The following is a post from Brian Fitzgerald, the Director of Search Engine Optimization at TIG Global.
If you thought that TripAdvisor was your only challenge for managing consumer commentary online then you may need to think again. Roughly a month ago, Google introduced a new feature as part of their Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox called Sidewiki. Sidewiki is essentially a publically available discussion board about your website and brand. This blog post will outline some important details that you should be aware of.
What is Google Sidewiki?
-It is a new Google product that lets anyone with a Google account and Google toolbar to post and read comments on any web page.
-It is a side-bar window that appears to the left of any web page being viewed.
-Sidewiki has an algorithm (or ranking) aspect to it. Meaning that the posted comments do not appear in chronological order, they appear in order of “relevance” which is determined by Google.
-There is a voting function, so users can vote on comments left by other users, rating their level of value. This is likely one of the signals used to determine the rankings mentioned above.
-Sidewiki has built-in functionality to share posted comments on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
-There appear to be some decent methods for preventing or eliminating comments that are slanderous, spammy or that violate the comment policy (i.e. lewd vocabulary or hate speech).
How might this impact you
-Consumers browsing your site may now get exposure to guest feedback via Google Sidewiki automatically, without even visiting sites such as TripAdvisor
-Although not widespread, Google Sidewiki content can rank and show up in search engines, meaning this could give consumers a direct search result to your site’s Sidewiki content
-It’s important to remember that not all comments have to be negative, there could be plenty of users who use Sidewiki and leave positive commentary
-The built in sharing with social media sites reinforces the importance of having a social media presence and participating with the engaged audiences in those networks
-Sidewiki appears to be another method for Google to collect information and sentiment about a particular website. Because of this update, it is very likely that Sidewiki data is currently, or will be used in the future, as a ranking factor for determining relevance for overall SEO.
-The two things needed to use Google Sidewiki are a Google Account and having the Google Toolbar downloaded and installed. If you don’t already have these items in place, it is recommended that you do so and start experimenting to get familiar with this application.
-You should monitor the comments left on your site’s Sidewiki, similar to the way you would monitor TripAdvisor reviews. As the program just launched, you probably won’t have any entries yet, but that will change over time and you want to make sure you are on top of it.
-Begin thinking about what your strategy will be for responding to comments. Many hotels have policies in place to leave management responses on TripAdvisor. Over time we may find that a similar strategy is needed for Google Sidewiki
-There is a process of verifying that you are the site/business owner so that you can write and post a permanent Sidewiki entry that will always show at the top. TIG Global is in the process of rolling this service out for our clients.
It is estimated that there are tens of millions of Internet users that have the Google Toolbar installed, so while not a huge audience comparatively speaking, it is still a large enough audience that it should not be ignored. As of today there is not much Sidewiki activity for many of the hotels we have looked at, and perhaps Google Sidewiki will never really take off in a mainstream way. However, to be proactive, TIG Global is already starting to figure out steps we can take to ensure that the right messages are viewed on our clients’ Sidewikis. Additionally, we are beginning to test how Google might use Sidewiki content in their ranking algorithms so that we have a full understanding of the importance of this feature for our clients.
Interested in ramping up your online marketing strategy? TIG Global has a full suite of interactive marketing tools to keep you ahead of the curve. Click here to learn more, or give us a call at 301-841-4700.