Are Widgets Really Linkbuilding?

I had a conversation with one of the organic guys the other guy during which he proclaimed that if you build a kick-ass widget and placed it on a high-traffic site, it would go viral. Ah, bless… the innocence of youth.

His assertion that this was a successful link building campaign led me to ponder whether you can call it link building if all you do is create an application and put a link to it on a high-traffic page. Could you simply create an application and release it into the wild with nothing more than best wishes and call it link building?

I would argue that effort has to be made in any instance to call it work. If you come up with the idea, that is part of the work but simply placing it somewhere without any push or sell cannot lead to a high enough adoption to create a buzz no matter how good the application is. Some work seeding it – some link building, article writing, emailing and promotion – must be done.

Link building though is about more than just creating a widget and placing a link within it. In fact, this has been shown to result in a penalty where the link is not relevant to the content of the widget. Thus widgets entered the same realm as link buying – good if you don’t get caught and keep it relevant.

Links are the special sauce of the internet. They help people navigate to other, less well known sites. They help point people (and spiders) in the right direction. They indicate relevance and quality. They help elevate rankings only as a part of their larger function – navigation. Link building is not just about slapping links up on every directory possible and trying to spam the index. It also isn’t just about creating compelling content. It also is no longer about relevant content being sign-posted for others to find. Links are now a complex beast – part human, part animal, part fruit… or maybe dairy.

Links, like many other ranking factors, have been abused. They have been taken from their origins and made to serve their evil SEO overlords. Many have tried to free them, few have succeeded. Trapping them inside a widget seems cruel… and without support I would argue not link building.

Set your links free and remember to always feed them chocolate :-)

Widget Web Expo – set your watches.  It’s the special sauce for your widget building aspirations whether business or personal.

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6 Responses to “Are Widgets Really Linkbuilding?”

  1. Kyle Wegner says:

    I agree that this isn’t the same process as link building, but that doesn’t mean it can’t build links. I think a better term for it would be linkbaiting. Not necessarily just putting a widget on a high traffic site and hoping it goes viral, but pushing the widget, socializing it, and then letting it go viral is a worthwhile practice.

    Maybe this is called widgetbaiting, not linkbaiting. Do I get to coin a new term or is that one that already exists? :)

  2. Kyle Wegner says:

    Ok so I just fact checked myself…there are 11,500 results for widgetbaiting in Google. Looks like I missed the boat on that one…

  3. Joe Hall says:

    I would tend to disagree with this. Widgets can build lots of links. And as such i think they can be a very powerful part of a link building campaign. Are they the only sole aspect of it, no not at all. But i think its extremely important to point out that building a successful app or widget is not a cake walk by any means, so to assume that there is no effort in it and thus it should not be called “work”. is a direct insult to the developers that write the code and their clients that pay for that code.

  4. Ah see there’s the part I should have delved in to a bit more.

    We’re talking an SEO with no widget-building skills. There was no assumption of any creative or code input – just sort of ‘tell them to build a widget, put a link to it on their home page and it’ll go viral’

    My issue was with doing something like that and calling it link building. That did not involve any effort.

    Is it worth $10,000 or whatever to a client for consultation on link building if the company then doesn’t do anything to seed it, push it, promote it or anything?

    Yes, widgets are involved in link building. Yes, actually making an effort to seed the widget and info about it is link building. Dropping an app on a home page and walking away I don’t feel is the same.

    I’d say at *least* blog about it, post to forums, get the site to promote it, maybe do something with banners if relevant… do something! Don’t go off, tell someone else to make something, get another company to build it, get the client to slap it up and walk away.
    Maybe I’m just old fashioned

  5. I’m speaking on this exact same subject at widget web expo in october!

    You are right that it’s a long process. In fact it’s so long, i am surprised no one has cried foul and hyped up the ‘death of widgets’.

    I think you can call it *part* of a link building strategy, but until one actually gets it embedded anywhere it’s just another bit of marketing candy floss.

    The fact remains that widgets are a lot cooler than links so even if they built the thing and never supported it, they at least put their best foot forward. And then decided to have a rest. It’s heavy werk y’know, t’widget buildin’! :)

  6. Laura Design says:

    I agree with Joe Hall’s comment. Widgets can in fact submit a large amount of links but as a downside they can also be penalised if the links do not relate to the widget. I still believe that linking the old fashioned way is much better as it gives you more flexibility to help point people in the right direction.

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