Using Graceful Degradation to Prospect for Widget Footprints

Giveaways are a solid deep link strategy for e-commerce that helps raise brand/product awareness, and my preferred method of moderation is Rafflecopter. With Rafflecopter, people that sign up for your giveaway earn points by sharing information about your brand or product through their social channels or blog. Those shares are tallied up by the widget and it automatically selects a winner for you.

When I build links, I try to be as efficient as possible. Nothing slows you down like explaining how a new piece of technology works to a blogger. If someone approached you with a free product and said, “Hey add this thing to the post that will change how people interact on your site,” you’d want to learn more about its ins-and-outs too. That’s why when I do large scale giveaway and contest prospecting, I look for bloggers who have used Rafflecopter in the past. But the actual Rafflecopter widget isn’t indexable, so how do you find it?

Here’s How to Find and Wield the Rafflecopter Footprint.

Here’s a look at the Rafflecopter widget:

The widget itself is executed in JavaScript, so search engines can’t decipher it. If you try to prospect for the “**** GIVEAWAY! ****” text at the top of the widget you are going to come up empty-handed. A lot of bloggers also promote the Rafflecopter giveaways of their blogger-friend’s sites, so searching for [intitle:rafflecopter AND giveaway AND (keyword)] might find you sites that are promoting other giveaways.

I don’t want to find the promoters.

I want to find the party.

Graceful Degradation is a strategy in web design that enables a website to keep functioning for a user once certain elements (i.e. JavaScript) have been disabled. Often times the user experience becomes much more basic.

Rafflecopter utilizes Graceful degradation.

Here’s an expired Rafflecopter:

Here what it looks like with JavaScript turned off:

Here is what it looks like in the Google cache:

A “Rafflecopter giveaway” is the footprint

You can’t just scale this out and do a massive templated outreach campaign, though. Sites that do giveaways can be SUPER spammy, so I like to give them a quick visual inspection to get a gut feel of the quality of each potential prospect. That’s why I have quickly adopted the BuzzBar, a new feature from BuzzStream, into my link building process.

I have a toy client, so I’m going to cook up some advanced queries using the Rafflecopter footprint that will find me solid prospects that I can whittle down to a select few. I’m mainly going to go off of competitor brand terms because drop shippers and affiliates have done tons of giveaways using both my client’s brand name and the brand names of my client’s competitors.

Here are my prospecting queries:

I know this is going to send me some super spammy results, but hopefully by narrowing down my results to acceptable Moz metrics, Page Rank, and Domain age and then giving them a quick visual scan using the BuzzBar, I can separate the wheat from the chaff and find 30 solid sites to do giveaways on. That’s enough prospects for one giveaway a month for a whole year if we hit an 80% response rate and a 50 % placement rate.

This is where the BuzzBar comes in Handy

First, sort your prospects by Domain Authority. I like to reject all sites that don’t meet a minimum Domain Authority threshold, for this project I will go with nothing below a DA of 25.

Next, spammy sites may have lost Page Rank, so I am not going to mess with anything below a PR2. Here’s a site with a domain authority of 46, over a thousand inbound links and a PR of 0.

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No way would I mess with that site. Remove anything below a Page Rank of 2 and move on. After that, I am going to get rid of everything below a DA of 30.

Now it’s time to eliminate the weak sites on WordPress and Blogspot subdomains, I don’t like these sites. Often times these bloggers will transfer over to their own domain later on and leave their current site in the dust. If they have high Page Rank, high Moz rank and a decent amount of inbound links they make the cut, otherwise they are out.

Now I have ~150 prospects that I know have used Rafflecopter. Now it’s time for a quick visual inspection:

When I look for link partners, along with assessing Moz Metrics, how long they’ve been publishing  etc., the final question I ask myself is:

“Does someone love this site?”

The BuzzBar let’s me determine and answer that question efficiently.

This is, hands down, the best tool I’ve used for efficient prospecting in sketchy areas of the web that require a visual scan. You can run through all your prospects and give them a quick thumbs up or thumbs down based on visual cues for spammyness. Thumbs down – they are removed from your data set, Thumbs up – they are imported as a Link Partner in BuzzStream.

Visual Vetting with The BuzzBar:

Although this site below has a self-made header, take a look at the links just below those pictures of her adorable kids. It’s all giveaways, blog hops, mentions of other blogs, and it has a link to a “PR Friendly” page, usually implying that the site is open to brokering out links. This is a bit more nuanced, but after you train your eye you can quickly spot subtly spammy prospects like this. Rejected!

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This is the lowest of the low. This site barely has any design elements, almost no original pictures – it could have been put together in under an hour – I wouldn’t feel comfortable explaining to a client why they should work with this site. Rejected!

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This site has a terrible user experience – it’s hard to read the white on white text. Anyone who really cares about their blog would have probably noticed that if it’s templated on every page. All the pictures are also commercial images – another red flag. To top it off, it’s a generic/standard Blogspot theme. Another rejection!

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Here’s an example of a site I would like to work with. Look at the pieced together header. This blogger might not be a graphic designer, but they have put a lot of effort into creating the right look for their personal website. I feel confident just by looking at this site that it’s someone who cares about their readership and wants to publish engaging content instead of scaling posts about coupons littered with affiliate links. It gets a solid thumbs up on the BuzzBar!

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Here’s a top tier site from a visual perspective. The header is custom, the branding is consistent between her header and her logo, she’s pushing social media, and I like the voice in her writing. This is a great big thumbs up and one I would make a note to use non-templated outreach because it’s so high quality and could possibly become a long term partner after some education and mentoring on our part.

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Before using BuzzStream we had to vet blogs for spammy footprints via Screaming Frog custom filters and list mode and then grade them visually (using link clump with GDocs to speed up the process). Now there is an easy and efficient way to visually grade blogs that goes right into your link building CRM. If you can set hard and fast rules and you are very familiar with the vertical, this is a task that can be easily placed on junior members of your team who can follow a strict rubric of visual analysis that you can develop and refine over time.

John-Henry Scherck

John-Henry Scherck is the owner of Growth Plays, a B2B content strategy and SEO consultancy based in Los Angeles. He works with founders, marketers, and investors to plan, build and refine growth marketing initiatives using a common sense approach.