Tracking Google Sidewiki


First of all, for those that can’t keep up with all the latest and greatest features that Google keeps rolling out, a brief explanation of Google Sidewiki is in order. Sidewiki is a new feature that lets users who have installed the latest version of the Google Toolbar add and view comments on any page on any website they visit. The comments show up right alongside the page. Here’s a quick look at what one of those cutting edge users will see if they visit the LunaMetrics Blog page:


A couple of things to note:

  • anybody can leave a comment on your website (can we say reputation management nightmare?)
  • the comments can include links (with the commenter’s choice of anchor text)

It’s that second point that piqued my curiosity – what would happen if someone clicked on a link in a Sidewiki comment to your website? Well, with some help from Analytics Ninja John Henson we dug deep to find out the details.

First of all, you’ll notice that links in the Sidewiki comments initially link to something like

I’m not sure what “usd” and “usg” represent exactly – bonus points to anyone in the audience with ideas on this in the comments.

So what happens when we click on the link and it takes us to that URL? Google is 302 redirecting to the actual page. “Interesting,” you say, “but how will it appear in my analytics?”

It appears that, along with the 302 redirect, Google is setting the referrer to

So, if you go into your Google Analytics, you can see visits from links within Sidewiki comments by digging into your Traffic Sources > Referring Sites, clicking on and looking for /sidewiki/…


Bonus tip:

You can easily find out who left the comment with a link to your site. See that number after /sidewiki/entry/ (in the example above, it’s 106935257806183022682)? Take that number and add it to the end of[enter numbr here]

Here, I’ve made it easy for you –

As you can see, the number is the ID for my Google Profile page (because I left the comment). In fact, if the person has created a “friendly URL” for their profile page (like then instead of a number after /entry/ you’ll get their Google Profile page name. Pretty nifty, eh?

Other Observations

Google is indexing these Sidewiki pages. That’s right – when you leave a comment, it’s not just an addition to an already existing page – you’re actually creating a unique page. Need proof? Go to Google and do the following search:

So far, about 1,210 Sidewiki comments have been indexed. If you visit a sidewiki page with the Google Toolbar installed, you get redirected to the page on the actual website (with the Sidewiki comments opened up). But if you visit a Sidewiki page without the Google Toolbar installed, it takes you to the Sidewiki URL – you can still see the comment and the actual page, but you’re not on that website, you’re still on Google. They also prompt you to “Share your own insights as you browse the web. Download Google Toolbar with Sidewiki.”


What does this all mean?

How can this information be used (aside from impressing all your friends at the next party)? For starters, you can use this as part of your online reputation monitoring. Granted, you’ll only see anything if someone links to you in their Sidewiki comment, and if someone actually clicks on that link. Nonetheless, if enough people start using Sidewiki, this is something you’ll want to monitor.

If someone is linking to you in a Sidewiki comment, maybe they’ll also link to you on their blog/website (link building opportunities, anyone?). Being able to see who’s leaving the comments (by tracking them back to their Google profile page) is a good start.

We’re still looking at ways that this data might be useful. What are your thoughts? How would you use this information? (Please share your expert opinion in the comments!)

Of course, it’s easy to see how spammers might try to use this to litter the web with links for viagra, porn and poker. It will be interesting to see how Google deals with this.


Jim Gianoglio is a Senior Analytics Consultant. He works with implementation, analysis and training of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. Before focusing on analytics, he led the SEO campaigns of Fortune 500 companies in the insurance, retail and CPG industries. Things you didn’t know about Jim: he’s biked from Pittsburgh to Washington DC in 41 hours, roasts coffee beans and has done voiceovers for TV commercials.

  • Matt Hames

    This is awesome information. I’m really curious to see if there are other ways Google will index SideWiki. Thanks for putting this together.

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  • Jim

    Thanks Matt – always glad to help. This post was more of a work of curiosity than anything else. I personally think Google Sidewiki will end up in the graveyard of failed features – not that it’s not a good feature, I just don’t think enough people will use it.

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  • fery

    When Third Voice appeared on the scene, it wasn’t long before various scripts were released to lock out Third Voice comments. My guess is we’ll see something along the same lines with Sidewiki, assuming someone doesn’t sue Google first. Google has become increasingly fat and arrogant and we’re starting to see the fallout of that.

  • Carlos
  • ooper

    Yes, unless this feature is installed on all the browsers (not in the tool bar), there will be a significantly less traction with sidewiki than the visible web. However, given the size and growth rate of the web, there is a good chance sidewiki will still be huge!

    I think that all concerns need to put aside. Sidewiki is almost like writing about the maniquin on the outside window of Macy’s. You can still move the maniquin…

  • jonh

    Sidewiki – Crabzy – same but less powerfull.
    I believe Sidewiki is nothing more than what offers Crabzy, and even less because Crabzy offers forum’s functionalities, where you can have dialogs, exchanges between users.
    I’d rather go to, but they both offer great value as this kind of service, if more developped, could really enrich the Web !!!!
    For everyone’s benefit !!!!

  • h@MsteR

    “That’s right – when you leave a comment, it’s not just an addition to an already existing page – you’re actually creating a unique page.”
    Are you sure that this is true?

  • Jim

    h@MsteR –

    That is still true as far as I can tell (I just checked again – you know how things change).

    However, it looks like they stopped indexing the /sidewiki/entry pages.

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