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Skip Digg: Not All Traffic is Created Equal

Posted By Darren Rowse 10th of November 2008 Blog Promotion, Social Media 0 Comments

Today I want to publish the first half of a ‘debate’. The topic is whether bloggers should promote their content on Digg. In this post Josh Klein argues the negative. Later in the week I’ve asked a big Digg users to tackle the flip side.

If you’re promoting on Digg, you’re losing your blog money.

The web is crowded, attention spread thin. It may not cost you a $70,000 full page print ad, but building a following requires patience and passion. It’s almost 2009, and the social media personal brand isn’t an early adopters’ secret anymore. Promoting your blog can be free, but not costless.

When you’re down in the trenches, scouring online guides for tips and tactics on how to drive traffic to your blog, you sometimes miss the big picture, the strategy. You don’t have a limitless amount of time or money, so you need to decide what not to do. It’s not always about “how to” — sometimes it’s about “which to”.

Like all social media, Digg costs time -– and lots of it -– so I want to make sure your time is well spent.

I’m not here to tell you Digg doesn’t work; there are plenty of people reading right now who have hit the front page and gotten that famously temporary blast of traffic.

But how many of those people have turned it into a sustainable strategy for making money? Did they do it after reading the same “Top 10 Ways to Win on Digg” guide as 100,000 other traffic-hungry bloggers?

I’m here to tell you the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

For those who aren’t familiar with Digg (yeah right), here’s a snippet from the about page:

“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.”

That requires some translation. Here’s what it really means (with tongue planted firmly in cheek):

“Digg is a place for 18-24 year old males to read about Internet gossip. From the smallest local news rags to the wittiest satire websites, Digg surfaces the stuff most entertaining to our users as determined by our large staff of editors.”

The problem is Diggers aren’t Doers.

Digg’s mission is to be distracting. People use Digg as a sanctuary, to be bounced from page to page as a momentary respite from their day jobs as knowledge workers. Unless your website’s tagline is “Distract Yourself Here,” it doesn’t match the Digg demography. The value you provide, no matter how high, will not match a Digger’s expectation, and he will eventually move on.

This makes visitors from Digg unqualified traffic. You might convert a few here and there, but it’d be like corralling a horde of anti-war protesters into an Army recruitment office; it doesn’t matter how many you get, they’re not going to join.

And what did it cost to get those visitors? How many people did you ask to Digg your submission? How much time did you spend wooing a power user? How much did you water down your content so you could submit the Top 10 Ways Ducks Quack?

I talk alot about value, so here’s the truth about Digg as succinctly as possible: your time is better spent elsewhere.

What else could you be doing for every hour you spend with Digg?

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy entertaining myself on Digg as much as you, but we’re talking about making money here people. There are no shortcuts, just good ideas and bad ideas. Digg is not the right place to promote your blog.

If you want to really espouse the lessons of social media, find the people who matter and, you know, talk to them. Try forums, for one, or other blogs. If you ask Darren in the comments below, maybe he’ll let me come back and talk about those soon.

If not, maybe try shaking hands and kissing babies. Just stay away from Digg.

Josh Klein advises Fortune 500 companies on their web strategies and writes a blog about making websites that matter to human beings.

PS from Darren: Stay tuned for the flip side of this topic. In the next couple of days I’ve got a post from a big Digg using blogger who will tackle the topic of why Digg IS a site bloggers should consider spending time on.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Wow! Really great article. I totally agree with Josh, but can’t wait to see what your “other blogger” can say about the topic.

  2. All social media is a waste of time. Search engine traffic is what you need.

  3. This was indeed a great post. It opened my eyes. Josh, you’ve pretty much convinced me that Digg is not for bloggers. :-)

    I completely agree with what you say. Digg is used mainly by young techies who just want to see headlines such as how Microsoft sucks and how Mac rocks their socks. I think its not right for a blogger to submit a post like “How to Gain Number One position in Google”. Diggers are not going to read such kind of things.

    I guess there are also some pros of using social media sites like Digg. So, I’m waiting to see how the Digg user proves that Digg is useful.

  4. All I can tell is that Digg doesn’t bring me visitors. But where should I go ? Do we have a better choice?

  5. i also thinks that instead of wasting time over the digg bloggers has to constrate on their content

  6. Digg has struck me as mostly a technical/news publishing site; that is where the majority of focus seems to lie. And you have to be consistently promoting on there to get hits.

