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Archive for the ‘Search Engines’ Category

October 12th, 2009

The Google Sidewiki Controversy

The Google Sidewiki Controversy

muralesSylvie Fortin here, and I have a bone to pick with Google.

On September 23, 2009, Google launched a new, free service that purports to be the next big thing in social communities. It gives everyday people the ability to provide their own comments on ANY web page they visit, in a frame that resides right next to the page they are viewing.

(This is exactly as if Google installed a gigantic graffiti wall in front of your storefront, handed out paint cans, and invited passers-by to write all over the wall, without giving YOU the ability to erase anything. Ummm. Are they serious? Do they actually believe that only honest people would ever use the wall?)

At first glance, one might think this is a great idea, after all, it isn’t like Google has done anything particularly innovative. Diigo, Stickis and Fleck are all services that allow the general public to annotate the web and share their comments about websites they happen to be visiting.

But there are a few things that make Sidewiki dramatically different from all the rest of the web annotation applications, things that all website owners should pay close attention to. Because with the introduction of Sidewiki…

… Your workday is about to change in ways you may not realize.

Let’s start by recognizing that Google has become the undisputed champion in the ongoing battle for eyeballs. According to a recent B to B Magazine article, Google currently controls a solid 90.54% of the global search market share over its competition.

There was some speculation that Bing was going to beat Google, and for a brief shining moment, it seemed to be on the rise, but after the initial curiosity clicks passed, Google once again took back its market share to stomp Bing and every other search engine.

Knowing this, it is critical to avoid the mistake of dismissing anything new that Google does. Because unlike all other tools and software applications that get released and must spend a great deal of money to reach out to all those eyeballs, Google launches its new applications already owning over 90% of the world’s eyeballs.

And it doesn’t cost them a dime to reach them.

Think about the sheer power of that market share, and now think about how important it is that you don’t ignore the latest Google application… the Sidewiki.

In effect, this tiny little application has the potential to completely alter your business model, adding new costs and frustrations to your workday. How?

By allowing absolutely everyone to comment on any page of your website, and allowing clickable links within those comments, it has flung open the doors to brand new ways to mess with your life.

This means that anyone who has the Google Toolbar installed, including your competition, now has the ability to say anything they like about you or your products, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Nothing. Zip. Nada.

Yes, you do have the ability to click a tiny link next to their comments and “report abuse”. Whoopty-doo. Based on early tests, it takes Google moderators at least 48 hours to get around to removing abusive comments.

If you run an online business like I do, 48 hours is a lifetime if you’re staring at a nasty comment that is appearing on your own website, one that hundreds of visitors can see while they are deciding whether or not to buy your product.

Think about the many ways this tool can be abused.

  • Your competition could visit every page of your website and post a vicious lie about how you are a known sex offender and that if people want to buy products from good people, they should visit his site instead.
  • People could post direct download links to your products on your order page, thus sabotaging your sales.
  • Your own customers could confuse Sidewiki with your customer support, posting private information you are unable to respond to or correct in any way.
  • Have a product for sale? Others can post their “better price” for that product and completely kill your sales.

And the possibilities are endless.

So in essence, by opening up this type of “social commentary” for the general public, and by not allowing website owners to have any kind of control over what appears on their own websites, Google not only enjoys 90% market share of all search engine traffic but also they now control over 90% of YOUR customers, YOUR traffic, YOUR ad space, and YOUR money.

If you think for one minute that Google isn’t going to slap ads all over it, you are deluded. So, if you’re running a site that has Adsense ads, you will most likely see your revenue decrease rather quickly when Sidewiki introduces ad supported comments.

Instead of Google being your source for traffic, it now becomes your traffic hijacker by piggybacking your website and diverting people away from it instead of towards it.

People have argued that this is wonderful for the “end user”, because it allows you to make decisions about vendors in a more open and fair way. If you’re about to buy a product from a scammer, Sidewiki has the potential to “protect you” by allowing you to see what other customers have to say about their experience with you.

The argument is that if you are a good vendor with great products, then you have nothing to worry about, and that the only ones who should be worried are the scammers.

This, I would argue, is blatantly false, and the exact opposite of what will actually happen.

The fact is that ethical business owners are usually not as creative or inventive as scammers. We’re usually far too busy building quality products and websites to think about how to use tools like Sidewiki to abuse people.

