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Skip Digg: Not All Traffic is Created Equal

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. e7lam says:

    i also thinks that instead of wasting time over the digg bloggers has to constrate on their content
    thanks a lot

  2. Ryne Nelson says:

    I couldn’t have said it any better, Josh. You said all that needed to be said about Digg, and you didn’t dance around it. The people who disagree with you need to try a week off of submitting to Digg and creating real content. They’ll be agreeing with you in seven days or less!

  3. LewP says:

    As a former member and Top 100 member of Digg, I completely agree with your post.
    I think Digg hates for people to promote their own site as it makes Digg jealous to see that someone creates a good following of readers. In fact, I can attest to the fact if your promotions are good enough and get noticed enough, Digg will ban you.

  4. Rahul says:

    This is a very good topic that you’ve raised here. People are using sites like these and other social networking sites for not quite good reasons, reasons like spamming and stuff. This has got to be checked too.

    Sites like Digg have a true networking sites and not otherwise.

  5. Mike K. says:

    Digg is much like stumbleupon, if you do manage to get to the first page is is a nice boost of traffic but only for a short time then they move on. you need to focus on long term traffic that will convert. In my opinion diggs and stumble waste of time.

  6. Lin Burress says:

    Digg may very well bring a stampede of traffic for awhile, but just like with StumbleUpon, the traffic quickly wanes and virtually disappears once the rush is over. Then what?

    As with any form of social media, whether it be Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter etc, it takes time and effort to build a network of “friends” who will submit your posts to bring in the mass waves of traffic.

    I neither have the time or the inclination necessary to spend endless hours on Digg especially. Digg doesn’t seem to work very well on my niche anyway, so why should I bother wasting my time?

    Creating good quality content for search engine traffic primarily is my focus and priority, and any social media traffic that comes in from people Stumbling my posts or Twitter users “re-tweeting” links to my posts is like the icing on the cake.

    I don’t dig Digg at all.

  7. Sire says:

    People spend hours on Digg? Unbelievable. I’ve hardly ever spend more that a couple of minutes at a time, and that is on the rare occasion that I even go there. Nope, I must say I am not a Digg fan.

  8. Ron Mertens says:

    One thing that Digg helps with is search results. Getting dugg may give you a great boost in Google (although it might be temporary). This is a great benefit.

    Although I agree that all in all it’s not worth the time/effort.

    Ron

  9. clickfire says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. It doesn’t take that much time to submit a story to digg and vote for a handful of friends’ stuff. The benefit of getting on the front page is not in the short burst of traffic, but in the long term organic links and capital built from social relationships on digg.

  10. Dave L says:

    You can get a small number of qualified visitors and a small number of unqualified visitors by strategies that avoid Digg. Or you can use Digg and get a small number of qualified visitors and a large number of unqualified visitors.

    Note that both strategies will bring in some qualified visitors. It’s just that Digg also includes a ton of “noise.” If you can handle the traffic spikes and are a good enough writer/marketer to adjust your content without watering down what matters, Digg can be a great place to get traffic. Especially to a couple of those “Evergreen” articles you need to have written to get backlinks, and hence increased search engine traffic.

    Forget the noise: if you can handle the requirements, Digg can be great.

  11. Good point that Digg takes up a lot of time that you can be using to market your blog elsewhere with better conversion.
    -
    My Latest Video Tutorial: Digital Photos, Ultimate Video Guide To Managing, Editing, Archiving And Emailing!

  12. I sure do agree with you on this one Josh. Instead of wasting time over digg, bloggers better concentrate on their content. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  13. nick says:

    I think that Digg has it’s advantages, such as finding interesting articles that make you laugh, but it can be difficult to bring quality traffic as stated.

  14. Ravi Ahuja says:

    I had read some where in problooger.net that from which sources problogger.net get visitors and the social media was the biggest source of traffic for it.

    If a very successful blog (problogger.net) is getting most of the visitors from site like digg etc then from where we will get visitors.

    Defiantly no one likes to spend money to bring visitors but social bookmaking is the easiest way to bring lot of visitors. If you are getting 1000 visitors with some efforts and only 10 are becoming your regular visitors then I think it is worth to bring visitors from social bookmaking site.

