White Hat Digging: 3 Myths, Tips and Tricks for Understanding and Submitting to Digg.com

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Guest Star!

By Guest Star (and responsible Power-Digger): SuxMonkey of AllSux.com

Have you submitted great content to Digg and wondered why it didn’t make the Digg homepage? Are you just curious about how Digg, the most popular of social media sites, works? Did some content of yours make it to the front page, but you don’t know why it did or why other content of yours didn’t?

This article will start to address these questions, and refer you to further resources to help you on your way to understanding the social news powerhouse that is Digg.com. It will also provide advice for sharing news and information on Digg as well as how to promote your own content responsibly. Keep in mind that this article is about understanding how to build a better Digg community for everyone – not about gaming Digg for personal gain.

Common Myths

A great many rumors and myths have been circulated regarding what it takes to be successful on Digg. Some people think Digg is completely controlled by a small, elite group of powerful submitters. This is an exaggeration. Others believe they will eventually succeed by luck of the draw via brute-force submitting. This is possible though unlikely. Still others see Digg as a way to get a trickle of traffic even if they can’t make the front page. This simply isn’t worthwhile.

  1. Myth: Only Digg users with clout or Digg friends can make the front page.
    Certainly, much of the content that makes the front page of Digg is submitted by veteran users with a great deal of influence on Digg. These users are well known for submitting quality content – be it funny or newsworthy – and many other users look at their submissions daily for interesting new material to consider voting on.

    Nonetheless, users who discover new content, create compelling headlines and descriptions and/or submit breaking news can make the Digg homepage without any preexisting clout or influence on Digg.

  2. Myth: If I keep submitting my own content, maybe it will make it big.
    If all you do is submit your own content you will likely not get very far on Digg, assuming your content even registers with other Diggers. Submitting your own content to Digg is perfectly acceptable and consistent with Digg’s Terms of Service. Still, so long as you view Digg as a platform for self-promotion above all else your content will likely never make it big on Digg.

    Like any community, people may be interested in what you have to add to the mix, but only if you’re contributing to the overall quality and success of the site. Find original content to submit to Digg beyond your own material. After you have built a reputation via a rich variety of quality submissions, people will start to look more seriously at your own content.

  3. Myth: I might not make the homepage, but at least I’ll get a few votes.
    The difference between making the front page of Digg and not doing so is gigantic. 80 votes may sound like a lot, but if the story doesn’t become “popular” and reach the homepage, 80 votes will likely translate into at most a few hundred visitors.

    Spotplex 24 hour traffic chartThat same story, with a few more votes, might have made the Digg homepage. When a story makes the homepage, it typically receives about 10,000 visitors in the first hour alone.

    If it is particularly appreciated and successful, it may draw in as many as 100,000 or more visitors, both via direct Digg traffic and secondary links. Don’t submit everything to Digg in the hope of getting a few extra hits per article or post. This is, simply put, a waste of time and energy. Instead, if you think you can create content that is worthy of the Digg front page, put your effort into that particular content and hope for the best.

Practical Tips

It is also extremely important to understand the life cycle of a Digg article. When articles are first submitted, they are entered into a sizable pool of submissions which is, to say the least, difficult to sort through. Some people browse by section, though many look first to what their Digg friends have submitted – people known by others to submit quality content – hence the important of building relationships with other Diggers. Others look for stories that are ‘almost popular’ in the upcoming section, displaying the page by ‘most votes.’ Digg has a few systems in place for determining whether or not something makes the front page in the allotted 24-hour period after it is submitted.

  1. Tip: Votes count in relationship to clout.
    Fortunately, Digg has algorithms aimed at preventing system-gaming, which helps newer Diggers by requiring fewer votes (to make the homepage) on articles submitted by those with fewer friends. However, an article that gets a great many votes gets displayed on the ‘most voted’ page of ‘upcoming‘ articles, which puts it in front of more potential voters more easily.

    Also, if you have Digg friends, you may want to factor in their active times in relation to your submission times. If not, you may want to submit late at night or at another ‘off’ time when there is less competition.

  2. Tip: Votes count in relationship to category.
    Some categories (like Offbeat or Tech Industry News) get flooded with submissions every day. Other categories (such as Other Sports or Space) receive fewer submissions. The less competitive a category, the more likely something is to frontpage in general.

    However, submitting something in an inaccurate category to gain a competitive advantage may result in the story getting buried. So, it might be worth seeking out stories to submit in less popular categories, so long as they fit the category and would be of interest to others.

  3. Tip: Votes count in relationship to time.
    Extremely interesting or newsworthy Digg submissions often get a great many votes in a short period of time. In order to bring this pressing content to the front page sooner, quick successive votes can frontpage an article faster. As such, keeping an eye out for breaking news can put you on the Digger map!

