Elance Blog

How Digg Can Help Market Your Business

If you have a website or blog – and even if you don’t – Digg.com is an incredibly valuable resource. If you’re simply a casual user, it’s a gold mine of great stories, tutorials, and tips...and better yet, it can be a great way to drive massive amounts of new visitors to your website.


Chris Bennett, Guest Contributor

What is Digg?
Digg is the biggest social news site on the web: According to Compete.com, in March 2008 over 19 million people visited Digg.com. Unlike traditional news sources where editors and publishers decide what qualifies as ‘news,’ what appears on Digg.com is controlled by the Digg community.

Thousands of stories are submitted to Digg in categories including technology, science, world & business, sports, videos, entertainment, and gaming.

A quick note: Many people think Digg is like Facebook or MySpace; it is and it isn’t. Facebook and MySpace are social networking sites. Digg is a social news site – it has a social networking aspect, but it’s all about news. Users submit articles, photos, tips, etc. to share items and see whether the community likes them or not.

If you like a story you have the option to “digg” and endorse it. If you don't like a story you can “bury” it by marking it as duplicate, spam, inaccurate, or simply because "it's lame" (lame is an actual term used on Digg). If you’d like to elaborate on your basic opinion, the comment section gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts with the rest of the community.

Stories that get “dugg” then compete with each other. Each story has a lifespan of 24 hours; if it quickly gets enough votes the story will be ‘promoted’ to the front page. Typically 15 stories are on the front page at any given time, and they’ll usually stick around for 2 to 2.5 hours. As other stories are dugg, they push the original story down the hierarchy and onto the second page, then the third page...until it eventually disappears.

To show you what can happen, say a story about global warming is published on the New York Times website. If that story is dugg but doesn’t make the Digg.com front page, it may generate a few hundred extra visitors to the Times website through its Digg exposure. If enough users digg the story and it makes the front page, the Times website may get thousands of additional visitors.

While the average spike in traffic tends to be 10,000 to 15,000 unique visitors, we’ve seen stories generate up to 200,000 unique visitors. (Which, by the way, can create the “Digg Effect” – some websites simply can’t handle thousands of visitors in a short period of time and either slow down, or temporarily go out of service).

What type of content tends to make the front page?

  •  Lists
  •  How-to guides
  •  Stories on high-profile companies (especially technology companies)
  •  Breaking news
  •  Off Beat Stories


Why Digg Can Help Your Business
So why should you care about Digg? If you understand how Digg works and what kinds of content gets lots of votes, you can adapt those lessons to your blog or website and create content that will be popular with the Digg community, with the search engines, and ultimately – and most importantly – with your visitors. Understanding this social media helps you understand how to create and position your own content. Digg is like a test environment: You can check out articles in your field and apply what you learn to your own content strategy.

Many people assume they should use Digg to drive traffic to their site by promoting their own content. I say, take the opposite approach: Study Digg to find out what makes content popular and apply those concepts to your own content. This way, Digg members and other social mediums will find and promote your content. Best of all, writing great content gets Digg members (and search engines) to do your website promotion for you.

And it works. A friend of mine employs no website promotion strategy other than writing great content. Almost every post he adds to his blog is submitted to Digg by his readers. Why? He creates great content – and people like to share great content. His content is viral in the true sense of the word: The community promotes him, so he has no need to promote himself.

How to Incorporate Digg Into Your Business Approach
So how do you get started? Here’s the basic approach:

  • Sign up for a free Digg account and check out the categories you’re interested in.
  • Vote, comment, and get familiar with the Digg environment. You may make silly comments and other users may flame you for it, which could feel like a trial by fire...but you’ll quickly learn how to interact in the community.
  • While you’re there, keep watching the front page to see what kinds of stories are popular.
  • Apply what you learn to your website or blog.

 

Now let’s take it a step farther. To become a Digg power user with the ability to influence what appears on the front page, you’ll need to put in considerable time and effort. Here’s how:

  • Make friends – the more friends the better. Why? When you submit a story you can invite your friends to digg it. Watch for users who make the front page, befriend them, and digg their stories.
  • Watch all the stories your friends submit – that will keep you up to date on what others are digging.
  • Digg the articles you like, but don’t digg every story. Be ethical about the process and genuine about what you like.
  • Powerful users will notice you’ve dugg their stories and may add you to their friend list...then they’ll watch your stories and digg your stories.  Over time, you’ll build your own powerful profile.
  • Set up a reciprocal Digg exchange – a “you Digg my story, I Digg your story” relationship. You can do so by sending a private message known as a “shout” to your friends. Just digg their story first and then tell them, “I dugg your story, please Digg mine.”


