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Google makes it easier to find Smiths and Joneses

Google has good news for all the Mike Smiths, Leslie Joneses and others with common names who have trouble looking themselves up on Google.

Tuesday, Google introduced new tools to its search index that give folks named Jones and Smith – common names that often get lost in results – a chance to be found.

A “Profiles” section on Google search results lists the top four people at the top and others underneath. Users who take the time to get a Google ID and beef up their profile can show up there.

Danny Sullivan, editor of website Search Engine Land, says this is Google’s attempt to take on Facebook and Twitter, sites frequented by people trying to connect with past and new friends.

“This improves Google’s relevancy in people search,” he says.

Many people use Google to search for themselves, just to see how they’re presented to the outside world, and are unhappy with the results, says Joe Kraus, Google’s director of product management.

“They have little control over how they appear in Google,” he says. “And sometimes the search results are dominated by people with a large Web presence.”

While Kraus says that Google made these moves to improve the overall experience for searchers, analyst Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence says the change is also a way to get Internet users more linked to the Google ID feature – and potential services.

Once you have the ID, you might be more inclined to shop with Google Checkout, post pictures at Picasa Web Albums or build a blog on Google’s Blogger, all areas where Google stands to profit with either fees or ads, Sterling says. “It deepens your engagement with Google.”

Currently, names show up at the top of search results for people who either are well known, or have large Web presences and take the time to link their website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other sites. Leaving comments on other blogs and sites can also improve your position in search results.

The Profiles section previously listed your name and included a photo. Now the section allows multiple photos, relevant links to your website and blog, age and employment information – similar to information that sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook showcase.

Kraus says the online profiles will level the playing field a bit for searches. But interested people must take the time to add to their personal and Web data.

The most prominent names will still probably be listed on top, Kraus says, but the fact that all the Mike Smiths, for instance, will be linked together in a people section means “you won’t have to hunt and peck through the entire index looking for that person,” he says. “It helps you narrow the results down to people.”

To sign up, go to google.com/profiles.

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