Published On: Sat, Jul 23rd, 2011

Q&A with Web Entrepreneur Michael Hussey

I recently caught up with web entrepreneur Michael Hussey to have a chat about PeekYou, the people search engine and his latest online venture, PeekScore . As someone who is interested in Personal SEO and online reputation management, I was fascinated to hear what Michael had to say regarding people search and tools to organise disparate data.

Essentially, PeekScore is a tool that calculates how influential people are by looking at their online presence including blogging, social networks, number of friends, followers, readers, the amount of web content they create, and prominence in the news to give a score between one and 10. Having played around with this innovative tool, I can see how it could work in harmony with PeekYou to become an extremely useful service in both a personal and professional capacity.

If Michael’s past successes which include Rate My Teachers, Rate My Professors and Rate My Face are anything to go by, we can expect PeekScore to be well received. You can find out more about Michael from his blog, Tweets and Linked In profile.

1. People will be well acquainted with search engines like Google and Bing; however for many, search engines for people are a new concept. What does PeekYou do?
Search engines such as Google and Bing map out the associations between links and keywords, whereas PeekYou maps out links in relation to their authorship — so it determines whether a link is associated with a person.

2. It’s always great to hear about exciting new digital tools, but what was the inspiration for PeekYou? How did it come about?
PeekYou was inspired by the idea that the backbone of the Internet consists of the enduring relationship between people and the URLs they create – it’s the most basic relationship, and one of the most relevant, that persists and will continue to persist across the Internet even 100 years from now: there will always be people active on the web, and they will always create linkable web content. I knew that if I could somehow tie these two things together in a single index, it would go a long way to power many important applications in the Internet of the present and future. This was in April 2006, and I didn’t waste a minute once the concept was clear in my head and I started executing right away.

3.  Can you please explain how PeekYou as a people search engine is different from conventional search engines? How does it distinguish between websites and people?
Our web crawlers are very similar to standard search engines, but our algorithms are focused on identifying specific information related to actual people – that could mean, for example, the person identified in a news article (does the article mention where that person lives?) or who owns a homepage (does the person list something about themselves? A name, or email address, perhaps? Something they can be identified by?). It can get a bit complicated, but we look at a whole lot of potential identifying variables when trying to determine to whom a page is associated.

4. PeekYou has been described by Mashable as ‘making people search worthwhile’, but why are people searching for each other?
As online and offline life merge ever closer together, the importance of your online identity continues to increase. More people than ever are “Googling” someone’s name before they do business with them, go out on a date together, etc. Finding out who someone really is even before meeting them in the real world has gotten a lot easier because of tools like ours. Therefore more and more people continue to come back. The better our search results get, the better our traffic.

5. Who’s using PeekYou at the moment and why should I?
People from all walks of life find PeekYou useful: those who are searching for a long-lost relative, an old friend they’ve lost touch with, an old flame, or someone they’re researching for work or study purposes. Some law-and-order officials use it for their investigations. HR personnel looks up potential candidates to screen them before an interview. Online daters use PeekYou for due diligence beyond a profile in an online-dating site, etc.

6. From Rate My Teacher to Rate My Face and now PeekYou, many of the fantastic tools you’ve developed involve some form of ranking, what is the thinking behind that?
I’ve long been interested in organizing disparate data to make sense of it – and doing so often lends itself to some form of ranking or rating. Everything is relative – from a professor’s quality ratings to our activity on the web – so why not create standards of comparison to help people make sense of it all?

7. What tips would you give people looking to enhance their PeekScore?
PeekScore is a measure of the relative size of your digital footprint. If you want to increase your score, leave more footprints. In other words, blog regularly, Tweet, participate on social networks such as Facbook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Foursquare. The more active and engaged you are with other people on the public Web, the higher your score will be.

8. Most people are familiar with the privacy settings on Facebook, but in the digital age, just how important is it for them to be aware of their digital footprint?
Just as it took some time for many of us to understand and appreciate Facebook’s privacy settings, the importance of our footprint on the public Web is also becoming better understood with time. Whereas certain types of information you share on Facebook can be hidden from the public eye, participation in the public web makes your data available to anyone. It is important that people understand the public web and their place in it. In practice, that means that we ought generally to act the same way online as we would offline.

9.  What is the long term vision for PeekYou?
The long-term vision has not changed since day one – and that is to continue to index people and their URLs. The things we are able to do with this index are incredible and continue to amaze me. As long as we keep improving our core technology, those opportunities will continue to develop and present themselves.

10. People search engines and influencer identification tools like 123 People and Klout are becoming increasingly popular, but what is PeekYou’s USP? is now the largest free people search engine in the world – and the 294th most popular website in the U.S. and traffic has doubled in the past six months.  We believe can be one of the top-100 sites in the country – perhaps by next year.
Our B2B partnerships are bringing this index into a whole host of new applications which I had not even foreseen back when I started PeekYou. Partner companies like Radian6 are able to offer more robust applications by working with us and our index.

I would like to thank Michael for taking time out from his busy schedule to talk about PeekScore and PeekScore and I look forward to watching this tool make a big impact.

About the Author

- Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at and Chief Quaffer at .

Displaying 4 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. We have a problem – and at first glance I’m not sure we yet have a solution.

    The problem is that people’s names are not unique. Nor do people always use their real names on social media (think of Twitter).

    This gives search engines a problem. The answer must lie in the semantic web (which makes sense of data and the connections between data). For now, though, search engines are too dumb to be much help.

  2. peekyou says:

    Richard — That is one of the core problems PeekYou has been working to solve for the past five years. A lot of progress is already evident.

  3. Ben Cotton says:

    Richard, you’re correct that the semantic web will help solve many of the issues you raise.

    I’m also sure that people are increasingly wising up to the importance of using the same online name (wherever possible) as part of good Personal SEO, in order to give ‘dumb’ search engines the best opportunity to return their name in SERPS.

  4. […] past week, PeekYou’s CEO Michael Hussey was interviewed on Social Web Thing to discuss PeekYou’s origins, philosophies, many uses, and goals. He also discussed and explained […]

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