Developing friends is the key to becoming a powerful user. If you’re the first to submit a story but you don’t have friends, a power user with friends who submits it later than you will make the front page. Timing isn’t nearly as important as having friends who generate diggs.

Thoroughly understanding the Digg community and becoming a power user requires many hours a day adding new friends, dropping old friends, setting up RSS feeds and alerts so you’ll quickly find good news content, submitting lots of good stories...it’s a time-consuming process. In a way, becoming a Digg power user is kind of like a game – if you want to do well, you have to play that game well.

If you want to get serious and find stories first – because if you submit a story after a top digger, you have no chance – use our free Social Media for Firefox tool. You can then screen popular stories on StumbleUpon, Reddit, and del.icio.us to see if that story has been submitted to Digg.  The tool helps you find viral and unique content and cool stories – and lets you be first to submit them to Digg.

About
Chris Bennett is the President and Founder of 97th Floor, a leading edge SEO Firm specializing in Search Engine Optimization, Reputation Management, Social Media Marketing and Blog Optimization. Chris has been involved with the Internet “since the days of Alta Vistas reign, the good ol’ days when you could change your meta tags, submit your site through Inktomi, and see your rankings improve by dinner.”

Stay up to date with Chris on his blog.

Comments

Hi, Chris,

Very nice piece, however I must respectfully disagree with a critical point.

Social book marking, once intended to point web users to interesting content (regardless of the goofiness quotient), has now been presumed to assign value to content.

Here's Digg's mission statement:

“Digg is a place for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the web. From the biggest online destinations to the most obscure blog, Digg surfaces the best stuff as voted on by our users. You won’t find editors at Digg — we’re here to provide a place where people can collectively determine the value of content and we’re changing the way people consume information online.”

Please note the reference to "where people can collectively determine the value of content." This is where the social book marking phenomenon unravels.

All pings are not created equal. Many individuals confuse freedom of speech with equality of speech. Same with social book marking. Just because a reader bookmarks a site does not lend authority to the site. The pinger could have ulterior motives or be unfamiliar with the topic.

In essence, digg, del.icio.us, technorati and other book marking sites provide recommendations from unknown, unverifiable persons, with unspecified credibility, from some point in the past. Unfortunately, social book marking does not confer authority or status upon a well-digged site page, despite this perception among web users. (A broad stroke, I agree.)

Indeed, bookmarks do have marginal SEO value. However, because the concept has been corrupted, I wonder if social book marking sites will someday atrophy and become totally inert as a means of assigning value to content.

Thanks for the excellent, thought-provoking post.

Best regards,
Paul Lalley
Words, Inc.

Paul,

Great comment. I definitely see your point. As more people learn to game voting sites, content quality could suffer as those with only ulterior motives would be promoting a lot of articles. There are already websites that are offering paid votes and things like that, with the sole intention of gaming digg. However, I have to say the Digg community is pretty good at catching spammy content. It can stick out like a sore thumb. You will see on numerous occasions throughout the day where a story will get 200 plus diggs with plenty of time left for the algorithm to promote, and they will get buried or down voted by the community and they won't make the front page. That doesn't say that all questionable content is blocked, but if promoted, non-organic content does make it through, it is usually still decent content just. As of now I wouldn't say the content suffers too much cause of the self policing nature of the site, but it doesn't mean it can't or won't.

Chris Bennett

Great article. I often encourage clients to utilize social bookmarking. I've also heard that Google algorithms take bookmarking sites into consideration since a popular site can have quite a few backlinks across these sites.

One word of caution is that these leads aren't necessarily quality click-throughs. You must identify whether the cost of burying your site in spiked traffic will result in leads that retain well. If your purpose is to add gainful readership, your efforts may be best applied elsewhere. If; however, you just wish to load up and gain your 15 seconds of fame, this is the right approach.

Hi Chris,

Good article explaining what Digg is, this is a useful post to link to if you want to explain Digg to someone. As Seth Godin states in Meatball Sundae, the concept of Digg is unique (or was unique until it was copied) and has no real world equivalent so it is often hard to describe.

I have a few comments.

You mentioned;

"Study Digg to find out what makes content popular and apply those concepts to your own content. This way, Digg members and other social mediums will find and promote your content"

Questions I would ask myself would be;

Do Digg members hold and represent the same values as the people my content is intended for? If I alter my content just for what Digg members are looking for, am I not doing a disservice to my intended audience?

