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Digg the SEO Vampire: It Drinks Your Backlinks Dry

Just in time for Hallowe’en, I have an SEO horror story that’s happening right now. You may even be a victim!

You think submitting your page to Digg will help SEO, right? Or at least, it can’t hurt, can it?

Ha. Ahaha. Ahahaha.

In September ’09, Digg announced that links would be NoFollow until they proved themselves worthy (lots of Diggs). And I vaguely remember a flap about the DiggBar totally screwing up SEO. I didn’t follow the story closely because I don’t use social media for SEO: social media means promoting your site to people, whereas SEO means promoting your site to search engines.

Those are two different methods of getting traffic, although many people confuse the two. Admittedly, one can sometimes do both at the same time, like walking and chewing gum. But sometimes it’s more like driving while using a cellphone.

Back to Digg. I just saw someone in SquidU asking why her Diggs weren’t showing up as backlinks. Before spouting my “Yahoo Site Explorer probably hasn’t indexed them yet, but anyway, Digg is lousy for SEO” reply, I double-checked Digg. To my surprise, when I examined Digg using the Firefox NoDoFollow Add-on, it appeared that all Dugg articles’ titles were Follow, while their comments/blurbs were NoFollow. Uh oh. Is that egg on my face again?

I checked Digg’s robots.txt. Nope, none of these links were Disallowed. This is shaping up to be another “Greekgeek doesn’t know what the heliotrope she’s talking about” story. Then I ran Webconf’s Search Engine Spider Simulator, and all became clear.

Here’s what the spider sees as the URLs of the Diggs on someone’s profile:

The anchor text of those links is the title of the page they link to. The end of the URL is the target page’s URL, with its domain name replaced by Digg’s site hierarchy. If you click the link, it takes you straight to the Dugg webpage. But that’s being done by a redirect or some kind of script.

As far as I can tell, the link which search engines see points to Digg. The backlink juice goes to Digg. And it’s using your page title, your keyword-rich url, and your description with that backlink.

Digg the SEO Vampire: “Mwahaha!”

During the Diggbar fiasco, Digg assured everybody that they wouldn’t be stealing people’s SEO juice, because they’d set Diggbar links (which worked like this) NoFollow. But I’m not seeing a Nofollow link here, folks. While Google’s probably smart enough to follow the redirect, you can bet Digg is reaping most of the SEO benefit.

Now, the question is, does the positive social promotion benefit of a Digg outweigh leeching the SEO benefit of the link?

If your topic is not immensely fascinating to the Digg community, they’ll bury you. They HATE SEO link-droppers. They joke about the best ways to kill you. They are savvy to SEO, and they despise it, because so many black hatters have abused Digg in the Quest for Ten Billion Links. You are 99% likely to reap the community’s animosity if you post a link on Digg for SEO purposes. Social benefit? Strongly negative.

However, if you have the world’s greatest story, the article that you absolutely KNOW that Diggers will love, because you’ve been a part of the Digg community for years and have Digg cred and Diggers all grok your great Diggs…

Go get ‘em, tiger.

Which as far as I’m concerned, is all to the good. Social media is soulless if it’s just media (advertising, bots, scraping, etc).  The social web only matters if it’s rooted in actual community. Otherwise, what’s the point?

And Speaking of Vampires…

Sorry, you just got mauled by the Linkbait Werewolf. But it’s one of my five favorite YouTube videos.

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