Making Digg, StumbleUpon and Search Engines Work Together
(UPDATE: Two years later, this article is no longer accurate -- too much social bookmarking will hurt your search rankings. I'm leaving it up for reference though.)
OpenSocial, Google's move to bring social networking sites under its umbrella, presents a lot of opportunities to drive traffic to your site. I have noticed for some time that Google digs Digg, but now you can have all these other sites also pointing toward your site. Make no mistake about it: Google is way ahead of the game and will take popularity on social networking sites seriously.
Over the past few years, the number of drivers of traffic has increased. While major search engines, primarily Google, Yahoo!, and MSN are still the best source of traffic (they pull people in who are looking for what your site offers), applications like Digg and StumbleUpon have democratized the web to an extent and can actually drive more traffic to your site than can the search engines, unless you're coming up high on search strings like "Britney Spears + (whatever)." This traffic may not be of the highest quality -- people may Stumble in and out with mind boggling velocity -- but, hey, it's traffic.
Now that traffic will be integral to search engine rankings. It has been that way for some time to a limited degree, but OpenSocial will kick it up a notch or two.
Below are a few casual observations that may be of use.
Major Search Engines
First of all, the basics of gaining a high rank on your keywords haven't changed one iota: Make liberal but not excessive use of your keywords, get incoming links, and provide solid content. If you do those things. Search engines will index your site and rank it high enough to send people your way. Here is what I have observed about the big three search engines (niche engines are also good but still not huge players).
- Google -- still the king. Although it won't necessarily deliver the most traffic, its algorithm is still the best and it sends very high quality visitors, people looking for stuff your site offers. In the case of this site, Google sends a lot of people looking for "fresh jams," "fresh jamz," "The Secret Book Review," and other relevant things that people will easily find here.
- MSN -- lots of traffic to be had here. Recently, MSN actually sends more traffic to this site than Google does, but their algorithms still aren't up to par. Last month, I got a lot of people looking for "Colombian hip hop." There's not much here for fans of Colombian hip hop.
- Yahoo! -- searches seem as relevant as Google's, but their user base is apparently much smaller (or maybe they just don't like me as much as Google does). Yahoo! sends quality traffic, but not much of it.
Now on to the newer players, focussing on Digg! and StumbleUpon...
The Difference Between Digg and StumbleUpon
These are two great inventions. They work on the same principle -- users promote the content they enjoy/find useful. Of course there is a danger of gaming here -- popular kids (big companies) could get a whole bunch of people (their employees) to Digg or Stumble their pages, and I'm sure that happens. Nonetheless, even a little guy like me can get a lot of action out of a very few users giving their content the thumbs up.
The difference between these two applications is quality versus quantity. Let me explain:
- Digg won't send as much traffic at first, but pays long-term dividends. (nugget alert!) Google seems to ascribe considerable weight to diggs. (UPDATE: This may no longer be true since the partnership fell through.) I've never had a page dugg more than three times, but within hours of those diggs, Googlers searching for reviews of the book, The Secret started showing up steadily. The diggs themselves brought a few dozen visitors, but Google sent hundreds over a period of weeks. (I think the page has since dropped in rank, but it was up there for a while.) The point is, Google likes references to your site by social networking apps, and this will become more pronounced in the OpenSocial world.
- StumbleUpon will pummel you with traffic if a few Stumblers give you the thumbs up, but it is not high quality traffic. By definition, Stumblers are bored, just exploring the rabbit hole and not really looking for anything in particular. These people do not stay long. However, StumbleUpon reviews of your page add incoming links, as do diggs, and this is a very good thing.
The reason for the difference between Digg and StumbleUpon traffic is obvious when you think about how those applications are structured and how people use them. Stumblers just have time to kill. Diggers are looking a bit harder for quality content. Personally, I think StumbleUpon is more fun, and I have found some incredibly great sites through using it. Digg is better for the serious surfer, though, the person who gets a sense of accomplishment out of digging up the diamonds in the rough.
So here's the nugget:
Both Digg and StumbleUpon present opportunities to improve your search engine rank. Just as it did ten years ago when the search engines were just finding their wings, it still comes down to content, but now "the people" have more of a say. If people Digg you and Stumble you, the search engines will pick up on it.
Expect other services like Reddit, del.ico.us, and Furl to add weight to search relevance in the near future (if they don't already -- I haven't been paying much attention to them). At this point, these services must be integrated with every post if you expect people to find you. It's no longer enough to put your page up and wait for the bots to crawl it. You have to take a more active role and encourage your visitors to take a more active role.
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