    For a category of blog that doesn’t fit that, Digg becomes rather worthless. Forum participation and reputation along with search engines return better results. I have two blogs: one is a personal blog that would be of interest to those going through a similar experience while the other is a cigar reviewing blog. Neither blog benefits from Digg but does benefit from other avenues that require a more personal interaction.

    I think the trick is to figure out what method is best for your blog and maximize on that as much as you can without appearing to be a spammer, gold digger or charlatan.

  7. The thing about these debates is they are very good for helping people understand the pros and cons about the issue. That’s why it is so important to read both this post and the other. The truth in most cases is somewhere in between, and it also depends on the nature of the blog and the reasons for going to Digg in the first place.

  8. I have no results to compare since I’ve not used Digg much at all. But I have used other social networks and I tend to agree that the time spent there may be misplaced.

    That is, for making sales. But for making acquaintances and learning a ton about what is going on “out there” I treasure the social networks. We also need to be aware that the under 25 crowd does not use email much anymore so how else can you get their attention? Texting? First you would need their phone number for that.

    I will continue to use social networking but I will alter my strategies based on experience.

    Nice article.

  9. The next half of the debate will be much better. I started digging my articles for a couple reasons. It’s guaranteed to be on digg and easier for others to digg once it is submitted. It also gets out there and gets more readers you never would have had. My blog has very very little traffic (a baby blog still in diapers). The day I started digging it increased. Maybe just for a moment but people saw my blog and that will stay with them especially if they see it again. I even scored a comment from a digg user on one of the actual blog posts and several on digg.

    I can also now use those who dugg my articles and send them new ones that they may like.

    This article might make sense for the major blogs but for the little guy I think we can use all we can get. Looking forward to the next half.

  10. Why stop at Digg? Skip StumbleUpon and any other kind of social media networking that focuses on delivering as much content to it’s users as possible – forgetting completely about the quality of content as well.

    I’m still struggling to find a social media network that puts it’s focus on the users – Twitter is a ‘kind of’ good example of this, as you strive to find someone who produced good tweets, and converses with their followers…it’s all just on big slipperly slope, no matter how you look at it.

    To me, the best kind of social networking is commenting – it’s non-obtrusive, requires little to no work and no stupid sign-up pages, no password to remember, and with CommentLuv, it makes it easy to plug your own site.

  11. Okay, it’s a touch cynical, but I can’t help but agree!

    Even when browsing Digg, I find myself reading utter rubbish that I’m not remotely interested in. Is this really the best that the Web has to offer?

    That said, that are gems buried in the dross, but overall you’re correct — those gems aren’t what Digg’s readership is really for, and most of them aren’t going to be especially interested when they find some.

  12. Digg is a waste of time for bloggers. I just wrote on this topic myself, although I took a little different of a spin. Bloggers will do better by slowly and surely building a community or readers. Long term growth is more important that the one night stand of traffic that Digg sends.

  13. I have to agree with this end of the post. Large bursts of traffic from places like digg, stumbleupon, and reddit only serve as a temporary boost. They only provide short terms visitors – equivalent to channel flipping on your tv. They may see your show but they aren’t actually appreciating it.

    Not to mention they shoot your hosting costs through the roof and often cause servers to fail for that day – a huge complaint among digg users. The bottom line is that traffic from Digg really isn’t the kind of traffic that will build you a real solid following. It may look nice on your stats page but you wont see any of those users making comments or subscribing to your RSS.

  14. Way to go, Josh! Entertaining and informative.

    Digg isn’t useless by any stretch of the imagination, but as you point out, we have to know what we’re getting in return for the significant investment.

    Traffic isn’t the same as readers or customers. Gotta be clear on what we’re working for.

  15. Interesting ….

    I’ve been wondering about this too and while I’m curious to read the counterpoint as well, this absolutely makes sense to me

    My stuff has never been dugg … but after close to six months of blogging, I’ve got a lovely Alexa ranking (#108,380) and really great, active subscribers who are really fun to write for.

    So obviously I’m already convinced of the benefit of things like organic traffic, connecting with people in my field, Twitter and so on because I’ve seen the results.

