Sometimes when you’re on a website you can’t work out what to do. Where is the ‘more info’ button? How does the demo work? How do I contact the website owner?

At times like these its useful to turn to a friend for a bit of help. But if your friend knows less than you, and if there’s no one else around, what can you do?

The Google Sidewiki  – a new feature on the Google Toolbar – is a clever solution to this problem.

Get help and advice

The Sidewiki button sits unobtrusively over the left hand side of the web page you’re on. Click the button and a browser sidebar appears, in which you can read notes, advice, feedback and reviews about that web page that have been left by other users.

The Sidewiki can also bring in notes and feedback left against other web pages that contain the same snippet of text. This means you can find out what advice and comments users have even if they have been left elsewhere.

This user generated content can be a great aid to help you get want you want from a website.

Give help and advice

And as a part of the Sidewiki community, you get to leave your feedback and notes too, contributing to the conversation and helping others out at the same time.

Get web design advice

As a website owner, this brings a few added benefits and a few pitfalls too. You get to read what people are saying about your website all in one place. Getting user feedback is one of the most important steps to improving your web design. If users are having problems finding a particular product or some information on your website, you know you need to make it easier to find.

Get business advice

As a business owner you might get immediate feedback about what your customers are saying about you. Do they mention poor service, high prices, unreliability or poor customer service? You can gather this feedback and make improvements to the way you do things.

Bad feedback can be damaging

But this might where the pitfalls are too. The last thing you want your new website visitors to be exposed to are a chorus of complaints and dissatisfaction. The Sidewiki has the potential for disgruntled visitors to turn away others from buying.

Stopping single issue moaners

There are a few elements built in to the Sidewiki that prevents ‘single issue’ moaners from dominating your feedback.

Where a webpage has multiple entries Google uses ‘signals’ to rank- in real time – the most useful higher up. These signals take on board what feedback a users has left elsewhere. So this hampers users from using the sidewiki to have a moan just at you – they need to be consistent users for their feedback to stay at the top.

You can read more about ranking on the Google Research Blog.

Have a try!

If you want to have a look at the Sidewiki visit and download the Google Toolbar with Sidewiki.

Do you think the benefit of the Sidewiki feedback outweighs the pitfalls of customer griping? Are you happy to share your feedback? Leave a comment below!

Nick Leech runs Digital Marketing Agency Euston Digital

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