    Of course you should try to bring visitors from other sources too and then after try what is the conversion ration if other ways of promotion is giving better conversion then try that way to promote your site.

  15. Thank you for explaining to me why I don’t use Digg.

  16. I couldn’t agree more. Digg is not only geared toward young male time-wasters, they are proud and arrogant about it. When I first discovered them I asked about a food and cooking section which they didn’t even have back then. Know what the response was?
    “Our readers would simply view that as spam.”
    Ouch. How rude. And that was after I had to ask them to give me the courtesy of a response…No way to do business.

    Of course now they’ve added it. Code geeks have to eat, too you know!

    It’s not my niche and unless I have a food related piece that I know will be of interest there, I skip them.

  17. Dilip Shaw says:

    I always believe that social network sites do not bring quality traffic and therefore I do not advertise / spend time on them.

    SEO is my best bet.

    Dilip Shaw
    http://www.dilipshaw.com/

  18. ashok says:

    I’ve never made and don’t think I ever will make the front page of Digg. But it has been invaluable as a networking tool – I’ve made friends there, two of whom are regular readers of my blog and willing to do anything to help me.

    I’m not going to sneeze at that. I am going to say that I got those friends because I knew how limited Digg was for me: my content is just not the right sort for that site, and the problems with promotion there were evident from the start.

  19. Laugh It Out says:

    I agree that digg is very time consuming and traffic is not worth it. But still search engine traffic is not very high and for average bloggers like me digg and social networking is the only way of getting noticed.

  20. Not all content is created equal, and Digg does favor a certain type of content. My website isn’t right for Digg…and I learned that the hard way. I spent countless hours collecting friends, Digging my own posts, asking others to Digg for me, trying to add some of the biggest Digg users as friends…and it was all fruitless.

    Digg just wasn’t right for my content, and it wasn’t worth the time I had been spending on it — particularly because a vast majority of my readers are women, and Digg doesn’t do a good job of highlighting content targeted for women at all. Stumble Upon has been much more successful for me, mostly because of the ability to target a niche and get visitors who are actually interested in your type of content.

    Digg’s categories are so broad and expansive that smaller sites tend to get lost in the shuffle, no matter how many friends you have. If I ever write something with an inflammatory, link-bait type headline, I’ll submit it to Digg. If not, I’d rather spend my time elsewhere, like Twitter and SU and commenting on other blogs and forums.

  21. I think the one magic ingredient everyone is looking for is not in any one place.

    Yes, like myself on another website I work for, I have on occasion, generated over 1,000 diggs and gotten almost 10,000 new readers for a post in a day.

    What folks don’t seem to be aware of is the exact nature of the surfer, or customer. It’s no different than the real world sales / marketing demographics.

    When I WAS in a sales position, working for myself, the numbers said it all: For every 100 people I made contact with, (Let’s call that a site visitor), I’d retain around 2 folks as curious customers.

    For every 100 “curious customers” I developed, 1 would become a client. A paycheck. (In this case, I would equate that to a repeat visitor.)

    Hence, with the 10,000 readers I got in one day, my expectation is that I retained maybe 5 readers as new, regular visitors. From there, it’s word of mouth by your regular visitors.

    It’s just the way it is because web surfers (the customer or regular visitor) have tons of options and little time. They have to weed carefully because they don’t spend lengthy amounts of time surfing like the rest of us do.

    Plain and simple.

    Regards,
    Bruce

  22. Ian says:

    Excellent article. I have seen many bloggers get hit with Digg and then point out that none of the traffic stuck. However, I have seen sites like Zen Habits get hit time and again by Digg and build huge amounts of followers. Of course, I believe the content on Zen Habits has turned into a repetitious site with trite, repetitive articles in the style of popular magazines, but still, it works for keeping the Digg traffic flowing, and possibly for making ad revenue.

    I believe it all depends on what you want to do. If your goal is to drive traffic and clicks for ad revenue, then perhaps Digg and other similar networks might be worthwhile. If your goal is to write the content and build an audience, well then you may be best off relying on a few initial subscribers and then really get the word of mouth marketing going with high quality content. See Writer Dad for a great example of building a blog based on content, not Digg.