    With Digg I’ve done a lot of wondering about “is it worth all the time investment” … and have seen friends and colleagues spending a ton of energy and not getting the results. Will wait to see what the next piece has to say, but for right now am feeling pretty content to just stick with the stuff that has been working for me.

  16. I have to agree on this article. I too browse digg occasionally for entertainment but have not found it to be useful at all in promoting my sites.

    I can see how using digg could be useful for a very limited subset of blogs. For instance, if your content was consistently a close match to what is popular on digg then I could see how promoting on digg could produce some regular readers.

    However, I think Josh is exactly correct – most sites are not consistently producing digg material and, therefore, any temporary boost in traffic is worthless because the digg visitors are never going to return.

    Thanks for a great article!

  17. I agree, it’s a waste of time.

    Unless you have the power users helping to bump up your submission, it just gets trampled under the tons of other submissions.

    The quality of comments left on articles that have made it to the front page aren’t exactly to be desired. Do people like this fit into your target audience?

    If your goal is to make money, think about that huge traffic surge from Digg, racking up excess bandwidth costs, overwhelming your host and seriously jeopardizing your hosting account. All for a here today, gone tomorrow spike.

    Your best bet is to grow your audience and let them worry about getting you to the front page of Digg.

  18. Great article and I can’t wait to see the rebuttal.

    I think digg can work really well for some bloggers and shouldn’t be ignored. But for others that don’t approach it in the right way, digg becomes a huge time-suck and waste.

    I don’t focus all my efforts on digg but I’ve benefited greatly form hitting the homepage. Not only do you get a nice burst of traffic, but you usually get links from other bloggers and websites. I’ve been linked by Esquire.com, RD.com, and Portfolio.com.

    But it’s certainly true that most digg users are young, and often “haters” but there are also some really great diggers that become loyal readers, there’s just not many of them.


  19. I tend to agree with this post. When I first started my site I was starving for traffic. Now that I have quality traffic I see that whether it’s Digg or Stumble there is never an increase in my Adsense or Affiliate conversions. In fact, one of my articles went really crazy on Stumble and my Adsense revenue dropped significantly (hmmm…what did father Google do to punish me). So for me I’ve basically dropped most of my effort in submitting to those sites.

  20. I agree, the traffic you get from Digg will not be particularly useful. It doesn’t generally convert. But you don’t have to hit the front page on Digg to get a ton of value out of your activity. You just need to be able to build a profile that can submit something and get 100+ diggs. We did a stufy on the pagerank of powerful digg profiles, and the results were extremely surprising. Whether or not your article hits the front page doesn’t matter. The SEO impact of those links from Digg is dramatic. Google is looking at the number of internal links (votes) on a submission, and how high it is in the page hierarchy. 100 Diggs seems to be the dividing line. The long term effect of the search engine traffic on the term you’re promoting is well worth the time you put in. Of course, it would be nice if there was some software that made those activities easy, wouldn’t it?

  21. Until I read this post, I think bringing one of my post to digg front page will increase traffic to my blog. But this post help me to understand pros and cons behind digg as marketing tool.
    Thank you for your valuable post!

  22. Hahaha I’m a big fan of his translation of Digg’s about page! Definitely agree with this article – unless your site matches Digg’s target audience, it’s not worth your time.

  23. I rarely find anything interesting on the front page of Digg and it also doesn’t work for my blog. I can see how it is worth it if you have the right type of blog and reader though.

    Matthew commented that he sees StumbleUpon the same way. I’ve actually gotten a fair amount of benefit from it. Both from getting traffic to my blog and having other users send me things I’ve found very interesting.

  24. While it’s gratifying to receive those big Digg spikes, very few — if any — of those “readers” actually stick around to read your post, much less go deeper into your blog.

    I’ve given up on Digg. The demographic of the typical user isn’t interested in my blog’s niche or the kind of posts I write. Why waste my time?

    StumbleUpon seems to be a more mature audience, though still it’s a shotgun approach — only a small percentage of the people visiting my site read the post beyond the headline.

    There is no silver bullet, and the verities of building your blog still hold true: great content, commenting on other blogs, networking, etc. Digg, StumbleUpon and their ilk are just ego builders that in the end deliver little value to your blog for all the effort it takes.

