January 11, 2007

Over the last couple of months, the most savvy link builders within the search marketing industry have been most keenly aware of and carefully attuned to the proliferation of widgets as the next big (really big) link building medium. Here’s my take on the trend and where we might see it go.

There is plenty of merit to the notion that widget development and “widget bait” will be an incredible form of link building. After all, look at the Backlinks that popular widgets like the LinkedIn Badge (over 1.2M) and MyBlogLog (half a million) have built in just a few months (24 is a few, right?). Before you read this post, you should know that I agree with Stuntdubl, Andy and Cameron: I’ve been a believer (& widget die hard since hearing Lawrence Coburn reallly turn the heads of search marketers at WebMasterWorld). Widgets are going to be very big in 2007. But there’s more to it than just that.

How realistic is it to think that anyone can create a widget to popularize their websites with backlinks? Do most commercial sites really have a chance of building and delivering widgets as a means of link building? Actually…probably not. Site owners might be able to buy space on a network of popular and widely adopted widgets (more on that later), but the inherent barrier seems just too large to build the links.

The Inherent Barrier to Link Building via Widgets: Adoption
EatShrimp Widget Widgets are more than just a marketing medium. Widgets are creations that deserve careful and deliberate planning, attention, publicity and refinement. Or at least a super entertaining angle to foster the adoption. Who’s going to put your appliance company’s “appliance parts widget” on their blog? Well…actually…it has 234 downloads. Not too shabby, depending on how many installs actually stuck after that fairly simple programming job. Surely, there has to be some sort of mass appeal to make the investment worthwhile (in terms of generating Backlinks), right? Well even though a groundbreaking “Shrimp Recipe” widget has almost 3,700 downloads, the site has less than 200 backlinks, meaning either the widget wasn’t built properly (for backlinks) or else it just wasn’t installed.

Does Your Widget Have What it Takes??

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular widgets (according to WidgetBox):

In no particular order, we’ve got:

  • And following closely behind were Pacman (my favorite) and perhaps the only one that actually lets you interact with your users, Polldaddy
  • I wanted to add more via Snipperoo, but they were just too lame. (I’m sorry but I just won’t link to a “sexy lingerie widget”—CASE IN POINT!

The Secret to Wide Adoption: Entertainment and Tools
Taking a quick look at the Sniperoo widget directory, it’s clear that widgets intended for entertainment (including games & music) and blog tools outnumber all of the rest by a margin of 4-to-1. There are 3 conclusions to draw here, if you’re trying to build links via widgets:

  1. Build links by delivering a less-than-relevant yet attractive widget. (E.G. your ecommerce site builds a “movie widget” just for the hell of it)
  2. Try to build links with a more relevant widget (MuseStorm will help in a big way), but start with an ingenious idea, invest in its development, make it incredible and push its adoption. (I mentioned this above. I called it, “careful and deliberate planning, attention, publicity and refinement”). Some of these are MBL (of course), CrazyEgg & certainly Lee Odden’s dearth of rss feed buttons (also in use at left). Update: Lee’s rss buttons generated over 40,000 backlinks and who knows how much traffic. There’s proof-positive that real widget success will take some serious insight, time & love. How many link builders out there have these qualitites? (hint: I can count them on my fingers & toes).
  3. Wait for the “next big widget” and try to advertise on it with non-javascript text links. Good luck, bud, you’ll be waiting forever.

Birth of the Widget Monetization Network
Stuntdubl wrote, “The next big widget is going to incorporate advertising”. Monetization in some capacity. There’s NO doubt about it. If MyBlogLog can sell for $10M and remain fairly innocuous and ad-light, then the floodgates are open for the pioneers of widget monetization. But don’t think this will be limited to just one widget. It would make sense for there to be a widget network monetization model, much like the one that Text-Link-Ads, AdSense or YPN delivers to publishers and advertisers. This would be the means by which we hurdle the adoption obstacle and getstraight to the dollars and cents.What impact would this have on link building? It would probably be a crushing blow. Lawrence Coburn’s analysis of the monetization of widgets gives some solid insight into the future of advertising on these things:

It’s not a stretch to imagine Bitty Browser as a clearinghouse for publishers and advertisers where Bitty matches advertisers with publishers (or allows self selection), and publishers can grab a snippet of widget code just like they can on AdSense or Amazon.

Advertising (at least branding) is already present in widgets that execute well (ChipIn is a quintessential example of this – branding, sharing, etc.). But the search for the next bigwig(dget) is really begging for monetization via either analytics (charge led by MuseStorm and Clearspring) or some other means.

Your Saving Grace: The Blogosphere Has ALL Kinds of Crazy People
After looking through some of the widgets in the galleries, I was amazed to see how many downloads there were for such strange (to me) widgets. Could the blogosphere seriously be so large that thousands of people want to offer shrimp recipes?? We learn something new every day, I suppose.

