Digg And SEO Don’t Play Nice

    December 27, 2006

You may have heard that recently many seo and marketing related sites are getting banned by Digg for the scandalous offense of being seo and marketing related sites.

I first came across the phenomenon earlier this month when Matt posted his URL Has Been Reported By Users And Cannot Be Submitted To Digg at This Time. At the time I didn’t know the reason for the ban nor did Matt, though I admit I had some suspicions. A couple of weeks later in the post script to 21 Traffic Triggers for Social Media Marketing, Brian Clarke of CopyBlogger fame mentions the post making the front page of Digg whereupon the editors immediately took it down.

Last week the situation rose to another level with Lee Odden talking about The hypocrisy of digg and spam after his own very non-spammy domain was added to the blacklist of marketing related sites. According to Lee

I recently learned from a top digg member that certain digg community members decided to start getting rid of SEO sites by emailing spam complaints to digg. These community members’ definition of spam blogs is not what you might think. As long as the site has to do with SEO, they apparently consider it spam because the digg community generally detests anything to do with SEO.

Something is wrong when a site that claims it is a “digital media democracy” can be controlled by a small group of people. More like an oligarchy than a democracy I’d say. “Certain digg community members” are not a media democracy.

As if Matt, Brian, and Lee wasn’t enough here’s the ever growing list of domains that have been banned.

Are All SEOs Gaming Digg?

I’ll admit that for the last few months I’ve seen quite a few posts on how to game Digg, studies of topics likely to get dugg and far too many blog posts written by members of the seo community that had very little purpose other than trying to make Digg’s front page. Spike The Vote went as far as to build a site around the idea of gaming Digg.

I’ve even mentioned Digg, along with other social media sites, myself as something to be optimized when discussing social media optimization and benefiting from other social networks.

Optimizing is hardly the same as spamming, however, and it’s no reason to ban a community or even a number of domains within that community. The majority of SEOs only hoped to make it to the front page. They haven’t been trying to game anything.

Bloggers can’t be held responsible for what others think of their words. Isn’t the whole point of Digg that the content that the most people like is the content that rises to to the top? If a Digger doesn’t like a post they can help to bury it. If enough of them agree the post will disappear. If it’s discovered that a site has in fact attempted to get to the top with less than honest means then sure ban that domain. But banning domains because a few have decided they don’t like an entire community is stupid.

Can A Self Proclaimed Democracy Practice Censorship?

I’ll be the first person to argue that Digg has every right to do what they want with their site. That’s part of what a free society means to me. Freedom is not only there to protect those we agree with. And in all truth the web won’t suffer from less seo and marketing related writing. The problem is once the precedent is set where does it end?

Today seo is no longer welcome at Digg. I suspect given the stories I see on the front page that pro Microsoft sites will be next, followed by the Republican party and pretty soon anything not pro Linux, Apple, or video games. Don’t get me wrong I like Linux and Macs and I’m much closer to being a Democrat than a Republican. I’ve also done my fair share of Microsoft bashing, but that doesn’t mean I want to censor the voices of those who disagree with my point of view.

I’m reminded of the novel “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. It’s been a number of years since I read it, but one thing from the book has always stood out to me. It’s when the seventh commandment is changed from “All animals are equal” to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal to others.” It seems to me that’s where Digg is at the moment. A community claiming to be democratic on the surface, but a community controlled by a small minority of more equal members behind the scenes.

Is Digg going away? Probably not anytime soon. Will many outside the seo community care if seo related sites get banned? Again, probably not. But the danger here, and it’s a danger to Digg more than anyone else, is that having set the precedent Digg will in time find itself banning other communities and becoming more and more representative of a small few. It will become a community that thrives on censoring all they disagree with. They have every right to do that if they choose, but I wonder who those same diggers will ban when the only ones who still find Digg relevant are themselves.

I wish I could say Sadly, Done With Digg, but it’s hard to be done with something I never got started with. Sadly, from the outset Digg has seemed to me to be run by a group of animals who see themselves as more equal than the rest of us.


Steven Bradley is a web designer and search engine optimization
specialist. Known to many in the webmaster/seo community by the username
vangogh, he is the author of TheVanBlog, which focuses on how to build
and optimize websites and market them online.