Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

  • Share this blog

    Bookmark and Share
  • February 2008
    M T W T F S S
  • Meta

  • WAA

    WAA Member

Archive for February, 2008

Outbreak! The viral spreading of widgets.

Posted by widgetgirl on February 29, 2008

As widgets are grabbed and placed on web sites, they don’t necessarily just stay there. They can be grabbed and spread. They can be deleted and die. Or they can roll like a slow moving wave across the internet where they are grabbed, spread and deleted. Widget analytics help us understand if your base of widget placements are growing or if they are receding. We also call this your “install” base.

Widgets are deemed “viral”….so think if of them kind of like a virus (a good one). A virus might start in California and spread around offices, schools and organizations. People get sick, they recover and life moves on. But then the virus travels and it moves from California to Nevada, Nevada to Colorado and so on. Before you know it, the virus has landed in Massachusetts and is ready to get on a plane bound for London. No one is sick on the West coast anymore and they may have even forgotten about the virus in the first place, but the virus isn’t dead, it has just continued its journey.

On a more positive note, think of a viral trend that spreads and thrives. People in LA start wearing Ugg boots (which we were back in the early 90’s mind you). The trend moves from California to New York and then slowly spreads to the center of the country. No one ever stops wearing them and the install base continues to grow. It is 15 years later and people are still wearing the same Ugg boots all across the country and in other parts of the world. Widget travels can work the same way.

We see widgets travel from their seed sites (the sites where the widget is initially placed and made available for grabbing) to major social networks like Facebook or MySpace. The widget might live there for a while and then spread from one of those networks to Blogger or Friendster. The widget might also travel from one Facebook group to another. There are three different types of spread that we see in widget analytics:

  1. Spread from the seed site(s) out to one or more popular sites or networks.
  2. Spread from one network to another (like Facebook to Friendster).
  3. Spread within a network.

Widgets also have different life expectancies (and no, I can’t predict these although there are definitely markers to look for). These break down into three categories as well:

  1. The “hopping” widget –> widgets that move from one network to another. It grows, dies, but continues to spread.
  2. The “earthquake” widget –> this widget rocks your world, grows very fast across the internet (everywhere) and then has a tragic death. This is not a bad widget. It is often representative of a movie or television promotion where the widget has great strength, but no longevity because it is based on an “event” that is to take place at a specific time.
  3. The “steady Eddie” widget –> this widget slowly spreads, doesn’t get deleted very often and is a consistent performer. Sports team widgets fall consistently into this category. They have a loyal fan base who grabs the widget and rarely deletes it

Looking at widget data for the entire life of the widget only tells one picture. You may see a total of 10,000 placements created for a particular widget over 100 days for example. Those placements may range from 25,000 placements in one social network to 200 here and 200 there on other sites. The lifetime data doesn’t tell you the spread pattern though. Segmentation of the data and following the path for how your widget is spreading is critical.

Many Clearspring customers start the process by looking at their data on a weekly basis. Week one might show 1,000 placements of the widget across 10 networks where 750 of those grabs came from the seed sites and 250 of the grabs were generated evenly across the 10 networks. Move on to week two (in isolation away from week one) and the story might be completely different –> for example, 2,000 new placements where 250 came from the seed site and 1,750 spread primarily from two networks.

Understanding the spread pattern across the life of a campaign is critical to identifying where your campaign’s viral lift was strongest. If your widget spread like wildfire in Facebook, you may want to modify your strategy to build out a Facebook Canvas page next time. You may discover a particular blogger profile from which the grab rate for your widget (grabs divided by widget views) was much higher than other sites. Perhaps establishing a relationship with the blogger and seeding your widget on their site next time will help you move the “viral spread needle” for your next campaign.

Drilling into the spread pattern and looking at where your widget placements are being created and where they are most active is the crux of practicing widget analytics. Segmenting that data and analyzing where the opportunity and waste lie is the key to optimization.

My favorite widget of the week is Paramount’s new Kung Fu Panda widget. This widget gives you your daily fortune…my fortune today:

  • Take life as you find it, but put it back when you’re done!

You can click here to go grab the widget or just click on the image below.

Kung Fu Panda 1
Kung Fu Panda 2

Posted in widget analytics | Leave a Comment »

Widget Grabs – The most popular metric in Widget Analytics?

Posted by widgetgirl on February 25, 2008

“Grabbing a widget is” a slogan used commonly in articles, columns and posts on sharing widgets. The term is used commonly around Clearspring as well, but it’s true definition is really the sum of new placements created for a widget. Widget placements, or “placements”, is a metric that describes the number of unique instances of a widget. It’s definition is essentially the intersection of a specific widget and it’s unique placement on a page. It breaks down as follows:

  1. Visitor views widget on a web site – this could be the page that it was “seeded” on (the initial placement of the widget as defined by the embed code generated by the widget-serving platform) or another site where the widget has been spread to.
  2. Visitor clicks on the “Grab” or “Get and Share” button on the widget. I use the term “button”, but it really means that the visitor is invoking the ability on the widget to get a copy of their own widget.
  3. Visitor completes the process of sharing the widget to another web site, social network or page. This may take the form of completing a “wizard-like” process of using the sharing services provided by the widget-serving platform – OR – it may be the result of copying a piece of embed code and physically pasting it on to another web site.
  4. Visitor views the newly created widget placement on the site it was shared to.

