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Widgets for Content Distribution

Monday, October 5, 2009

My fascination with widgets has been documented from the early days. About a year ago I wrote about Google gadgets and suggested that marketers check them out and see how they work; they can be DIY. If you search widgets on the blog search bar at the top of the page, you’ll find more widget posts, most about marketing campaigns that have a widget component.

Whatever you call it—and Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing term is one of my favorites—marketers have to get the word out and bring people back to their website (or blog) for information or action. For most websites, search is primary in generating traffic. Another important way to bring traffic to your site is to get content out with links back to your site. Widgets are perfect for that; see the McKinsey widget on the sidebar of this site.

Last week’s post on applications and widgets emphasized some of the large players in the space. Can a small blog/a small website use this technology cost-effectively? The answer is “yes.” “Free” is more difficult.

This aspect of the subject came to mind when I received an email from about a new hosted widget service that’s the brainchild of former Yahoo! social media and software powerhouses. I was interested and checked it out. They have a good explanation of white-labeled widgets. It’s a hosted service, so there are charges. It’s still in Beta, so they are offering free services for personal blogs. I took advantage of their offer, requested and invitation, and took the widgets for a trial run.

The way it works is simple. You provide your blog or website address. They make some connections on the back end and send you a link to your widget page. At present, they have six widget templates from which to choose, as the graphic shows. The “Customize This” link leads you to a page that lets you size the widget and choose background colors. Then it gives you embed code. Even better if you have a blog on a standard platform like Blogger or Typepad, you simply click the button for the platform and it inserts the chosen widget on your blog. Then you configure the sidebar content as you want it. I tried tag cloud and live activity widgets and they showed up on my blog, just as Wowzio said it would. Look at the right sidebar; they are interesting, fun to look at. The content distribution issue is that, if you want to Grab This widget, you can put it on your own blog or website, just like I put the McKinsey widget on mine. Your content has just been made available to readers/visitors of other sites!

I was intrigued, so I asked for an invitation for the natural history blog I edit. It has many beautiful images, so the photo gallery widget was an obvious choice. It’s lovely, but it’s far enough down on the sidebar that it’s below the bottom of some posts, meaning many readers may not see it. I need to work on the sidebar design more and see if I can move it up further without decreasing some of the important subscription and search items—all of which are widgets of one kind or another!

Wowzio enters a space similar to other app platforms like Kick Apps, which has been around for awhile. They have a lot of explanation about how it works and there’s a link for pricing at the bottom of the home page that gives you an idea of what these services run. I don’t see doing this one myself. It really would take a developer, but from what I’ve seen that would be a one-time cost of a few thousand dollars, depending on your location (and how busy free-lance developers are!). Wowzio doesn’t seem to have set a price for small business customers yet, but that will certainly be forthcoming.

The critical question for a small business is whether it’s worth a hosting fee—say $100—each month plus a developer if you need one to create the widget.

I think there’s a pretty simple answer. Do you have content that a clearly-defined target audience would like to include on their own blogs or websites? That would be content that is relevant, engaging and continuously updated.

If you have great content, you may be ready for a widget to distribute it. If you don’t, you need to be working on the content. Great content always comes first!
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