THE BLOG

Taming the Sidewiki

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Last week I wrote about Google's new Sidewiki and the threat it poses to digital marketers everywhere. After lots of lively discussion about the Sidewiki's merits, misconceptions and might, I thought I'd follow up with some tricks for management. Yes, you can tame your Sidewiki. And while you may never fully slay the beast that is rocking your website, you can learn from it, manage it and make it work for you (sort of).

Here than are my top five tips for taming the Sidewiki:

1. Make it official - Post an official statement for your site on the Sidewiki. As a site owner/webmaster you have the ability to create a comment that appears first on the Sidewiki. Even if you're not the first to post, your "official" posting will become page one if you can prove to Google that you control the website you are posting on. Greater detail on what Google requires to authenticate you as a site owner can be found at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools. Once your statement has been posted, all other entries are accessible by clicking the somewhat obscure "Next" button. Take a look at CNN's homepage and you'll see a good example of this. Instead of getting lost in the barrage of comments that users contribute, they take the lead with an official posting.

2. Keep watch - As I stated last week, there's a good chance that your competitors, disgruntled former employees and snubbed Facebook friends will find a way to spread malice with the Sidewiki. One of the best ways to keep that at bay is to keep a watchful eye on the posts being made on your site's Sidewiki. As one commenter pointed out on last week's blog, there are a number of new tools that can do this automatically, including UpdatePatrol. You can also do it the old fashioned way by keeping any eye on your Sidewiki notification bar. If you have it enabled, you'll be able to see a blue tab and a comment icon when a page has a comment posted. Another great reason to keep an eye on posts is because along with the griefers, there's a good chance that real customers will give you honest feedback about your product and service. Marketers pay tens of thousands to survey, focus test and illicit feedback from consumers, Google is giving you the chance to get this highly prized information for free. Don't ignore it.

3. Pull rank - One of the features of the Sidewiki is that users can vote comments as useful or not useful, as well as report abuse. As with many Google products, they use "secret algorithms" to determine the order of comments. As a site owner, take advantage of this tool and take a part in ranking your site's comments.

4. Secure your goods - Currently SSL (https) encrypted pages are unable to be accessed by the Sidewiki service. Now, as a marketer you're not likely to make your entire site secured with https - but Sidewiki works on a page by page basis, so why not knock out two birds with one stone? Secure your most important pages while immunizing them from Sidewiki.

5. Speak up - Use the Sidewiki as a way to evangelize your product, defend your features and talk to your audience. When comments are posted (even if they are scathing) reply to them. Give your visitors insight into why you've chosen to do certain things and tell them that you're listening. Softening your brand's image by letting people know a human is behind it can pacify the harshest critics.

Know of any other good tips to tame the Sidewiki? Let us know by posting below, or dare I say it, on this page's Sidewiki.