The term ‘widget’ has historically been used by university business professors to describe a generic item or product to be manufactured and/or marketed by a given company. Today, the term has been given a whole new meaning and a life of its own. As defined by Wikipedia, a widget “is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate html-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation. They are akin to plugins or extensions in desktop applications”.
Companies such as YouTube, Slide, and MyBlogLog are several examples of start-ups that have taken advantage of the concept and leveraged the traffic of other sites to drive traffic to their own properties. Many other successful examples exist and continue to appear on a daily basis. I see this as an ongoing trend.
Why is it so effective and widespread within the new web landscape?
- This form of viral marketing provides an extremely good ROI based on the resources available. Your ’embedders’ become your marketing team.
- Widgets may take time and manpower to develop, but the deployment and embedding cost nothing.
Essentially, widgets are an extremely effective, low cost way of driving qualified traffic and creating brand exposure.
The value proposition for publishers is clear as well: added functionality for websites with no technical expertise needed.
So what are the downsides of such a tactic?
- The cost of bandwidth may be siginificant if the widget provides a multimedia experience, as is the case with YouTube and Slide.
- The placement of a widget may not always be favourable or provide the best brand presence (i.e. embedding a widget within a porno site).
- The level of conversion from widget-use to website traffic may be low. The same can also be said for brand exposure. In other words, if everyone is simply using your widget and exploiting the embedded experience, then this technique may not be so suitable. Website traffic and brand exposure must constantly be improving.
Nonetheless, if your model leapfrog beyond the downsides (which I consider minimal), then this strategy may very well be your Holy Grail. A fit is absolutely necessary – widgets do not work with every business model. But if this fit can be found, serious upside may be just be embedded around the corner.