Should Google do an AdSense for Widgets program?

The news that Google in Japan has been using a marketing company that utilized a pay per post campaign of a new keyword widget has been pretty hot news here at SMX West.  And of course, if you are doing search engine optimization, you are probably aware that Google has taken a stand against pay per post as a “bad” SEO technique, with sites being penalized for it.

But it raises the question, if Google is wanting to get their brand out there – in this case with a specific widget – why not roll it into AdSense?  If it was an option within the account where publishers get paid through AdSense to include this kind of widget in their blog, would it have raised the controversy as the pay per post venture did?  Definitely not, not only would bloggers embrace something they could add to their site, but it would get the positive buzz press about the widget in the way that bloggers (such as myself) would blog about how AdSense publishers could make money by promoting a Google widget under the “Ads by Google” umbrella.

But how could publishers could earn revenue off a widget the promotes Google?  Well currently AdSense publishers do get paid when visitors click on a Google product ad… so if you see a Google AdWords ad on your site, for example, and a visitor clicked it, you would be paid competitvely for that click.  However, with a widget, it isn’t quite as clear-cut…. these are keywords not ads, so how do you determine a value based on keywords?

One way would be for AdSense to determine value based on page views – they already have click fraud and impression fraud preventions in place, so there is no reason why they couldn’t have set something up to pay publishers the same way they would with CPM ads – except instead of external advertisers paying, it would be Google paying.  Or they could do it based on a click… if a visitor happens to click one of the widget links, the publisher would earn revenue on an EPC basis.

And if Google could potentially do it, why not open the door to allow advertisers, or at least “trusted advertisers” , to get their widgets on publisher sites too… for a cut of the revenue, of course.

So it could open the door for advertisers who might want their widgets on other sites in a much easier way than contacting individual site owners, or doing it on a CPA basis, since not all widgets neccessarily have something “actionable”, other than the initial click on the widget.  If they could reach publishers through the AdSense program, particularly if it is a widget that might not go viral (like so many widgets do) but has value to the advertiser, it could be yet another revenue stream for both Google and AdSense publishers.

Of course, there is an issue of tracking it properly, not to mention checking for malicious code.  But since technically webmasters are not supposed to be using widgets for backlinks, but instead for the traffic, Google could host the code through AdSense, and perhaps even charge advertisers premium for the service.  And it could be served in such a way, similar to AdSense, where Google is responsible for what widget is displayed, meaning it could vary based on who happens to be paying the most at any given time.

Now, if you are thinking of affiliate widgets along the lines of Friend Finder etc that tend to be popular, think again.  How valuable would it be to a search marketer if you could place a widget on other sites that highlights your latest blog posts or your newest and/or most popular products?  Or have a widget you are using for branding purposes?  And all without having to go to each site one-by-one and having to deal with deciding on value, messing around with payment and then making sure each site did in fact upload the code correctly?  And not to mention the potential risk webmasters run with the chance it could be construed as a paid link, even when it is done for branding or traffic reasons?

Will Google launch an AdSense for Widgets type of service?  I don’t know, it was simply something I thought of when reading the whole Google / Pay Per Poost saga in Japan with the “Well, why didn’t Google just…”  running through my head.  But it could definitely be something that could be popular to both advertisers and publishers, even if it was on a limited or beta basis.  And it is something different that Google could do to generate additional revenue, all while doing something that wouldn’t neccessarily suffer from banner blindness, a danger for all ad networks today.   And there would be some sort of screening process, not unlike how AdWords has something in place to screen ads before they show up on publisher sites… because you know that at least some advertisers would try and do sneaky things with a widget 😉

Would I test something along the lines of AdSense for Widgets?  You bet.  I would love, as an advertiser, to be able to get my latest blog posts out on other sites, or some of my other blogs on other relevant sites.  It is all about reaching audiences in ways outside of organic search andtraditional PPC, and I am betting there would be many advertisers and publishers lining up to test something like this.

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