November 6th, 2005
Over the weekend, we were on the front page of digg.com again. Getting honored in this way is always a thrill to us. As a tech-tutorial site we have been highlighted on the front page many times now. Each time we experience the digg effect, we learn a little more about actions of digg users.
Many webmasters try to manipulate digg in order to gain traffic. Others fear that digg will eat up massive amounts of bandwidth and crash their servers. Having experienced both the slashdot effect (aka “being slashdotted”) and the digg effect, we wanted to share what we have learned from these experiences.
1. Digg users do not click ads. Webmasters should stop trying to game the system to get the traffic. The increased traffic will use up your bandwidth and will risk slowing down or crashing your server. In the short run, getting on the front page is more likely to cost you money than make you money if you are depending on ads for your revenue. We don’t care as we give most of our ad proceeds back to our users in the forms of gifts and such. I am not certain why digg users do not click on ads; however, my best guess is that a lot of this traffic is just people surfing to see what’s popular in the internet world. Surfers are not looking for anything in particular; and therefore, they are not going to be influenced by content-targetted ads on the site. Webmasters, quit trying to abuse digg for your greed; it does not work.
2. Digg users do not use Alexa. I have blogged about the lack of Alexa use among digg traffic before. The graphics and stats on that blog post prove that digg users abhor the Alexa toolbar.
3. Digg traffic does not generate new users, comments, or posts. Digg users often comment regarding a site on digg itself instead of on the dugg website. Even though we have often had easy ways for people to leave comments (no registration required), digg users typically do not post. Likewise, we do not get a bunch of new member registrations. They swing through, look around, and leave. I do not believe that phenomena is unique to just our site. Typically when I see forum or blog posts dugg, they do not get a big jump in comments either.
4. Every site on the front page gets flamed in the comments. If you read digg, you need a thick skin. If the site is something about windows, the apple/linux people whine… and visa versa. However, this is in no way saying that the comments are not helpful to the digg users or to the webmasters. We have seen many helpful suggestions in the digg comments as well. Any webmaster who is lucky enough to have their site dugg should follow and participate in the digg comment section regarding his/her site.
5. The digg effect brings in a moderate amount of traffic and uses a lot of bandwidth. This is obvious, but I’ll try to quantify. Typically we have seen an increase of 5000-10000 visitors per day that tapers off after about 5 to 7 days. Likewise, we typically use a gig more bandwidth per day during that time. Although this is quite substantial, it is not quite as bad as the slashdot effect that I have experienced in the past. That being said, it is a big, quick load that can stress a server. We have recently increased our server’s memory and CPU in order to better tolerate the traffic. People hosting large files such as PDFs or media files should be very cautious. You can burn through a ton of bandwidth (and overage fees) very quickly.
6. Digg users are more polite than slashdot visitors. I don’t know if digg has less of a troll culture or not, but digg users do not wreck a place like slashdot members can. Many times you’ll see a slashdotted site have comment boards filled with typical trolls links and material. Digg users typically leave the place as they found it. On the other hand, both slashdot and digg have users that will attempt to mirror sites if the server gets slow.
7. The digg effect is much less on a weekend. In our experience, the traffic gained from being on the front page of digg is much less on the weekend. It seems like it usually about half as much. Likewise, the traffic is easier to tolerate on the weekend as most sites are less busy then. The digg effect is also variable on the content of the site as well. For example, my post on hacking sleep did not receive near as much traffic as some of the tech-related tutorials that have been highlighted on our site. It makes sense as digg is a technology-related site first and foremost.
8. The best digg post regarding a topic is not always the one that reaches the front page. My tech-recipe on installing the sidebar into vista was dugg as sidebar ported to XP and reached the front page. However, AlexTheBeast’s actual directions for installing the sidebar into XP although on our site at that time were never directly dugg.
9. Digg may or may not have positive effects on your google pagerank. Digg is a popular site. Getting on the front page would seem that it would tell google that your site is important. Likely sometimes it does. However, often the digg link itself will appear higher in the google rankings than the actual site to which to link points. If you are a SEO-type person and trying to use digg for your evil doing, it’s probably not going to work. It is just another reason that webmasters should quit trying to abuse the digg system for their evil purposes.
10. After a site is highlighted on the Digg front page, it will start showing up in the other social bookmarking systems soon. We have seen several of our tech-recipes become very popular in del.icio.us after we were on the front page of digg. Most recently the tutorial regarding using batch files to start or stop windows services starting appearing on the other social bookmark sites after it was highlighted on digg. The tutorial is two years old and never appeared on any of them as far as I can tell before it was highlighted on the digg front page.
I am a huge digg and slashdot fan–always have been and always will be. Receiving the honor of being placed on digg’s front page suggests that a large group of people have decided that something on your site is very valuable. Isn’t that why most of us have websites in the first place? However, for those webmasters that try to abuse the digg system, you are wasting your time trying to make a fast buck.