Digg: Gaming the System
I have been addicted to Digg for over three years…active for two… and in SEM for a little over one. Each phase of my relationship with the site has yielded a different return. I am just like every serious Digg user. I am a click-happy, instant-gratitude seeking tech-nerd who shares an affinity toward bacon.
I have had the pleasure of submitting and helping several articles rise to the front page of Digg. It is strangely satisfying to occupy that coveted real-estate. In fact, it is so satisfying for some that at one time the top 100 Digg users were submitting over 50% of the articles that made it to the front page. While the algorithm has been improved dramatically since its inception, there are still many users out there that are taking advantage of the system. What is their motivation? Are they just obsessed? Well, partially – I have definitely seen some unhealthily obsessed Diggers over the years, and some are quite notorious (MrBabyMan).
But that is not what I would like to discuss. I would like to look at those who are trying to gain something other than pride and social media stature. Currently the 97th most trafficked site on the internet according to Alexa, online marketers would love to tap into Digg’s free and possibly viral exposure. Working for an SEM agency myself, I would be lying if I said we didn’t as well.
However, there are many obstacles to consider:
- You are dealing with a generally tech-savvy niche that has little patience for BS and advertisements; your story will get buried in the blink of an eye if the Digg community catches wind of your intentions.
- Digg users have the attention span of goldfish. They are not looking to buy anything or stay on any article for over 5 minutes.
- You have 24 hours from the time of submission to reach the front page. Past this, your story stands no chance.
- You are up against social media juggernauts like MrBabyMan.
- You need a plausible goal
Getting Juice – Many SEM’s were concerned the DiggBar would void any search engine “juice” an article would normally receive. Digg claims it has no effect, and it allows spiders to see the unmodified source links. Most SEO’s agree that this is in fact the case and they are getting the credit they deserve. But what do you do with the juice? The best thing I have found is to optimize for a long tail keyword if the article is to be hosted on your target domain. Put it as the title, in-content, in the metas etc…
Getting Inbound Links – The other route would be to politely ask another webmaster if they will host the article for you. This way you can place inbound links from the article to your target domain. This creates an opportunity to rank on shorter tail keywords.
The first and hardest step is coming up with a piece of content that will attract the attention of a Digg user. If you are not submitting something that has to do with Steve Jobs, Obama, Engadget, the Oatmeal, XKCD, or bacon, you better actually have something worthwhile to say. This is where things become difficult/futile:
How do you create a piece that will market something on a site that shuns undisclosed marketing?
(Top 10 reasons to buy my dog waste bags!!!)
You have to take your advertisement, links, or whatever you are trying to push and wrap it up in a real article. Infographics, pictures, top-ten lists, and other content pieces have a good shot if you put some thought and originality into them.
Let’s pretend that you are creative and have come up with a killer piece of content. You are still going to have to hide its true intentions. If you are putting a link in there, make it tasteful and non-obtrusive. If it is an image, have the image link to your target site but host the image on a non-commercial blog in your vertical. Basically, do whatever you can do to make it appear like it is not an ad.
If you have made it this far, you are ready to submit….but not so fast! Unless you are an established user, you have no chance of getting noticed. With the thousands of articles getting submitted everyday, the chance of yours being noticed is slim-to-none. The easiest way to overcome all of this is to ask a power user to submit your article for you. This has obviously been a subject of controversy, as many people are believed to be paid for submitting stories to Digg (which, in my opinion, is a result of Digg’s algorithm and the trust it grants to certain users).
While I know for a fact that this sort of thing goes on (some companies charge thousands of dollars for such services), you can avoid it if you actually have a good piece of content. Like I said before, many people get a kick out of having a submission hit the front page, and they will often view the article as their own and try to push it, which is a win-win situation.
As somebody who has had success with Digg, I would like readers to realize that this endeavor is possible and fruitful if played correctly. While I hate knowing that people undermine and take advantage of the system, I still have faith that the Digg community will only allow interesting content to reach its front page. In fact, this may be motivating people to research and create better, more refined content…but I could just be overly optimistic!
Forrest Whaling is an Account Manager at Location3 Media, a full service Digital Marketing Agency in Denver, CO. To read more interesting articles, visit their ExpertSEM blog. If you would like Forrest to write for your blog, please leave your request in the comments or visit MyBlogGuest.com (username Fgump910).