Tricks of the Trade

Submitting to Digg requires more than just finding content you like. Digg is a news outlet, albeit somewhat different than the New York Times, which has its own audience with particular tastes and of certain major demographics. Also, Digg has subpages and categories, much like a newspaper has sections related to different interest. Well structured news on Digg also, like mainstream media sources, relies on solid headlines and introductions to grab a reader’s attention. Here are some tricks for understanding how Digg is both like and unlike other news sources.

  1. Trick: Understand your audience and their interests.
    At one extreme, Digg is filled with stories about Ron Paul, FireFox and especially the iPhone. At the other extreme, anything not negative about Bush will never make it onto the front page.

    If this seems unfair or unreasonable, it is worthwhile to remember: as with any news source, no one should expect to get something published that runs against the predominant interests or beliefs of that source. Know the topics that interest or amuse other Diggers. Don’t play to the crowd, but don’t submit something you know they aren’t interested in reading either.

  2. Trick: Select good content and the right category.
    Your content may be good, but I’ll bet you find a lot of other good content online too. Submit your own if you wish and if it is original, but submit other content as well. To see what works, check out what is already popular daily on Digg.

    Selecting a category is equally important. Sometimes this requires creativity. There is no category for Art on Digg, but there is one for Design. As mentioned, Offbeat News is a particularly overused. Look carefully: something from a popular weblog that seems ‘offbeat,’ like building jumping or guerilla gardening, might fit better in other categories like Other Sports or Environment.

  3. Digg Headline SwappingTrick: Choose your headline and description carefully.
    Many people default to submitting content with the headline of what they are linking to, and then use the first few sentences as the description. Sometimes this is appropriate, but not always. Headlines are often written with search engine optimization in mind, not to grab the attention of non-regular social news readers. For this reason, the first few sentences may or may work to describe the content.

    Try using a catchy Digg headline (for example: “11 Reasons Why the Darwin Awards Were Created [PICS]“) instead of the original headline (in this case: “Where’s OSHA When You Need ‘em?“) to make it grab more attention, but without overly sensationalizing the issue. Adding [PICS] or listing an unnumbered list numerically can help capture the attention of other Diggers.

The Big Question

Many believe there is strong evidence to suggest the existence of an auto-bury list. Such a list, it has been argued, must exist to account for websites that used to be frontpaged frequently but articles from which now never reach the Digg homepage. Another theory is that there is a bury brigade of Diggers who bury all stories submitted from a targeted list of web addresses. Digg has mostly remained silent on the existence of an auto-bury list or bury brigade, though Top Diggers have pressed the issue.

Final Words of Advice

Seek out Top Diggers or others who have a lot of clout with similar interests and get their attention. Comment on their submissions, add them as a Digg friend, vote on good content they submit. If they run a blog you like, comment on it. If they belong to blogger networking sites like MyBlogLog, add them to your network. Top Diggers aren’t superheroes – they are just people who have invested some time, energy and thought into their time on Digg. Of course, you shouldn’t spam them with irrelevant submission requests. Still, it never hurts to bring your content to their attention, or even ask them to submit something for you.

As you have no doubt gathered, this is not intended to be a sure-fire guide to fame, fortune or getting to the front page on Digg. This also isn’t a step-by-step guide to becoming a Top Digger. There are plenty of those out there, some of them more white hat and helpful than others. There is no single formula for becoming a Top Digger or for getting good content, yours or that of someone else, to the Digg homepage. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably playing to the crowd – those looking for easy answers that may or may not work for them in the long run, or contribute to the Digg community.

Article Written by
John P.

John P. is CEO of Livid Lobster and co-host of Geek Beat TV. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Comments

  1. Urbanist says:

    I completely agree. Reddit is a real mystery to me … my ‘karma’ on the site has swung up and down, and nothing I ever submit seems to do really well. At this point I don’t even bother anymore, which is kind of sad, because even great content I submit doesn’t frontpage, so it’s almost like I’m ‘hurting’ that content’s chances by being the submitter.

  2. uttoransen says:

    nice tips, i agree with the point that old digg users who have lot’s of diggs under there belt can matter a lot!

  3. Brandon says:

    Great Tips John

    One of these days I’ll get on digg, I was using netscape but they just switched format :(

  4. AgentSully says:

    wow! excellent article, allsux!

  5. John P. says:

    Help! This article need your Diggs!

    This article has been dugg (http://digg.com/tech_news/3_Myths_Tips_and_Tricks_for_Becoming_a_Successful_and_Responsible_Digger) but there is a chance that it won’t make it to the big time without help because some Diggers don’t want you to see this info!

    Please login and help spread this information so we can demystify Digg once and for all!

    John

  6. John P. says:

    Thanks for that find Terry. It’s not quite as authoritative or informative as SuxMonkey’s post here, but it’s better than nothing!

    Now, if we could just get a really good article that covers Reddit I’d be pleased. That is one site that I don’t understand at all!

    John

  7. Terry says:

    This is great. I found it very helpful in understanding the inner workings of Digg and getting it from a power user of Digg. People at all levels will definitely learn something!

    There is also a helpful article here for StumbleUpon Traffic.

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