Several clients that I’ve consulted for have made great use of widgets to help boost their search engine rankings, as well as to drive additional traffic and get some free advertising too.
The social-local review directory TrustedPlaces, for example, have had an excellent map widget out for while now and off that back of its success have now launched a personalised widget for their reviewers too.
Unlike the map widget this one is more exclusive, only being on offer to their trusted reviewers (it’s free to join, so you can become one too), so to demonstrate their widget I’ve pasted a copy of it on both its forms below:
If you look closely you’ll notice that the upper widget has several links to “recommended” locations embedded in it. This is clever use of widget personalisation to present user generated content on a scalable basis. By doing so they offer “real” content that provides an incentive for bloggers who wish to publicise their reviews to employ the widget and by offering something of value, make it far less likely that anybody will complain about the fact that there are half a dozen backlinks embedded in it (which point to place pages and so are great for SEO).
Given that some of their competitors have resorted to buy links on occasion, I consider content based widgets a much “higher value” technique as far as user perception is concerned, as it appeals to their reviewers’ desire for self publicity rather than reducing linkbuilding to a series of clandestine commercial exchanges, which the company with the biggest backers could expect to win.
Additionally, both html iFrame and JavaScipt versions of the widget are offered to provide maximum flexibility. I found that the iFrame version worked best on my WordPress based blog, however, others may differ.