Discussion with Sep Kamvar About Gadgets

Last week I traveled out to California for a series of meetings at Google, and also so I could be at the Searchification event. One of the people I sat down with at Google was Sepandar Kamvar (aka Sep Kamvar). While Sep is well known for his work on personalization at Google, our conversation focused on another area, that of Google gadgets.

I learned a few important things about the Google Gadget world. One of these is that getting a large number of gadgets you have developed installed by other users is not something that will help with your web search rankings. This is consistent with a conversation I had later with Matt Cutts, where Matt told me that this signal was simply too noisy.

On another note, promotion of gadgets is something that requires some effort as well. It’s easier to get something to go viral if you nudge it along by getting the word out. Sep suggested that one way to do this is to buy Google Adwords ads to promote the gadget.

Another thing I learned is that placement in the Google Gadget Directory is based on popularity. You can get a lot of visibility here, but only if you achieve a high ranking. Note that user deletions of gadget installations also count as a negative signal for purposes of ranking in the Google directory.

We also talked about what makes a really good gadget. Here are the 3 main points I took out of the conversation:

  1. The content changes daily or more than daily. Freshness is a big reason why people install a gadget. Trivia, time, and weather gadgets all have done well (don’t necessarily rush off and do these, many of them already exist).
  2. The gadget needs to be useful in a small space. No matter how useful the information is, users are not going to ties up en entire screen to get it.
  3. It should deliver useful content in the gadget itself. In other words, don’t make the user click through to your site to get the information they want. Such a structure is not likely to get particularly much interest. Put it right there in the gadget where they get what the need most of the time. Of course, when they want additional information, they can click through to your site, and you always get the branding benefit.

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