Digg This – How Digg’s Changes to Favor Readers

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digging I honestly spend most of my time online focusing on writing content for my own sites or working on freelance writing projects as a professional freelance writer.  But, on those rare days when my inbox isn’t clogged full of “must respond” and “follow up” tags first thing in the morning I get a chance to use the other tabs on my Speed Dial and read some things out there on the web.

This morning I found myself at Search Engine Journal, as site that has good tidbits from time to time, but whose short, thumbnail sketch, type articles leave me a little wanting, when I stumbled across an article suggesting that Digg.com was taking the “social” out of social media.

I was struck by three things as I read the article.

  1. The title of the article is “Why is Digg.com Taking the “Social” Out of Social Media.
  2. The review of complaints about Digg prior to this one.
  3. The comments made by the readers.

Search Engine Journal Uses This Title?

I am not sure how SearchEngineJournal.com is put together nor how its writers submit stories, or how much editorial control SEJ exerts over them, but it seems ironic that a blog about search engines would use an article title that doesn’t seem very SEO optimized.

Read anywhere for two minutes and you will again and again be instructed to use titles which put your keywords first.  Some go so far as to suggest that anything after the third word in your title is meaningless to search engines.  This isn’t true based on my own SEO experience.

If we decide to burn ‘is’ as a stop-word, then the title’s first three words are still, Why Digg.com Taking.  Why would an SEOer do that?

As I’ve found, the first three words thing is not true.  However, it is true that your words take on less and less meaning the further into the title tag they drift.  This title however, has many things going for it.

First, many users actually use words like “Why”, “How”, and “What” in their searches, oftentimes as the first word of their search.  Using the same words in your titles allows for a solid match with the query. 

Second, the author managed to repeat ‘social’ twice which would normally be worthless if not a wrong move.  However, in structuring the title this way, social appears once in quotes as a standalone word and the second time as part of the oft used key-phrase “social media”.  This may or may not produce dividends, but if there is a way to do a double keyword title, this is it.

Ironically, I never read an posts about nuances like these at SEJ or anywhere else. I wonder if he even did it on purpose.

Complaints About Digg.com

Digg has been tweaking its interface and submission rules and guidelines over the last year or so.  This is much to the chagrin, and flat-out anger, of many of its users. However, it is important to note which of its users this tends to anger.

Digg.com, if you are not familiar with it, is a website where users submit interesting or otherwise worthy website pages by “digging” them.  The idea is basically, “Hey, I dig this story, maybe you would too.”  The more users who dig a story, the higher it ranks.  The higher a story ranks the more prominently it is displayed.  A story that makes the front page of Digg can receive huge amounts of traffic, with smaller sites occasionally being knocked offline by the sudden rush of visitors.

In theory, all of this is great. However, much like SEO attempts to game search engines by taking their methods and using them to make your pages seem more worthy whether they are or not, a culture has grown up around Digg.com where certain “power users” have figured out how to do the same, and can sometimes push articles to the front page at will. Becoming one of these users essentially involves working your way up the Digg hierarchy until legions of other Digg users follow your moves closely and essentially do your bidding in hopes of getting some love back from you. When that happens, then they too can become power users.

In the last couple of years, however, the little clique of Digg users with the power became a little too chummy, a little too focused on the same kind of stories over and over again, and a little too hard to crack.  Complaints arose from the masses who actually digg articles based on their merit and not as part of a coordinated campaign to reach the front page.

So, Digg implemented some changes to try and curb the growing monopoly of Digg users by banning some users whose contributions may or may not have violated some of the terms of service, for example.

One obvious no-brainer change was to limit people to 200 Diggs per day.  While this did raise some howls of protest, they came only from the Digg gamers trying to promote their own network of followers and articles with massive amounts of Diggs.

If you do the math, you might say that it takes a person 3 minutes to actually read an article.  With Digg buttons and links, we can even say that it take zero time to actually Digg a story, but in practice that probably isn’t really true.  But, even then, in order to digg 200 things that you have actually read would take 600 minutes.  You don’t need a calculator to see it would take 10 hours to legitimately digg 200 stories, and that is only if you read fast, don’t do anything else, and only read short articles.  So, clearly anyone diggin more than 200 times a day isn’t reading everything they are digging and therefore are not contributing to the quality of the site.

Digg.com Commenters

Just as interesting were the various comments (I left one too.)  There were plenty of pseudo-comment spam like “great article” or “nice read” comments which are basically throwaways from people just trying to put a username and website on the end of the article.  But, many of the others were split between either, I used to be someone who used Digg to promote my stuff, but they made me angry, or I used to read the stories actually posted on Digg, but there ended up being too much uninteresting junk.

Ironically, perhaps if both groups of users read the others comments there could be a worthwhile discussion, but that isn’t really what comments are good for.  It might make and interesting Digg conversation, but the power submitters wouldn’t be reading.  They need all of their time to submit new articles that the readers should just shut up and read.

And so it goes…


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