But the scammers and spammers are VERY creative and spend a great deal of time thinking up new ways to abuse systems, software, and applications. They are rubbing their hands in glee thinking up ways they can destroy your business and your reputation, and Sidewiki is going to be so easy to manipulate.

Imagine how much time and money you’ll waste trying to stomp all the potential negative comments that can appear on each and every page of your website?

At the time of this writing, there is no simple way to locate new Sidewiki comments that have appeared while someone is viewing different pages of your website, so the only way you can protect yourself is to load each page of your site manually, while Sidewiki is open, and reporting comments as abusive… manually.

If you have only one website with only three pages, this is no big deal. But most of us have multiple websites, with multiple pages.

The prospect of having to load each page of each website every day, just to see what people are saying about us, is patently ridiculous. You would need to hire a full time reputation management team to keep track of it all.

So, how can you protect your business from these types of scavengers? That’s a terrific question, and I wish I could easily answer it. This is simply too new a problem for an effective and simple solution.

There are some bright programmers writing code, as we speak, and a few scripts that are supposed to block Sidewiki from appearing on your site at all. But how effective they are remains to be seen.

Michel and I will be following this story closely in the coming months, and will be providing you with updates on the most recent tools and solutions. For the most recent Sidewiki blocking tools, go to our Updated List of Sidewiki Blockers where we will keep track of the latest and most effective solutions to protect your site.

Stay tuned, because this is going to be a very bumpy ride.

Sylvie Fortin

P.S. There are a number of discussions going on about this issue, and there are some interesting points for and against Google Sidewiki. For further research, here are some points others have made that I find particularly interesting to note…

Update (You’ll Want to Read This!)

A couple of people have implied that we’re fearmongering here, and should just “get used to” the idea of the Social Web. (Bah, humbug!)

So, because lingering doubts may still exist, I decided to do a bit of sleuthing to see what I could find, for your convenience. I decided to take the plunge and go dive into the disgusting world of Sidewiki comment spam, willingly exposing myself to some of the vile stuff out there. (You’re welcome.)

I thought I would start my search by installing Sidewiki and checking out what people have chosen to post on it while viewing itself. After all, if Google believes in true “transparency”, then they should have no problem with letting the general public post whatever they want on their own website, right?

Following a few threads, I was introduced to a writer I’ve never heard of before. His name is John Varley, and he is spitting MAD about Sidewiki. So angry, in fact, that he is on a personal mission to spew as much vulgarity on Sidewiki (while on home page) as possible, every single day, until Google deletes the comment garbage that currently is displayed on his own website.

This is the message he wants Google to hear, and it is his hope that Google will listen, especially since they claim to be properly moderating Sidewiki in a prompt and efficient manner, what with their RELIABLE spam-sniffing algorithms and all.

Strong Language Warning! John Varley’s clear message to Google on THEIR website. UPDATE: John’s Sidewiki entries were deleted, sometime between 10/17 and 10/18. See Update #2 below.

Also, here’s John’s message on his own website (this one is clean and intelligently written), where he explains his thoughts on Sidewiki, and why he wants it to die: (See the big yellow box at the top, entitled “The Sidewiki Abomination!”)

(Or you can click here to visit “The Sidewiki Abomination” directly.)

I don’t blame him one bit, to be honest.

Take a look at the screenshot I took, after seeing the kind of garbage the real John Varley is seeing on his Sidewiki (I’ve edited the swearing out of it and added notations):

Sidewiki Abuse Example

Sidewiki Abuse Example

Also, another interesting Sidewiki comment popped up when I visited my Facebook page. Apparently, someone was smart enough to post a warning to Facebook users, since some people may think Sidewiki comments are from Facebook Friends, when they’re not. (Or that their Facebook accounts were hacked.)

Worst still, some people are posting on their Facebook’s Sidewiki, thinking it is private (like Facebook’s “Wall,” for example) since they are someone’s friend and their account’s permission settings is set to “friends only.”

The potential for Facebook users to think Sidewiki is part of Facebook is enormous. In fact, the above alert goes on to say that Sidewiki entries are PUBLIC and not controlled by profile permission settings, and warns users to be careful.

That’s precisely the issue, here. Sidewiki creates the perception that the comments are from the website or are part of it, which can lead to some serious liability issues — reputation aside, it only takes one hateful or libelous comment to seriously damage and even completely destroy one’s business and livelihood.

