Digging the DiggBar

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Since I’m sometimes the contrarian around these parts, at least recently, I’d like to address the problems brought up about Digg’s new Diggbar.  Though it does appear to suck the PR juice from people’s incoming links by changing the link to a Digg-style Tiny URL, it may not actually drain rank.  Before even reaching this point, though, you can’t entirely fault Digg for trying to increase its reach and monetization.  It’s the nature of business, and given that they’re not entirely stepping on SEO’s toes, it doesn’t automatically make Digg the enemy of optimization.

You can take this with a grain of salt, but Digg’s John Quinn defended the move by saying,

Prior to launching the DiggBar, we reached out to Google and SEO experts to ensure we adhered to the leading best practices, as we framed and linked directly to source content via the DiggBar. This process involved gathering feedback from publishers to ensure the execution was as content-provider-friendly as possible. We took several steps to ensure that search engines continue to count the original source, versus registering the DiggBar as new content.

Well, of course he’s going to say this – especially considering there was an immediate uproar.  But what he says has value.  Though it may appear like Digg is taking PR juice from links, it only masks these links in Javascript.  Search engine spiders, on the other hand, are going to read the source code – the actual link.  And spiders are really the only thing that matters when talking about rank.  Additionally, there’s a noindex on the Diggbar page, meaning it won’t suck up juice.

Even if that were not the case, though, the anger leveled at Digg seems misguided – much like a lot of the anger you see on the internet about free services.  Blogger sucks.  Twitter sucks.  Myspace sucks.  And now Digg sucks.  It’s free.  They’re under no obligation to conform to the SEO community’s needs if it means they can increase revenue – during a time when monetization is getting harder and harder.  I normally am on the side of the “little guy” but given that Digg was a free tool, it’s harder to find fault.  They could be potentially “stealing revenue” based on increasing the amount people stay within the Digg universe, but this revenue was first gained through their free service.  It’s really a hybrid now of StumbleUpon and Digg and could potentially increase the number of Diggs a site gets by making it easier to find and Digg pages.

And given the fact that the page rank value of Digg links is still a possibility, it should be less of a blow.  Certainly, it’s disappointing if Digg doesn’t help sites rank, but just go to Social Marker: there are plenty of other places to get some do follow traction.  Given that the Digg front page is overrun with celebrity news and links to mainstream sources like MSNBC, most people who are complaining about the change probably weren’t getting front page traffic to begin with.

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