Quick tip: How to use Google’s Sidewiki for personal branding

So Google recently launched Sidewiki, a service that basically allows anyone to add comments to any web site. If you have the Google toolbar with Sidewiki installed in your browser, you can both leave comments and also read comments that others have left at that site. All comments are public. (Although this might seem like Google has created a service that allows people to alter or vandalize web sites that don’t belong to them, technically the comments all reside on Google’s servers and you have to use Google’s tools to see them.)

It remains to be seen whether Sidewiki will take off or not. Similar services in the past from other companies have not been adopted by a lot of users. Still, Google is arguably the most important company on the Internet so it has at least the potential for this tool to be widely adopted.

What does all this have to do with personal branding? Well, you can use Google’s toolbar to leave extra information about yourself at various sites where you might have an online identity, such as your blog, your Twitter home page, your Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

I would suggest leaving something short and simple and friendly. Others may or may not leave other comments, but at least for other Google Sidewiki users you’ll be putting out a welcome mat.

Do you keep a clean browser?

Do you keep a clean browser? Do you know why you should? Let me explain.

The web browser that you use the most — whether it’s Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or something else — is probably not clean. It’s filled, at least metaphorically speaking, with your browsing history, cached files and cookies.

For the most part all that stuff actually makes your life easier. It means when you go to a particular website that you have a membership at, you don’t have to sign in every time. But it also alters and distorts what the Web looks like to you — and you may not even realize it.

If you do a lot of work on the web — say in web design, blogging or search engine marketing — than you might want to consider keeping a browser clean. You might use your regular browser (let’s say it’s Firefox — it should be Firefox!) for most of your work, and keep all the cookies, browsing history and other things in there that make it easier for you to go about your day-to-day tasks online.

But maybe you’ll keep another browser — Internet Explorer if you’re on a Windows machine or Safari if you’re on a Mac — that serves as your ‘clean’ browser. Why? There are at least three reasons:

  1. You can check out sites, whether your own blog or big news site and see what they look like when you’re not logged in. That’s especially important if you’re trying to drive traffic to, or conversions on, those web sites, as you’ll want to know what it looks like to your visitors.
  2. If you’re doing keyword research and examining Google search engine results pages, and you have a Google account, a clean browser helps ensure that Google is not tailoring the results to you based on your past search activity (yes, the Big G does that). Obviously the point here is to make sure you’re seeing a SERP (search engine results page) that’s pretty close or the same as that which most of your potential audience sees.
  3. If you’re blogging or posting a link to a subscription site and you’re not sure whether it’s a link that will be available to nonsubscribers of that site, a clean browser will tell you whether you’re linking to a “members only” section of the site that may not be access by some or most of your audience.

Do you keep a clean browser? If so, what’s the main reason you do so? Please leave your answer in the comments below.