I’ve been registered to Digg for quite a while. Tried my hand at submitting a couple stories but never had any luck. That’s when I had a story to submit! Most of the time I couldn’t make it that far because someone beat me to the scoop.
Once I made it past the submission, it was neglected and died a slow, lonely death. It was really pitiful.
Then I looked at the Digg top users list and wondered, “Why are some users getting their stories front-paged on a regular basis?” What is their secret?
I don’t claim to be a superstar authority by any means but I went from total loser to getting 4 front-pagers for three days straight. I’m going to take a break from it though since it’s exhausting. I’ll say one thing, the thrill of seeing your story on the front page is priceless and well worth the effort!
I do want to make it clear that I’m not writing this so people can game the system or spam Digg but if it shows a weakness in the system, I’m sure the powers that be will use it to improve Digg. I’m pretty certain that a handful of users have already used this knowledge to improve their Digg ranking.
1. Feed Your Reader
Digg covers all kinds of topics around the clock. Where does everyone get all their stories? Obviously, the power users don’t go around monkey clicking sites to get their news. That would be too tedious and others would beat them to the punch.
This is where news readers come in handy. You can use web services like Bloglines or Google Reader. In most cases it’s as simple as clicking the little RSS button and registering it with a bookmarklet. I personally use NetNewsWire for the mac and have over 1000 feeds.
This ensures that the best news is delivered right to your doorstep. As an added bonus, you only deal with the text so you don’t have to visually adjust to all the million different designs out there.
If I see a blog or news site with decent quality information I just add it to my reader without a second thought. The under-trafficked blogs with high-quality writing are the best. Major news outlets have stiff competition and someone will always beat you to the punch. Links from your regular blogs to other blogs are also a good source of new feeds. You can always start with the Technorati 100.
Sometimes it’s not the blogs themselves but the links they provide. It also sharpens your focus on what’s hot since good topics seem to get covered all over the net.
Organize Your Feeds
To benefit though, you need to organize them. First, you should have stuff organized by broad topics. Second, also make folders for high-priority/high-quality information.
2. Work on that Angle
The title you set for a submission as well as the blurb can kill the best of material. On the flip side, there are a lot of so so articles that break the front page just because someone knew how to write riveting copy.
This is really the meat of getting on Digg and unfortunately there’s no instant remedy. Sometimes you either have it or you don’t. You need to be a regular user to be familiar with what topics people like and what angles get the most attention. Check out this hilarious take which has more than a kernel of truth in it.
Finding the Right Category
Digg has a variety of categories that you can submit to. Figuring out which is the best category is just as imporant as the title and blurb. Why? Because a highly competitive category like Technology >> Industry News has many submissions and your article will practically drown amongst all the other submissions. Having said that, if the material is really good and you have experience getting on the front page, it can be your quickest ticket to fame.
However, in most cases you want to submit to a less competitive field. For example, if you submit something on windows is there a linux or security angle? What’s the best way to get that across? It puts the story on the slow boat but it’s a lot easier for a stellar submission to stand out. Once it makes the front page, it’ll be showered with all the attention it deserves.
To get an idea of what submissions stand out, take a look at the upcoming section. Block out the left side showing all the diggs. Which stories stand out? Now remove the block. Do they match up? If not keep trying to get a feel.
If a story doesn’t pick up diggs in the first 15-30 minutes consider it dead. The longer it sits in the queue the staler it gets to the point where virtually no number of diggs will revive it (though it does happen on occasion). Titles and blurbs need to be concise, packed with good info, and have an impact. If your copy doesn’t meet all three rewrite it.
3. Work on that Trigger Finger
Once someone beats you to it, Digg will flag you for submitting the same URL. When that happens the best you can do is Digg their story. It sucks even more when the person that beat you has the sorriest copy you’ve ever read—killing what was a good article.
Digg is just as much a sport. The more you can do it reflexively the greater your chance of success.