What does this result in? Well, it means that you just “grabbed” the widget.

Grab – verb

  1. to seize suddenly or quickly; snatch; clutch: He grabbed my widget.

People love these phrases – “grab my widget”, “he grabbed my widget”, “they grabbed the widget”….or any derivation thereof. This is why I am thinking we need to just take the term “placements” (which will still have it’s place in the Clearspring lexicon) and call them “Grabs” when it denotes a visitor performing an action to create a new placement of a widget. It is a verb, right? Once those placements (or Grabs) are being actively viewed by visitors, we can then defer back to just calling them “placements”.

My colleague Steve has been lobbying for this for a while and I am thinking that I totally agree (see Steve, you did finally wear me down). So if we rewrite the definition in widget terms (not Dictionary.com terms):

Grabs – metric and a verb

  1. to create a new instance of a widget via the widget-serving platform’s sharing services or pasting of embed code: The widget was grabbed “x” times.

This is a core metric to understanding widget effectiveness – the number of times a widget is viewed and grabbed (grab rate – ooh, there’s another good one), and how well you are converting visitors who just view the widget to visitors who grab the widget. Getting clarity around how widgets spread and how to quantify that spread is what the analytics team at Clearspring’s mission is. It isn’t always easy, but with much debate comes clarity….at least that’s the goal.

As for widgets, I ran across this cool Disney widget this week. You can “Puppify” your widget by uploading a pic of your own canine. Click on the link below to go check out this widget –> or click here and you’ll get there too.

Ok – President’s Day hiatus and my vacation to the valley is over…I’m back on my weekly schedule.


    Posted in widget analytics | 1 Comment »

    Viral Hubs – spreading your widget the Kylie Minogue way

    Posted by widgetgirl on February 11, 2008

    It has been a little while since I last wrote about widget placements and mapping the topography of the true value of widgets – how far they are spreading and from where. Clearspring’s Viral Hubs report is one of our most popular and utilized reports within our analytics suite. This report displays the number of new placements that are being created from seed placements and off-domain placements (“in the wild” if you will). Specifically the report focuses on displaying the number of placements created from the domains where your widget has been seeded or where it has been placed.

    A few weeks ago we noticed that a new widget had hit our platform in full force. For you music buffs (ok, you 90’s music buffs), Kylie Minogue launched a widget on our platform that was driving huge amounts of traffic – most particularly because it was on PerezHilton’s celebrity gossip blog. The “Kylie widget” as we like to refer to it here had streaming video in it and was spreading rapidly from Perez’s site. Mix a music star with a popular blogger that hits your target audience and the combination can be quite explosive.


    “Spreading” and “viral” are two terms used frequently to describe widgets in general. The terms themselves though specifically boil down to a quantitative measurement for the number of new widget placements being created for a specific widget. You can check out another post of mine that dives pretty deep into Placements and what they are, but I am going to recap for you here.

    Placement: The unique instance of a widget, as defined by a Placement ID and a URL.

    This definition requires explanation. When a widget is placed on a web page for the very first time, we refer to this as a “Seed Placement” – meaning that the placement was not “grabbed” from anywhere else (you can get a “Seed Placement” from the Clearspring console when you register your widget with us). Each time the widget is “grabbed” (also referred to as “shared” or “spread”), the widget serving platform assigns a new Placement ID to that instance of the widget. So every time the widget is grabbed from another widget, it results in the creation of a new “Placement”.

    The Placements metric is the sum of placements that have been created for your widget. When we analyze this data to see where a widget is spreading from, we refer to it in two ways:

    1. Viral Hubs – the source domains from where my widget is being spread.
    2. Grabs – the number of times that a new placement was created from my widget.

    As you can see, there are a few building blocks here. The web analyst first needs to understand what a placement is. Then the analytical model extends on to “from where” is my widget spreading from – or more precisely, “which domains are creating new placements for my widget?”

    When viral hubs are identified within the data, the marketing mind can take over and start strategizing how to optimize the spread for a widget (and future widgets). In the case of the Kylie widget, I would presume that they will try to get their widgets on to PerezHilton.com again in the future. Optimal “seeding” (the initial placement(s) of the widget) is the key to maximizing and optimizing the creation of viral hubs. Similar to finding those key sources of traffic to your web site, the viral hub is the lynch pin in matching your widget with the target audience maximum audience reach.

    Posted in viral hubs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »