Google recently announced an interesting new addition to the Google Toolbar, the Google Sidewiki.  The Sidewiki allows you to comment on websites you are viewing, and read comments from other users. . .

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You must install the Google toolbar to use the Sidewiki, which may alienate some people, although at the same time potentially provide easy access to the existing large toolbar install base.

Anyone can comment on any website

Anyone who has installed and is signed in to the Google toolbar can comment on a website using Sidewiki, although Google have implemented a ranking mechanism which orders comments based on various factors including the language used (offensive comments will be filtered out) and the user’s reputation (based on their Google.com profile).  Danny Sullivan’s post on Search Engine Land provides more details.

I just submitted a post to my travel blog and it appears straight away, although with a caveat that the post may be ‘less useful’ (presumably because I do not have a good reputation in Google’s eyes). . .

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Add links to comments!

It interesting that Google also allow you to add links to the comments. . .

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I am very curious to see whether adding links here will impact traffic to those pages.  I will be running some tests on some Microsoft websites to find out.  I would be keen to hear from anyone else who is doing something similar.  I am also very curious to see how Google will manage spam posts within the comments.

Site owner comments

Google has also implemented a function which allows site owners (those validated in Google Webmaster tools) to provide ‘official’ comments on their own sites.  When submitting a comment from a validated Google account, you will need to check the box in the green section shown below for the comment to be published as a ‘site owner’ comment. . .

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Interestingly, on the BBC website (which already has a number of user comments), the ‘less useful’ comments appear above other comments. . .

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. . .even though the person at the top doesn’t seem to have been a particularly active commenter.  Perhaps this is due to the infancy of the system?  Perhaps it is a bug?  Perhaps they are still tweaking the algorithm?  Perhaps it is a deliberate way of injecting ‘latest’ comments in to the list for a period of time?  Either way, it will be interesting to see how the displayed comments evolve as (or if) the system becomes more popular.  If Sidewiki does become popular, is this ANOTHER data set which web site managers need to analyse to make their sites successful?  Will Google provide analytics tools to help?  Will current analytics tools be able to access to the data? 

Will Sidewiki be successful?  Will enough people click the toolbar icon regularly after the novelty has worn off?  I am not sure if I would if I wasn’t interested in it from an SEO perspective.  Wouldn’t people rather use Digg to comment pages they are browsing?

Plenty more questions to be answered, but Sidewiki is definitely worth keeping an eye on.