Here is a hypothesis for you: In the not-too-distant future employees & contractors will be bought and sold at least partly on the basis of Google hits. Want to get some more attention for your organization? All else being equal (i.e., controlling for criminality, notoriety, and venality), people & organizations will bid more for people with more Google hits than for people with less.
That sort of behavior makes sense in any professionalizing perception-centric market. Consider, something similar is already happening in the world of scholarship, where it is commonplace to hire based on the citation-intensiveness a researcher demonstrates in top-tier journals. It is not just how many times you have published; it is at least as important how many times you have been referenced (read: mentioned) by others, which is a measure of impact. Hiring institutions increasingly short-list potential candidates by scanning through tools like Thomson’s ISI for candidates with greater than or equal to the desired impact factor — and then you invite them in and make an offer. Q.E.D.
Why not do something similar in marketing your product or organization? Would you like someone representing you who has five Google hits, or someone who has 50,000? The latter, of course. Why? Because, all else being equal (see above), the latter person is a hub, someone who can tip communications traffic in your direction. Of course, people with that number of hits who don’t violate the Prime Hits Directive (see above) are relatively few and far between, so standard economics says that in a hit-centric world their value should rise.
I got to thinking about all of this yesterday when a company with which I’m involved sent me a note crowing about how the number of Google mentions of their firm had risen dramatically over the last few months. Leaving aside why that might have happened, the upshot was that they argued that they were achieving a higher public profile, and that was a Good Thing.
I don’t disagree, but the mechanics of how you Get More Google matter. Did you buy a Superbowl ad? (Expensive, transient, and ill-directed.) Or did you buy someone with Good Google ™? (Relatively cheap, semi-permanent, and well-directed.) Microsoft’s decision to keep Robert Scoble on the payroll has something to do with him undoubtedly being a fine fellow, but it doesn’t hurt that he has 433,000 Google hits on his surname. Granted, you could get some of the same frisson from somehow influencing one of the Alpha Bloggers, but it doesn’t hurt having an Alpha on your payroll.
While my own Google Index (17,600 when I checked a moment ago) is nowhere near Scoble-ian, it is still larger than the same number for many groups and institutions for which I consult and speak. In a sense, it is rational for them to bring me in, if only to get some pixie-dust from the carry-over Google hits. The fact that I smile pleasantly and have a nice line of patter is, to that way of thinking, merely bonus.