (my best guess as to why I’m in the trial program: I have a secured Gmail account and a Pixel 2 phone, which means I’m pretty deep into the Google ecosystem, and also I’m verified on Twitter, which adds an additional layer of being able to confirm I am who I say I am). If I were an author/creator/person of some notability, I would go check and see if you’ve gotten an invite.

27 Comments on “Google Search Updates Take a Personalized Turn”

  1. Heh.

    The google search for “wiredog” turns up an ISP, and a bunch of service dog companies.

    Searches for my real name, and the name everyone calls me, return dozens of people that aren’t me. The online privacy version of “predator satiation”.

  2. Very interesting. I actually would love to have more privacy but thanks to the internet the illusion of privacy has evaporated.

  3. If I search for my real name, I get the name of a character in a popular netflix series. Not that people don’t remind me about how evil my namesake is every chance they get.

  4. At one point, I used to be about the only person with my name that would be returned by Google search, and when I tried just now, it took 16 pages for a reference to me, and even that one was an obscure reference. I’m practically anonymous now.

  5. Because I’ve mostly retired from working on SF conventions, the version of “John Lorentz” that is me doesn’t show up on the first few pages of a Google search on my name.

    But I do see that I’ve died in at least three different states.

  6. I used to suggest folks search for my books on Amazon or google with just my last name. And then a very prolific, soft core porn writer – with the same unusual last name – took over the searches. LOL

  7. I hadn’t Google’d my name in years, so I found out there’s an author with my real name, as well as an actor on IMDb, that I didn’t know about. Cool!

  8. I’m pretty confident that I’m still the only person in the world with my name. :)
    Not that I’ve done much notable, but my Facebook page is at least the top Google search on my name, and the rest are various combinations of names and places and such.

  9. As I just discovered, you don’t have to be all *that* notable to get a right column. And it is me, not the dead race-car driver or the equally dead ornithologist, both of them probably more noteworthy.

  10. Guaranteeing that a link from the actual person is one of the top results seems perfectly fine to me. It doesn’t stop others from commenting on you, but does make sure that yours is one of the voices that is readily available to be heard.

  11. Hmm, I used to find a basket weaver from California when I googled myself, but now it seems she’s dropped off the radar. I still don’t turn up until page 2 though

  12. So there’s an indy band with my name (which is very weird, why name your band after someone who isn’t even in the band? In fact, nobody in the band has that name), and a fairly prominent Autodesk/CAD author and trainer with my name. The first actual web reference to me is on page three, and that’s only because I got an acknowledgement in a book by a favorite author. No other references by the time I got tired of clicking the next O. Used to be there was a writer of erotica with my screen name, but she’s not listed at all anymore. So I’m fairly unfindable unless you know more about me.

  13. Dear John,

    Oh, that is so cool. Thanks for alerting us.

    I just went in and modified my profile. The interface isn’t entirely intuitive– I still haven’t figured out how to change the photos at the top of the box. I sent Google a query.

    Dear Penn,

    Oh, don’t be too sure. I thought mine was unique, until a friend went looking for me on Facebook (before I signed up) and found two “Ctein”s, neither of whom was moi. I signed up just so I could friend them (which is almost my entire Facebook activity over the years).

    pax / whathisface

  14. I’m not nearly as well-known as you, but I now find that Googling for my name also produces a right-hand column and an invitation to “update your profile.” It also assures me that “Only you can see this result.”

    Also I note that the search results have changed to put at the front any index with my name on it, e.g. my author index at a website I write for, over more substantive results (e.g. the actual articles). And my personal blog, which is linked to from my name in various places but does not have my name on it itself, has disappeared from the first page where it used to be. interesting.

    However, like you and unlike the woman from the NY Times, I am by far the best-known person with my name, so one obvious problem is eliminated.

  15. Huh, the right hand column looks different depending on searhcing for ‘Scalzi’ or ‘John Scalzi’ — You get more pics on top.

    I’m not cool enough for a RHS entry.

  16. Merry Christmas to everyone. Here in Sweden we start already on the 24th with ham, fried cabbage, rice porridge and the other Christmas stuff.

  17. Recently our daughter was asked by a waiter if she was related to the author John Scalzi.. she was thrilled to meet one of your enthusiastic fans!
    Of course we got a giggle when our John Scalzi’s screen credit on 2015’s Master of None got you some extra attention!
    As long as all the John Scalzis stay on the correct side of the law and remain scandal free you will continue to dominate the internet search. It’s well deserved!

  18. Hmmm, not what I see when I Google “John Scalzi” in Chrome but there is still a right-hand column tagging you as an American author with pic’s of you and some quotable quotes as well as pic’s of novel covers.

  19. Dear Matt,

    Google asked me to enter a verification code which was sent to either the email address they had on file (which was wrong), or my home phone (good luck with that), or it would call my home phone with the code (bingo!).

    That was it.

    pax / Ctein

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