13 Nov 2008

The Wonderful World of Widgets

Last session of the day! Huzzah!

The super smart Jake Baille is up moderating the group of Lawrence Colburn, Peter Adams, Patrick Sexton, Will Price and Peter Yared. Lots of boys. Where are the ladies?

Lawrence Coburn is up first. He says he’s not going to talk much about widgets. Heh, okay.

The four pillars of a distributed Web strategy

  • Widgets: Users spread your content/functionality. Examples: Photobucket, MyBlogLog
  • Toolbars/Extensions: Users stay engaged. Examples: Google, StumbleUpon
  • Platform Apps on Facebook: Viral distribution. Examples iLike, RockYou
  • API: Batch/Mass distribution. Examples – Yahoo Maps, Amazon AWS

API: a set of functions, procedures, methods, or protocols that an operating system library or service provides to support requests made by computer programs. Or it’s a widget on steroids.

The Case for APIs: Batch distribution, Expand footprint, Innovation, Branding, Explore new business models, Content acquisition, Advance Business Model and Internal Content Distribution/Innovation.

Case Study: Netflix: Every movie, actor, director, TV show, description, etc, is available for people to take. Their goal was to drive more subscriptions. Success was measured by the number of developers, number of referrals to Netflix.com, and the number of new sign ups.  Their big risk is that Blockbuster may take their data.

Case Study: RateItAll: Just released first consumer rating API. They want people to build cooler applications than they can build inhouse. They have attribution requirements. Their pitch is that you get to use their content and promote their products on RateItAll.com.  Risks: Duplicate content and fueling competitors.

The REST format is the most popular API format.

How do you promote your API? Hit tech blogosphere, API directories, conferences, PPC field, organic search, API Documentation, attribution on content posts via API Partner API and detailed attribution policy.

API Challenges: limited number of developers, scaling, duplicate content, fueling competitors and legal distribution rights.

Notable APIs: BestBuy, Netflick, Flickr, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Hoovers, RateItAll, Lastfm, etc.

Resources for more info: Mashery, Programable Web, Sexy Widget

And with that Lawrence has to run out and given another presention in another room.

Pat Sexton is up. Yey, Pat.

What are widgets: Wigets are portable pieces of functionality. Widgets are what’s left of a Web site when you remove the header, footer, sidebars, etc. That’s the poopy stuff.

If you go to Google.com and remove all the poo, its just a search box. That’s their functionality.

If you go to YouTube and remove the poo, you just have the video player. That’s their functionality.  YouTube’s video player is the most successful widget ever.

The problem is people like your poop. You have AdSense in your poop. So why use widgets? Interaction, money, SEO, and traffic. You have to pleasure people. [chokes on water] They need to be social, entertainment-oriented and support business.

[Peter Yared is in total giggle fits over Pat’s presentation]

People make money off widgets by selling something, by the ad revenue or from creating more efficient work models.

Traffic: Everyone wants traffic. Direct traffic is anything that doesn’t come from a search engine. The thing to remember is that sites are spread by people, not search engines. It is easier to rank for your keywords in widget directores than it is to rank in the search engines.

If Pat was to create a Web site about kittens, he’d never be able to rank for it. However, he can rank well in the Google Gadget Directory.

SEO: Word of mouth in communities increases the pool of people who might link to you or like your product or service. Links do not have credit cards, people do.

Whitehat opportunities for widgets: Widgets provide a ridiculous amount of links…but those links need to be relevant.  The main goal of Google is to provide searchers with results that are useful and relevant. Google uses many factors to be able to do that. If a whole bunch of cat Web sites are using your widget, then you will be considered a cat resource — even if Google can’t “see” your widget.

People think that widgets in an iFrame don’t provide SEO value. Pat disagrees. Images were, and are, a black hole of information to Google. He did a search for [blue hat] and got results for blue hat. Google knows which images are of blue hats even if they can’t “see” them.

Spreading widgets: He believes in a cross platform approach. That means iGoogle, Facebook, iPhone, etc. You should tailor your widgets for each platform.

