Vizibility Lets You Dictate How Google Presents You to the World
Ever since the invention of search engines, entrepreneur James Alexander has been frustrated. “I could never find myself on the Internet,” says Alexander, who gets lost on the Web because of his common name, or as he puts it, his “two first names.” So in 2009, he started playing around with the “advanced search” option on Google—a feature that only 5 percent of Googlers use, he says. He found that if he strung together 25 descriptive words about himself—voila—he appeared at the top of the 11 million search results for “James Alexander.”
That experiment inspired Alexander to launch Vizibility, a tool that lets anyone control how they appear on Google when someone searches for them. Sign up for Vizibility via its website (currently in beta form), and you can curate your Google results in a few easy steps—adding key words that you want to automatically be associated with your name, and ranking the results that you’d like to appear in the top five. And you get a SearchMe button, which you can add to any Web page. Anyone who clicks on it will get directly to your curated Google search results. “When people push that button they actually get me,” Alexander says. “Before, I didn’t show up anywhere in the first 15 pages.”
Vizibility recently revised its mobile version and started providing “QR Codes,” which are personalized barcodes you can add to business cards, resumes, and the like. That way, people who have barcode readers on their smartphones can scan you and get right to your Vizibility search results.
With the unusual name Arlene Weintraub, I don’t really have a problem getting confused with other people on the Web. But as a recently published author, I certainly recognize the value of linking my name with certain terms—i.e. the name of my book, Selling the Fountain of Youth. So I was intrigued enough to give Vizibility a try.
As soon as I signed onto Vizibility, the site informed me that if I did nothing to curate my Google results, 45 percent of the results for a search of “Arlene Weintraub” would end up being about me—not bad. But all I had to do to boost that number to 100 percent was add my place of employment, Xconomy, and the name of my book.
If I had a less common name, I could add up to 25 terms describing me—perhaps the names of former employers, or the address of my book’s Facebook page. (Yes, it does have its own Facebook page. Self-promotion is vital when you’re trying to sell a book.)
What I found most useful about Vizibility was its ranking feature. The site allowed me to see how Google would normally order my results. I could then re-sort the first five so the most important stuff would end up at the top of my Vizibility-curated results. If I didn’t do that, the top five would be filled with random Xconomy stories, some of which were merely one-paragraph newsbriefs. I thought it would be more useful for people to land on the Xconomy page that lists all my stories along with links to them, so I moved that page into the top five. I also put my personal website and the book’s site in the top five, along with the link to the book’s Amazon page. (Sorry, it’s that shameless self-promotion acting up again.)
Vizibility makes a convincing case that even the world’s most well-known people should be controlling their Google profiles. On Vizibility’s website, you can see how curated search results might help President Barack Obama, for example. If you Google Obama without Vizibility, the top five results will include his official White House site, along with a lot of random links, including a YouTube video from his election in 2008. But if you Google the President via Vizibility, you get his Facebook and Twitter pages, plus his official White House page—and no outdated videos.
Alexander’s New York-based company raised $1 million in seed funding last November from Boston Harbor Angels, Race Point Capital Group, Zinc Ventures, Waterbridge, and Halberd Cross, the investment arm of the patent firm Novak Druce + Quigg.
Then Alexander quickly went about figuring out how to monetize his tool. The basic version is free. But for $2.95 a month, users can get alerts whenever they’re searched on Google, as well as the IP addresses and locations of people who searched for them. Vizibility offers packages for companies, ranging from $29.95 to $199.95 a year, which include extras such as unlimited phone and e-mail support.
The paid versions of Vizibility have caught on with some companies, including law firms that want their partners to show up prominently in Internet searches, Alexander says. Novak Druce and Lowenstein Sandler are among the firms using the technology.
Alexander says he’s working on boosting Vizibility’s capabilities. Ultimately the technology will be able to tell users more about who’s searching for them, such as whether the link to your Vizibility results came from a professional source, such as LinkedIn, versus, say, a dating site. “That will tell you the intent of the people who are searching for you,” Alexander says.
Indeed, perhaps someday Vizibility will help fledgling authors determine exactly who is searching for information on the books we’re trying so desperately to sell.