How to be found by Google

If someone asks for my email address or for the text of a paper, I often ask them to Google me. Provided they know the spelling of my full name (not always easy!) or can add in a common-sense search term like "nssl" or "oklahoma", my name pops up first in The Google. This is not that unique. Put in the name of any of my colleagues and they can be found just as easily on Google (provided they have an unusual name or you put in a common-sense search term).

But in India, this seems to provoke astonishment. "Google can find you?," I get asked, as if that makes me a celebrity. Curious, I got into incognito mode on Google Chrome and put in my name to see what comes up and why.

Here is a cheat-sheet on how to be found by Google:

  1. Work for a university or the US government. Sites that are university or government-hosted rank highly on trust, so my homepage comes up at the top.
  2. Have an account on linkedin. I never use linkedin, but do log in once in about 3 months to approve all connections. I suppose Facebook would work similarly, but I am off Facebook now.
  3. Publish a paper in a data mining engineering conference. I published one (just one) paper in a data mining conference and was promptly entered into the database of every AI researcher out there who builds data mining algorithms based on links between papers.  That one paper is the cause of more entries in my Google results than any other one.
  4. Review articles for NewsTrust.  It's been 2 years since I last reviewed an article for them, but those reviews are prominently featured.
  5. Get linked to by a government website. In my case, this is a NASA (I assume) website about GOES. They cached a poster I gave at a conference long ago.
  6. Have a blog. Not surprisingly, this blog itself doesn't come up. However, this blog at some point got indexed by Technorati, and that rating page comes up. The 37000th ranked blog in some category, in case you are curious.
  7. Get picked up by Bing Academic Search. Surprisingly, the Google Scholar page is listed far below the Bing one. Apparently, my H-index is 5. 
  8. Publish a couple of papers in one of the journals published by Scorpus. These tend to be engineering journals where I usually don't publish. However, a EE student whose committee I was part of published a paper in IEEE Transactions (I was 5th author or something!) and that was enough to get Scorpus to start a page on me. According to Scorpus, my H-index is 7.
  9. Post a question on a high-traffic newsgroup. I posted a question/bug report on netcdf and that post is heavily visible because a bunch of other sites mirror the netcdf forum.
  10. Post answers on a forum. I answer a bunch of questions on the WDSS-II forum, naturally, but it is not as heavily linked to as the netcdf forum. Hence, my 300 answers on WDSS-II get ranked lower than the one question on netcdf.
  11. Publish a highly cited paper. In this case, it's a paper on WDSS-II that has been cited 71 times. But notice how far down the list an actually-read paper is. Well below the data mining paper and the GOES poster ... The next real paper to be linked is on page 4 of my Google results.
  12. Teach a course at an university. I taught one measly course in Geoinformatics, and none of the graduate students who took the course actually rated me. Yet, the fact that I taught the course meant that some rate-my-professor site started a page on me and one on my courses (plural!).
  13. Put your papers on the web. At some point, Google Scholar starts to index them. Even if no one ever reads any paper you ever wrote.
  14. Get linked to from an article on Wikipedia.
So, looking back at the list above, one thing strikes me.  The way to be found easily on Google is to publish research papers. I now understand why people are astonished that my name gets 11 pages of results in Google. They don't realize that scientific researchers thrive on self-referential links!

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