Search engine marketers love Digg. But Digg hasn’t been giving them a whole lot of love back. Here is some insider advice for dipping your toe into the Digg pool.
Website marketers far and near are striving for hits on Digg. Why is Digg so alluring? For one thing, it gets huge numbers of visitors: over 15 million unique visitors a month. A well-dugg article could bring a pointy spike in visits to your site. For another, it’s free! There’s no fee to get the over-the-top traffic you crave. Instead, you earn the best positions with a more elusive form of currency: compelling content.
We sat down with Scott Baker, Digg.com’s Director of Operations, with a few simple questions on every website marketer’s mind: how can we use Digg to help our clients? What does Digg really want to see? And what is the formula for success on Digg?
“Don’t Try to Game the System”
Brace yourself for disappointment: Baker says he can’t share any insider secrets that will get you more diggs, because, as he says, “It’s all in the hands of the users.” Yup, just like so many other marketing endeavors, there are no formulas or magic bullets.
Baker was, however, happy to share some basic Do and Don’t advice for Digg newcomers:
- Categorize correctly. For example, if you are posting a blatant opinion piece, make sure to post it in the “political opinion” category instead of “political news.”
- Be unique! Don’t post a story that already exists on the site – search for duplicates before you submit. And, if your story is not covering a unique subject, you’d better have a unique angle.
- Don’t post a link to your own blog and make it look like a news story. For example, posting a story with the newsy title “Rumsfeld Resigns” should point to an actual news story, not a second-hand retelling on your own blog.
- Don’t try to game the system. Digg has multiple safeguards against spam and bombastic marketing content, including algorithms that influence and moderate the rise and fall of stories. But probably the most important safeguards are the diggers themselves. For example, according to Baker, there’s a simple reason that attempts to buy diggs didn’t work: “When unscrupulous content owners tried to pay top diggers for diggs, it didn’t work because the stories themselves were not of high quality. That’s the built-in B.S. detector of Digg.com.”
Learn From a Master
Hungry for more strategic advice? You might look to Neal Patel, co-founder and CTO of ACS, and well-known veteran of the Digg homepage. Patel is a great source of Do’s and Don’ts for Digg newbies (our favorite: add humor to your title and description, even when posting a serious story). He also details a strategy of participating in the community, making friends, and giving more than you expect to receive, in this podcast.
As Digg has risen in popularity, it serves as an excellent example of common challenges in SEO in general. Appealing to a particular user base, providing unique and interesting content, writing well, keeping abreast of changing algorithms and standards of acceptability. These are not new concepts – they’re very, very old school SEO.
Controversy Built In
One thing we learned from Neal Patel’s advice is not to be taken in by the “post it and they will come” mystique. It’s not that simple. Digg’s audience is a community of primarily young male techies. You need to appeal to this audience, but just as important, you need to not offend them. Hell hath no fury like a PO’d digger with a bury button and a commenting feature at his disposal. If you don’t believe us, you can read Danny Sullivan’s account of his own Digg misadventures.
No doubt about it, things get exciting when a website is composed entirely of user-generated content, and directly influenced by its users’ preferences. Sure, there are individual users voting on stories “in a vacuum.” But primarily, Digg is a community, and it behaves like a community – with affinities, grudges, schisms, and moderators trying to keep things from getting out of control. Networks of friends can coordinate to give each other boosts by digging each other, or to bury common enemies. And then there’s just plain anarchy for the fun of it. Have you heard about the time that hundreds of Digg users mutinied and posted forbidden code? Or have you seen the popular article “exposing” a group of sites that violate Digg’s user guidelines? Or the world’s most hated comment? This is just the tip of the iceberg on the daily feuds, accusations, and drama that is interweaved with the website’s main menu of seriously entertaining content.
The takeaway? Learn the ropes and avoid breaking etiquette by becoming a user first; spend a good month as a regular user before you even try to post an article.
So, Why Try?
We won’t lie – we haven’t had big success with Digg, but we then again, we never expected any. After our conversation with Scott Baker, we’ve come to a not-so-startling conclusion: The majority of the Digg user base does not like SEOs. We’re not taking it personally, but we are taking it with a practical attitude: we won’t place a lot of our social media marketing efforts into Digg.
You, on the other hand, may have lots of good reasons to try for your 15 minutes of fame on the Digg home page. Here are some indicators that Digg might be the right venue for you:
- You have unique content that has a serious chance of appealing to an audience of young opinionated techies.
- You are an excellent writer who is especially talented at crafting wry headlines.
- You already have a loyal following that is likely to Digg your content.
- You have spent a good amount of time actually using Digg.
If you have Digg-specific appeal and a very strong understanding of Digg etiquette, then get to work on your Digg strategy – you just might make it to the home page!