A new tool from Google just made controlling your brand online a little bit more challenging. Released on September 23,1 this toolbar-based plug-in allows you to add your own notes to any Web page – yours – mine – and anyone elses. In other words, “every page on your site now comes with a publicly accessible discussion board that cannot be moderated.”
I just tried it out for the first time and it’s simple to use. Basically, once you’ve added the plug-in, you go to a webpage and click on the Sidewiki icon; a sidebar will pop up alongside the webpage and you’ll see all the comments people have made. This means, every webpage is now social. So, even if you’ve been resisting the social marketing revolution, you’re in it now anyway. The question is – is that good or bad? Well, you’ll have to decide for yourself…
Is Google Sidewiki good or bad?
1. Sidewiki and Brand Management
From what I can tell the important thing right now is to be aware of this little gadget as far as managing your brand’s reputation. Of course, if you’re great and you always get glowing comments then this could work to your benefit. At the very least you could add this plug-in to your repertoire and keep track of what people are saying on your pages. The good news is that very few consumers are aware of this, so most pages have no comments yet – you can keep track from the ground up. Supposedly, Google has built in some controls – an algorithm that “determines which comments are more relevant and move them to the top of the sidebar.”1 “Sidewiki — and other social networking platforms and, indeed, social media in general — makes it clear that brands are now collaborations.”1
2. Sidewiki and SEO
It doesn’t seem that Sidewiki is likely to affect the rankings of the page that it’s associated with,3 however “Individual Google Sidewiki comment ‘pages’ can gain search engine rankings of their very own.”1 Holy Tamale, Batman! This means that it is possible for a sidewiki page attached to your homepage to eventually outrank your home page.
3. Sidewiki Social Features
You can vote on a comments usefulness and conversely, report abuse such as spam.1 The official Google learn more page suggests using Sidewiki for things such as “Helpful tips,” “Background Information,” and “Added perspective on new technology.” At its best I can see how this could be incredibly helpful – reviews and Wikipedia-like information right alongside the page. So, Google’s “help and learn from others”4 sounds good on “paper” but like many things Web-wise, the potential for abuse exists.
Take a look at it, try it out and let us know what you think – and please post useful resources as this is new to all of us.