So, do you still think that Google Sidewiki is harmless?


If so, then there’s nothing more I can possibly say to convince you.

Until it happens to you, I suppose.

Update #2

Since I wrote the update #1, Google has proven my point by censoring Sidewiki entries that they didn’t like. Not because they broke the Terms of Use, but I suppose because the comments were directed AGAINST Google.

The real John Varley’s Sidewiki entries have been deleted completely. Mysteriously vanished. Strange, if you ask me. In fact, here’s a screenshot:


I guess Google doesn’t waste time deleting comments they don’t want appearing on THEIR site, huh? Could it be because they want to protect THEIR OWN reputation?

But interestingly enough, the FAKE John Varley’s sidewiki smarmy entries remain intact at the moment, fully two weeks after they were posted, even though multiple complaints have been submitted about them. Google has made a clear decision that these types of comments are perfectly acceptable, by leaving them there for all the world to see.


This is utterly ridiculous, in my opinion.

Want more examples? Fine, here are a few more. (Yes, all are screenshots, so that I don’t have to keep posting updates when Google employees come here and try to close the barn door after the horse has left the barn.)

Example of how Google gives Sidewiki spammers the royal treatment


Another spammer’s example

A smarter breed of Traffic Hijacker

A particularly vile example of what you can do with Sidewiki…

Click images to view full sized version…



Oh yeah, I’m totally comforted by Google’s crack team of moderators who seem to be doing a bang up job of removing Sidewiki comments that violate their rules.

Clearly, I have nothing to worry about. There’s no such thing as spam. All people will use Sidewiki to post meaningful and thoughtful commentaries about sites they visit. And Google will block all comments that violate their terms.


(If you believe this, then I have a bridge to sell you.)

Bottom line, you can’t have it both ways, Google. Please listen to what we’re saying here.

We love Google, and have always spoken highly of your tools and objectives. We think you’re brilliant. And we use many of your tools in our own business. But this specific tool needs to be fixed. Please. Before more innocent people, websites, and legitimate businesses get hurt.

Pinpoint Hungry And Highly Profitable Markets

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October 6th, 2009

Google Sidewiki Blockers

Google Sidewiki Blockers

google sidewiki screenshotThis post is not meant to be a commentary about Google Sidewiki, but rather serves as an updated list of the most recent tools and applications that have been built to attempt to block Sidewiki from appearing next to your website if you don’t want it to.

Michel and I will be keeping a very close eye on this story, and will update this list as new tools and applications are built to put the control back in the hands of website owners.

We will be posting our own commentary very soon on Sidewiki and how it may effect your your online business. But in the meantime, please refer to this list of available tools, which will be updated as they come available.

UPDATE: We’ve now posted our own commentary on the Google Sidewiki controversy, and welcome your comments and thoughts on the subject.

We encourage all comments to take place on our own public real estate space, using our own commenting functionality. We’ve spent a great deal of time and money on building an open community, and we feel that to use Sidewiki to voice your opinions, instead of our built-in commenting functionality, is likened to spraying graffiti all over our home. So, please, respect our home and speak to us in the manner we have set out for you to use. We’re listening…

Latest Sidewiki Blocking Tools and Scripts

Please note, the following list of external links is for your reference and convenience. We cannot take responsibility for the content of these links and suggest you do your due diligence is researching these resources before installing anything on your website.

If you know of any additional tools or scripts that have not yet been added here, please comment below and we will add them.

Latest Suggested Strategies for Dealing With Google Sidewiki

Anti-Sidewiki Activism Options (help tell Google NO)

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January 8th, 2009

Is Google Search Wiki Worth a Look?

Is Google Search Wiki Worth a Look?

Google LogoWelcome to Marketers Board. Recently, a member of one of our coaching groups asked this very interesting question:

Q: “Have you seen Google’s new Search Wiki? Are you aware of this? Using this? Promoting this?”

A: Google’s new Search Wiki allows you to contribute your input and review based on search engine results. But this is something that’s relatively new. We do not purport to be SEO specialists, but with a little common sense this is huge!

So we decided that the best way to answer this question is to record a brief video and show you how it works — and how you can use it to your advantage.

What do you think? Do you think it’s going to eventually affect search engine results? Google has neither confirmed nor denied it, but why wait? This could become an area that may potentially affect our search engine rankings.

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