Tracking Google Sidewiki/
October 2, 2009
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 google.com and looking for /sidewiki/…
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 www.google.com/profiles/[enter numbr here]
Here, I’ve made it easy for you – www.google.com/profiles/106935257806183022682
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 www.google.com/profiles/jim.gianoglio) then instead of a number after /entry/ you’ll get their Google Profile page name. Pretty nifty, eh?
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: site:google.com/sidewiki/entry
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.