Put your widget in every widget directory that exists – iGoogle, MySpace, WidgetBox, etc. Viral installers are wonderful but they DO NOT list your widget in the directories or individual platforms. iGoogle has over 100 million users. Most major brands are NOT in the widget directory.  If you are a small brand, you can take advantage of that to basically steal traffic from the big players.

Will Price is next.

Web publishers have needs. They’re trying to reach new readers, drive traffic back to their Web sites and to monetize what they’re doing. Widgets provide them with a model to do that. You can leverage existing content, reach new users and deliver on your business model goals.

Widgetbox is for publishers. They have 90,000 bloggers who use their widgets.

Blidget (blog widget) 3.0 Custom Blidgets: Convert RSS feeds into compelling widgets. You have the ablity to mix many feeds. Supports custom header/footer/wrapper. Enables SEO. Embeds driven from Widgetbox.com. You can track widget views, installs and domains.

Widgets can be viral if you use a gallery, the invite mechanism of social networks and the feed updates on the social networks. They focus a lot on the gallery side of it.

Branded widgets based on feeds across network. Partners are able to fully manage users and feeds. The widget has all blidget premium features. They’re allowing people to build Web rings of common people writing about a topic. They all put a widget on their page. And as they post, their content shows up in the Web ring’s widget.

There is a definite SEO benefit to using widgets, but you have to use them correctly. Awesome.

Next up is Peter Yared.

There’s a dirty secret on the Web right now: No one is going to your Web site. And it’s not just YOUR Web site, it’s all Web sites. If people are spending more and more time online and not going to Web sites, where are they going? They’re hanging out on social networks and portals.

The content has inverted.  Old model: Take the users to the content and monetize on Website – millions lost as users shift. In social advertising, you put the content where the users are.

Social widgets are more viral and monetizable than widgets. Rich media is the fastest growing ad spend.

Peter Adams is up.

Ad widgets are widgets that generate income for publishers. The “ad” part of it could be the widget itself, embedded in the widget, etc.

Different kinds of ad widgets include display ad units, text ad panels, search boxes, product panels, sponsored widgets, and text links.

In page examples: He mentions Vibrant and Snap. Both of which have widgets that are revealed when you roll over or click on text links.

Ad Widget Pitfalls: What do you want to be? Do you want to be a Nascar where you have widgets covering your whole page or do you want to be like a magazine where the ads are just as important as the content?

Publishers get paid a percent of conversion: Make ad units relevant to increase sales. Make ad widgets a seamless part of your user experience, not an appendage. Customize, customize, customize. Don’t use the default theme. Decide if you want them to blend in or stand out. Ugly sells.

Question and Answer

I’m hearing a direct to consumer concept here, correct?

Peter Adams: You want to get your content in front of users.

Widgets are not just geared towards Web, right?

Pat: Absolutely.  Widgets can be on desktop screens, in mobile, etc. There’s this old model of putting an ad up and hoping that someone clicks it and interacts with you. That’s pretty old. He believes that your content needs to be where people are. It’s all about people.

As site owner, If I put widget on my Web site, what do the search engines see?

Pat: It’s dependant on the code, but a lot of them are iFrame-based which means the search engines won’t see anything. But it gets around that by other factors. They still know you have a widget on your Web site.

If I’m looking to place content on my site, do I have to be careful of what widget I use?

Pat: If you’re using it for content for the search engines, then yes.

Can you talk about video and widgets?

Peter Yared: You want to use clips and nothing longer. You want a “lean forward” experience, not a “lean back” experience.

Can you talk about widget fatigue? People went nuts with Facebook widgets when they first came out…and then they just sit there and don’t get used. How do we make something that’s more than just a badge?

Pat: That’s the goal — interaction. If not, your widget is going to suck and no one is going to use it. As far as a broader problem of widget fatigue, I think that would be better defined as crappy widget fatigue. It’s not widget fatigue.  If people don’t get value back, the widget will die.

Peter Yared: Facebook used to have iLike and then it became throwing sheep at each other. The big takeaway is that the most successful apps bring content from outside of Facebook, let you do something with it and then syndicate it to your friends. That’s the model for success.