Repost about Google’s Gadget/Widget Strategy

On June 22nd Google presented to the top digital marketing agencies their strategy for Widgets. While there, I posted a life-blogging experiment which they promptly requested I remove as the information was a little ahead of the international roll-out and communication plan. As a good partner, we complied quickly but promised to share a bit more when it was ready for primetime. Last week, they let loose their announcement. You may have read Battelle’s account. And below are my notes from the presentation.

Google Gadgets Ad Training Day

June 22nd, 2007

I’m trying a lifeblogging version of a presentation at Google today. I have reservations about the success of this form/forum as it plays like microblogging in a longer format–first person thinking on the fly without the filter–but still worth trying at a “live event.” My fingers were flying as these Google guys have a lot of passion and talk fast, so forgive typos or misheard/prints. Anyway, let’s try it:Part I: Intro Google Gadget Ads and Demos by Zal BilimoriaIn May, when “launch” of iGoogle, there were 5000 gadgets in directory; 8000 now in 45 days. (Note: 18,591 three months later).


  • Maps within gadgets (and streetview will be incorporated within as well, of course)
  • Showed how to add a gadget in iGoogle–cake, just upper right “add stuff to your homepage”
    • Gadget popularity based on used, retention, etc.
    • When demoing, they showed back-end algorithm that knows what tab you’re clicking from–for instance if you’re in the video tab, you’re likely to see YouTube gadgets first
  • Brand/Branded Entertainment Gadgets
    • Neo@ Ogilvy Six Flag example
    • Entertainment Gadget examples –
    • Intel Flash Game looking like a side bar/skyscraper with tabs and expandables
    • Sierra Mist ad from Tribal that is basically a video in a banner, that’s an extension of search advertising, YouTube channel and more
    • One example was a UK tabloid ad that had a live RSS ticker tape scrolling
    • Pugeot car example with classic automotive 360-degree view of car and color selector

NOTE: My Take is that there are a lot of technically capable and crude ads, but not so many inspired creative ideas. It’s early days.Part II: What are Google Gadgets by Adam Sah

  •  Atomic, customizable form of content
  • “Container Page” v. “Rectangle of Content” Interplay–if designing gadget you want to have a nice interplay between content and the gadget
  • Page Owner selects the widget
  • All started out of RSS/3rd party expert content–so has the advantage of it
  • And more effective way to organize content
  • Here’s a handy link: for demos
  • Gadget rankings aglorithm different than what was created for consumers because people use them differently
  • has a Google gadget webcam on its page, but doesn’t have to be there. It could be distributed and could be sponsored by Corona or other obvious advertiser within the content
  • “Add to Google” button can be added to any kind of content and can become a best practice

Why Advertisers Love Them

  • “Little webpages.” Easy.Inexpensive way to create interactive content
  • Google supplies free bandwidth, free hosting, cashing
  • No SDK, no downloads, no keys
  • WRITE GADGET IN “30 Seconds”

Same Technology on where you can see stuff interacting with maps–videos how to do this, etc. and people can place on their maps hompage. Two weeks from launch and already dozens of maps.NOTE to advertisers: it might not seem like a high hit rate right away, but your content will be better found by The Long TailHigh Leverage–write once, run in many placesFree, effective distribution: and (for stats)How Google Makes Money

  • You want traffic, Google has it. And the Gadgets are content which Google wants more of
  • And it builds more searches, the lifeblood of Google via CSE (custom search engines, mapsearch, etc.)
  • Can’t buy access, you have to create something so valuable that people use it to get to the top in rankings. Can’t pay for it.
  • Better be high quality, because you will get penalized for “junk” gadgets that get deleted off of users site–harder to find b/c it gets buried
  • Over 50% of traffic goes to free gadgets vs. Google version
  • 800M PageViews per week to 8,000 gadgets
  • If you put it on your own serve, like video, it will melt down the servers. Use Google’s servers for delivery
  • One possible implementation: no branding until you click on “more” button

Gadget Architecture

  • Gadgets are just remote HTML, cached by Google
  • FastNet + iGoogle serve old version if origin site is down (and statistically will serve that)
  • FastNet fetches 1/hour/datacenter
  • So for horoscopes, it’s a one-time deal
  • For live video or data, it fetches the content with greater regularity

Advanced Gadget API Services

  • Smart, well thought out way to manage and service a good community
  • Security/Ops
  • Mash-Ups
  • etc. reference the slideshow for better notes here