If you’re into playing the widget game, check out some of these more Notable Widget Development Resources:

  • Recent Widget Conference: (have they planned the next one yet? Check out the speakers listed on their site for a good start):

Widget galleries (you’ll need these for inspiration):

Widget Industry Pulsars:

Sooo, can any old ecommerce company develop and deliver a mean little widget for some heavy duty link building?? I don’t want to be a naysayer. In fact, I’d love for a commercial site to demonstrate widget development as an ancillary means for link building. Please drop me a line when you do give it a shot—I’m looking for case studies!


  1. Excellent post, you are exactly right. Look at MBL, they wouldn’t be as big as they are right now. Why? Their widget connects other people and is interactive, two major factors in widget populartity.

    Comment by eric hebert — January 11, 2007 @ 7:09 am

  2. Nice post, Abhilash. Widgets are definitely getting big.

    Comment by Tamar Weinberg — January 11, 2007 @ 9:08 am

  3. Wow – Very informative article – Thank you…

    I can only imagine the thought that you put into writing this article Abhi!

    In my mind, the purpose behind widget is the intrinsic value of the web and the main reason why anyone should build a site – it goes along with the age old “Build it, and they will come.”

    What widget are you going to build?


    Comment by Truman Hedding — January 11, 2007 @ 11:18 am

  4. Excellent resouce post on widgets Abhilash! FYI, that RSS button tool that Thomas made has generated over 40,000 unique domain links so far… :)

    Comment by Lee Odden — January 11, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  5. Eric, that interactivity and “productivity” factor is what leads people to adopt so widely. It’s also why I believe that widget “advertising” will rely on the publisher’s ability to make some coin as well.

    Tamar, we’re just at the start!!

    Truman, I agree with the widget-field-of-dreams approach. Thats’ my point though: widget dev is going to take some serious work and ingenuity for serious results. Most will probably fail (and that would just suck, wouldn’t it?)

    & Lee, I don’t doubt it. I’ve said it before: I feel like every friggin time I get to the TRR Blog, there are just more cool doodads that make the site easier to use (that .js chicklet that hides and then displays those ugly reader icons for example). Keep setting the standard, man.

    Comment by Abhilash — January 11, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

  6. Abhilash,

    Am I missing something on Widgets Lab? I keep reading these great articles about widgets and the articles keep referring to Widgetbox and Snipperoo but rarely to Widgets Lab. Do you have any suggestions as to what I could change in order to get mentioned?


    Comment by Derek Anderson — January 12, 2007 @ 7:58 am

  7. [...] These little devices can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to link building campaigns, just ask Abhilash. The brown sugar SEO king wrote an extremely helpful post about these little suckers, complete with testimonials of just how successful they can be when it comes to link building (you can also ask Lee Odden* who helped confirm Abhilash’s thesis). If you’d like to give the widget strategy a shot, I would suggest reading his post thoroughly and follow the links he provides. [...]

    Pingback by WebProBlog - Internet Business and Marketing Trends» Blog Archive » Spiders And Widgets And Feet… Oh My — January 12, 2007 @ 9:26 am

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    Pingback by Widgets - The Next Linkbuilding Revolution? | Macalua.com — January 12, 2007 @ 7:44 pm

  9. Honestly, I was waiting for someone to address this very topic
    about widgets…

    Isn’t it amazing how sometimes small new things all of a sudden
    take over everything and become BIG and important, while other big
    ones drop and become dead?



    Comment by Mystery — January 14, 2007 @ 10:13 am

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  13. Great insight on how a widget can effect a site. Now I need to come up with a fishing video type of widget to post my videos on other sites without getting in trouble but keeping links intact. back to work, Mark

    Comment by Mark Laymon — February 14, 2007 @ 2:58 pm

  14. hey, widgipedia.com is a nice place for widgets!! i love this site

    Comment by web widget girl — February 16, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  15. [...] Some argue that developing widgets are a great way to increase links and traffic; many put them down for slowing browser loading times. Whether you believe they’re good or not for your site is irrelevant; widgets are here to stay and part of the evolution of web publishing. [...]

    Pingback by Get Your Own Widget! Widgetbox Makes It Easy | Evolvor — March 21, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  16. Create link-worthy content to get more visitors and links

    Lately, I’ve been re-reading the masterpieces about creating link-worthy content. It is sometimes useful to recall what you know to be more efficient. Thus, you may as well either remember what you’ve heard about linkbait or learn new things from the…

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  17. This one makes sence “One’s first step in wisdom is to kuesstion everything – and one’s last is to come to terms with everything.”

    Comment by Gordon Moore — June 14, 2007 @ 1:27 am

  18. [...] “Can’t we all get a widget?“ [...]

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