  25. I suspect that Digg works well (or at least “okayish”) for some blogs, but not for others. I did start out using digg, digging other people’s posts, etc, but it seemed to be a lot of time for very little traffic. Those who I’ve known who have hit the front page often found it quite a negative experience — digg users tend to know what they’re looking for, and a lot of blog posts don’t appear to be quite it! The comment style on digg is also famously a little more, hem, “robust” than on most blogs.

    Like UltraRob, I’ve seen a bit more benefit from StumbleUpon, though not a huge amount. Most of my traffic comes from guest posts, google and links from other bloggers.

  26. Digg isn’t really a good place to promote your blog or site. It takes a lot of time to hit the front page and once you do you get a huge traffic wave. But, most of them leave within a few seconds.

    StumbleUpon on the other hand is a bit better. They keep on sending you traffic for a month or two. And the traffic wave is a lot bigger than Digg’s.

    I wouldn’t say that you should stop using Digg. If you can hit the front page without a lot of effort and money then go for it. Every bit of traffic helps.

  27. I agree it isn’t useless as well. I do see the author’s point about time value of money. But Digg has also lost some cred because of the way votes are garnered these days. Giant Digg lists, friends voting up friends, the whole basis to the system has been bastardized into a boy’s club mentality where you get Diggs for who you know, not what you know! I prefer StumbleUpon and Reddit to Digg overall.

  28. This is a great post! From my own limited blogging experience, traffic from sites like Digg don’t do much to help my blog in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, I always love the spike in traffic, but the traffic doesn’t convert with my advertising and I hardly get any regular readers from such places.

    I think there are blogs that do well with traffic from DIgg, but they are rare gems indeed.

    Great post! I’m looking forward to the follow-up!

  29. Thanks Darren, I have been wasting time on Digg, and to no avail, think I’ll take you advise:)

  30. A point well made, Josh. Thanks, Darren, for prompting the debate.

  31. I’m not going to lie, I get the fewest results from Digg. I find I get much more traffic from search engine results and reddit. However, the hits I get from Digg and Reddit are really “one time viewers”. I don’t seem to get many repeat visitors out of sites like these. My best strategy is commenting on blogs within my topic and creating meaningful relationships with other bloggers.

  32. Thanks for your comments, everyone! I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I really appreciate your taking the time to tell me what you think. Darren is doing a great job with this debate.

    @Matthew Dryden – I’m actually a big fan of Stumbleupon, despite my bashing of Digg. For SU, things don’t have to go through an editorial filter (of a staff editor OR a democratic consensus) – they are going to get a random assortment of people. There is value added by the actual service, and as odd as it might sound, I think SU users “stumble” away from posts less readily than Diggers.

    SU is the referrer to my blog with the lowest bounce rate — consistently around 30%, better even than organic search. I think I’ll be writing about that soon.

  33. In terms of traffic, I agree with Josh. Although there is something to be said about just having your material found and blogged about because of Digg. I had that experience with National Zombie Day and marketing Humans Vs. Zombies.

    That said, I’ve found Digg’s “Upcoming” section to be the most useful for bloggers. It’s a great way to find content to talk about that hasn’t yet hit the point where everyone’s talking about it.

    You could have also swapped out Digg with Fark or College Humor and the same point would be true for this article. Perhaps most social media outlets?

  34. Couldn’t agree with you more, total waste of time; Time that you could be using to mine the proper forums and groups that are interested in your content. Overall if you don’t target your efforts in the right locations you may as well forget it.

    “The problem is Diggers aren’t Doers”. Well said!

  35. Seems fairly obvious to me that Josh has never really succeeded in promoting a site on Digg. If you hit the right niche with the right content at the right time you can take a no-name blog to a big earner in no time.

  36. Your post is god sent. I had come to this conclusion on my own but have been second guessing it. At least for me, Digg is a big waste of time. Forums are the place to be. people who have a specofic interest and spend countless, calm, quiet hours enjoying your subject matter. I get amazing traffic from forums. Just Google your category and start with the highest ranking forum. Join and contribute.

    Great post!

  37. I’ve actually found some really useful blogs through Digg, but I’ve also spent hours wasting my time with total crap at the same time. In fact, the comments are what usually suck me in. Even if I think an article is really great, there are always some losers who post something negative. It actually makes me scared to get anything on the front page. Being a blogger requires a bit of thick skin, but I still hate reading anything negative about my writing.