  23. Caitlin says:

    Would you make the same argument about StumbleUpon or is it different? It seems to me that SU has a different audience to Digg but people still typically stop at the stumbled page and then move on without ever going back to the rest of the site.

  24. Having managed to get on the Digg home page a few times I can definitely say that the burst of traffic is quite nice. That said, I have to also agree with the other folks here that the direct traffic from Digg usually does not result in any significant increase in ad revenue. What does make it worth promoting posts on Digg is the residual traffic from those who find the story on Digg and then blog about it or link to it in comments. That “after-digg” effect does significantly increase the bottom line and makes the time invested worth it for a large number of blogs.

  25. Excellent article. I agree 100%.

  26. Miguel says:

    Digg is a crap. Granted, I am bitter because of how they treated my situation. But I don’t use Digg. I haven’t been to Digg in a longtime.

    That said, as a newer blogger, it seems the best way to build traffic is work on your “blog voice”. I may not have the biggest following, but I will stick to my guns and write what I care about and not what others want to hear. Frankly, that suits me just fine. join me or don’t, either way, I will write about what I choose to write about.

    Content and a voice are what I hope to have a following for, not because I happened to get a Digg spike.

  27. Do you guys (and gals) submit your own posts to Digg yourselves, or let your readers do it (same thing for other sites, like StumbleUpon)?

  28. Josh Klein says:

    Thanks again to everyone for the comments!

    @Caitlin – I would actually argue that StumbleUpon is different. It’s a lengthy argument, so I’ll save that for another post. I do think the sites are very different.

    @BruceSimmons – I don’t disagree with you… if you can get a large enough number of eyeballs onto your page with Digg, some are going to sign up. That is the same story as marketing and sales before the web came about. But there is a better way that exists now, because the web makes it much easier to generate qualified leads. Traditional direct marketing means you blast out the snail mail and wait for responses, but it’s different when people can actually come and sign up for your online newsletter about the very subject that you want to later sell them on! To me, it’s not a matter of efficacy but efficiency.

    @others – Zen Habits, Think Progress, MoveOn … yes, these sites do well on Digg. But you have to wonder how repeatable that success is. Has the ship sailed?

    The web changes so quickly, do the same strategies make sense today? Digg is a different place today than it was even 1 year ago!

  29. JB says:

    “This makes visitors from Digg unqualified traffic.”

    I have been saying this for quite some time now. It is very seldom that I see or talk to anyone that just happened to randomly stumble upon my blog and subscribe to it. The key is to promote your blog in a place where the users of that blog could/would potentially be subscribers of your own blog.

  30. p@r@noid says:

    While reading this article hundred , thousand of thoughts strike into my mind!

    1 The time i spent on digg, i could have utilize by writing new posts,
    2 The time i spent shouting and digging others articles i could have working on other stuff.
    3 Digg need time, quality comes after that. Whereas many other sites need quality.
    4 Different forums will be a better place to get traffic.

    Last but not the list??

    5 Now what? Am i going to quit Digg?? will i be able to leave this thought, that front page of Digg can give me thousands of clicks.

  31. Tschai says:

    For a lill’ and humble blog like mine,Aytemir.com, any traffic is welcome.
    And from SU (and even Digg) I still get traffic after days and weeks.

    It’s a start and you just might hit the right buttons or one might just do that for you…

    It only takes 10 minutes to digg your own post and you do get some traffic: that’s the power of digg for small blogs!

  32. Never submit your own stuff to stumble or digg.

    Once a reader does, you can support the link / digg / stumble, but not before.

    -Bruce

  33. syringa28 says:

    I thought by digging, we could increase the PR of the website because it will drive more traffic to our website. But, I’m still new about Digg and don’t have any idea about it.

  34. Sueblimely says:

    I gave up on Digg a while ago but stick with StumbleUpon because of the social network I have developed on there; a network that feeds me more of the topics that interest me enough to want to stumble. It also brings me some traffic. Digg became a chore and it did not bring traffic. This is maybe because I did not put the time and effort into it but the motivation was not there to do so.

