When I first started affiliate marketing, one of the easiest ways to build links and get big amounts of targeted traffic was to submit links to the social bookmarking site, Digg. The excitement of writing a new blog post or article, just for the link juice and visitors that submitting to Digg would bring, was pretty awesome.
In many ways, Digg was a precursor to the viral factor of websites like Facebook and Twitter. We all use social websites for sharing content with our friends that we find interesting or engaging. This is part of what makes social media so exciting. And guess what? Digg was one of the founders of this movement.
After its launch in 2004, Digg (and company founder Kevin Rose) went on to raise over $45 million in funding from various venture capital firms. Once upon a time, Google was going to buy Digg for around $200 million.
So when Digg was sold about a week ago to tech-firm Betaworks, how much was the going price?
Go on... have a guess!
If you guessed in the tens of millions, you've got the wrong answer. If you guessed that Digg.com sold for over $1 million, you'd be wrong too. In fact, Digg.com sold for a paltry sum of $500,000, which is rather low when you consider how much it was once worth!
(Disclaimer - the sum of $500,000 that Betaworks paid for Digg relates to the site, its servers, traffic, user-base etc. A number of Digg patents were actually sold to LinkedIn for around $4 million, and Washington Post Inc. paid around $12 million for a number of Digg staff)
So what caused what was once such a fantastic website to fall from grace? What ramifications does this have for affiliate marketers and SEOs? What is the moral of the story here?
In the Digg heyday, submitting your content with an interesting title line was often enough to see a noticeable spike in traffic (this was referred to by some as the 'Digg effect'). These days, submitting even a fantastic and newsworthy story to Digg barely nets any substantial increase in traffic. Only the most "Digg-worthy" submissions ever receive link and traffic juice.
Therefore, from the point of view of search engine optimization and affiliate marketing, Digg has lost much of its value. Now I know that social bookmarking sites were never created with the intention of being easy pickings for affiliates, but as an affiliate myself I'm always concerned by anything that makes my livelihood any more difficult!
Digg is not the only example of social bookmarking becoming less and less friendly for affiliates. Sites such as Stumbleupon, Reddit, and Delicious used to be far better at bringing links and traffic to the humble affiliate - but no longer.
So where am I going with all this? Why do we (the Affilorama team) still recommend that you use social bookmarking services?
Here are the three reasons why:
- Social bookmarks are still delivering positive social signals for your website (and any related submissions that you make). Positive social signals are becoming increasingly important for good search engine rankings.
- If you have interesting, informative, or exciting content that has a high chance of going viral, social bookmarking is still the way to do it. Although sharing on Facebook and Twitter can help get more traffic and positive social signals, bookmarking sites like Digg are still great for getting bloggers and webmasters to pick up on your viral content.
- Submitting to social bookmarking sites can be a very quick process. In AffiloBlueprint 3.0, Mark shows you exactly how to pretty much automate your social submissions by using the free Onlywire service (check it out for yourself here). You can also get decent bookmarking submissions on Fiverr.
Basically, what I'm trying to say is that although the effectiveness of social bookmarking sites has decreased, they can still be a useful tool in your affiliate marketing arsenal.
However, you don't want to rely on just one or two social bookmarking sites. You really need to be submitting to a wide range of social bookmarking/social media sites in one big go. Make it part of your daily SEO routine, that whenever you submit to Facebook and Twitter you also submit to at least 10 different bookmarking sites (use Onlywire to help with this process)
To conclude, let us return to the debate at the heart of this blog post. What caused Digg's decline, and what does it mean for affiliate marketers?
The biggest reason Digg fell into decline was that the site owners gradually alienated users. Advertisements became more and more prominent, while the user experience of Digg increasingly took the back seat. Digg also seemed to take a position of anti-self promotion, meaning that stories people wrote themselves didn't tend to do very well if the submitter was also the writer. Why would you submit to Digg (which has a complicated user interface) when you could submit to Twitter and promote your own content more easily and simply?
There is a moral to the Digg story, and what it means for the future of social bookmarking (and SEO). In short:
- Social websites need to remain all about social communities - Digg made the mistake of becoming cold and uninviting (especially when v4 was rolled out). It looked like a website designed to please investors, not users!
- Even though a website can still have large numbers of users, it does not necessarily make it the best social community. Look at Myspace to see an example of this. As an affiliate marketer you want to hunt out the best, most targeted, most active communities (not necessarily the biggest ones!)
- Social sites are often very hyped - make sure you do your due diligence before jumping on the bandwagon!
I hope you've enjoyed today's blog post, and that you take something useful from it. This is an important topic for affiliate marketers, so make sure you join in the discussion by leaving a comment below.