Few things today are as valuable as your online identity. From protecting to your name or brand to monitoring what people are saying about you to trying to influence what pops up first on a Google search, managing your online identity is both important and difficult.

When it comes to search, you have little control over what people are saying about you on other websites and you can’t guarantee that the most pages will have top SERPs when people look you up.

But thanks to the new and improved Google Profile pages, you have options. Originally launched in late 2007, Google Profile pages have been used with a number of Google services, like Google Maps and Google Reader.

The other day, Google announced that Google Profile pages have made their way to the search engine. When a name-based query is made, Google will display Google Profile results at the bottom of the page, giving searchers easy access to Google Profile pages that are a match. There’s plenty of information you can add to your Profile page and according to Google, profiles that are “comprehensive enough” have a better shot at showing up in the SERPs, a not-so-subtle hint that providing more information is the best approach for those who are eager to rank. For those who don’t want to spill the beans, a first and last name is all that’s required to set up a valid page.

Getting a Profile page is easy: just search for “me on Google and you’ll see a link at the very top of the results leading the way. Or, you use the less-nifty method: go straight to http://www.google.com/profiles.

If you don’t have a Google Profile page and don’t want one, you may still benefit from this update as Google is also providing links that make it easy to search for profiles on popular social networking sites.

Needless to say, this is a smart move by Google. People are often frustrated by their ‘search appearance‘ and it’s nice that there is now a way to potentially exercise some level of control over that.

At the same time, however, it will be interesting to see whether or not the inclusion of Profile pages in the SERPs leads to abuse. Obviously, since Profile pages are free and easy to sign up for, it’s possible that black hats will attempt to abuse them to get into the SERPs. It’s also easy to see the downright mean using Profile pages to attack individuals they don’t like. Hopefully Google has already considered these issues and planned for them appropriately.

Photo credit: d70focus via Flickr.