    My niches aren’t usually the type you would find on Digg, but even if they were, I think I’d still prefer to focus on writing great content, bringing in quality traffic, and converting them to loyal readers and customers. I find that Digg users and the like don’t convert very easily.

  38. I would have to agree here. This I was thinking since last few days that the traffic from sites like digg, specially the blogs sharing site like Mybloglog or blogcatalog just are not suitable for a blog which is at the same time of blogging trying to make some money out of it.

    People from these networks are so used to the ads they see that they are too quick to ignore any ad which they see on a blog/website found through their network.

  39. anthony says: 11/10/2008 at 5:28 am

    i read this, hit the backspace button and returned to digg. you were spot on…

  40. As always, there are both sides to the argument and as always, you should pick and choose what you do with your time. Try Digg, see if it works. Don’t try Digg and you’ll be trying something else anyway to see if that works. You have to keep refining rather than just doing or not doing something because someone tells you one way of the other.

    So the ultimate phrase is …

    … decide for yourself whether it is worth it or not (Digg or otherwise).

  41. I’m glad someone finally said it. After poking around Digg for awhile, I found it to be a complete waste of time in terms of generating traffic to any of my sites. Hits might go up but so does the bounce rate. Simply commenting on other blogs proved to be a far better use of time.

  42. Digg tells us this themselves. All one needs to do is look at the posting categories. For the tech blogger and eco blogger, it’s probably on the must-use list. For the fashionista blogger, it’s time better spent elsewhere. I post at Digg, but I post elsewhere as well.

    Rather than bemoan the fact that Digg doesn’t do everything, it might be time to celebrate the fact that it does a few things -very- well, and move on.

    I’d sneak in a plug for a ‘better’ service here, but I’m still hunting. Since I’m still struggling to decipher StumbleUpon, I hesitate to tout them as the next best non-techie thing.

  43. I couldn’t agree more ever since Digg became the place to be for social media users I have stayed away. It most definitely is not the place for bloggers to grow their blogs it is full of the same generic rubbish posted day upon day, only a few types of media get on the front page of Digg and thats the same day in and day out.

    What is the point?

    Why not use the time to write more quality content or try another social media site perhaps a niche social media site which fits your blog criteria. If not apply the time to working out the meaning of life its as time consuming and again you won’t get anywhere.

    By Digg’s number one fan…

  44. Darren,

    This post makes a very compelling argument and gives the readers something to think about. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    John P. Kreiss
    MorganSullivan, Inc.
    Business Solutions in Real Estate and Construction

  45. I kind of have to stop and ask who would spend HOURS on digg? I mean, I can understand it might take 5 minutes to digg a few articles, but hours just digging and digging is ridiculous. I wouldn’t do it in real life, and I’m not going to do it online.

  46. Interesting comments and discussion. I have to agree with the article. I think Digg and similar sites are great for driving an immediate stampede of traffic to your site so that Google will index it sooner. I have used these sites to end up on the front page of Google in a few days for a selected search term.

    They do work great, but they are also a huge time sink when people let them take over their lives. I have seen many bloggers grow so addicted to Digg that they spend what looks like 8 hours a day on there and can’t manage to update their blog but once a month. It truly is a waste when it comes down to that, because everyone knows that those eight hours would be better off spent on content creation.

    I limit my time to about 15 minutes per social network site and get a decent amount of traffic. Incidentally the more important thing I am rewarded with is a community of like minded bloggers and friends.

  47. StumbleUpon is like having a thousand people run into you – only you don’t feel a thing. I can appreciate it was a content-driven service, but I don’t think that it’s a great social networking tool.

    The point that I’m trying to make is that SU’s job is to promote cool/interesting content, not help socialize people.

  48. @Corey Freeman: That’s because you need to spend hours and hours to be “connected” to the community so that your Digg friends will help you dugg the article to get you to the homepage.

    I can’t be bothered with Digg, to be honest (simply because of the time that you have to spend)

    As for the non-quality traffic, as long as you have a good CPM ads, then that traffic is worthy enough ^^

  49. “Digg is a place for 18-24 year old males to read about Internet gossip.”

    So true. If that’s your demographic, go for it. If not, why waste time?

  50. Well, for those who are part of big CPM-based ad networks, getting dugg may mean ending up with $500 to $2000 in their pockets by the end of the day..

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