Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

Posts Tagged ‘widgets’

The widget-mobile. Allowing your distributed content to travel freely.

Posted by widgetgirl on December 31, 2007

I went out to lunch with a friend the other day and once again I got the question of “what does your company do again??”. “We have a widget serving platform” was my response. Come again?

So what is a widget serving platform? Really, it is a vehicle to allow your content to leap off of your site and traverse the Internet without parental guidance. Think of a car, plane, train, etc. Each one of these vehicles serves a purpose – they get you from point “A” to point “B”. The vehicle itself is just that, it does not care who the passengers are, it is there to provide a service. Widget platforms, and Clearspring’s specifically, serves that exact same purpose. We provide the vehicle, you provide the passenger.

Monkey Car

The basic steps of “wrapping” your widget (think of “loading your car”) are as follows:

  1. Create an account on Clearspring.com (this takes literally less than 30 seconds).
  2. Select “Add Widget”.
  3. Select your widget type (flash, js, image, RSS, web site).
  4. Enter the parameters about your widget – source URL and widget name.
  5. Click on “Save new widget”
  6. Publish your widget by either “grabbing the embed code” to place it on a specific web site – OR – use one of our sharing tools to publish it directly to a social network or widget gallery.

Here is a technical description of the above: Provide the widget serving platform with the source URL path of your widget and we’ll provide you with our widget code that will request your specific widget when it loads on the page. As visitors want to “grab” your widget for themselves, our platform (the flash container that is wrapping your widget) will provide the “bridges” for the widget to travel to MySpace, Facebook, iGoogle, Netvibes, etc. The “bridges” and the ability to track where your widget is traveling is what the widget serving platform brings to the table. A one or two click process to push the widget from one page to another is the vehicle itself. Going back to the “automobile” example, the car has an engine, ability to travel through rain, snow and sleet. The widget container has the ability to drive from MySpace to Facebook, Facebook to iGoogle and so forth.

These are the steps you need to take in order to successfully load a widget onto a widget serving platform. The main thing to note here is that the platform doesn’t host your content, you do. So you have control over updating the content, deleting it, modifying it – you are in control of what your visitors see.

Is it easy to publish a widget, yes! The difficult part is designing a widget and determining what the content will be. I wrote a post a few weeks ago that outlines the steps for a successful widget strategy. Anyone can build a widget, just as anyone can build a web site. Content is still king – and the creation of content that is engaging and compelling to the user is critical in launching it for viral promotion.

Happy New Year!

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Travelogue – widget spreading and viral hubs

Posted by widgetgirl on November 16, 2007

One of the most interesting things about widgets is the analysis of their travels. A widget can move from web site to web site on its own as visitors grab the widget and share it to their own web site or social networking page. Some widgets travel in an innocuous pattern across the web – nothing exciting, just an even spread of being shared from one site to the next with no peaks or valleys. However one of the exciting things that we see in data quite often is a burst of spreading energy from one or more particular widget placements. This is what the web analyst is looking for, right? Show me the anomalies!

Viral spread is is quantified in a metric that we call “Viral Hubs”. When you break this down, a viral hub is the placements metric evaluated over the dimension of domain (check out my previous post on the placements metric). Viral hubs simply indicates the directional flow of the widget placement. Domains that have a large proportion of new placements created from them are identified as a strong viral hub.

So as a web analyst or marketer, what do we do with viral hubs? Traditionally marketers plan their campaign strategies to drive unique visitors back to their site (incoming traffic to view content). To optimize spread and reach for your widget, the strategy needs to shift to pushing content as far from your site as possible – or at least to Web sites where your widget will garner the most views from your target audience. There are a few brilliant strategies that I have witnessed in the last few weeks that exemplify good, quality seeding.

Strategy #1:

  • A media company seeds their widget on their own site. The company also registers their widget as a Facebook Application and creates a Canvas page on Facebook for easy sharing and viral distribution. Depending on who you are and what kind of content you have, applications can spread through Facebook like an unquarantined virus! In a good way of course. Social networks provide huge opportunities for advertisers to go straight to their audience network and seed their widget within its walls, thus creating a viral hub that may or may not have emerged on its own.

Strategy #2:

  • Ad serve your widget! Many companies today are doing ad buys to speed up the viral spreading of their widget. One company purchased the position on the home page of MySpace for an entire day – and MySpace became a monster viral hub as a result. It generated more new placements in one day than waiting for their own Web site seed placement to organically grow itself across the internet. The best part is that even though the the ad buy may have hypothetically been for 5M impressions, all of the views of the widget after it is spread are gravy…aka as free! Your actual CPM goes down depending on how viral your widget is.
  • If you want to ad-serve your widget, check out the new product that we recently launched called Clearspring for Advertisers. It is pretty powerful stuff and all the big kids are doing it 😉

The biggest byproduct of a seeding strategy on steroids is that you now have all of these placements to push content to. Going back to the media company example, they could initially promote a new TV show or perhaps a movie trailer within a widget. Once that particular media piece becomes stale, they could use the same install base to promote online reruns, additional content or upcoming new episodes or sequels. Remember, the widget creator always serves the content. If they want to change or update the content, they have the power to do that agnostic of where the content is placed or the widget-serving platform that they are using.

Having a powerful install base also provides a good spring-board for extending your reach even further. Analyzing where your widget organically spreads from the install base (your non-seed placements) presents yet more opportunities. Analysts can evaluate their widget analytic data to identify specific social network profile pages, blogs and web sites that are emerging as strong viral hubs.

