• The Search Blog

    Google Sidewiki


    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. . .



    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). . .


    Add links to comments!

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


    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. . .


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


    . . .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.

  • The Search Blog

    Target non standard SEO keywords using your forums


    image If you want your customers to find your content using particular keywords, it is fairly important to use those words on your pages, ideally in the body AND the title.  The more competitive a particular keyword is, the more important it becomes to use it in titles, body and links to your page.

    But what if the most popular searches for a particular topic are not ‘politically correct’?  Or do not fit in with your established corporate writing guidelines?

    image Let’s imagine that you manage a support website for a software company, which has a product called ‘Super Spreadsheet’.  Super Spreadsheet has a bug causing it to regularly stop responding.  What do you think customers are going to search for when looking for help with this problem?

    • ‘Super Spreadsheet stops responding’?

    . . .probably not!  They are more likely to search for one of these. . .

    • ‘Super Spreadsheet freezes’
    • ‘Super Spreadsheet crashes’
    • ‘Super Spreadsheet locks up’

    In fact, by looking at popular search queries on search engines, we can see that ‘freezes’ is the most popular term for this type of query.

    imageGuidelines, Guidelines, Guidelines. . .

    But internal publishing standard policies will often recommend against using such language on corporate websites.  Even if this is a common customer problem, there will most likely be plenty of people inside the company who would object to having page titles using ‘freezes’ and ‘crashes’ due to the potentially negative effects it could have on brand and customer perception.

    Translation. . .

    Localisation teams may also object to the use of ‘spreadsheet freezes’ since it may be interpreted incorrectly by machine or manual translators. . .


    So how are you supposed to rank well for these searches?  There are plenty of pages out on the web using ‘freezes’ and ‘crashes’ in their page titles, particularly in forums, blogs and other community sites where users directly control the language used in page titles and content.  Those pages are likely to be ranking better than your ‘stops responding’ page, since they use the exact keywords as your customers are searching for.

    However, if you have forums or other community generated content on your site, you may have an opportunity to resolve this problem, ensuring that your customers arrive on your site when using non-standard language. . .

    1) Check your forums for posts written by your customers using the keywords you are trying to target. . .


    2) Check that the posts have a valid answer from the appropriate users on your site. . . (or if they don’t provide a suitable answer yourself)


    3) If possible, mark the post as ‘answered’ and lock it to prevent any additional posts

    4) Link to the post from related content on your site, including…

      • The Super Spreadsheet central help and support page
      • The Super Spreadsheet Stops Responding troubleshooting page
      • Other similar/related forum posts from your site
      • Forum posts on external websites (which do not use NOFOLLOW)
      • Any other related pages on your site


    In other words, instead of creating a page on your website using the ‘non standard’ keywords, simply take steps to raise the PageRank of the forum content on your site which already uses the words your customers are searching for.

    The more links you have pointing to the post, from important sections of your site (i.e. those with high PageRank), the more popular it will be considered by the search engines (i.e. it’s PageRank will be higher), and the higher it will rank against similar content from other sites.

    I would love to hear from anyone who gives this a try.

    Please feel free to contact me if you need any further explanation!

  • The Search Blog

    Bing SEO: Disable hover document preview


    Have you noticed new document preview on Bing search results?



    This useful function allows you to get an extended snippet of text providing key content and links from the destination page, without having to click on the link.

    But what if you do not like the content which is displayed by this feature?  Since this content is automatically scraped using intelligent algorithms designed to extract the key topic of the page, there is no direct way to control what text or links are displayed. 

    If you would like to disable this preview, so that searchers must click on your website in order to see your content, you can do so using the following meta tag in the <head> section your page HTML. . .

    <meta name=“msnbot”, content=“nopreview”>

    Alternatively, if you would like to disable this preview for EVERY page on your site, you can do using the following robots.txt entry. . .

    x-robots-tag: nopreview

    It would be interesting to know whether removing this preview for a site actually increases traffic (because people need to click to find out more), or decreases it (because other websites do provide the preview, so customers choose them instead).  If anyone experiments with this and finds out, please let me know :-)

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