4. The Biggest Secret: Network Like Your Life Depended on It™
That’s a phrase I got from a list of blogging tips. Many people forget the “social” in social media site. Digg is no different. This is probably the biggest kept secret of all.
It’s a popularity contest on a massive scale for both the articles and the users. Most people neglect the social networking feature built into Digg. If you click on a user profile page you should see a green “add friend” button under their avatar. The average Digg users aren’t even aware of this.
All it does is add them to your friends list. It’s more like a bookmark so you can find a user later. If you look at your profile’s friends list it will also have a link to “Who Befriended this User?” When both sides add each other, you get a mutual friend.
Why is this important?
See that green ribbon in the left corner? That’s why. Any time you look at a Digg page it will show you which of your friends either dugg or submitted the story. It’s a quick way to make a common submission stand out.
Let’s take a look at DigitalGopher, the top ranking active Digg user with the most submissions that made the front page. Let’s count his friends. Right now he (assuming he’s male) calls 168 users his friends while on the flip side, 1620 people have marked him as a friend.
Now DigitalGopher is top dog and extremely popular. That’s why he has more people calling him friends than he marks friends. When you’re starting out the proportion will be the opposite. When he submits a story, it’ll catch the eye of over 1600 users that have marked him as a friend!
If you mark a couple users as your friend, usually a couple people will add you back. This is because when you check who befriended you, there will be a green “add friend” button. Not everyone will reciprocate though but just enough people will even if you are a no name newbie.
Sure, the top users are popular and their Digg fu is the result of hard work and developing the knack but you’d be fooling yourself to think that having fans or friends doesn’t help.
Building your friends list requires patience since Digg throttles friend additions. You can only add 4 friends at once in a 15 minute session (I think it’s more accurately 12 but just for safety’s sake) but there’s no upper limit. Naturally, until you establish yourself as a popular user you’ll mark more people friends than they mark you but the more friends you have the greater your chance of gaining critical momentum when you put in a good one.
There’s no need to be particular or choosy when adding friends. If you Digg their article go ahead and add the submitter as a friend. If someone Diggs your article add them too. These people might share a common interest and give your submissions a better audience.
Just adding friends isn’t enough though. The key is to foster friendships by Digging the good stories from your friends (as shown by the green ribbon). Go through the upcoming stories and give your friend’s submissions a little encouragement here and there.
Whatever you do, don’t digg junk just because your friend submitted it. Frankly, even the best submit as many duds as they do winners. We need to always be honest or the system goes down the drain.
I make sure to digg good stories outside my friend network on a regular basis. Of course, I add the submitter as a friend while I’m at it. I always make it a point to add a couple friends every time I visit the site. I also always reciprocate if anybody adds me as their friend.
Once you get over 15-50 people to add you as a friend, it’ll set off a cascading effect where the green ribbon shows up all over the place and your stories will pick up a lot quicker. That’s why keeping an eye on quality is more important when you have many friends. Otherwise you end up digging most of the submission queue.
Am I the only one that figured this out? I doubt it. Look at user sicc’s profile. He registered December 15, 2006 and as of today he’s the 57th ranked Digg user. He’s marked 421 people as his friend and 217 people call him a friend. Some people suspect that he’s the mastermind behind Knuttz’s stellar rise out of nowhere with multiple front-pagers. Of course, this is just speculation.
Does a couple front pagers make me an expert? No. But did I figure something out? Perhaps.
Why am I sharing this knowledge? Well, I think claims that Digg is controlled by a small minority is over blown. I also think there are some great users with good stories that are dying simply because they don’t network enough. Frankly, the ranks of top Digg users could use a shake up to keep articles on Digg more diverse.
My hope is that by sharing some secrets, it’ll become a more competitive sport and only the best will make it. We’ll see. Clearly, this knowledge doesn’t deserve to reside in the handful of those people who figured it out.
Having said that all of this requires a considerable investment in time and effort. Also, remember you’ll always have the eyes of all Digg users on you. They have the power to bury you and the article you submit.
Once you get it down, it’s easy to maintain though. Good luck!