Strategy #3:

  • Identify non-seed placement viral hubs for business development relationships. For example, if I notice as an analyst that a particular individual blogger or Web site is emerging as a viral hub, I may want to contact them directly to ask them to either write about the content in my widget, incentivize them to keep my widget on their site or ask them to place and promote a widget that I haven’t even built yet.

Seeding strategies are critical for maximizing the spread of your widget. The tables have expanded for marketers. Instead of starting with a budget and then maximizing each inbound channel for reach and ROI, you now have the opportunity to reduce your marketing spend with optimal organic spread strategies. Granted, you may have to still spend money, but the persistence of that spend will outlive an email drop, ad buy or traditional display ad run.

To wrap it up…..

  1. Maximize the exposure of your seed placements. Location, location, location!
  2. Analyze your spread data and identify where your viral hubs are emerging.
  3. Plant future seed placements at the base of known powerful viral hubs – don’t wait for your widget to make its way there on its own. This one is difficult, but that is what your Biz Dev skills are for 😉
  4. Don’t forget about your install base – keep them happy and use their real estate wisely. Don’t abuse it.

And of course my favorite widget of the week – Project Runway. Who doesn’t just love Heidi Klum…or Seal for that matter. The Bravo folks have created their own Project Runway profile page in Facebook and placed a widget that is registered as a Facebook application on it. You can go to the application’s canvas page and grab the widget for yourself using Facebook’s “Add Application” function and also notify your friends that they should grab it too. Your Facebook friends can then either grab the widget from you on your profile page or go to the canvas page and grab it for themselves. Bravo, “Bravo”….brilliant seeding strategy!

ProjectRunway

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Measuring interactivity within a widget

Posted by widgetgirl on October 29, 2007

Today marks an exciting product release from Clearspring! The team’s been working the past few months to roll out interaction analytics – specifically, the ability to measure how visitors are interacting with a widget. The metrics that we have put together break down as follows:

  • Clicks – The number of times a widget was clicked.
  • Clicked Views – The number of views where a widget was clicked.
  • Click Rate – Total clicks divided by total views.
  • CPCV (Clicks per clicked view) – Clicks divided by clicked views.
  • Time Spent – The average time spent per widget view as defined by the time that the page loads till the visitor navigates away from the page that the widget is on or closes their browser.
  • Interaction Time – The average time spent per widget view as defined by the aggregate amount of time that a user interacted with a widget.

Clicks – this metric is pretty straight forward, the number of times that a widget was clicked. The clicks that we are including are user initiated clicks on the widget. What we are not including are the clicks to share the widget. A visitor can click on the share services menu and expend a few clicks to share their widget into any one of the social networks (or even to just get the embed code). The clicks that we are including are those clicks where the visitor is interacting with the widget. A great example of this is the new Bee Movie (registration required for this widget). The widget allows you to “Bathe”, “Feed”, “Sleep” your bee. Each time you click on these buttons and interact with the widget, the visitor is generating a click.

Boo on WordPress for not allowing the insertion of widgets! So here is a screen shot of the Bee Movie widget – but you can click on the link above and grab the widget directly from Paramount’s site.

Bee Movie

Clicked Views – this metric is a derivative of clicks and views, the number of views where a widget was clicked. I think this is a great metric to measure if visitors are even drawn to your widget. It assumes that you want a visitor to click on your widget and/or that someone has tried to share your widget.

Click Rate – similar to clicked views, this metric is displayed as a percentage rate and gives the analyst a benchmark of the percentage of views where someone clicks on the widget.

CPCV (clicks per clicked view) – I love this metric. If you have a highly interactive widget where visitors can either play a game or interact heavily with your widget (like the Bee Movie for example), this metric will help you measure the engagement level of your widget. If your widget is merely a video or a vehicle for getting visitors back to your website, then clicked views or click rate will probably suffice.

Time Spent – measuring how long someone spends viewing your widget is not the easiest metric to tackle. If you think about it, page view duration in standard web analytics is really derived by the difference between the time stamp of two pages that have been viewed. In the case of a widget view, a visitor is not required to refresh the page….hence how does one calculate this. The team here had to weigh how “chatty” to make your widget in alerting that it is still alive on the page with two goals:

  1. Maintain user experience by not reaching out to the server every time a visitors touches the widget.
  2. Provide the most precise measurement of time spent available amongst the widget provider-sphere.

The end result, a default setting of 30 second “pings” back to our server that can decay incrementally over time if a visitor is not interacting. However, in the event that a visitor interacts with the widget, all clicks, events and an update on the time spent metric is sent within 5 seconds. We provide the Widget Creator the capability to turn this setting up or down depending on the type of widget that they have. There is more documentation on the Clearspring site as to how this works, but the point is that measuring the difference between two time stamps like traditional web analytics is not applicable here. One could easily overwhelm the amount of requests back to the server for analytics and degrade user performance.

Interaction Time – thank you web analytics village for helping me get my hands around this metric. The interaction metric measures the precise amount of time that a visitor interacted with the widget. So if they moused over the widget for 10 seconds at the beginning of their widget view and then moused over it again for 25 seconds five minutes later, the total interaction time would be 35 seconds.

Other cool stuff to check out this week:

Fox.com has launched a very cool 24 widget! I am a huge fan of the show was and was so psyched to see this widget on the Clearspring platform. What is interesting about their deployment is that Fox is using Clearspring’s new Launchpad platform. The new product we’ve deployed allows you to seed the widget sharing menu adjacent to your widget or just add a button to your page that invokes an expandable or pop-up menu to share your widget. Very cool stuff!

24 Trailer Widget

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