What You Can Learn from Digg’s Latest Purge

Over the past week several active Digg users had their accounts removed from the popular social news site for violating the terms of use. These users may have been using a script allowing them to vote on submissions in a much faster manner than traditional navigation would ever allow.

This is not the first time Digg has taken action to modify it’s algorithm and certainly won’t be the last. In many ways, it mirrors how search engines had been forced to deal with not-so-legitimate tactics from those looking to achieve higher rankings in search results. This post is not about debating the ethics of online marketing tactics (I started doing that here), but there is an important lesson to be learned from the fallout.

Parallels between Digg Success and SEO Success in Google
It’s naive to think people marketing goods and services online aren’t looking for patterns and trends to take advantage of. When SEO’s realized how valuable links were for Google keyword rankings, the natural, initial projection was to gain as many links as possible, in almost any means possible.

It wasn’t necessarily malicious; it was because we knew it would work.

As the knowledge became more commonplace, webmasters created link farms and directories to catch some of the wave. Others engaged in high volume link trading, creating web directories right on their own websites.

As clever as some of the schemes were, most were short-sighted. But some understood the risks from the beginning and looked for ways to create long-term value out of what surely would be a growing issue in search. Some ways included:

  • Using their web directories for lead generation
  • Quickly capitalizing and selling off to pursue new endeavors and investments
  • Developing communities & networks which may have evolved into the very same “web 2.0” success stories of today

It should not have come to any forward-thinking business owner’s surprise that link building just for the sake of SEO would become more refined; that Google would adjust how it evaluated the quality of inbound links. Those that failed to realize this were forced to scramble rather quickly when adjustments started making their way into search results.

The same can be said for taking shortcuts in today’s online environment. There are always risks to be considered.

It’s a good thing that business owners recognize patterns and opportunities in online marketing strategies but it can be a bad thing when they are solely leveraged for short-term results.

You don’t want to be the one holding the bag when the short-term strategy crumbles.

For some of the users banned on Digg for using automated scripts, it may have been a fast ride which ended rather abruptly. Undoubtedly, some will replace their accounts or move on to another social news site. Perceptive users realized they were building their online network far beyond Digg, forging relationships and communication that a script can’t replace or social media site could outlast.

Taking advantage of opportunities and tactics may have both risk and reward. Just remember that the tactic is a means to a much larger goal in an entire online marketing strategy.

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