The internet has given rise to many interesting forms of marketing. Some of them might sound a bit fancy and a bit too farfetched, but they each have their own utilities. Widget marketing is one of those options that are, comparatively speaking, lesser known, most likely due to the lack of understanding about what it is and how it can be used. Let’s take a look at what exactly widget marketing is.

What Are Widgets?

On various websites and blogs, you may have noticed various types of branded panels, mostly on the sidebars. They might be banners, forms or something else. You may even find some websites offering browser extensions or small downloadables like simple games or calendars.

These are small pieces of customizable programs that do not come across as direct advertisements, but fulfil the same purpose (and typically cost less money). Essentially, they are small pieces of code that businesses provide to website owners for display and, in most cases, a link back to their site. Publishers can install them simply by pasting the widget code in specific places and on certain pages.

How Widgets Help:

Traffic and SEO

Why would publishers be willing to install your widget and execute free publicity for you? Well, that is where you have to be clever and give them something in return, even if intangible.

For instance, a travel booking company could create a badge widget and awards its “Top Travel Bloggers” badge to select travel bloggers. The bloggers then proudly display the badge, while the widget maker gets a backlink, leaving both sides happy and satisfied.

Affiliate Marketing

Another excellent technique with widgets is affiliate marketing. A lot of major retail sites such as Amazon and Expedia run affiliate campaigns where publishers display product search boxes or booking forms on their sites through branded widgets from the retailers. If customers use the widgets and end up making a purchase, the publisher also gets a percentage of that transaction. So, it is a win-win situation for both.

It takes a bit of work to set up an affiliate system because you need to track every lead and it must be flawless to avoid controversies and payment disputes. But it can get you excellent ROI because, unlike adverts, you do not have to pay the publishers to have a presence on the site.

Market Intelligence

Some digital marketing and market intelligence sites (such as Moz) offer toolbars and extensions that can be installed on browsers. Users install them because they provide certain functionalities and information in a turnkey fashion. But it also helps the widget owner cleverly capture vital data from the user. So, in this case, widgets provide a free data collection tool, which is probably more direct and cost-effective compared to traditional methods such as surveys and interviews.

A Note of Caution

The first thing that you need to keep in mind is that transparency is the key. Keep the information clean and do not mislead people through the widget. Your leads won’t convert anyways if you don’t deliver on what you promise.

Secondly, keep SEO best practices in mind when designing the widgets. They should be visually appealing, but use clean code with HTML or JQuery that is detected by search engines. Otherwise, you will derive no SEO benefits from it, as search engines will not register the back links.

Finally, make sure that you also develop a fool-proof mechanism for tracking all the activities emanating from widgets and work to keep improving them based on your analysis of the data they provide.

In terms of ROI, widgets can be an excellent option because if you do it well, it can result in less costly leads and traffic. Furthermore, they are generally long lasting and keep sending traffic for years once you get them running. They can also be a good source of market intelligence. All in all, you can benefit greatly from widgets, but they must be deployed as a part of an intentional, long-term strategy in order to make the most of the marketing opportunities they present.