  35. The only thing that matters in traffic is conversion. Bookmarking it to easy accessible bookmarking but very credible sites is a great investment.

  36. Mel T says:

    I’ve tried Digg a few times, and made a real effort to create something ‘diggable’, but I’ve failed every time.

    I’ve seen two of my posts on the first page of ‘upcoming’ with plenty of time and sufficient diggs to make it to the FP, and both times I’ve been buried!!

    Digg can be really annoying!!

  37. BloggerTests says:

    Based on my experience, I have similar opinion on stumble upon, sure from time to time I get traffic surges that last for two days with no visible lasting effect at all
    I’m not sure what all the hype is about.

    Good post!

  38. uwak says:

    I like read your articles , good evaluation using digg…..with plus and minus…..

  39. Zliggo says:

    I am still using Digg now and still get traffic from it but I guess it not really good. Thanks for the article

  40. bourgy says:

    Well, we’ve always known ‘DIGGers’ aren’t the best resource money-wise but the link itself will always have value and some bloggers need to see that little bit of traffic as motivation to continue.

  41. Wow! This statement really hit home when I started to think about it. This is exactly what I do on digg. It’s entertainment no different than watching primetime television to take a break from the chaos of life.

    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.

  42. paul says:

    I will never make it to the home page of Digg but I will still use it to submit articles.

  43. Our blog got bookmarked a few times on Digg, StumbleUpon and Propellor

    First: Who
    It is important who bookmarks you: there are leaders and there laggards.
    Leader bring a lot of traffic. Laggerds hardly any one.
    The problem is: once you get bookmarked by a laggard, the leaders can’t bookmark you: thus you miss traffic thanks to the laggard.

    Second: You
    If the blogwriter bookmarks, he sure wll be a laggard: thus hardly any followers.
    Never ever bookmark yourself!

    Third: Conversion
    Although getting bookmarked generates a lot of traffic, very little is corparate or company traffic as most are residential Internet surfers.
    Thus in case you are selling B2B (as we do) hardly any conversion will happen.

    Fourth: Internet score
    The best thing about getting bookmarked: your “Internet score” increases:
    - the bookmark links count as value
    - a higher ranking on Alexa.com
    - a possible better SERP on Google, Yahoo, MSN Live!

    Fith: Branding
    Branding – all those visitors will read your post and that will increase your brand recognition.These residential Internet surfers do work and could remember and mention your brand one day.

  44. Ironic says:

    I did love your “Digg This” link at the bottom, LOL.

  45. Josh Klein says:

    Ha, that is indeed ironic, though all of Darren’s posts have that, FYI :)

  46. uwak says:

    O’OW…..! .I am banned by digg…….

  47. Hi one n’all … isn’t the internet just great eh! … I started out about 10 minutes ago from an email from Twitter which led me to exposedseo.com/ then to buzzblogger.com/ then from there to twitip.com/ then onto simpleology.com/ from there to here and I’ve just been blown away with such powerful free information pouring from all these pages a real proper WoW … all this info could have all been sold for lots of dollars … and deffo this blog page really has the wow factor such valuable info thanks a bunch Darren your the man cheers mate …

    All my best to you and yours
    Phillip Skinner

  48. Hi Josh, thanks for fresh viewpoint! I just launched my personal development blog (EmbraceLiving.Net) and I’m actually considering whether Digg is really worth my time (Reddit is currently a better traffic generator for me). There are so many sites inside that it feels like a small fish in a big pond syndrome. Still, there seem to be site owners who swear by Digg, so I’ll continue to hang around and see how things go.

  49. farouk says:

    i strongly agree with you and i have always been saying the same, i believe reddit.com is even worse even though its as popular as digg

  50. Darren,
    I couldn’t agree more. As a small fence contractor that also blogs to gain customers, Digg has nothing for me. I wasted countless hours with it and SU all for not. I can say that the bursts in traffic I got from Stumble must have helped my rankings, but not enough for the hours I spent on it. I could have been working on SEO, content, links, and networking which I would have gained much more from.

    I don’t mess with Digg or Stumble anymore (very rarely), as I saw it wasting my time. Besides, how could a fence contractor writing about local fence industry issues ever make the front page of Digg anyway!

    Keith