  • Commerce? Concern about doing that b/c the browser key isn’t visible. Suggested opening a window to transact
  • Cookies? Can’t do it within widgets for other reasons, if you host content and ad serve you can do this. Instead of filling out spec in Gadget, just point to website serving content.
  • Desktop? Annecdotally web-based stuff is more popular and growing
  • Gears? All APIs start as webpage services and are more heavy weight than can run within the ad footprint, then get slimmer. Maps API too big to put w/in a gadget, but you put a starter image in there, and then upon click activates the larger API beyond the ad footprint
  • Extend APIs Inside Flash? Instead of alongside of it. Specific API for embedding Flash within Gadgets but there’s more they want to do and are doing
  • IBM WebShere Portlets? Gadgets withing WebShere that allow collaboration in different ways. Gadgets to reach users from IT, imagine that. offered as another good example of this.

Part III: The Advertising Take by Rob Middleton

  • Econmics favorable and compelling reasons to adopt for agencies (will link to slides when they’re posted)
  • Examples
    • A Mighty Heart Movie has Daniel Pearl’s notes, diary, timeline and all his Wall Street Journal articles dating back to 1994(!)
    •  P-Diddy Ad
  • Comment about AdSense network to with opportunity to create and distribute the mini-experience
  • They’ve got a new tool that will support for multiple different formats–one creative content, 5 re-sizes
  • In Beta program, Google will hand-hold the agencies for creative dev
  • Will have strong analytics reporting tools on back-end
  • Where ever an image ad can run on the Google ad network, a gadget can run
  • Called out that you can save it “Add it to your homepage”–think about how many times you want to see an ad but forgot where it was running or that it didn’t replay in the space you found it originally nor was placed on the website
  • Include embed tags as best practice to save to MySpace/Facebook/Blogs/etc.
  • Stat: Monterey acquarium live cam gadget gets 200k views per month


  • Metrics–Page Views? Click Throughs? Interaction Rates? In a classic Google AdSense a low-clicked ad (for example, our Red Lobster ad that got .02% CTR but nearly 10% interaction rate would have gotten buried). Interaction now becoming part of their “Quality Scoring” algorithm
  • How do you price in network? CPMs, CTRs, same as current network

Walk Through Gadget Betas:

  • Honda Civic “Ask The Band” interaction
  • Marketing solutions via Gadget
    • Pulled live data off of eBay
    • Can do it with Amazon and other APIs as well (think geo targeting)
    • This gadget knows that page is about something, and then connected with Google API adsense scrape and resizes to page
    • AJAX really easy to make content resize to space/page
    • Has “crazy interaction tracking” for extreme analysis and optimization (think news, massive skew product cos, etc. that need specificity and performance)
  • NBA Ad for playoffs (TV in a gadget)–awesome for brands with tons of content like NBA
    • Hashem from Goodby chimed in that they learned a lot about different production process and asset development for this format
    • Could have used geotargeting to get specific on teams for NBA
    • Learning new ways to make better on the fly–consider evolution
  • Extending the Website
    • Asking a lot for people to find websites
    • Why not push out ad as you create the website for distribution?
    • And, because of high-growth on iGoogle as well as gadgets in general, why wouldn’t you reverse-engineer Gadgets for unpaid distribution
  • Product Demonstrations
    • Promote mumerous community-created features via Google Earth
    • Use it for visualizations

 Part IV: Metrics by Christian Oestlien, Product Manager for Gadgets/Ad Products

  •  Notice about PPA–Pay Per Action, announced this week
  • Placement Reporting launched today to track campaign performance
  • Demographics–b/c Larry has strong views on privacy, doesn’t want to offer up Demographic information, however, will I.D. sites for you:
    • When you set up campaigns, list generation of sites and impression count based on what you’re looking for based on creative size (doesn’t matter if you have a Gadget ad, right?)
    • Post Campaign ad effectiveness available
    • Cool comment: There will be something coming down the road that will give dramatically more confidence in the selection and delivery process of this demographic
  •  Suggestion: Run Text Campaign to promote iGoogle

 Q&ASEO for Gadgets if they’re Microsites? For every Gadget, there’s a detail page that is placed in the Search EngineDoes SWIF Object Work? “On steroids.” Really cool stuff you can find in the documentation on thisOne other cool case study: Terra Horoscopes. About a year ago Adam created a horoscope gadget for Terra to distribute their Horoscopes. Adam asked them how they attributed their dramatic growth in traffic, and they felt it was the quality of their content. Couple points:

  • Although the gadget is open source and anyone could have created a competitive product, and recently a few have, the Terra horoscopes are still the monster traffic winner
  • The views are not insignificant: 31mm+/week
  • Take aways: first mover, high value, network effect to get foothold and win

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