Exclusive: Knuttz.net Owner Speaks Out

If you remember a couple weeks back I initiated a witch hunt on Sicc and Knuttz.net. I’m not even going to link to that as I’m sorry about the whole affair. Well, there’s been a lot of speculation on what Knuttz.net did or did not do to get so much traffic from Digg in such a short time.

The Knuttz.net owner was kind enough to share with me what he did and how he did it. To summarize, yes he did funnel his Digg traffic to ensure stories in the queue were given maximum exposure. However, he did not game the system with sock puppet accounts or any other shady maneuver.

Having read the account myself I really can’t see anything wrong with what he did. So far as I’m aware, I don’t know of any Digg TOS against funneling (not to be confused with switching Digg submit buttons for different stories which is wrong).

Basically, the owner of Knuttz.net:

  1. Closely, monitored Digg traffic & submissions for analysis
  2. Built traffic with link submissions to other sites
  3. Leveraged all outside/inside traffic to promote submitted stories that had the greatest chance of making the Digg front page
  4. Repeating it for the next story while traffic was still high.

That’s an amazing account that makes perfect sense to me. It’s probably a great strategy to follow but with moderation (you don’t want to be marked by Digg users like John Chow). Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with this even though Knuttz.net has the advantage of lots of content with lots of traffic that can be easily funneled.

What follows is his account of how he achieved this. You be the judge. The content is reproduced with the owner’s permission. We corresponded to clarify any necessary areas with some editorial oversight (for the English).

Knuttz.net Owner Speaks

The following that I’ve read from the various blogs is right but in some cases incomplete.

1. The content met the Digg demographics: yes, no comment

2. I’ve funneled traffic to the page I’d want on Digg: yes, BUT I did build traffic to give it a natural “kick start”.

False allegations I’ve read:

1. I made the site exclusively for Digg: no, I just ignored Digg in the past.

2. Did I cheat Digg? no, I will explain the whole process.

Let me counter the false allegations in detail.

1. I made the site exclusively for Digg

No, the site just used to run under a different domain name: http://knuttz.yi.org

You can see a link from Fark in 2003 – http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=674694

Or even this link from Digg in 2005: http://digg.com/tech_news/DIY:_origami_CD_case

In the past, I’ve made submissions to Digg without thinking too much about it. And most of the links I had didn’t match the “Tech” audience’s demand. It’s only in the last months that the “Offbeat News” traffic became interesting, actually, I was pretty much surprised to see the traffic it generated in the beginning of January. I was posting links only sporadically, at that point, I was still thinking that the “Offbeat News” still wasn’t really a great deal, as was the “Tech news”.

In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to the “Offbeat News” category during its growth process.

2. Did I cheat Digg ?

No I didn’t but evaluate for yourself. It was just the result of common sense and some analysis.

1. I kept monitoring Digg to see submissions from my site

2. Keep monitoring traffic on my pages to identify heavy traffic and double-checking those results with other digg submissions made by other users.

3. Checked the topic; it is useless to promote off-topic links.

4. When was the link submitted?

5. Whenever a link was submitted, I’ve checked the submitter, to see his/her rank.

6. If the link had already been dugg, I’d checked the diggers who have done it (just how many front page histories they had).

The most important thing is cross number 1 and 2. The links that appear in both were the ones with higher chances to make Digg front page. You can always submit yourself, but, it will be way harder to get your link promoted (well at least the first one).

Number 3 is a big deal, if the link is off topic, is pointless to promote it.

Number 4 is one of the most important, the most daylight time a link gets, higher is the probability to get promoted, the best time is around 9AM EST.

Who submitted and who dugg, comes next. High ranked submitters, and diggers with some links promoted in the history helps great deal.

Based on these, you choose the page in which you’ll center you fire power (funneling) on.

That was how I got links on the front page in series. BUT, although whole “funneling” stuff is right, and choosing where to funnel is crucial, this is a part of establishing a “virtuous cycle”, the hard part, the real hard part, is to make it start spinning. You need to “kick start” the process naturally.

Digg is great site to boost your site’s traffic, actually it is amazing. But to increase your chances, submitting to Digg is the LAST step in the ladder.

In my case there is something that helps a lot, dozens of middle sized sites and quite a few large sites are interested in my kind of content and happily link to me when I submit a link to them.

To get the “kick start”, what I’ve made was to submit my site to the “x” number of link sites and waited as I’ve done so many times. But at one specific moment, I had the perfect condition: some of them linked the same page on the same day and concentrated a very good amount of visitors in something like 6 or so hours.

And I was able to detect the beginning of the traffic.

See, according to Alexa, Digg reachs around 0,9% of all internet users. If you can generate traffic 30.000 visits to a specific page in your site, there is a good probability that 270 of them are Digg users. If only 15% of these users like the page and click the Digg button, you’re gonna place your history in the first page of the “upcoming links” in any category within a few hours. That’s the place your history must be. If you can get there in the first 8 hours, you have a very good chance to get promoted to the front page, it is just a matter of time. The cycle started.

After the first link, you gonna have Digg traffic for a couple days, and than the funneling will do it’s work. But, you must not stop promoting your site outside Digg, in some cases you will need the “kick start” when the cycle slow down.

So this is the big catch. First you generate traffic from other sites, THEN you focus on Digg. That’s what I did, and nobody could see.

What can I advice anyone to do?

1. Build good traffic outside Digg. Search for sites that can drive traffic to you, in your niche. Be participative in community forums, even if that mean to post your content in the forum, and losing some possible visitors in the beginning (your forum signature makes a great ad).

2. Digg is NOT the place to start building traffic (unless you get submitted by a high ranker – although there is no rank anymore, you can check the submmiter to see which of his histories made the front page), it is the place to burst your traffic. So, do not submit links that do not have not already generated good traffic.

3. Watch your traffic very closely, use some kind of real time stats that at least shows your top referrer and most viewed page(s).

4. Do not add the Digg button in all your pages. Do it only in pages where you can detect a good amount of traffic. The very same way people get used to where you place your ads, and ignore them, will get used to and ignore the Digg button.

What do I think I’ve done wrong?

I got carried way by the success of the funneling technique. If I had slowed down in the beginning, it would have been less stressful.