The answer depends on how close your typical audience is to Digg's.

Who are Digg members?

Age 25-34 , 65% male (from http://www.slideshare.net/danielle.brigida/using-social-media-to-increas...)

You also mentioned;

"you’ll need to put in considerable time and effort"

And that is what some see Digg to be about, sucking time out of 1,000,000's of people for the benefit of a few thousand. If you are skillful enough at 1) writing quality content 2) networking with power users and 3) setting up informal "reciprocal Digg exchange" relationships, you can then leverage the time and effort of the other 998,000 people on Digg who will never produce and promote content that reaches the first page.

But should this really be your goal, "to be on the first page" ?

While there are huge benefits to be reaped being on the first page the price may be too high or distracting. However, you can still benefit from the link value if you don't make it to the big time.

One of the reasons Google likes Digg so much is that it knows the top Dugg stories will be relevant, since tons of real people have reviewed it and it is impossible to have poor quality content and get that many votes. But what trust value will Digg stories with say just a dozen votes garner? What are the number of votes needed that provide a level of trust to make a Digg link valueable? Not that many in my experience. So if you can get just a small number of your community to be active on Digg you can get some great link value without changing your content to please the masses.

Kevin

Kevin,

Thanks for the comments. I will try to answer them all the best I can. If I tweak my content to be liked by the avg. Digger will I be doing my usual visitors a disservice? It isn't a matter of "selling out" to the Digg community, you don't have to jeopardize loosing your current audience. It is just tweaking what you are already doing so that it can be liked by both parties. I have gotten websites that have to do with nothing that the avg digger likes to the front page numerous times. The content worked for both my target audience and for the digg community. If your site or blog topic overall isn't in the realm of the avg Diggers likes, you shouldn't be changing all of your content for Digg or Social Media for that matter, but just one or two key posts a month, or even less. My blog is about SEO, Diggers hate SEO, but we have still reached the front page on numerous occasions as we were able to find a happy meeting ground.

Digg sucking all your time away, I don't think it should be the goal of most people to become top users on Digg it is far too much of a time waster. I think that people should spend sufficient enough time to understand what content works and why it works in the Social Media sphere so they can better provide content along the same lines. A lot of people think that to go viral you have to have questionable/risky content, or something that is rude or crude in nature, but as you start to dive into the Social Media sphere you will realize that is not the case. Really good studies, resources etc. all do extremely well on social media sites.

Submitting a story just to get a link from Digg itself I am sure will help a page get indexed quicker and give it some temporary boost, but reaching a front page Digg can bring hundreds if not thousands of links from all over the web. It doesn't get more natural than that. I have multiple stories we did for clients that all received over 3,000 links from blogs and websites, that isn't counting the links from Digg.

Also submitting non story links to Digg just for the sake of getting a Digg link is spammy and it will probably lead to Digg and other major social sites adding no follows.

Hope that Helps, great comment.
Chris Bennett

Thanks for the great article Chris!

I've recently started Digging my blog posts and have had a pretty good response. Your idea bout forming reciprocal Digg agreements is a great one and is something I'll definitely start focusing on. It's not something I'd have thought of but I can really see the value! Thanks for the education!

Amanda Moore
Virtual Assistant

Hi Chris"
Great article. I'm a huge DIGG fan and appreciate the value of making sure that content is both DIGGable and STUMBLEable. You can learn more about creating great content from DIGG and Stumble Upon than you can from any other source. Thanks!

Hi Chris
Nice article, looks like Dig can be a useful tool for increasing traffic to a users website, but reading through your article it looks like a lot of work is required building your friends network, not to mention being able to write interesting and captivating content.

Hi Chris,

Thanks for this article, I have to say though that I have tried using Digg myself in the past and find it really hard to get past having 2 or 3 Diggs from members of the community.

I have also read that people work in teams to give their submitted article an inital push within the community to get it moving. Maybe I need to get myself some 'Digg buddies' to help me along a bit at the beginning.

I was an active member of the community and tried to get my credibility up before posting anything, still with no sucess. Perhaps my writing style didn't suit the audience. Have you has success with writing articles for Digg? Maybe you could do a post about how to write a great Digg one day.

Thanks,
Michael

While Digg, Stumbleupon et al. can generate huge surges in traffic, in my experience the traffic is fairly useless. It rarely turns into repeat traffic and leads to few conversions, if any. I suppose it depends on the subject of your content / website.